Author Topic: HMS Winchelsea (1764 - 1814)  (Read 63 times)

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Offline stuartwaters

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HMS Winchelsea (1764 - 1814)
« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2020, 07:49:45 PM »

HMS Winchelsea was a 12pdr-armed, fifth rate, 32-gun frigate of the Niger Class built at the Sheerness Royal Dockyard.


The Niger Class was a group of eleven sailing frigates designed by Sir Thomas Slade, Co-Surveyor of the Navy, now more famous of course for having designed HMS Victory. Of the eleven ships of the Niger Class, six were built in Kent shipyards and HMS Winchelsea was the last of a trio of such ships built consecutively at Sheerness, which had included the lead ship of the class.


Of the Kent-built ships of the Niger Class, HMS Niger and HMS Montreal were the other two Sheerness-built ships, while HMS Pearl and HMS Aurora were built at the Chatham Royal Dockyard and HMS Aeolus was built under Navy Board contract by Thomas West at his Deptford shipyard.


At the time the ship was built, the 12pdr-armed, 32-gun frigate was one of two main types of frigate in service with the Royal Navy, the other being the 9pdr-armed 28-gun sixth-rate ship. From the early 1780's however, both types began to fall into obsolescence in the face of larger, 18pdr-armed French frigates. The Royal Navy had also begun to build 18pdr-armed frigates at about the same time, but production of these ships was slow to get started so that when the French Revolutionary War broke out in 1793, many of the older 12- and 9pdr-armed frigates were recommissioned. These ships gave good service despite their advancing age and obsolescence until they were replaced from the late 1790's by larger 18pdr-armed frigates mounting 32, 36, 38 or 40 guns.


HMS Winchelsea was ordered from the Sheerness Royal Dockyard on 11th August 1761. At the time the ship was ordered, the Seven Years War was in full swing and the Royal Navy was undergoing a massive programme of expansion. This was because the Seven years War, which had started in 1754 as a territorial dispute between French and British colonists in North America, had rapidly escalated during 1756 into what is now regarded as being the first real World War in the true sense of the phrase.


The first keel section of what was to become HMS Winchelsea was laid on the Sheerness Royal Dockyard's only building-slip on the 29th March 1762. Construction proceeded rapidly until the Seven Years War was ended by the Treaty of Paris on 10th February 1763. Once the war was over, the project lost its urgency and the pace of the work slowed as dozens of tradesmen including shipwrights were laid off. The new ship was eventually launched with all due ceremony on the 31st May 1764. After her launch, the ship was laid up at Sheerness with her hatches and gunports sealed shut under the care of a skeleton crew.


Niger Class Plans


From top to bottom, Gundeck or Main Deck, Berth or Lower Deck and Orlop plans:





Quarterdeck and Forecastle Plans:





Inboard Profile and Plan:





Sheer Plan and Lines:





A model of HMS Winchelsea. This model is remarkably well documented. It is in the collection of the National Maritime Museum and was made by Mr Thomas Boroughs at the Woolwich Royal Dockyard in 1764 to a commission by Lord Sandwich, the First Lord of the Admiralty at the time. It is of the highest quality, because Lord Sandwich intended to display it to King George III and the Prince of Wales in order to spark their interest in the Royal Navy.


Port side, showing the frames:





Starboard side view, showing the hull details:





Bow view:





Stern view:





The two small wreathed ports either side of the stern lantern are actually ports for the stern chase guns. These guns were normally kept at the quarterdeck broadside gunports, but in the event of the ship being chased, guns would be moved to fire out of these gunports.


On the 23rd February 1769, Captain Samuel Cranston Goodall was appointed in command and ordered to commission the ship, have her fitted for sea, recruit a crew and when he had done that, to take the ship to the Mediterranean. Recruiting a crew in a time of peace was no mean feat. The Commissioned Officers were appointed into the ship by the Admiralty and the senior Warrant Officers, effectively the heads of departments on the ship were appointed by the Navy Board.


