This ship didn't participate in any major battles nor expedition to exotic places. She wasn't famous and barely gets a mention in naval records. She was a mid range warship, one of many similar ships that made up the core of European navies at that time.
Nevertheless, she provides an insight to a period when nations were fighting to dominate the seas, to expand and protect their own lucrative colonial trade and disrupt the trade of others. In ships like this, thousands of men and boys, volunteers and pressed, lived and died pursuing these objectives.
Designed by a leading French master shipwright and built during a period of financial constraint when few new ships were being added to the French navy, she was an example of state-of-the art design envied at that time by both English and Dutch navies.
le Hazardeux was part of the French fleet that supported the return of the Spanish treasure flota in 1702 but avoided the catastrophe of Vigo Bay which befell other ships of that fleet.
Loaned to a privateer in March 1703, she escorted a convoy of French merchant ships to Newfoundland in July. On her return in November 1703, she was captured by ships of the Royal Navy, then refitted and commissioned as Her Majesty's Ship Hazardous.
Used primarily as escort to merchantmen in The Channel during 1704 and 1705, Hazardous was ordered to Virginia in 1706 to escort a large fleet back to Britain.
On her return, in a dark stormy November night, Hazardous missed anchorage to the NE of the Isle of Wight and was blown across Bracklesham Bay, where the following morning, she was run ashore in an attempt to save ship and crew.
A salvage operation was started soon after, recovering several cannon and other ship's stores. In October 1707 the wreck was sold by auction.
The following significantly expands the previously accepted knowledge about Her Majesty's Ship Hazardous which was much less detailed and inaccurate in parts but very much a product of available resources of the time.
This is a compilation of information found on the internet, in books and in archives and museums. It has taken a couple of years to put together and while rigorous it is not an academic paper. It is not claimed to be nor structured nor referenced nor intended to be other than what it is, interesting background for a 18c wreck.
There is inevitably more that can be done. There are 'loose ends' where we have been unable to reach a conclusive result. It is possible that one day someone may seek out those primary sources that no doubt will exist in French Naval Archives somewhere or fill some of the 'holes' where we have been unable to provide explanation.
Though the past doesn't change, our knowledge of it does. Just as this version updates the previous known history, so one day this version may also be updated but as at 2019 we believe it to be both reasonable and probable and in the main an accurate statement of the history of this ship.
This updated history started out as a casual trawl of the internet looking for any reference to le Hazardeux. A letter found in Canadian archives concerning this ship being in Plaisance in October 1703 introduced some doubt about previously accepted history. Further searches of the internet revealed a number of inaccuracies and omissions and it was clear that a reappraisal was required.
As more information was found it became obvious that internet recorded history is not always an easy area to research; it can be conflicting and confusing and very often has a bias, not necessarily intentional. However, without the option to physically access French records, the internet became the prime research source for early history.
There are sources that are undoubtedly well researched and as such, much repeated, but not always accurately repeated! Without access to original sources, it can often be difficult to establish what on balance is probably correct and what is merely a repeat of other unverifiable sources.
Dates were a particular problem with often no clear indication whether they were Gregorian or Julian, a 10 or 11 day difference. In some cases dates were wildly out, possibly because the calendar used had been initially wrongly identified then incorrectly transposed. For example, the capture of le Hazardeux in several French sources is incorrectly stated as 2 November 1703 (NS) and not as it should be, 25 November (NS).
The spelling of names and places does vary in documents and to be consistant, an 'executive decision' was made on which variations to use.
The information we have in this history about le Hazardeux for the period prior to capture is taken from a variety of internet sources, often obscure, often just a side note to something else. Construction and basic details about ships of that period have been extensively documented by Demerliac, Winfield & Roberts and others but we found few records, contemporary or otherwise, specifically about the early life of this ship as a French warship.
There are many references about the earlier 1674 le Hasardeux, primarily because of the relationship with the French ex slaver and privateer, Jean-Baptiste du Casse.
Ministère de la Marine Archives were approached but provided little information other than the basic construction details available from sites such as netmarine.netwhere Jean-Michel Roche was helpful in providing access to early French documents.
le Hazardeux did not have a long life as a French ship of the line. She was two years in construction before commissioning then just two years in service. She apparently had just the single mission to the Caribbean without playing a significant role that would have created noteworthy historical events.
That two year period was difficult for the French navy, the lack of funding, significant ship losses and the growth of Anglo-Dutch opposition was seriously degrading its effectiveness. In the absence of detailed information about le Hazardeux, we have instead tried to give a picture of the time in which le Hazardeux operated, most importantly for the French navy, escort of the Spanish treasure fleet and Vigo Bay.
In March 1703, le Hazardeux was loaned and spent eight months as a privateer. There is more first hand information for this period; Canadian archives, French Prize Court judgements, interrogation of crew after capture and ships' logs. Michel Aumont who has written extensively about privateers, provided an insight to the activity of le Hazardeux leading up to capture.
For the period from capture to sale, we had access to lots of original information. The Admiralty and their officers were prolific letter writers and record keepers and the National Archives at Kew and The Caird Library at Greenwich hold an amazing amount of letters, logs, records and registers from the time. Much of the information in the archives for that period has been indexed and digitised and more is being put on line each day. However finding information about Hazardous normally entailed browsing through boxes of hand written original documents or scouring registers of letters between dockyards and ships and the Admiralty.
The Hazardous Captain's log for the early years is available for research but unfortunately for the period covering the Virginia convoy, only the Hazardous Master's log made it ashore. Captains' logs from Greenwich, Woolwich and Advice are available and did provide some information for that period.
Dates given below are Julian or Old Style calender unless otherwise stated as that was the system used in England up until 1752. The French and Spanish had adopted the Gregorian calender with a 10-11 day difference. There is often a date disparity in articles around this period with no clear indication whether dates are OS (Julian) or NS (Gregorian). Where dates were clearly NS, they have been converted. Where not clear, sources have been compared and the most likely date used.
The French Third Rate Ship of the Line
Records show the French name of this ship as both le Hazardeux and le Hasardeux. We use le Hazardeux as that was first used by the Project Group but the name le Hasardeux is more commonly found. The use of 's' in place of 'z' in French started in 17th century but it doesn't appear that it was consistently applied. It is also relevant that spelling was not as formalised as it is today! Background
From 1688 to 1697France was engaged in a war against a European coalition that included Spain, the Dutch Republic and England.
