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Career Royal Navy Ensign
Class and type: Fourth Rate 50-gun ship of the line
Name: HMS Leander
Fate: captured 18 August 1798 by the French Navy
Career French Navy Ensign
Captured: 1799 by the Russian Navy
Fate: Captured by the Russian Navy 1799, and returned to the Royal Navy
Career Royal Navy Ensign
Name: HMS Leander
Builder: Chatham
Renamed: Hygeia, in 1813
Reclassified: Converted to hospital ship 1813
Fate: Sold 1817
General characteristics
Propulsion: Sail

50 guns

  • LD: 22 x 24-pounders
  • UD: 22 x 12-pounders
  • QD: 4 x 6-pounders
  • Fc: 2 x 6-pounders
Honours and awards:

Participated in:

HMS Leander was a Portland class Fourth Rate 50-gun ship of the Royal Navy, launched at Chatham on 1 July 1780. She was built by Master shipwright Israel Pownoll and completed by Nicholas Phillips. She was commissioned in June under Captain Thomas Shirley.


Early service

Leander cruised for some time in the North Sea. At the end of 1781 she and the sloop-of-war Alligator sailed for Dutch Gold Coast with a convoy, consisting of a few merchant-vessels and transports. Britain was at war with The Netherlands and Shirley launched an unsuccessful attack on 17 February on Elmina, being repulsed four days later. Leander and Shirley then went on to capture the small Dutch forts at Mouri (Fort Nassau - 20 guns), Kormantin (Courmantyne or Fort Amsterdam - 32 guns), Apam (Fort Lijdzaamheid or Fort Patience - 22 guns), Senya Beraku (Berku or Fort Barracco - 18 guns), and Accra (Fort Creve Cour - 32 guns).[1] Leander also destroyed the French store-ship Officeuse, off Senegal, supposed to be worth ₤30,000.

Shirley then sailed to the West Indies where towards the end of 1782 as senior captain he became commanding officer prior to the arrival of Admiral Hugh Pigot. Pigot promoted him to captain of Union, a Second Rate of 90 guns. Leander was paid-off in Portsmouth in 1784.

She was recommissioned in August 1786, after repairs in 1785. Capt. Sir James Barclay then sailed her for Nova Scotia on 9 April 1787. She served as flagship for Sir Hubert Sawyer in 1788 until paid off in September. Capt. Joseph Peyton, Jr. immediately recommissioned her as the flagship for his father Rear-Adm. Joseph Peyton, Sr. She sailed for the Mediterranean on 22 December.

French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars

Leander was recommissioned in May 1795 under Capt. Maurice Delgano. In November 1796 she came under the command of Capt. Thomas Boulden Thompson. She then escorted a convoy to Gibraltar on 7 January 1797.

Leander joined the Mediterranean Fleet under John Jervis, and was assigned to the squadron under Horatio Nelson.[2] Thompson took part in Nelson's attack on Santa Cruz in July 1797. Thompson was among the leaders of the landing parties, under the overall direction of Nelson and Thomas Troubridge. Wind hampered the initial attempts to force a landing; the Spanish defenders immediately subjected the successful landing in the evening of 22 July to heavy fire. Thompson's party were able to advance and spike several of the enemy's cannon. However, the British forces had become dispersed throughout the town, and were forced to negotiate a truce to allow them to withdraw. Thompson himself was wounded in the battle.[2]

Under Captain Thomas Thompson Leander took part in the Battle of the Nile on 1 August 1798, where she was able to exploit a gap in the French line and anchor between Peuple Souverain and Franklin and rake both enemy ships while protected from their broadsides. In the battle she suffered only 14 wounded.