On a 32-gun frigate like HMS Winchelsea there were three Lieutenants, ranked in order of seniority, First, Second and Third. Each of the Lieutenants was effectively a commander in waiting, gaining seniority and experience until they were eventually noticed by the Admiralty or the Captain's Commander-in-Chief and given a command of their own. The First Lieutenant was usually the first to be appointed as he was second-in-command of the ship and was the Captain's right hand man. He would control the day-to-day running and organisation of the ship. Each of the Commissioned Officers would have two midshipmen appointed by the Admiralty to assist him, so a ship like HMS Winchelsea would have six Midshipmen, all of whom were effectively commanders in training.  In addition to the appointed Midshipmen, there were the Midshipmen-in-Ordinary. These were boys, rated and paid as Able Seamen, on the ship's Muster Book as Captains Servants, but wearing the uniform and performing the role of the Midshipmen. The Captain of a warship was entitled to have four servants per hundred men of the ship's company, so since HMS Winchelsea had a crew of 200, he would be entitled to eight. Unless the Captain was extraordinarily extravagant, he wouldn't need this number, so the spare positions were taken up with Midshipmen-in-Ordinary.


The Warrant Officers were the ship's core craftsmen and in a 32-gun frigate, these were:


The Sailing Master. He reported directly to the Captain and because of this, was entitled to live in the Wardroom with the Commissioned Officers. He was a fully qualified Ship's Master and in the event of his being unable to find a position in the Royal Navy, was qualified to command a merchant ship. He was responsible for the sailing and navigation of the ship, the storage of provisions in the hold to ensure the optimum trim of the ship and the training of the Midshipmen-in-Ordinary in the arts of seamanship and navigation. On a 32-gun frigate, the Sailing Master was assisted by two Masters Mates.


The Surgeon. Also reporting directly to the Captain and entitled to a berth in the Wardroom, he was responsible for the day to day healthcare of the crew. He was assisted by an Assistant Surgeon.


The Boatswain or Bosun. He reported to the First Lieutenant and was responsible for the repair and maintenance of the ships boats as well as the masts, sails and rigging. In a ship like HMS Winchelsea, he was assisted by a single Boatswains Mate. The Boatswain was one of the Standing Officers, the men who remained with the ship whether or not she was in commission and would have been appointed by the Navy Board along with the rest of the Standing Officers when HMS Winchelsea was first launched.


The Gunner. He reported to the First Lieutenant and was responsible for the operation, repair and maintenance of the ship's main guns as well as the storage of gunpowder and shot. In addition to this, he also oversaw the training of the Midshipmen-in-Ordinary in the arts of gunnery and the training of the gun crews themselves. In action, the Gunner was responsible for the distribution of gunpowder and shot. In a ship like HMS Winchelsea, the Gunner was assisted by a single Gunners Mate. A 32-gun ship also had 7 Quarter Gunners. These men were Petty Officers, each in charge of four gun crews. The Gunner was one of the Standing Officers.


The Carpenter. He was a fully qualified shipwright, usually selected from amongst the shipwrights who had built the ship. He was responsible to the First Lieutenant for the repair and maintenance of the ships hull, frames and decks. He was assisted in his duties by a single Carpenters Mate and a crew of five seamen. He was another of the ship's Standing Officers.


The Purser. He reported directly to the Captain and was therefore entitled to a berth in the Wardroom. He was responsible for the purchase and distribution of all the ship's provisions and stores. He was another of the ship's Standing Officers.


In addition to these, there were the lesser Warrant Officers. These men were required to apply for the positions to the First Lieutenant and present their credentials at interview. The Captain had the final say on who was appointed into his ship from amongst the candidates, based on the recommendations of the First Lieutenant. Once he had been appointed into a ship commissioning for sea, the First Lieutenant would have adverts printed for the vacancies and have those adverts put up at the Dockyard Gates and displayed in inns and taverns around the dockyard. The lesser Warrant Officers were:


The Armourer. Responsible to the Gunner for the repair and maintenance of the ships supply of small arms and bladed weapons. A fully qualified blacksmith, the Armourer would also manufacture new bladed weapons as and where required. The role of the repair and maintenance of the ships metal fixtures and fittings would usually fall on his shoulders and he would be assisted by a single Armourers Mate.