At the beginning of the war, the most powerful European navies were the French, English, and Dutch; the Spanish and Portuguese navies having suffered serious decline in the 17th century.
The French Navy was initially well financed and equipped and considered both qualitatively and quantatively superior to the combined English and Dutch navies. It scored several early victories in the war, including The Battle of Bantry Bay in May 1689 and the significant victory over an Anglo-Dutch fleet at the Battle of Beachy Head on 30 June 1690.
In May 1692, a French fleet under command of Admiral Comte de Tourville was to be the advance of an invasion force of Franco-Irish troops preparing to invade England and restore James II to the throne. Louis had assembled an invasion force on the Cotentin peninsula in Normandy, much of it made up of the Irish Royal Army which had gone into exile in 'the Flight of the Wild Geese' after the siege of Limerick in 1691.
English and Dutch ships had wintered in separate ports and the French hoped to intercept them before they could combine. However by the time Tourville sailed from Brest, the two fleets had already met up and were 82 strong when they sailed to meet the French.
Tourville's fleet was supposed to be reinforced by ships from the Mediterranean squadron of Vice Admiral d'Estrées, however the squadron was battling storms in the Straits of Gibralter and had not arrived. Though having only 44 ships and knowing he faced a much larger Anglo-Dutch fleet, Tourville was under direct orders from Louis to attack whatever the odds.
The two fleets sighted one another at first light off Cap Barfleur on 19 May. They were within range at 11am and by 10pm the battle was almost over. Surprisingly, though most ships on both sides were damaged, some severely, no ships from either battle line were lost.
That evening, on the turn of the tide, Tourville ordered the French fleet to disengage. Over the next few days French ships, followed by allied ships, struggled to get back for repairs. Some ships were able to get back to Brest, others headed for ports on the Cotentin Peninsula.
On 23 May, three French ships, including Tourville's flag ship Soleil Royal, beached at Cherbourg were destroyed using long boats and fire ships. On the 3 and 4 June the allies successfully deployed shore parties and fireships at La Hougue that burnt all twelve French ships of the line which had sought shelter there.
The significant losses proved to be a pivotal point in French naval history. Replacing those losses became a priority and during 1692 and 1693 some new ships were built but at the same time both English and Dutch navies were expanding with many more new ships joining the line of battle. Financial constraints and strategic realities forced Louis to concentrate on the land war and Naval funding was cut.
The ever growing numerical superiority of Dutch and English navies forced the French to reconsider 'guerre d’escadre', the traditional form of squadron warfare, and instead wage 'guerre de course' which concentrated on disruption or destruction of enemy logistics on the open sea by attacking its merchant shipping. From the end of 1694, 'guerre de course' became the dominant if not sole stratagy for the war at sea.
Though restricted, the French Navy was still an effective force. In June 1693, at The Battle of Lagos, a French fleet under Tourville attacked the large Smyrna convoy of 200 English and Dutch merchantmen bound for Spain and the Mediterranean escorted by an Anglo-Dutch fleet under Admiral George Rooke. Some 90 merchant ships were lost and 40 were captured by the French. Two Dutch 64 gun warships were also captured. For the French, a huge prize of an estimated 30 million livres (about £2.25M) , judged by The City of London to be the worst financial disaster for England since the Great Fire, 27 years previously.
'Guerre de course' suited privateering which was actively encouraged by the State. It could also be very lucrative which attracted investors to finance privateer captains, many of whom became both famous and rich. To maintain naval activity, the State also loaned warships to private investors who, as privateers, would attack enemy shipping in return for prize money. England lost roughly 4,000 merchant ships during the Nine Year's War. In the following war, the strategy forced England to deploy a large number of warships to escorting merchantmen.
At the end of the war in 1697, though France was in social, political, and economic distress, the French navy was still a force with good ships. The officer corps at the end of the seventeenth century had proven itself tactically superior to those of the Dutch and English and French ship design was considered to be the more advanced.
However, after the war, many of the navy's ships were laid up and crews laid off. Money was short, just maintaining the existing fleet was a problem and the navy desperately needed to rebuild the inventory of stores and munitions seriously depleted by the long war.
le Hazardeux - construction
After the war and into the eighteenth century, few new warships were built in France. le Hazardeux was one of the first. Constructed in the yards of Lorient, in the Morbihan 'département' of Brittany in North-Western France, the keel was laid down in March 1699 and the ship launched in August 1699. le Hazardeux was commissioned into the French Navy in February 1701 as a Third Rate Ship of the line with 50 guns.
The designer and/or builder of le Hazardeux is listed as Pierre Coulomb.
The Coulomb family was a dynasty involved in the design and construction of ships from mid 17th century until the revolution in 1789. Though responsible for the design and construction of numerous French warships, there is little personal information available on the internet.
The family was founded in Toulon by master shipwright and designer Laurent Coulomb (1622-1696). At the time le Hazardeux was built, his sons, François (1654-1717), and Blaise (1665-1741), were also designing and building ships.
In 1680, François was instrumental in establishing l’éscole de construction de Toulon to teach naval officers the principles of ship construction. In 1683 he produced a manual of ship building setting out principles of ship design.
Laurent initially worked in La Ciotat then Toulon and was appointed to Port Louis in 1670. In 1689 the Navy opened a new base with the East India Company shipyard in L'Orient and he moved there. Two 80 gun warships are attributed to him in 1689. He died in Toulon in August 1696.
According to 'Lorient sous Louis XIV' by H-F Buffet, Pierre Coulomb was a nephew of Laurent Coulomb, who worked under Laurent then replaced him on 1 July 1692 (NS), working in Lorient until 1720. The publication lists a number of ships attributed to Pierre after 1691, including le Hazardeux.
In 'Histoire de la fondation de Lorient' by François Jégou, there is a listing dated 1690 regarding requirements for the new French Royal Navy base at Lorient which includes both 'le sieur Coulomb, maitre charpentier' at 2400 livres per year and 'le sieur Pierre Coulomb sons neveu... sous constructeur' at 100 livres per month. It is probable that Pierre worked under Laurent in Port Louis but no confirmation of this was found. Ministère de la Marine records show le Hazardeux had a deck length of 128 feet, beam of 35.5 feet, depth in hold of 14 feet, draught of 17 feet with a burthen of 726 tonnes. The measurement is in Pied du Roi (King's foot), about 2 cm longer than the Imperial foot.