Carrying Nelson's dispatches from the Nile and accompanied by Edward Berry, on 18 August 1798 she encountered the French ship Généreux off Crete. In the subsequent action Leander suffered 35 men killed and 57 wounded. The French suffered 100 killed and 188 wounded. Still, the French prevailed and took her into service under existing name. The French treated the prisoners badly and plundered all their possessions. They refused treatment for Thompson, who had been badly wounded. Leander's surgeon, Mr. Mulberry, was only able to remove a musket ball from Thompson's arm after the vessels reached Corfu and he was smuggled aboard the vessel where Thompson was held. Capt. Lejoille of Généreux attempted, with no success, to induce some of the British seamen to join the French navy. Most of the officers were sent home on parole, but Thomas Jarrat, the carpenter, was detained for refusing to supply the French with the dimensions of Leaner' masts and spars. [Note 1] The Russians and the Turks recaptured Leander when they captured Corfu from the French on 3 March 1799. The Russians restored her to the Royal Navy.

She was recommissioned in the Mediterranean under Cmdr. Adam Drummond. In September Captain Michael Halliday took command.

From July 1801 to June 1802 she refitted at Deptford. She recommissioned in May under Capt. James Oughton as flagship for Vice-Admiral Sir Andrew Mitchell. In July she sailed for Halifax. Captain Francis Fane took command a year later, in August 1803, with Captain Alexander Skene replacing him in November. In 1804 she had three captains within the year: George Ralph Collier, Oughton again, and from November, John Talbot.

On 23 February 1805, while on the Halifax station, Leander discovered the French frigate Ville de Milan, under Captain Pierre Guillet, and the British HMS Cleopatra, which the Ville de Milan had captured the day before. Their combat had left both ships greatly damaged and as a result they struck without a fight. For this success, Talbot was removed to the ship of the line HMS Centaur.[3]

The Leander Affair

Leander then came under the command of Captains William Lyall and Henry Whitby. On 25 April 1805 Leander, and Driver, under Slingsby Simpson, were off Sandy Hook, stopping and searching all American vessels going into New York harbour. At the time Britain followed a policy of impressment of British seamen on American ships; American anger at this policy was one of the causes of the War of 1812. Leander fired on the American coaster Richard off New York.[4] In doing so she killed an American seaman (John Pearce), which caused a great furor in New York. On 14 June President Thomas Jefferson issued a proclamation against Captain Whitby. He ordered Leander, Driver and Cambrian immediately to quit US waters and forbade them ever to return. He extended the same prohibition to all vessels that Captains Whitby, John Nairne and Simpson might command.[5]

In May Captain Salusbury Pryce Humphreys took command of Leander at Halifax as she became the flagship for Admiral George Berkeley. Captain Richard Raggett then sailed her back to Britain.


By 1807 Leander was out of commission at Portsmouth. In 1808 she was in Plymouth, but was back in Portsmouth in 1811. In 1813 the Admiralty commissioned a new Leander so the old Leander was converted to a hospital ship under the name Hygeia. Hygeia was sold in 1817.


  1. ^ The subsequent court-martial aboard HMS Alexander at Sheerness honourably acquitted Thompson, his officers and his crew. As Thompson was rowed back to his ship he passed the fleet at anchor, which marked his progress by giving him three cheers. He was subsequently knighted and awarded a pension of £200 per annum. (Obituary)


  1. ^ Crooks, John Joseph (1973) Records Relating to the Gold Coast Settlements from 1750 To 1874. (London: Taylor & Francis), pp.51 and 62. ISBN 9780714616476
  2. ^ a b Annual Biography and Obituary. pp. 319–29.  
  3. ^ Talbot, Sir John, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, J. K. Laughton, Retrieved 25 May 2008
  4. ^ [1] New York Times synopsis of the book The seventh Regiment.
  5. ^ Draft of Proclamation concerning “Leander” - Thomas Jefferson, The Works of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 10 (Correspondence and Papers 1803-1807) [1905], Ed. Paul Leicester Ford, Federal Edition (New York and London, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904-5).
  • Winfield, Rif (2008). British Warships in the Age of Sail 1793–1817: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Seaforth. ISBN 1861762461.  

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