The Caulker. The Caulker was responsible to the Carpenter for making sure that the hull and decks remained watertight. A ship like HMS Winchelsea would have no Caulkers Mates appointed, but he would have a crew of seamen to assist him as and where required.


The Cook. Usually a disabled ex-seaman, the Cook was a junior Warrant Officer who, as the title suggests, was responsible for the preparation of the ships provisions. He was another of the Standing Officers and reported to the Purser.


The Sailmaker. Responsible to the Boatswain for the storage and repair of the ships sails and flags. He would be assisted by a seaman assigned to the role by the First Lieutenant.


The Ropemaker. Responsible to the Boatswain for the storage, repair and maintenance of the ships stocks of cordage and the manufacture of new cordage as required.


The Clerk. Responsible to the Purser for the ships records and the submission of the ships books to the Admiralty.


The Schoolmaster. Reporting to the First Lieutenant, the Schoolmaster was required to teach the Midshipmen-in-Ordinary about mathematics and the theory of navigation. With the Captain's permission, he would also teach the rest of the ships boys the basic 3 r's.


The Chaplain. An ordained priest whose job was to look after the spiritual welfare of the ships company. In action, the Chaplain would assist the Surgeon with the care of wounded men. In the absence of a Chaplain, the Captain would carry out the formal religious aspects of the role. In deference to his status as an ordained priest, the Chaplain was entitled to a berth in the Wardroom.


The Master at Arms. Effectively the ships policeman, his job was to take care of the day to day enforcement of discipline on the ship. He answered to the First Lieutenant. In a ship like HMS Winchelsea, he would be assisted by two Ships Corporals. Misbehaving seamen would be reported to the First Lieutenant who would in turn investigate and report the matter to the Captain who would decide what, if any, punishment was to be awarded. If the Captain decided that the offender was to be flogged, the flogging itself would be carried out by the Boatswains Mate. If the offence was beyond the Captains authority to decide, the Master-at-Arms would be responsible for the prisoner's welfare until a Court Martial could be arranged.


Under the Warrant Officers, apart from their respective Mates and Assistants, there would be the various Petty Officers. These men would be assigned roles dependent on their previous experience as and when they signed onto the ships books.


In addition to the complement of seamen, HMS Winchelsea would also carry a contingent of Marines. These men would come aboard as a unit. A 32-gun ship like HMS Winchelsea would have a commissioned Lieutenant of Marines in charge. As a commissioned officer, he was entitled to a berth in the Wardroom along with the commissioned sea officers. In HMS Winchelsea, the Marine Lieutenant was assisted by a Sergeant, a Corporal, a Drummer and there would be 30 Marine Privates.


The reason HMS Winchelsea was commissioned was that in 1768, the Russo-Turkish war had begun and the Russian Empress, Catherine the Great had asked for British help. When she came to the Russian throne in 1762, the fleet she inherited was poor in training, disclipline and morale. It was badly administered, badly equipped and poorly led. After the end of the Seven Years War, there were a large number of unemployed and experienced British naval officers laid off on half pay and looking for work and the Russians were only too happy to employ them. The British saw Russia as the only openly anti-French major power and were very keen to mantain a strong alliance. In addition, the recent war had seen the British come to be reliant on timber from the Baltic Sea, the eastern half of which was under Russian control, so it was in Britains interests to keep the Russians sweet. Rear-Admiral John Elphinstone and Captain Samuel Greig in particular left the UK to join the Russians to act as Naval Advisors to help the Russians reorganise their fleet and to advise senior Russian admirals. Rear-Admiral Elphinstone immediately advised the Russians to redeploy their Baltic Sea Fleet to the Mediterranean to reinforce their Black Sea Fleet, which was heavily outnumbered by the Turks. The Royal Navy also reinforced their own presence in the area to make sure that fighting in the Eastern Mediterranean did not affect British trade in the area. There was a concern in the Government that although Britain would not openly help the Russians in line with their declared neutrality in the Russo-Turkish War, the war posed a threat to trade and the British determined to try to mediate between the warring countries to bring the war to a rapid end. They were equally concerned that Turkish success would allow the French to increase their influence in the Levant. There was also concern at intelligence which revealed that the Russians had hired at least three British ships, one of which was under the command of a half-pay Lieutenant of the Royal Navy, to cruise the Mediterranean as privateers on their behalf. These three vessels had cleared British customs with papers showing that they had been hired to transport stores to Cagliari, but were in fact, fitted as warships.


