The Channel Fleet 1801

The sheer size of this fleet, 49 battleships each of 74 guns or more, reflects the seriousness of Napoleon’s threat to invade England.  It is unlikely that the Royal Navy had ever assembled such a powerful fleet before.  Under the command of Admiral the Earl of St. Vincent (see The Battle of Cape St. Vincent) the task of this fleet was to prevent the French navy from entering the English Channel.  Napoleon knew that his invasion could only succeed if he gained control of the Channel for long enough to see his invasion force safely across . Elsewhere, the North Sea fleet patrolled the European coastline seeking to keep Dutch warships at bay and looking out for stray French ships.

But, where was Nelson?  His name is conspicuous by its absence from Lord St. Vincent’s Fleet, which was, after all, England’s main line of defence.

Lord Nelson was heavily engaged in action against the French invasion force.  The Admiralty, reacting to acute public pressure, had appointed Nelson to the command of a “Squadron for a Particular Service” consisting of dozens of frigates, gunbrigs, sloops and gunboats manned by sailors and several divisions of Marines with orders to carry out surprise attacks on enemy invasion barges and port installations. See Attack on Boulogne, which gives you a detailed contemporary account of the action.

Listed below is the Royal Navy’s Channel Fleet of 1801.  The officers highlighted were friends or colleagues of Nelson’s, most of whom had fought under his command at the Battle of The Nile and some later followed him at Copenhagen and Trafalgar both of which still lay in a dim and uncharted future.  Click on the highlighted officers to see short biographies. In square brackets [ ] after certain officers’ names we record the major fleet actions at which those officers were present.

Ships & (Guns)

Ville de Paris (110) Admiral The Earl St. Vincent KB. Commander in Chief.Captain Sir Thomas Troubridge KB,  1st. Capt. [St. Vincent; The Nile]

Captain G. Gray  2nd. Capt.

Royal George (100) Vice Admiral Sir Henry Harvey Kt.Captain Richard Brown
Royal Sovereign (100) Admiral Sir Hyde Parker  [Copenhagen, as Commander-in-Chief]Captain Richard Otway   [Copenhagen]
Atlas (98) Captain T. Jones
Barfleur (98) Rear Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood  [St. Vincent; Trafalgar]Captain Irwin
Formidable (98) Captain Richard Grinwald  [Trafalgar]
Glory (98) Captain T. Wells
London (98) Captain J. C. Purvis
Neptune (98) Captain T. Vashon
Prince (98) Captain The Earl Northesk  [Trafalgar]
Prince George (98) Rear Admiral Sir Charles CottonCaptain R. C. Rowley
Prince of Wales (98) Rear Admiral Sir Charles Calder Bt.Captain William Prowse [Trafalgar, frigate captain]
Princess Royal (98) Rear Admiral Sir Erasmus GowerCaptain D. Atkins
St. George (98) Captain William Wolseley
Temeraire (98) Rear Admiral J. H. WhitshedCaptain E. Marsh
Windsor Castle (98) Vice Admiral Sir Andrew Mitchell KB.
Captain J. Oughton
Caesar (80) Rear Admiral Sir James Saumarez   [The Nile]Captain Jameel Brenton
Gibraltar (80) Captain W. H. Kelly
Juste (80) Captain H. Sawyer
La Pompee (80) Captain Charles Stirling
Impetueux (78) Captain Sir Edward Pellew, Bt.
Achilles (74) Captain George Murray [Copenhagen]
Belleisle (74) Captain William Domett
Bellona (74) Captain Sir Thomas Thompson  [The Nile]
Canada (74) Captain The Hon. M. de Courcy
Captain (74) Captain Sir Richard Strachan
Centaur (74) Captain J. Markham
Courageux (74) Captain George Duff   [Trafalgar, killed in action]
Cumberland (74) Captain R. C. Reynolds
Defence (74) Captain Lord Henry Paulet  [Copenhagen]
Defiance (74) Captain Richard Retalick  [Copenhagen]
Edgar (74) Captain E. Buller
Elephant (74) Captain Thomas Foley  [The Nile; Copenhagen]
Excellent (74) Captain The Hon. R. Stopford
Ganges (74) Captain Thomas Fremantle   [Copenhagen; Trafalgar]
Magnificent (74) Captain E. Bowater
Mars (74) Rear Admiral E. Thornborough Captain R. Lloyd
Montague (74) Captain The Hon. H. Curzon
Ramillies (74) Captain R. Barlow
Resolution (74) Captain A. H. Gardner
Robust (74) Captain W. Brown
Russell (74) Captain Sir Thomas Williams
Saturn (74) Captain Charles Boyles
Spencer (74) Captain Henry D’Esterre Darby   [The Nile]
Superb (74) Captain J. Sutton
Terrible (74) Captain F. Fayerman
Triumph (74) Captain Eliab Harvey   [Trafalgar]
Venerable (74) Captain Samuel Hood   [The Nile]
Warrior (74) Captain Charles Tyler   [Trafalgar]