She was armed with 22 x 18pdr, 22 x 12pdr and 6 x 6pdr cannon with a crew of 350 and 5 officers.
In the French navy at that time, a Third Ranking ship carried between 48 and 60 guns. In the English navy a Third Rate ship carried between 64 and 80 guns. The English Fourth Rate would have been armed with between 44 and 64 guns.
Though on the smaller size for a French Third Rate, le Hazardeux was larger than the average English Fourth Rate of that time. When arming the ship in 1701 at Lorient, the shipyard suggested fitting 24pdr guns in lieu of 18pdr as the main battery. Several French Third Rates were armed with 24pdr, some with both 24pdr and 18pdr. Most carried more than 50 guns.
There is a 17c anonymous print in Musee National Marine of the stern of le Hasardeux. It is probably a design drawing of this ship. However there were earlier ships with the same name so it isn't clear which it refers to.
The previous year, there had been another ship initially named le Hasardeux built at Lorient. She was a Fourth Rate Ship with 46 guns designed and constructed by François Brun. Before completion, in June 1698 by order of the King, she was renamed le Maurepas. Launched in October 1698, she was given to le Compagnie des Indes (French East India Company). This ship and the later construction are often confused in publications.
Prior to this had been the Fourth Rate, 44 gun, le Hasardeux constructed in Rochfort by Honoré Mallet in 1674. In 1687 she was commanded by the French ex slaver and privateer, Jean-Baptiste du Casse when he tried to conquer Elmina, and in June 1689 when he attacked Berbice and Fort Zeelandia in Surinam.
During this time he was involved with the French pirate Jean Fantin, probably best known for having his ship stolen by a handful of English crewmen while assaulting St Kitts with du Casse. The stolen ship, renamed Blessed William was commanded by the later infamous Captain William Kidd, one of the crew members involved in the theft!
le Hasardeux was wrecked off the coast of St. Domingo in 1695.
A Fourth Rate 34/38 gun named le Hasardeux was present at the Battle of Solebay on 28 May 1672 when a Dutch force surprised an Anglo-French fleet planning to blockade Dutch ports, that had stopped for repairs at Solebay (Southwold Bay) in Suffolk. This ship was launched at Brest in 1662, purchased by the navy in 1666 and renamed le Hasardeux. In May 1673 she was converted to a fireship and expended in June 1673 at the First Battle of Schooneveldt.
le Hazardeux -The French Third Rate
In Feb 1701 the order was given to Lorient to arm le Hazardeux. Commanding was the Marquis de Châteaumorand. In LE MARÉCHAL DE CHATEAU-RENAULTby Calman-Mason it shows this to be François-Annet Joubert de La Bastide, a nephew of Admiral de Tourville and from a family distinguished in service to the kings of France.
However, other books and articles and ancestral sites on the internet are conflicted. While it is true that the Marquis de Châteaumorand commanded the ship, it is unclear who it was that held the title at that time!
On 3 April 1701 (13 April NS) le Hazardeux joined Jean Bart's Northern Wing in Dunkerque. Soon after, all major ships were moved to Rochefort.
In May 1701, the French sent a fleet of eight ships under Lieutenant-Général the Comte de Coëtlogon to Veracruz to assist the Spanish return treasure ships that had been unable to sail the previous year and had become vital for the Spanish economy. The Spanish navy was practically non-existant which left the government in Madrid little choice but to rely on France for an escort.
War was looming and and it was expected the English and Dutch would attempt to interrupt return of the Spanish treasure fleet. To oppose it, the French began assembling a naval force under Lieutenant-Général the Marquis de Châteaurenault.
In May, le Hazardeux in Rochefort was given her first major commission with le Triton as escort to four ships with 300,000 rations for Châteaurenault's fleet.
In September 1701, the expected English fleet under Admiral Benbow left for the West Indies with ten ships of the line. War had not yet been declared but one source states that Benbow was issued secret instructions to find the treasure fleet and then "to seize and bring them to England, taking care that no embezzlement be made". By mid December he was at the Jamaica station.
To support Coëtlogon, defend French possessions and oppose Benbow if necessary, Châteaurenault left for the Caribbean shortly after Benbow with a fleet of 27 ships of the line, arriving in Martinique on 22 December 1701 (2 January 1702 NS).
Through a lack of Spanish co-operation, with ships in a poor state and a diminishing crew suffering badly from disease, Coëtlogon had been unable to undertake his orders so sailed for France on 27 December 1701 (7 January 1702 NS).
In January 1702, with war imminent, Châteaurenault's orders were changed and he was instructed to prepare attacks on Barbados and other English colonial posts. Châteaurenault and his officers concluded that they lacked both equipment and troops to carry out such attacks. As Coëtlogon had sailed without the flota, it was proposed that he should instead escort the Spanish treasure ships back to Spain. In February 1702, he sent twelve warships he considered were no longer required, along with militia and other forces he no longer needed back to France and moved his base to Cuba. le Hazardeux is listed as part of Châteaurenault's fleet in Havana.
In England, King William died on 19 March 1702 and was succeeded by his sister-in-law, Queen Anne. In May 1702 England and the Dutch Republic declared war against the Spanish-Franco union followed by Austria declaring war in July 1702.
Benbow, though being gradually reinforced, never openly challenged Châteaurenault nor did he try to take or stop the treasure fleet sailing from Veracruz. In LE MARÉCHAL DE CHATEAU-RENAULT it is stated that Châteaurenault's intelligence was that Benbow's fleet had been severely effected by fever and high morbidity. Much of the fleet was dispersed and many crew members were ashore working on fortifications and looking after the sick.
Benbow's only noteworthy engagement was the later 'Action of August 1702'. While attempting to chase down a French fleet under Admiral Jean du Casse, Benbow was seriously injured and died later after amputation of his leg. The action led to the Courts Martial of several of Benbow's officers; Captains Kirkby of Defiance and Cooper Wade of Greenwich being condemned to death and shot aboard Her Majesty's Ship Bristol, anchored in Plymouth, on 16 April 1703.
