HMS Recruit (1806)

HMS Recruit was an 18-gun Cruizer-class brig-sloop of the Royal Navy, launched in 1806 at Sandwich, Kent. She is best known for an act of pique by Commander Warwick Lake, who marooned a seaman, and for an inconclusive but hard-fought ship action under Commander Charles John Napier against the French corvette Diligente. She captured a number of American vessels as prizes during the War of 1812 before being laid up in 1815 and sold for breaking up in 1822.

Recruit & D'Haupoult.jpg
Intrepid behaviour of Captn Charles Napier, in H M 18 gun Brig Recruit for which he was appointed to the D' Haupoult. The 74 now pouring a broadside into her. 15 April 1809. Hautpoult can be seen in the background.
Royal Navy EnsignUK
Name: HMS Recruit
Ordered: 27 January 1806
Builder: Andrew Hills, Sandwich, Kent
Laid down: April 1806
Launched: 31 August 1806
Honours and
Naval General Service Medal with clasp "Martinique"[1]
Fate: Sold for breaking up 7 August 1822
General characteristics
Class and type: 18-gun Cruizer-class brig-sloop
Tons burthen: 3829194 (bm)
  • 100 ft (30 m) (overall)
  • 77 ft 3 12 in (23.559 m) (keel)
Beam: 30 ft 6 in (9.30 m)
Depth of hold: 12 ft 9 in (3.89 m)
Propulsion: Sails
Sail plan: Brig-sloop
Complement: 121

Napoleonic WarsEdit

Recruit was ordered on 27 January 1806 from the shipwright Andrew Hills, of Sandwich, Kent. She was laid down in April 1806 and launched on 31 August 1806.[2]

The marooning of Seaman JefferyEdit

Recruit was commissioned under Commander George Ackholm in March 1807. On 28 August, Tromp detained the Danish ships Diamond and Karen Louisa. Recruit, Humber, Cheerful, and Experiment were in sight and shared in the proceeds of the seizure.[3]

Next, Recruit sailed to the Caribbean under Commander Warwick Lake, supposedly in July,[2] but clearly later. During the voyage, a young sailor named Robert Jeffery was discovered to have stolen the midshipmen's beer and Lake furiously ordered him to be marooned on the island of Sombrero. (Jeffery had been born at Fowey but moved to Polperro before becoming a merchant seaman and was then pressed into the navy.)[4] Some months later, Lake's commanding officer Sir Alexander Cochrane discovered what had happened and immediately ordered Lake to retrieve Jeffery. When Recruit arrived at Sombrero, Jeffery could not be found. Eventually the story got out and a court martial dismissed Lake from the service for his actions. As it turned out, Jeffery had been picked up by an American ship and was eventually discovered in Massachusetts three years later, working as a blacksmith. He returned to Britain and received compensation.[4][5][Note 1]

Captain Charles NapierEdit

Command passed to Commander Charles Napier, who led Recruit into action against the French corvette Diligente, under Jean-François Lemaresquier, on 6 September 1808.[2] The action was fierce and resulted in Recruit losing her mainmast and suffering heavy casualties, including Napier, whose leg was broken by a cannon shot. Diligente was only driven off after a lucky shot from Recruit ignited an ammunition store. Recruit lost six killed and 23 wounded, half of them mortally, out of a crew of 106.[6]

Following repairs, Recruit participated in the invasion of Martinique in January 1809. Napier observed that Fort Edward at Fort Royal Bay appeared abandoned. He took a gig and with four men, landed, scaled the fort's walls, and hoisted a British flag. Sir Alexander Cochrane immediately landed marines to occupy the fort and turn its mortars, which had not been spiked, against the French.[6] In 1847 the Admiralty authorized the issuance of the Naval General Service Medal with clasp "Martinique" to all survivors of the campaign.

Shortly thereafter, Napier received promotion to Post-captain and appointment to command of Jason, but remained with Recruit for a few more months.

In April 1809, a strong French squadron arrived at the Îles des Saintes, south of Guadeloupe. There they were blockaded until 14 April, when a British force under Major-General Frederick Maitland and Captain Philip Beaver in Acasta, invaded and captured the islands.[7] Recruit was among the naval vessels that shared in the proceeds of the capture of the islands.[Note 2]

The intrepid behaviour of Captain Charles Napier taking D'Hautpoult in 1809

Recruit participated in the defeat of a French reinforcement squadron in April. During the engagement, Napier was instrumental in maintaining contact with the French force, harrying their flagship D'Hautpoult continuously at some great risk to Recruit that only Napier's skillful ship handling mitigated. Recruit was present at the surrender of D'Hautpoult and Napier was temporarily appointed to command the captured ship of the line, but then transferred to Jason and sailed her back to Britain. However, on his arrival the Admiralty confirmed his rank but not his appointment, and he was put on half-pay. Jason's new captain was Captain King, who had been Napier's passenger on Jason. Napier protested to the Admiralty that had he not stayed on Recruit and contributed to the capture of D'Hautpoult he would have received a command, but to no avail.[6]

In June 1809 command of Recruit transferred to Commander James Murray, and then in May 1810 Commander John Cookesley replaced Murray.[2]

War of 1812Edit

In December 1810 Commander Humphrey Senhouse took command and later sailed Recruit back to Britain.