When finally ready for sea, HMS Winchelsea was a ship of 679 tons, she was 125ft long on her gundeck, 103ft 4in long along the keel and 35ft 2in wide across the beams. She was armed with 26 x 12pdr long guns on her gundeck with 2 x 6pdr long guns on her forecastle and four more on her quarterdeck. In addition to her main guns, she had a dozen half-pounder swivel guns attached to her forecastle and quarterdeck handrails and in her fighting tops. The ship was manned by a crew of 220 officers, seamen, boys and Marines. The cost of building and fitting out the ship came to £11,515.18s.


HMS Winchelsea set sail from the Nore on 14th May 1769 and was assigned to watch the Russian fleet because although Britain was friendly to the Russian cause, they would not permit their neutrality to be openly abused by the Russians. Her role was to be to monitor the movements of merchant vessels and supply ships going to and from the Russian fleet to make sure that no British vessels were involved. HMS Winchelsea located the Russian fleet on the 11th July between the island of Chios off the coast of modern-day Turkey and the mainland.


In January 1770 while keeping an eye on ships coming out of Cadiz headed into the Mediterranean, HMS Winchelsea struck rocks and went hard aground. Her crew were forced to cut down the masts and rigging to lighten the ship enough for her to be floated off on the next tide and the ship put into Gibraltar under a jury rig for repairs.


Eventually, HMS Winchelsea located the three privateers in question, but by the time she found them, the Russians had effectively destroyed the Turkish fleet in the Battle of Chesma fought between the 5th and 7th July 1770. The three privateers in question had already been discharged by the Russians, so rather than arrest them, HMS Winchelsea escorted them to Port Mahon in Minorca.


On the 8th November 1770, a new face joined the Midshipman's Berth. He was Mr Midshipman James Saumarez, the 13-year old, Guernsey-born son of an old naval family. He had previously been aboard HMS Wincelsea's sister-ship HMS Montreal for a couple of months. He had been a beneficiary of a practice known as 'False Muster'. He officially joined the Royal Navy as an Able Seaman three years before, apparently as a volunteer aboard the frigate HMS Solebay, but didn't actually go to sea until he joined HMS Montreal. This practice was a ruse to get around the rule that boys had to serve at least two years at sea before they could be appointed as Midshipmen proper. The young Mr Saumarez would go on to become one of the Royal Navy's most successful commanders and would reach the rank of Admiral before his death in 1836.


On the 15th January 1772, Mr Midshipman Saumarez left the ship to join the 28-gun frigate HMS Levant and on the 17th April, Captain Goodall handed command of the ship to Captain Thomas Wilkinson. Captain Goodall would not return to the Royal Navy for almost six years, when he was appointed in command of the 64-gun third rate ship of the line HMS Defiance. Captain Wilkinson's previous appointment had been in command of the 24-gun sixth rate Post Ship HMS Fowey. Under Captain Wilkinson, the ship continued as before.