In Havana, Châteaurenault set about collecting Spanish treasure ships and other merchantmen for their return. However, the continuing reluctance of the Spanish to trust the French was keeping the flota at Veracruz. Eventually, Châteaurenault became tired of waiting for them in Havana. With his fleet sickly and in want of provisions, at the end of April he took seven ships to Veracruz to persuade the Spaniards under his convoy.
When Châteaurenault arrived in Veracruz on 5 May (NS), though many ships were ready to sail, precious metals had yet to be moved from Mexico City where it had been collated from throughout the kingdom for weighing, counting and boxing.
Ships from Veracruz carried not only silver and gold from mines in Mexico and Peru but highly prized cochineal from Mexico and pearls from the Caribbean Islands. Porcelain and silk was shipped from China on the Manila galleons to Acapulco and brought overland to Veracruz by mule train. There was also pepper, cocoa, snuff, indigo, hides and exotic timber.
Châteaurenault eventually managed to assemble the Spanish flota and returned to Havana early July to find his main fleet decimated by death, disease and desertion with the availabilty of provisions worse than before he left.
European crews had little resistance to the illnesses of the Caribbean. The French fleet was particularly hard hit by yellow fever that occurred each year in Cuba between May and October and had been particularly virulent that year, killing a large number of Cubans.
According toLE MARÉCHAL DE CHATEAU-RENAULT in the space of a couple of weeks, nearly fifteen hundred men and many officers died from fever and other men had deserted. On 9 June 1702 (20 June 1702 NS) the Commander of le Hazardeux, the Marquis de Châteaumorand, died in Havana.
For Châteaurenault it became urgent that the fleet leave as soon as possible.
When Châteaurenault left Havana on 23 July 1702 (NS), his convoy consisted of 30 naval ships escorting twenty-seven other ships, many not Spanish treasure ships but merchantmen that had joined for protection.
Some of the goods loaded at Veracruz were subject to taxation when reaching Europe and would have had to be processed by customs officials in Cadiz. The Crown taxed the wares and precious metals of private merchants at a rate of 20%, a tax known as the quinto real or royal fifth.
There are many and varied estimates on line of the value of treasure carried. One reasonably reliable estimate was the flota was carrying about 13.5 million pesos worth of gold and silver - more than £700M at today's value.
According to LE MARÉCHAL DE CHATEAU-RENAULT, the loading of the galleons was estimated at nearly fifty million crowns, of which a third was to go to English or Dutch merchants. Whatever the value was, to that date, it was the richest treasure fleet ever to sail.
About the same time the fleet left Havana, a combined English and Dutch fleet under Admiral Rooke sailed for Cadiz. The intention was to capture Cadiz and secure a base in the Iberian Peninsula to control the Straits and to interupt return of the Spanish treasure fleet. Meanwhile, second fleet under Sir Cloudesley Shovell would patroll further North with the possibility of intercepting the treasure fleet at sea.
InLE MARÉCHAL DE CHATEAU-RENAULT it states Châteaurenault had been directed by Versailles before leaving Havana, to head for Puerto Pasajes in Iberia rather than Cadiz which, being on the border, could be defended by French troops. He was to go North to the 45th parallel and maintain that to avoid allied ships and approach Puerto Pasajes from The Bay of Biscay. In the event that winds or the presence of enemy ships prevented him from entering this port, he was to sail immediately to La Rochelle.
After being informed that English ships had been seen off Finisterre, Châteaurenault wanted to head to La Rochelle but this was rejected by Don Manuel de Velasco y Tejada, General of the fleet of New Spain, who mistrusted French motives and insisted on a port in Spain.
Châteaurenault reluctantly agreed to divert to Vigo Bay in Galacia arriving 12 September (22 September NS). Merchantmen, not destined for Cadiz, that had sailed with the fleet left for home ports on reaching Europe.
On 12 October 1702 (23 October NS), Châteaurenault's fleet in Vigo suffered huge losses when Rooke, having learned of the fleet while returning to England from a disastrous campaign in Cadiz, stormed Vigo Bay. Caught at anchor, the Battle of Vigo Bay was a heavy defeat for the French and Spanish with many ships taken or burned. Some ships were deliberately burned in order to stop them being taken by the attackers.
Rooke states in his journal there were 22 galleons and 18 French warships in Vigo.
Vigo Bay was a major naval disaster for the French, losing 15 ships of the line which they were unable to easily replace. Six of those ships were taken and added to allied fleets.
The attack was also a disaster for many foreign financiers and merchants. The revenue from the Americas was heavily mortgaged, much of it to Dutch bankers. The Anglo-Dutch attack gave Philip V a perfect excuse to repudiate his debts and confiscate the money. Valuable cargos belonging to Dutch and English merchants were also confiscated.
Vigo was heralded as a great victory by the Allies with claims of huge treasure taken, however most of the gold and silver had already been landed and transported to Lugo before Rooke arrived.
In The Journal of Sir George Rooke, Admiral of the Fleet, 1700–1702, he says that all the King’s plate, about three million sterling, was taken out and carried to a town about twenty-five leagues up the country, but that only forty small chests of cochineal was carried ashore.
Rooke's attack on Cadiz had been a debacle but his reputation was saved by the attack at Vigo. The major loser was without doubt the French who lost valuable ships and it was Spain that benefitted most by getting the gold and silver ashore and repudiating their debts to foreign bankers. For the attackers, they gained ships, guns and stores stripped from wrecked ships, aquired prizes and some treasure and had the satisfaction that the French Navy had been seriously damaged at little cost to themselves.
When Rooke's fleet eventually arrived back in England, they were required to declare what they had so that the Prize Office could assess their rewards. The Master of the Mint, Isaac Newton, stated in June 1703 that the total metal handed in to him by that date was 4504 lb 2 oz of silver (~2,043 kg), and 7 lb 8 oz and 13 dwt of gold (~3.4 kg), an estimated value of just £14,000, value today about £3.3M. The Customs officers of the day reported the silver was primarily plate and ornaments taken from officer's cabins. There were accusations of embezzlement but it appears there was little follow up and nothing proven. In 1703, silver and gold coins made from received treasure bearing the word 'VIGO' were issued by the Mint 'to continue to posterity in rememberance of the glorious action'. In January 2019, this 'Vigo' five guinea piece was sold at auction for £845,000!
le Hazardeux was not amongst the ships in Vigo Bay nor listed amongst the ships sent back to France in February 1702. There is evidence placing her in Port-Louis in November 1702.
