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Heather and I are delighted to be presenting a seminar at the National Museum of the Royal Navy next Wednesday, 14th of May, as part of their annual Research Programme.  The seminar, Faithful and attached companions: Sir Edward Pellew and the Young Gentlemen of HMS Indefatigable, will provide an overview of our research into the naval careers and civilian lives of the junior officers of HMS Indefatigable, who served aboard Sir Edward Pellew’s iconic frigate during the famous Droits de L’Homme engagement in 1797. Although we have presented a number of conference papers about our research, this will be out first opportunity to present a broad overview of all nineteen of the young men we are studying, and to put a face to some of their names.  We will also be extremely honoured to have descendants of one of the Indefatigable‘s midshipmen present at the seminar.

Young Gentlemen of HMS Indefatigable

Young Gentlemen of HMS Indefatigable


Captain Sir Edward Pellew is regarded as an audacious frigate commander who is widely remembered for one of the most emblematic frigate engagements of the French Revolutionary Wars when his ship Indefatigable, and her consort Amazon, took on the French 74 gun ship of the line Les Droits de L’Homme in a ferocious night action off Audierne Bay in January 1797. Although the Droits de L’Homme engagement is cited in almost every naval history of the period, little original research has been undertaken about the Indefatigable’s officers and crew.   This seminar will present the findings of an ongoing research project focused on the lives and careers of the cohort of young gentlemen who served aboard the Indefatigable during this iconic engagement.

The nineteen young gentlemen mustered on the Indefatigable’s books in 1797 present a snapshot of the officer class of the late 18th century navy in microcosm. Many of these men, from diverse social backgrounds, had distinguished careers within and beyond the service; several reached the rank of Rear-Admiral, some served at Trafalgar and Algiers, one sailed with the First Fleet to Australia, some engaged in scientific discovery and technological innovation, several took up public office and radical politics, others undertook diplomatic service, one became feted as a hero in his own lifetime, another had the misfortune to suffer three courts martial and an unfortunate few lost their lives during the course of the war.

Through detailed examination of contemporary documents held in national, public and private archives in the UK, USA and France, this project is uncovering the lives and careers of the midshipmen who served aboard HMS Indefatigable during the Droits de L’Homme engagement, and by revealing the ongoing professional and personal relationship with their former captain, it will also reappraise Sir Edward Pellew’s legacy and reputation.

This seminar runs from 17.30 – 18.30 and is free to attend, but admission is by ticket only.  To request a ticket please contact Emma Nash at emma.nash@nmrn.org.uk.