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Cutting out the 'Chevrette', 21 July 1801
In the summer of 1801 three British frigates, 'Doris', 'Beaulieu' and 'Uranie', stationed off the French coast near Brest were monitoring the movements of the French fleet. In July a French gunship-corvette, 'Chevrette' was discovered at anchor under some batteries in Camaret Bay. The French believed this to be an impregnable position, but the British ships decided to slip her away from her moorings. On the night of 20 July, the boats of 'Doris' and 'Beaulieu' set out to achieve this. However they became separated and some turned back. Those that did reach the 'Chevrette' waited until daybreak for the remaining boats, before realising that they had turned back and would not be coming to their aid. By daybreak the boats that had reached the 'Chevrette' were spotted and so the element of surprise was lost. Later that morning the 'Chevrette' moved closer to some heavy batteries, where she also embarked some soldiers. That night the British boats regrouped and made a second attempt to cut out the 'Chevrette'. Yet again some of the boats became separated. Nonetheless a lieutenant of the 'Beaulieu' decided to attack even with a greatly depleted force of only nine boats instead of the original 15. They were spotted and fired on as they approached the 'Chevrette' but managed to board the vessel, despite fierce opposition from the French crew and soldiers on board. As the British had lost all their fire-arms they boarded with only swords. Despite these odds, in less than three minutes after boarding they brought down the Chevrette's three topsails and courses. They had also managed to cut the cable so the ship began to drift out of the bay. Realising this, a number of the Frenchmen jumped overboard and the rest fled below. Thus the British gained control of the quarterdeck and forecastle. As the ships drifted in the bay, the remaining British ship's boats were able to join them and gained overall supremacy. The British losses were far lighter than those sustained by the French.
John Christian Schetky
- Image reference: BHC0531
- National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London