HMS Africa (1781)

For other ships with the same name, see HMS Africa.
Name: HMS Africa
Ordered: 11 February 1778
Builder: Barnard, Deptford
Laid down: 2 March 1778
Launched: 11 April 1781
Fate: Broken up, May 1814
General characteristics [1]
Class and type: Inflexible-class ship of the line
Tons burthen: 13858394 (bm)
Length: 159 ft (48 m) (gundeck)
Beam: 44 ft 4 in (13.51 m)
Depth of hold: 18 ft 10 in (5.74 m)
Propulsion: Sails
Sail plan: Full rigged ship
  • 64 guns:
  • LD: 26 × 24-pounder guns
  • UD: 26 × 18-pounder guns
  • QD: 10 × 4-pounder guns
  • Fc: 2 × 9-pounder guns
Danish gunboats attack HMS Africa, 1808

HMS Africa was a 64-gun third-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched by Barnard at Deptford on 11 April 1781.[1]

American War of Independence

During the American War of Independence, she was sent out to India in early 1782 as part of a squadron of five ships under Commodore Sir Richard Bickerton, arriving too late for the battles of that year. But Africa took part in the last battle of the war, at Cuddalore in 1783. She returned to England once news of the peace arrived.

Napoleonic Wars

Africa was present at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 under the command of Captain Henry Digby. Having been separated from the main British fleet before the battle, the Africa arrived from a different direction without knowing the battle plan that Horatio Nelson had devised. As the rest of the fleet engaged the combined Franco-Spanish fleet in a pell-mell battle, Digby sailed the Africa down the line of enemy ships in a parallel fashion, exchanging broadsides.

Gunboat War

During the Gunboat War, Africa was under the command of Captain John Barrett.[2] On 15 October 1808, Africa was escorting a convoy of 137 merchant ships in the Baltic, with the assistance of the bomb vessel Thunder and two gun-brigs. They left Karlskrona that day and on 20 October they anchored in the Øresund off Malmö. At noon a flotilla of Danish gunboats was seen moving towards the convoy and Africa sailed to intercept them.[3] The flotilla consisted of 25 gunboats and seven armed launches, mounting some 70 heavy cannons and with an overall total of some 1600 men.[3] It was under the command of Commodore J.C. Krieger.[4]

At 1:30 the wind died and Africa was immobilized. By 2:50pm the gunboats had stationed themselves off Africa's quarters, where few of her guns could fire, and opened fire. The battle continued until 6:45pm when with night closing in all firing ceased. Had daylight lasted another hour the Danes would probably have captured Africa.[3] As it was, she had lost 9 men killed and 51 wounded, including Barrett. She was so badly battered that she had to return to Karlskrona for refitting.[3] The convoy, however, managed to reach Britain.

In 1810 George Frederick Ryves commanded the Africa, in the Baltic, from which he brought home a large convoy, notwithstanding the severity of the weather and the violence of the gales.

John Houlton Marshall promoted to Commander on the ship at a ceremony held on 21 October 1810 to commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar.

War of 1812

Under the command of Captain John Bastard, Africa was part of Sir Philip Broke's squadron that pursued, but ultimately failed to catch, the USS Constitution early in the War of 1812.[5]


Africa was broken up in May 1814 at Portsmouth.[1]


  1. 1 2 3 Lavery, Ships of the Line, vol. 1, p. 181.
  2. AFRICA in Not - der dänische Kanonenbootkrieg 1808 (German)
  3. 1 2 3 4 Allen (1852), Vol. 2, pp.251-2.
  4. Royal
  5. James, William (2002) [1827]. The Naval History of Great Britain, Volume VI, 1811–1827. London: Conway Maritime Press. pp. 92–93. ISBN 0-85177-910-7.


  • Allen, Joseph (1852) Battles of the British navy. (H.G. Bohn).
  • Lavery, Brian (2003) The Ship of the Line - Volume 1: The development of the battlefleet 1650-1850. Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-252-8.
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