warships The Namur
: Mervyn image ic h reenw
Museum l Maritime
: Nationa image
During that period the Namur fought in nine fleet actions spanning three worldwide conflicts. She also found herself at the forefront of Robert Seppings’ radical new approach to ship design. In 1804-1805 the Namur was cut down to a 74-gun third-rate ship to trial the master shipwright’s innovations. After ending her days guarding the Thames estuary mouth at Nore, at one point under the command of Jane Austen’s brother Charles, the Namur was broken up in 1833-1834. At the same time her hull was placed in the Wheelwrights’ Shop, the Namur’s upper timbers were sent to Woolwich to patch up a storehouse.
Of Namur’s many battle honours, by far the most distinguished was Lagos, on 19 August 1759, when the Namur served as the flagship in a crucial action during the Seven Years’ War. It was a day that delivered Britain one of the great victories that Nelson’s Victory was named above The former slave and prominent voice in the abolition movement, Olaudah Equiano. As a 14-year-old boy he served as a ‘powder monkey’ on the Namur during the Battle of Lagos.
below The Namur (centre right) serving as Sir George Pocock’s flagship during the capture of Havana on 13 August 1762. This action secured British supremacy in the West Indies by seizing the centre of Spanish power there, and 20% of her fleet.
after. Today we hark back to the time when Britain ruled the waves, but in 1759 success at sea seemed an equally distant dream. The Seven Years’ War, running from 1756-1763, is often described as the world’s first truly global conflict. With conflict raging in Europe, North America, India, the Indies, and the Pacific, stakes were high. Three years in, the situation looked perilous. Britain was short of friends, and the Royal Navy was on its knees following a string of defeats. French troops were massing in the mouth of the Loire, waiting only for their Mediterranean and Atlantic fleets to combine before springing an invasion. On 18 August, the French Mediterranean fleet passed the Straits of Gibraltar. A British force, under the command of Admiral Boscawen in the Namur, gave chase.
Remarkably, an eye-witness account of what happened next survives from someone on board the Namur. Even more remarkably, that person was a 14-year-old black slave who would later become a prominent voice in the abolition movement. His name was Olaudah Equiano, and his master was one of the ship’s lieutenants. Thirty years on, when he penned his memoirs, Equiano’s memory of the carnage was undimmed. He recalled that:
‘My station during the engagement was on the middle-deck, where I was quartered with another boy, to bring powder to the aftermost gun; and here I was a witness of the dreadful fate of many of my companions, who, in the twinkling of an eye, were dashed in pieces, and launched into eternity. Happily I escaped unhurt, though the shot and splinters flew thick about me during the whole fight. Towards the latter part of it my master was wounded, and I saw him carried down to the surgeon; but though I was alarmed for him and wished to assist I dared not leave my post.
current archaeology | www.archaeology.co.uk
December 2012 |