On the 21st July 1774, Russia and the Ottoman Empire signed the Treaty of Kucuk Kaynarca ending the war. Exactly eleven months later, Captain Wilkinson paid the ship off at Sheerness. In July 1775, the ship entered the Sheerness Royal Dockyard for a small repair. This was probably to replace the fir sheathing on her lower hull, a sacrificial layer of timber used to protect the lower hull from sea life which would otherwise bore into the hull, in the days before the Royal Navy began to routinely sheath their ships lower hulls with copper.


1765 had seen the start of the sequence of events which would eventually lead to the next major war. The Seven Years War had been a war fought on a scale never before seen and the British Government had had to borrow vast sums of money to be able to fight it to it's successful conclusion. These debts needed to be paid and in an effort to raise the money, the British had levied taxes on their American colonies. At the time, these enjoyed a status similar to todays offshore tax havens and although the colonists were happy to pay taxes imposed for the regulation of trade and to run local colonial governments, taxes imposed from London over which they had no say were another matter entirely. Political debate escalated into civil disobedience and protests into rioting. The increasingly heavy-handed and draconian measures imposed by the British to force payment of the taxes meant that a further escalation into armed rebellion was inevitable and in early 1775, that is exactly what happened. On the 19th April 1775, the opening shots in what is now called the American War of Independence or the American Revolution were fired in the Battle of Lexington.


On 20th February 1776, Captain Nathaniel Bateman was appointed to command HMS Winchelsea with orders to take the ship to the great fleet anchorage at Spithead and await further orders. Captain Bateman was an experienced and distinguished commander. During the Seven Years War, he had commanded the 68-gun ship of the line HMS Northumberland in which the famous James Cook had served as Sailing Master in the lead-up to the taking of the fortress at Louisburg. It was Cook's surveying of the river leading to Louisburg which had enabled that success and which had brought Cook to the attention of senior figures in the Admiralty. Later on, during his first voyage of exploration, Cook had sighted and named Bateman's Bay in New South Wales after his former commander.


By this time, the Government had authorised the Admiralty to issue Press Warrants, enabling press gangs to start rounding up seamen for service in the Royal Navy. Although this wouldn't have affected the way in which commissioned and warrant officers were appointed into the ship, it certainly made Captain Bateman's job of recruiting seamen into the ship a whole lot easier. In America, things were going from bad to worse. The defeat at Lexington had forced the British to retreat to their stronghold in Boston, which they were forced to evacuate in March of 1776. The Americans had created the Continental Army under General George Washington and a navy of sorts had been cobbled together out of armed merchant vessels together with an array of privateers. This meant that Britains lucrative colonies in the Carribean had to be defended by a reinforced naval presence. In addition to reinforcing the British naval presence in the Caribbean, the British were aware that after their defeats to the American Rebels of 1776, the French had begun to secretly supply the rebels with arms, ammunition, money and supplies and the British were determined to put a stop to that too.


On arrival at Spithead, Captain Bateman received his orders:


"Lords Commissioners Admiralty to Captain Nathaniel Bateman HMS Winchelsea Spithead.


You are hereby required and directed to put to Sea with the very first opportunity of Wind & Weather in the Ship you command and make the best of your way to the Island of Fayal where you are to take in with all possible dispatch a sufficient Quantity of Wine for the use of her Company and then proceed without loss of time to Jamaica where you are to deliver the inclosed Pacquet to Vice Admiral Gayton
(the Commander-in-Chief in Jamaica) or the Commanding Officer for the time being of His Majesty's Ships and Vessels at & about that Island &c &c and follow his Orders for your further proceedings.


Given &c 23d May 1776


J Buller Lisburne H Palliser
"




In the afternoon of Monday 30th December 1776, HMS Winchelsea passed through the Turks Island Passage, between the Turks and Caicos Islands and the island of Hispaniola and the following morning, captured an American vessel bound from Cape Francois on the northern coast of Hispaniola to Baltimore. The vessel was sent to Jamaica with a Petty Officer and two seamen as the prize crew.


On 19th May 1777, HMS Winchelsea took the French ship Lamulant bound from St Domingue to America.


