HMS Indefatigable was built at Bucklers Hard between 1781 and 1784 as a 64 gun third rate, however she was not commissioned until 1794 when she was razeed to become a 44 gun frigate under the command of Sir Edward Pellew, who remained her captain for the next five years. Pellew had already made a name for himself as an audacious frigate commander and he went on a to have a long and distinguished naval career. He served as Commander in Chief of the East Indies Station and the Mediterranean Fleet, was feted as the hero of the Bombardment of Algiers and retired from active service as Admiral Lord Exmouth in 1816. Despite such notable achievements, the Indefatigable was arguably Pellew’s most famous and successful command and the one that remained closest to his heart. Throughout his career Pellew was renowned, and in some quarters criticised, for the patronage he extended to the young men that served under him and the crew of the Indefatigable, many of whom had followed him from his previous commands, the Nymphe and the Arethusa, were no exception.
And why 1797? On the 13th of January 1797 the Indefatigable and the Amazon took on the French ship of the line the Droits de L’Homme in an engagement that to this day is widely regarded as one of the boldest frigate actions of the French Revolutionary War.
Since 2010 we have been attempting to chart the lives and careers of the 1797 crew of HMS Indefatigable through an examination of contemporary records and documents held in national, public and private archives in the UK, USA and France. Many of these young men, from diverse social backgrounds, went on to have distinguished careers both within and beyond the navy and many of them maintained an ongoing professional and personal relationship to their former captain, Sir Edward Pellew, later 1st Viscount Exmouth.
We’ll be using this blog to post the outputs of this project, along with other bits and pieces of research and writing relating Georgian Naval History around the turn of the 18th century.
– Lorna and Heather
I have a long-term interest in genealogy and through that came to research on Sir Edward Pellew and became particularly intrigued by his time as captain of the Indefatigable. When I am not tracing midshipmen’s lives, I indulge in other peoples’ family trees as a volunteer with the Society of Genealogists. Other interests include the wider Georgian navy, poetry and opera. I have a background in literature and theology and presently work as a theological consultant.
Lorna M Campbell
Email: lorna.m.campbell at icloud.com
In addition to the crew of HMS Indefatigable, my historical interests include the experiences of British prisoners of war in France during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, the life of Admiralty artist J.T. Serres, the Georgian navy in fiction and film, and issues relating to gender and sexuality. I have an academic background in archaeology and currently work at the University of Edinburgh in the domain of open education technology. I am also the Chair of the Society for Nautical Research Publications Committee.
The header image of this blog is scanned from the original Admiralty ship plans of HMS Indefatigable which are held by the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich.