Sir Sidney Smith’s secret mission in the Channel, 1805-1806

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  • #19781
    Nicholas Blake
    Participant

    Between 1 October and 1805 and 28 February 1806 Sir Sidney Smith had a secret mission in the Channel, possibly to harass and annoy the enemy, possibly to discover troop and ship movements. Does anyone know what this was? Sir John Barrow’s two-volume life skips this winter.

    #19795
    Nicholas Blake
    Participant

    I’m answering my own question, thanks to an answer on another forum: his orders were

    “Having directed a military survey to be made of the harbour of Boulogne, with the view of ascertaining how far it may be practicable to approach within such a distance of the basin as to bring it within range of rockets of a combustible nature lately prepared by Mr. Congreve, and the report received being favourable, I am directed to to convey to your Lordships his Majesty’s commands that you do issue the necessary orders for causing an attempt to be made, supported by an adequate naval force, thereby to set fire to and destroy the enemy’s flotilla in that harbour.”

    It wasn’t a great success; the rockets only fired 6pdr shells and most of them either didn’t go off or went off at launch, and the general consensus seems to have been that it was a waste of resources and money.

    The details are in vol. III of Barham’s papers as published by the Navy Records Society.

    #19796
    Ray A
    Participant

    During this period Smith was developing the use of what the Navy called ‘infernals’; unconventional weapons such as Congreve’s rockets and Fulton’s torpedoes and mines. He was to plan an attack with these on Boulogne as a prelude to joining Nelson for an attack on Cadiz. However, the Battle of Trafalgar took place before Smith arrived. He was therefore sent to join Collingwood but without the ‘infernals’ as Collingwood disapproved of this type of ‘un-English’ warfare. See ‘A Thirst for Glory, The life of Admiral Sir Sidney Smith by Tom Pocock (Chapter 7).
    Ray Aldis, The Nelson Society.

    #19850
    Nicholas Blake
    Participant

    Thank you very much, I will follow this up. The question was prompted by my finding his (very large) expenses at Kew.

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