On the 30th September 1777, HMS Winchelsea hosted a Court Martial at Port Royal, Jamaica. The accused was the Second Lieutenant of the 14-gun ship-sloop HMS Hornet, under the command of Mr Robert Haswell, Master and Commander. The Lieutenant's name was Cuthbert Collingwood and he had a major personality clash with his commander. Unfortunately for Mr Collingwood, he made no effort to hide his dislike for his commander, who at the time, had a reputation for being a notoriously tyrannical, odious and unpopular man. At some point in 1777, Collingwood was called to give evidence at a Court Martial brought by Commander Haswell, for which he was late. When the Court Martial Board asked Commander Haswell why Mr Collingwood was late, Haswell launched into a lengthy tirade against Mr Collingwood's character and skill as an officer. Haswell then attempted to ruin Collingwood's career by reporting him to Vice-Admiral Gayton for disobedience and neglect of duty. Once the Court Martial Board heard the evidence, they saw right through Mr Haswell's malice and dismissed the charges. The young Mr Collingwood of course went on to have a stellar career in the Royal Navy, achieving everlasting fame because of his role in the Battle of Trafalgar as Nelson's second-in-command.


On the 27th November 1777, the French governor at St Domingue, the Compte d'Argout wrote to Vice-Admiral Gayton at Jamaica, complaining about the British warships seizing French vessels bound for rebel-held ports in America. In particular, the Compte complained that a Polacca, La Providence, taken by HMS Winchelsea on the 18th August and awarded to the ship by the Admiralty Prize Court in Jamaica was not carrying contraband goods and was not bound to a rebel-held port. The Compte was also complaining about the seizure of the Lamulant. In his letter the French Governor threatened to send a frigate to protect vessels operating in the area. In response, Vice-Admiral Gayton stated that the British vessels were operating under his orders, which which were to seize all vessels which seemed to be trading to and from the rebel colonies and let the Admiralty Court in Jamaica assess the evidence and decide accordingly.


On the same day that the French governor wrote complaining to Vice-Admiral Gayton, HMS Winchelsea and HMS Hornet took the French Sloop Hope in company with HMS Hornet. The Hope had left Charleston with a cargo of rice.


In December 1777, Vice-Admiral Gayton was replaced as Commander-in-Chief in Jamaica by Rear-Admiral Sir Peter Parker, flying his command flag in the 50-gun ship of the line HMS Bristol. The arrival of HMS Bristol also provided some relief for the young Mr Collingwood because amongst the Lieutenants in HMS Bristol's wardroom was his friend, the Third Lieutenant in HMS Bristol, Mr Horatio Nelson.


On the 14th January 1778, HMS Winchelsea was at the Careening Wharf in Kingston Jamaica having her bottom cleaned.


On the 22nd July 1778, Captain Bateman was appointed to command the 64 gun Third Rate ship of the line HMS Yarmouth and was replaced in HMS Winchelsea by Captain Charles Saxton. HMS Winchelsea saw no further action in the Caribbean and the following year, Captain Saxton was ordered to escort the Jamaica Convoy back to the UK and then proceed to the Woolwich Royal Dockyard where HMS Winchelsea was paid off on the 10th November 1779.