InLE MARÉCHAL DE CHATEAU-RENAULT it states le Hazardeux was sent to Brest but appears to have been part of the main fleet, referred to as the Newfoundland-Spain fleet, that left Havana under Châteaurenault. Eleven other warships are listed that sailed directly to their destinations of Toulon and Brest.
A site listing some of the deaths on French ships, shows three deaths on le Hazardeux in Havana in June 1702, two deaths in August 1702 'à hauteur de Terre-Neuve' (up to Newfoundland) and one death on le Hazardeux fighting the Dutch ship Amazon off Finisterre on 24 September 1702.
Had le Hazardeux sailed directly to Brest, she would not have been that far south. It is concluded that le Hazardeux probably sailed with the main fleet as far as Vigo arriving 22 September (NS) then sailed North, coming across Amazon on 24 September (NS).
The French Privateer
France was once again fighting on several fronts and in financial difficulties. Navy funding had been drastically cut so the State promoted the use of 'Corsaires' or privateers. Ships captured by privateers were subject to condemnation and sale under prize law, with the proceeds divided between the State, privateer sponsors, shipowners, captains and crew. The French naval strategy of 'guerre de course' suited privateering.
Entrepreneurs invested in privateering, which could be very lucrative, and made a number of privateer captains both famous and rich.
The French State also had an arrangement known as 'l’armement mixte' whereby fully prepared warships of the French Navy were contracted out for use in commerce raiding by private individuals or companies who undertook to pay the costs of operating the ships in return for a share of the prize.
Privateering under a 'Letter of Marque' was widely recognised as legitimate and all nations employed them. A number of privateers went on to become national heros and naval officers and others were tried and executed as pirates!
Jacobite privateers also operating out of France but the English government normally viewed them as pirates and traitors rather than legitimate privateers and tried a number of them. However it was by no means clear and while a few were executed most cases were dismissed or pardoned and the defendants treated as prisoners of war. Jean-Baptiste Lévesque - The corsaire captain
Jean-Baptiste Lévesque, known as Beaubriand-Lévesque (aka Beaubriant-L'Évêque ), was from a Granville family of ship owners and outfitters that had moved to Saint Malo. He commanded his first privateer ship at the age of 24 in 1689. In 1692 he was loaned the third-ranked warship Fortune by the State, armed with 56 cannon and a crew of 300 men.
Over the next couple of years he took a number of impressive prizes. In July 1695 off the coast of Ireland, as part of a squadon under Comte de Nesmond and in cooperation with René Duguay-Trouin he took Defence, Success and Resolution belonging to the English East India Company that were returning from the Indies. The convoy was described in Parliament as the richest that had ever been freighted from those Parts to England.
This was extremely lucrative and made heroes of both privateer captains. It is reported that the shareholders in Duguay-Trouin's enterprise made 2000% on their investment. English accounts estimated the total loss as roughly a million pounds sterling, today's value around £210M. In 1697, Beaubriand-Lévesque was contracted by the Compte de Pontchartrain, Controller-General of Finances and Navy Secretary, to provision and defend French fisheries in Newfoundland. He received as part of the contract, le Francoise, 50 guns and L'Europeen, 28 guns, fully fitted and careened. He was liable only for the provisions and wages of the crew. In addition, he was permitted to fit out six ships of his own to fish, trade or engage in privateering.
In April 1697 Beaubriand-Lévesque set off with men and equipment to reinforce Plaisance in Newfoundland. The war ended with the Treaty of Ryswick in September 1697.
In exchange for granting a monopoly of colonial trade, contracted merchants were required to recruit, pay and provision local garrisons. The State's alliance with private enterprise ensured the survival of French possessions overseas at minimal costs.
In 1702 Beaubriand-Lévesque returned to France. By the time of his return, a new war was imminent and he wanted to resume service. He was granted the title of "de capitaine de frégate de la marine de guerre" and was loaned le Juste, 64 guns and L'Alcyon, 40 guns, by Pontchartrain. Francis De La Rue was chosen to command L'Alcyon.
Under the terms of the loan, the ships were handed over to him fully armed with cannon, tackle, apparatus, weapons, ammunition, trim and necessary spares and the State would bear all running costs.
Beaubriand-Lévesque would run and raise at his expense and by mutual agreement, the officers, sailors, soldiers or volunteers he deemed necessary to crew the ships without interference from the State. He would also feed the crew at his own expense.
A fifth of the net proceeds from any prizes after deduction of all costs of sale and liquidation would belong to his Majesty.
It was also agreed that awards would be made to those who were injured, crippled or become disabled and also to the widows and heirs of those who had the misfortune to be killed.
Jean-Baptiste Lévesque - Privateering
In 1702 as Commandant of L'Alcyon and le Juste, Beaubriand-Lévesque took an English merchantman into Nantes with an estimated value of thirty thousand écus - then about £2250. He took two more English ships in 1703. In January 1703, he took the English prize Prohibition into Lorient.
In March 1703, le Hazardeux was loaned to Beaubriand-Lévesque as a replacement for L'Alcyon. It appears that the loan was until December 1703. Francis De La Rue was given command of le Hazardeux.
Nothing was found to indicate any privateering activity during the initial period of the loan prior to le Hazardeux sailing for Newfoundland. It was on the return journey that le Hazardeux was captured by ships of the English navy.
According to De La Rue's testimony later during interrogation by the Prize Court, "on or about the first day of July" NS, le Hazardeux sailed from Port Louis escorting 33 merchant ships to Plaisance in Newfoundland with another "50 gun warship". Not named in Prize Court papers but the second ship was probably le Juste as both ships arrived together in Plaisance in August 1703. Their arrival helped to discourage an English fleet under the command of Rear Admiral John Graydon, whose orders were to attack Plaisance. Graydon was later cashiered from the service in part for failing to engage.
In Les Archives du Canada dealing with Plaisance, a report by the Governor of Plaisance, Daniel d'Auger de Subercase states Beaubriand-Lévesque was sending le Hazardeux back to Port Louis "to be disarmed" (presumably being handed back at the end of the loan). It also states the fleet had arrived with 140 sick men that had been hospitalised in Plaisance and that 30 men suffering from scurvy were to be sent back to the Naval Hospital in Oléron, near la Rochelle. Other sources show the 30 men were taken on board le Hazardeux.