In 1811, Recruit was at Spithead. She sailed for North America on 9 November 1811. She was at Halifax, Nova Scotia at the outbreak of the War of 1812. When Rattler captured Romney on 22 September 1812, and Santa Maria on 28 September, Recruit shared the prize money by agreement.[Note 3]

In 1813, Recruit was trapped in ice off Cape Breton where over half her complement were taken ill with sicknesses related to a lack of fresh vegetables.[10] When Lieutenant George Pechell (acting commander) took command of Recruit for his first cruise that summer, she had only half her normal crew.[10]

On 10 July Recruit captured the privateer Yorktown, and eight days later she captured the privateer Lavinia. Then on 20 August she captured the American brig King George.[11]

On 2 November, Recruit and Doterel drove the letter of marque schooner Inca on the shoals at Cape Romain. Inca was armed with six 12-pounder carronades and carried a crew of 35 men.[12][Note 4]

On 4 January 1814 Recruit captured the merchantman Mary Ann. Commander Thomas Sykes assumed command in February,[2] from Indian. On 10 August she captured the American merchantman Federalist. Sykes' successor in 1815 was Commander John Lawrence.


On 13 June 1815, Recruit was paid off into ordinary at Plymouth. She was sold to R. Forbes on 7 August 1822 for ₤1,050.[2]

Notes, citations, and referencesEdit


  1. ^ To gather evidence for the court martial, the Admiralty had sent Freya and Recruit's sister ship, Frolic, to ascertain the survival prospects for someone landed at the island without food and water. The two ships reported back that the prospects for survival were poor.
  2. ^ The prize agent for a number of the vessels involved, Henry Abbott, went bankrupt. In May 1835 there was a final payment of a dividend from his estate. A first-class share was worth 10s 2¾d; a sixth-class share, that of an ordinary seaman, was worth 1d. Seventh-class (landsmen) and eighth-class (boys) shares were fractions of a penny, too small to pay.[8]
  3. ^ A first-class share of the prize money was worth £221 13s 11½d; a sixth-class share was worth £4 15s 9d.[9]
  4. ^ Inca, of 239 tons (bm), was under the command of Captain Alexander Thompson. She had been launched at Baltimore in 1807 and commissioned there as a privateer on 13 August 1812 and again on 2 October 1813. She was totally lost.[13]


  1. ^ "No. 20939". The London Gazette. 26 January 1849. p. 242.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Winfield (2008), p. 297.
  3. ^ "No. 16498". The London Gazette. 22 June 1811. p. 1157.
  4. ^ a b Mee (1937), pp. 75-77.
  5. ^ Derriman (2006).
  6. ^ a b c Napier (1862), pp. 16-20.
  7. ^ "No. 16262". The London Gazette. 30 May 1809. pp. 779–782.
  8. ^ "No. 19255". The London Gazette. 3 April 1835. p. 643.
  9. ^ "No. 17121". The London Gazette. 23 March 1816. p. 560.
  10. ^ a b Marshall (1823-1835), p.423.
  11. ^ Naval Chronicle, Vol. 31, pp.70-71.
  12. ^ "No. 16864". The London Gazette. 5 March 1814. pp. 481–482.
  13. ^ Cranwell & Crane (1940), p. 385.


  • Cranwell, John Philips, & William Bowers Crane (1940) Men of marque; a history of private armed vessels out of Baltimore during the War of 1812. (New York, W.W. Norton & Co.).
  • Derriman, James (2006) Marooned. (Polperro Heritage Press). ISBN 0-9549137-7-9
  • Marshall, John ( 1823–1835) Royal naval biography, or, Memoirs of the services of all the flag-officers, superannuated rear-admirals, retired-captains, post-captains, and commanders, whose names appeared on the Admiralty list of sea officers at the commencement of the present year 1823, or who have since been promoted ... (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown).
  • Mee, Arthur (1937) Cornwall. (London: Hodder & Stoughton)
  • Napier, Edward Delaval Hungerford Elers (1862) The life and correspondence of Admiral Sir Charles Napier, K.C.B., from personal recollections, letters, and official documents .... (London: Hurst and Blackett).
  • Winfield, Rif (2008). British Warships in the Age of Sail 1793–1817: design, construction, careers and fates. Seaforth. ISBN 1-86176-246-1.
  • Ships of the Old Navy

External linksEdit