In March 1780, HMS Winchelsea was stripped of her guns, masts and rigging and all the stores were removed along with the shingle ballast in the ship's bilges. She was then taken into a dry dock and was surveyed. This would have entailed the removal of any remaining fir sheathing, a thorough external examination of the hull planking and boring small holes into it where rot or minor damage was suspected in order to check it's condition, and the removal of some of the planking, both internal and external in order to assess the state of the ships frames. The Master Shipwright in the Royal Dockyard would then submit a report to the Navy Board recommending the extent of the repairs needed and the estimated cost. The Navy Board would then consult with the Admiralty and either approve the repairs or order the Dockyard to break the ship up if the repairs were not cost-effective. By this time, the fourth Anglo-Dutch war had broken out, France and Spain had entered the war on the American side and what had been a colonial brushfire had escalated into a global war, which in America at least, was not going well. The Royal Navy needed every ship it could lay it's hands on, especially frigates like HMS Winchelsea which were worth their weight in gold. Mr John Jenner, Master Shipwright in the Woolwich Royal Dockyard received instructions from the Navy Board that HMS Winchelsea was to be given a Large Repair. This was a major piece of work, which involved the removal of all the hull and deck planking, stripping the ship down to her frame. Any rotten or worn frame components were removed and were replaced with new timber and new hull and deck planking was installed and caulked. The final stage of work in the dry dock was to sheath the ship's lower hull with copper after which she was floated out and secured fore and aft to mooring bouys in the River Thames. While she was on her mooring, a sheer hulk was brought alongside and her masts, yards and standing rigging were fitted along with her guns. Once those tasks were complete, the sails and associated running rigging was brought out in a lighter and installed.


Back in July 1779, the Admiralty had ordered that ships be armed with carronades and had produced an Establishment detailing which carronades were to be fitted to what types of ship. Up until the 1779 Establishment, the fitting of carronades had been entirely at the discretion of the Captain. The Establishment for a 12pdr-armed 32-gun frigate was that they be fitted with 6 x 18pdr carronades on the quarterdeck, replacing the long guns fitted there, with 2 more on the forecastle to be fitted in addition to the long guns. That stated, many captains complained that the flash from the quarterdeck carronade's muzzles tended to damage rigging, specifically the pendants of the main braces, both of which came inboard at the quarterdeck on a frigate and so asked for two of the carronades to be replaced with long guns. Winfield does not state exactly what guns were fitted to HMS Winchelsea after her Large Repair, so assuming that she complied with the 1779 Establishment of Carronades, her quarterdeck would have carried either six 18pdr carronades or four plus a pair of 6pdr long guns.


On 6th March 1782, HMS Winchelsea commissioned for The Downs under Captain Sir John Borlase Warren, 1st Baronet Warren of Great Marlow and the work at Woolwich was declared complete having cost £15,041.1s.6d.


On arrival at the Downs, the great anchorage between the Goodwin Sands and the town of Deal, HMS Winchelsea came under the orders of the Commander-in-Chief at the Downs, Vice-Admiral Sir Francis William Drake, flying his command flag in the 56-gun, Fourth Rate ship of the line HMS Rippon.


Under Captain Warren, the ship was very successful in her mission of protecting shipping in the English Channel and the North Sea against attacks by French and Dutch privateers. On the 20th June, HMS Winchelsea captured the Dunkerque privateer brig Royal with five 12pdrs and 54 men off Flamborough Head. The vessel was captured after a 24 hour chase during which, for some of the time, HMS Winchelsea was under sweeps (large oars). The Royal had been at sea for nine days but had taken nothing. On the 30th June, HMS Winchelsea captured the Dutch privateer D'Amazoone of 18 guns and 78 men in the North Sea. The vessel was captured after a chase lasting nine hours. On July 27th, HMS Winchelsea arrived off Deal with La Capria, a lugger-rigged Dunkerque privateer of 2 6pdrs, 14 4pdrs and 43 men.


Captain Sir John Borlase Warren, painted circa 1799 by Mark Oates, from the collection of the National Maritime Museum:





On the 26th March 1783, Sir John Warren was replaced in command of HMS Winchelsea by Captain Richard Boger, who was only in command for two weeks until he was himself replaced by Captain Thomas Farnham. Sir John Warren was later to achieve fame in the early part of the French Revolutionary War whilst serving as commodore commanding a squadron of frigates operating out of Falmouth which became spectacularly successful in shutting down French shipping in the Bay of Biscay. Captain Boger's term in comand was so short because his patron, Vice-Admiral Mark Milbanke had offered him the job of commanding his flagship HMS Blenheim, a Second Rate ship of the line of 90 guns and with the war winding down and command appointments becoming harder to come by, officers of all ranks were having to resort to exploiting patronages, friendships and family links to influential senior officers in order to gain new appointments. Captain Thomas Farnham was a relatively junior Captain having only been Posted on 27th March 1782, but one who benefitted from the patronages of Vice-Admiral James Gambier, Commander-in-Chief North America Station from January until October 1778 and soon-to-be Commander-in-Chief of the Jamaica Station and also Vice-Admiral Lord Howe, Commander-in-chief North America from February 1776 to September 1778. During the war, Captain Farnham had distinguished himself in the Second Battle of Ushant when he had been promoted to Acting-Captain of HMS Alexander (74). After he had been Posted, he had been unable to find an appointment and was laid up on half pay until the vacancy in HMS Winchelsea came up.


By the time that Captain Farnham took over as Captain, the American War of Independence was all but over. For the British, it had been a disaster. The Royal Navy had been defeated in the Battle of Chesapeake Bay in September 1781. This had left General Lord Cornwallis no option but to surrender to the beseiging Franco-American army at Yorktown, located at the head of the Bay along with the bulk of the British Army in North America, rendering Britain's position as the Colonial Power untenable. The British had been more successful in Canada where they had repelled an American invasion attempt and in the Caribbean where the French had suffered a catastrophic defeat in the Battle of the Saintes in April 1782. This defeat had been the trigger for peace talks and the first draft of what was to become the 1783 Treaty of Paris had been produced at the end of November of 1782.


On the 13th May 1783, Captain Farnham in HMS Winchelsea set sail for Newfoundland with orders to place himself under the command of Rear-Admiral John Campbell, Commander-in-Chief North America Station and to act as his flagship. The role of the ship was to maintain good diplomatic relations with the Native American nations, protecting the fishing and whaling fleets and showing the flag. Warships assigned to this role usually only spent the spring and summer in the cold waters off Northern Canada and wintered back in the UK. In that role, HMS Winchelsea was to spend the next six summers based out of Newfoundland under the following captains:


1783 and 1784 - Thomas Farnham
1785, 1786, 1787, 1788 and the first half of the 1789 Season - Edward Pellew
Second half of the 1789 Season - John Salisbury
1790, 1791, 1792 - Richard Fisher
The French Revolutionary War had broken out in February 1793, but despite this, HMS Winchester continued with her seasonal duties off northern Canada. The 1793 Season was spent under Captain Fisher again and the 1794 Season was under Captain Sir John Stewart, the 7th Earl of Galloway.


When HMS Winchelsea returned to Spithead at the end of the 1794 Season in November of that year, she was paid off into the Portsmouth Ordinary. The ship was stripped of her guns, stores, sails, yards and running rigging. Her officers (with the exception of the Standing Officers) and crew were redistributed around the fleet and the ship became the responsibility of the Master Attendant at the Portsmouth Royal Dockyard. She was by now, thirty years old and it had been more than twenty years since she underwent her Large Repair at Woolwich Royal Dockyard. The ship's hull and frames were probably worn out after spending years in the stormy waters around Northern Canada.


HMS Winchelsea remained in the Portsmouth Ordinary until December of 1799, when the Admiralty decided that she would be converted into a troopship. The work was complete by March of 1800 and in October, she sailed to Egypt carrying troops bound for the invasion of Egypt. Since Nelson's victory over the French in the Battle of the Nile in August of 1798, a French army had been stranded in the Egyptian desert. The British had decided to send an army under General Ralph Abercromby to destroy the French army. On the 8th March 1801, the British conducted an opposed landing in the teeth of French fire near Alexandria and went on to defeat the French in the Battle of Alexandria on the 21st March 1801.


In July 1802, HMS Winchelsea entered the Royal Dockyard at Sheerness and was converted into a Hospital Ship. The ship served in that role at the Nore for ten years until she was paid off into the Chatham Ordinary. HMS Winchelsea was sold for breaking up on the 3rd November 1814.
"I did not say the French would not come, I said they will not come by sea" - Admiral Sir John Jervis, 1st Earl St Vincent.