Another report by Subercase from Plaisance dated 21 October 1703 (NS) states "Dysentery has plagued the two vessels of the King, who came to Placentia".
Life in the navy at that time was precarious. If a sailor escaped death and mutilation in battle, he still had to contend with accidents, malnutrition, dysentery, typhus, scurvy and a host of other ills, all of which accounted for many more deaths than enemy action. Dysentery, 'the bloody flux', was an easily transmitted and potentially fatal illness that had plagued military forces for centuries because of poor sanitation. Scurvy, 'the plague of the sea', killed tens of thousands of sailors in European navies because of the poor conditions and inadequate diet. At that time, it was considered that on a trans-atlantic voyage, up to half of the crew would suffer from scurvy and many die from it. In the tropics, malaria and yellow fever ravaged European sailors who had little defence against the diseases.
In Prize Court papers, De La Rue states he left Plaisance on 17 October 1703 (28 October NS). In Les Archives du Canada, a report of 14 November 1703 (NS) by Subercase, confirms the date of leaving as 28 October (NS). In another report by Subercase, there is reference to "the day when the fleet of merchants left, convoyed by Le Juste and Le Hazardeux".
De La Rue does not mention during Prize Court interrogation escorting merchantmen back to France nor does he mention le Juste. Understandably, he would understate his activity as a privateer and his association with Beaubriand-Levesque.
In Canadian Archives there is a letter from Rochefort stating that on 30 November 1703 (NS), le Juste arrived at Île d'Aix with more than 80 scurvy patients. She had escorted 43 fishing vessels from Plaisance.
On 5 December (NS) this was updated, stating le Juste, coming from Plaisance, brought 120 scurvy patients to hospital, eight died during the journey from Île d'Aix, and 80 were thrown into the sea during the crossing!
le Hazardeux -Prize activity
There are Prize Council judgements in the Canadian archives showing while in Newfoundland, Beaubriand-Lévesque and De La Rue, commanders of le Juste and le Hazardeux took the prizes Georges from Cork and L'Amitiê de Lima. Both prizes appear to have been taken on 18 September 1703 (NS).
There is a judgement in the Archives Departmentales du Finistere summary noting the capture of the prize Commencement from Bristol on 17 November 1703 (NS) awarded to M De La Rue, "commandant le vaisseau du Roi, le Hasardeux" that was taken into Brest.
There is also a declaration by Henry Floch from Audierne, "pilote sur le vaisseau le Hasardeux, commandant de La Rue" concerning the capture of an English ship carrying eggs, herring and beer on 30 November 1703 (NS) going to Montserrat.
It is possible these both refer to the same ship as there is another entry recording Commencement being taken into Brest dated 30 November (NS).
There is also a declaration showing le Hazardeux in partnership with le Juste capturing a ship taken into Saint Malo on 19 November (NS) but there is some confusion about this entry.
It is difficult to envisage two ships, both apparently with sick crews, escorting a convoy 2000 nautical miles across the North Atlantic in November and capturing prizes within the given time frame.
There are previous judgements in the Archives dating from 1697, naming De La Rue commanding other ships. Though not a rare name this could possibly indicate Francis De La Rue was an experienced privateer captain? There are also a couple after 1703 which may indicate that as an officer he was released in prisoner exchange. Or of course it may not be him! Nothing more has been found giving details of origin or activities of Francis De La Rue except suggestions he was from Granville not Saint Malo. le Hazardeux - Captured
In the afternoon of 13 November 1703 (24 November NS), le Hazardeux was spotted by Her Majesty's Ships Orford, Litchfield and Warspite, ships of Sir Cloudesley Shovell's fleet returning from the Mediterranean.
At mid-day on 13 November Warspite Captain's log shows her latitude as 48°52min, somewhere to the west of Ushant. There is no longitude but in the log he states that at 4am that morning he "brought too to Sound but found no ground". This would probably put him outside the continental shelf known as the Soundings which at that latitude extends about 100 miles west of Britanny.
The Warspite log states that after a chase, at 7pm that evening, le Hazardeux was hailed but responded by opening fire. The three ships then engaged le Hazardeux. In the log of 14 November, the Captain states "we the Orford and Litchfield engagering him until two in the morning before he struck. She fought in my Opinion very well and is Very much Shattered in her Masts & sails".
A later reference states that "beginning to engage about Eight at Night, the Dispute continued till two in the Morning, when having lost her Fore-top-mast, and all her Sails, and her standing and running Rigging being much shattered, she struck".
Orford was a Third Rate ship with 70 guns, Warspite a Third Rate with 66 guns and Litchfield a Fourth Rate with 50 guns. le Hazardeux was seriously out-gunned!
le Hazardeux's destination was stated in two letters as Port Louis. When captured she still apparently had the 30 sick men on board being sent to the hospital in Oléron. When spotted, she was probably some 100 miles west of the French coast. It is difficult to understand what le Hazardeux was doing in that area. Either she was in fact returning from Plaisance when taken or possibly she was cruising in search of prizes before being handed back to the State?
While the English Navy was reasonably strong in the Channel they were less so in the western approach and this became a favoured area for French privateers to pick up English and Dutch returning stragglers or running ships.
Michel Aumont's article about Beaubriand-Lévesque, suggests that le Hazardeux had probably separated from the convoy with the intention of seeking prizes while le Juste continued on to France. The capture of Commencement on 17 November (NS) recorded in Archives Departmentales du Finistere does seem to support that. He quotes a letter from de Pontchartrain to Beaubriand-Lévesque, where it appears that the Secretary also believed that to be the case and complains that it was an "extravagance" with a ship in poor condition and a sick crew to be cruising the Channel where le Hazardeux was captured.
le Hazardeux was towed to Falmouth by Warspite and placed in the hands of Her Majesty's agent for Prizes. In the Warspite Captain's log he wrote that in his opinion, le Hazardeux was "a great ship able to carry between 60 & 70 Gunns". le Hazardeux was almost as large as Warspite, with a similar beam and depth in hold but about 9 feet shorter on the gun-deck.
