Friday, October 25, 2013

Caithness and HMS Calcutta 1803 at the Cape

Action at sea: French Revolutionary Wars by Louis Philippe Crepin

In August 1803 James Caithness joined HMS Calcutta and a new chapter opened in his career. He was about to visit Australia and circumnavigate the world, an adventure beyond his wildest dreams.

Calcutta was an ex-East Indiaman bought by the navy in 1795, converted into a 56-gun fourth rate and used as an armed transport with the famous Captain Bligh in command. By the end of 1802 the ship had been refitted to carry convicts to New South Wales, under Captain Daniel Woodriff. She sailed from Spithead on 28 April 1803, in company with another vessel, Ocean, with 308 convicts as well as civil personnel, a detachment of marines and a crew of 150. The intention was to found a settlement.

Calcutta arrived at Rio de Janeiro on 19 July and the Cape of Good Hope on 13 August, 1803. Remarkably, a contemporary diary by Robert Knopwood reveals that HMS Calcutta, being short of crew, took on seven men at Simon’s Bay (Simonstown, Cape) on 16 August.*Musters for the vessel confirm
that James Caithness was one of the seven added to the complement.

Page from Knopwood diary: 'HM Ship Calcutta at Anchor in Simon's Bay ... 13 (August)
at 9 Saluted the Battery with 11 Guns which was returned ... found an English whaler and two ships riding in the Bay under Dutch colours** ... 16  AM Received 842 lb of fresh beef and 400 lb of soft bread. 

Received 7 British Seamen/Volunteers ...'

James Caithness listed on muster of HMS Calcutta 1803
Further research should establish when he was discharged from HMS Mars and give a clue as to why he turned up at Simon’s Bay in August 1803.
Map of the Colony of Good Hope, c 1800

Interestingly, HMS Mars, after refitting at the Hamoaze anchorage, Plymouth, at the end of February 1803, was involved in the fruitless pursuit of some foreign ships supposedly headed for the Cape of Good Hope under the Dutch Admiral de Winter.

*  The diary of the Reverend Robert Knopwood, 1803-1838 : first chaplain of Van Diemen's Land edited by Mary Nicholls
** By the Treaty of Amiens 1802 between England and France, the Cape Colony was returned to the Netherlands and came under the rule of the Batavian Republic from February 1803 to 1806 when the 2nd British Occupation of the Cape commenced. It’s likely that the presence of Dutch ships at Simon’s Bay came as a surprise to those on board HMS Calcutta.

Tom Sheldon


Dhivya said...

Excellent and very cool idea and the subject at the top of magnificence and I am happy to this post..Interesting post! Thanks for writing it.What's wrong with this kind of post exactly? It follows your previous guideline for post length as well as clarity..
Hospital Management System

Mole said...

Thank you for your comment.