The Prize Court interrogated Captain Francis De La Rue and Jacques Amie (Anie?) named as second Captain. Both claimed to have been commissioned in June, subjects of the King of France and born in Saint Malo. It was stated that the ship was the property of the King and the goods on board were bought by De La Rue "with his own money" and loaded in Plaisance.
Neither gave any information regarding their true activities and may well have been less than honest in what they did say! A number of references state that De La Rue was from Granville and not Saint Malo.
The Prize Court papers state Le Hazardous de Port Louis (sic) was captured forty or fifty leagues South West of the Scilly Isles. They also state she had a crew of 370 and was carrying a cargo of thirty or forty hogsheads of 'Trains Oyle' (whale oil), about three or four hundred 'Kentells' (Quintals) of fish and between fifteen and twenty 'dunns' (tuns) of Antigua sugar. That is 1800 -2500 gallons of whale oil, 15-20 tons of fish and 15-20 tons of sugar.
A Paris bulletin at that time reporting the capture of le Hazardeux, states that the ship was carrying 30 men suffering from scurvy, accounting for the large crew complement and confirming the report from Plaisance.
The captured crew was sent to Millbay Docks Prison in Plymouth. There is an entry in Debrett's of 1704 that mentions a malign fever in the prison brought by prisoners of war taken from le Hazardeux and that many prisoners had died.
In January 1704, regarding the loss of le Hazardeux, the French Secretary of State for the Navy, de Pontchartrain, wrote to Beaubriand-Lévesque:
"Le capitaine de La Rue, en serrant de trop près les côtes d'Angleterre, s'est vu enlever par les Anglais le Hazardeux. Le Roy perd un bon vaisseau, ses armateurs leur bien, trois cents hommes leur liberté et la meilleure partie de leur vie. Cela n'engagera pas le Roy à donner de ses vaisseaux à dé jeunes capitaines Maloins." (Pontchartrain à Saint-Sulpice, 9 janvier (B* 1704, fol. 81)).
( "Captain De La Rue sailed too close to the English coast and le Hazardeux was taken by the English. The King has lost a good ship, the owners their goods and three hundred men their freedom and the best part of their lives. This does not encourage the King to give his vessels to young St Malo captains".)
The English Fourth Rate Ship of the Line
In the earliest documentation, this ship's name is recorded as Hazardous Prize but it is not clear whether that was actually the name or if it was Hazardous, a prize. Very soon the Prize part of the name was dropped with little or no use of it found after commissioning. The Master's log was titled 'Hazardous Prize' but not the Captain's.
Sometimes, a captured ship was given the name of the ship that had taken her with 'Prize' added to differentiate it. There is no evidence that 'Prize' was customly included in the name of all captured ships. In this case the ship was given the anglicised version of its original name. As there was not a ship named Hazardous when she was commissioned, it wouldn't have been necessary to add 'Prize' to the name to avoid confusion. That is probably why Prize was dropped. As the ship was most commonly known as Hazardous, that is what we have used in this account. Commissioning Hazardous
Naval accounts show le Hazardeux was valued at £1000 by the Prize Court and that Orford, Lichfield and Warspite received £894 19s 8d as their portion of the value of the prize. A captured ship was normally valued using 'gunnage and tunnage', that is £10 per gun and 10 shillings per ton. Aside from the 'Admiralty tenth', the captors were entitled to the assessed value minus any charges of the Prize Court.
It was decided that le Hazardeux could be refitted and taken into Her Majesty's service.
le Hazardeux was renamed and Her Majesty's Ship Hazardous was first listed on 8 December 1703 with origin shown as "taken from the French".
The Admiralty decided that Hazardous should be refitted at Plymouth. On 20 February 1704, she was surveyed in Falmouth to assess what was required to get her into condition to move to Plymouth. It was reported that "there was little or anything belonging to her". The necessary stores were sent from Plymouth later that month. On 18 March 1704 Hazardous was taken to Plymouth docks and the next day, surveyed to produce an estimate for refitting. The ship in its current state was valued at £3745 16s. The estimate to fit her for sea, including sea stores for eight months, was £3263.
At that time, to build a Fourth rate equivalent would have cost more than £10,000, £2M+ today according to the Bank of England inflation calculator.
In the survey, it was their opinion that "if her bottom proves as well as her upper Works are, that she will make a very good Sixty Gunn Ship", and that she had ample room to accommodate a crew for such a ship.
The survey states the ship was armed with 22 x 18pdr, 22 x 12pdr and 6 x 6pdr guns. It was also noted that with the exception of one 18pdr, "which was broke", "those Guns now in her, as well as their Natures as for their goodness, are proper for her".
The survey shows the length of the gun deck as 137 feet, beam outside to outside of 38 feet and depth in hold of 15 feet with a 'Burthen of tun about 875'.
The survey appears to show a significant increase of 150 tons over that shown in French archives. Information from both sources show that the dimensions of the ship had not changed during refit. The difference in tonnage results from the method of calculation and unit of measure used rather than reconstruction.
Hazardous was larger than the normal English Fourth Rate 54 gun ship in service at that time. On capture, the ship was described as "having more Ports and was larger than any one of our 60 gun ships". It was suggested in the survey report the ship could carry 24 guns on lower and upper decks, 10 on the quarterdeck and 2 on her forecastle.
Rif Winfield in'French Warships in the Age of Sail, 1626–1786'states that the ship had ports for 24 guns on the lower deck.
An Admiralty letter of Dec 1704, directed that Hazardous was to be fitted with 22 x 18pdr, 22 x 12pdr and 10 X 6pdr. It is not known whether or not the original French guns were retained but it is likely as the initial survey indentified that all but one gun were in good condition. A gun carriage recovered from the site does appear to be of French design supporting the conclusion that the ship probably carried the original French guns.
On 27 March 1704, the ship was taken into service as Her Majesty's Ship Hazardous, a Fourth Rate with 54 guns under command of Captain Barrows Harris.
On 9 April 1704 it was reported by the dockyard that Hazardous had been taken into dock to be refitted.
On 23 April 1704 Captain Harris wrote that Hazardous "will be undocked Tuesday, needs a Master and a Surgeon".
On 29 April 1704 Hazardous came out of dock. The first entry in the Captain's log is 5 May 1704 which shows Hazardous at anchor in the Hamoaze in Plymouth taking on board stores. Harris reported "Neither the Master nor the Surgeon who were appointed have yet appeared".
le Hazardeux when built, had a war establishment of 350 men. The Admiralty in a letter of 27 March 1704 directed Plymouth "to Enter men on Board her till her present number be increased to three hund'd and twenty men". At that time, a 60 gun Fourth Rate had, on average, a crew of 360 and Fourth Rate with 50 guns, a crew of 280. Plymouth responded "will use our utmost endevour in getting men for the Hazardous Prize but there are very few to be had in this area".
This was followed by another Admiralty letter informing Plymouth that men being discharged from The Ruby at Portsmouth would be taken to Plymouth to crew Hazardous. They also directed "taking out the men from the Transport shipp that is coming with the exchange prisoners from St Maloe and to source them for the Hazardous which shall be accordingly Completed with".
The Pay Books show a complement in 1704 of 320, which dropped to 280 the following year. Reports from Harris to the Admiralty often included ration state and manning which varied as men were moved from ship to ship. The Admiralty juggled manning as required and often a ship's crew minus officers and some senior rankings would be transferred leaving the Captain to handle his ship as best he could until a new crew was allocated. The first years The Captain's Log shows that Hazardous sailed out from the Hamoaze on 13 May 1704 to join a squadron under Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell to prevent concentration of the French fleet at Brest and to attack them if they put to sea. He reported that he was still without a surgeon.
On 14 May he reports that a surgeon was pressed from an incoming merchantman to fill the position. When his designated surgeon arrived the following day, the unfortunate pressed surgeon was then ordered by the Admiral to another ship in the fleet!
After a couple of inactive weeks patrolling the Soundings and convinced the French must have already sailed, on 29 May 1704, Shovell went South to join Admiral Sir George Rooke in the Mediterranean, leaving Vice-Admiral Fairborne to carry on in the Channel.
Hazardous log during that time describes the weather variously as 'Very Hard Gails', 'Fresh Gails' and 'Dirty Weather'! Positioning shows that she sailed south across The Bay of Biscay as far as west of la Rochelle before turning north towards Ireland on 31 May.
The Captain's Log shows that Hazardous anchored off Kinsale, Ireland on 3 June 1704. An instruction sent by Fairbourne off Kinsale on 4 June 1704 shows Hazerdus (sic) commanded by Harris as one of twelve ships under his command. There was no action recorded at Brest.
On 6 June 1704, Hazardous left Kinsale in advance of the fleet and by 9 June 1704, was back in Plymouth Sound. Captain Harris reported that he "has been ordered by Admiral Sir Stafford Fairborne to place himself under the command of Captain Christopher Fogg of the Rupert".
On 23 June 1704 Captain Harris reported that he "has taken Lieutenant-Colonel Carson's company of Marines aboard, completed his provisions and will sail in company with the Rupert". On 24 June 1704 Hazardous sailed with Rupert as escort to merchantmen bound for Madeira and Lisbon returning to Plymouth on 5 August 1704 escorting 88 merchantmen.
On 21 August 1704 Captain Harris reports his arrival at the Downs from Plymouth with the Rupert and merchant ships from Oporto and Vianna.
For the rest of 1704, Hazardous was employed as escort to merchant ships along the South Coast of England. She returned to Plymouth in December 1704 for maintenance.
During 1705, Hazardous was again used as escort in Channel waters. During the time on escort duty, Hazardous was not involved in any serious action against the enemy.
The Virginia convoy
A merchant convoy that had sailed to Virginia in October 1705 with Her Majesty's Ships Woolwich and Advice as escort, arrived 24 December. The returning convoy should have sailed in the Spring of 1706. However, it was to be a large convoy and with only two escorts, the convoy was vulnerable to French privateers so the Admiralty had stopped it from sailing until reinforced. They ordered that Her Majesty's Ships Greenwich and Hazardous were to sail on the first fair wind in January 1706.
On 28 November 1705, the Admiralty ordered Captain Harris to return to Plymouth where Hazardous would be prepared to sail for Virginia to escort merchant ships back to England. The Captain's log records that Hazardous sailed from The Downs on 22 December and was in the Hamoaze on 9 January.
On 29 December 1705, the Clerk of the Survey at Hamoaze acknowledged receipt of orders to fit the Hazardous for a voyage to Virginia.
The Hazardous Captain's Log shows that Captain Harris set about removing ballast and unwanted stores making ready for docking in January. However his log of 4 February shows that "ye Officers of ye Yard" without their orders, would not take the ship into docks.
On 2 February 1706, Captain Richard Browne wrote to the Admiralty requesting, that as Captain Harris was "desirous to change with me for the Assistance, the Hazardous being bound for Virginia and I have some business there", they be allowed to change.
With the change approved, Captain Harris signed off his log on 19 February 1706 and the ship handed over to Captain Richard Browne.
Though evidence shows that Plymouth was aware that Hazardous was to be fitted for Virginia, the order to the dockyard directing that "Hazardous be forthwith refitted there for a Voyage to Virginia and Clean'd and Grav'd with all possible dispatch" was not signed until 11 February.
On 1 March 1706, Captain Browne stated in a letter to the Admiralty, he was in Plymouth Sound and except for 100 bags of bread, was ready to sail as soon as Greenwich arrived.
Just a week later, on 8 March, Captain Browne reported that he had illness on the ship with 21 men sick and that 4 men had died. In his letter he confirmed all provisions and stores were on board Hazardous.
During March, Captain Browne wrote regarding desertion and the difficulty in getting men for Hazardous and getting men transferred from The Ruby paid before sailing.
Greenwich arrived in Plymouth on 20 April 1706.
On 21 April, Captain Browne reported that Hazardous required 36 men to complete the complement and was having some trouble getting them. He complained that replacements he sought from a ship in dock were taken by another Captain and at one stage weapons were drawn and Hazardous bosun threatened! He stated that he had 'Spotted Fever' on board with 16 men sick and that 10 men had died.
'Spotted Fever' covered several complaints little understood at that time. The most likely is epidemic typhus contracted from human body lice. This was common in communities like ships crews and prisoners living in overcrowded conditions and especially where the same clothes were worn for lengthy periods. It was also known as 'Jail Fever'. In the middle of the 18th century, English authorities estimated that each year, about 25% of all prisoners in England died of 'jail fever'.
With the crewing problem apparently resolved, in a letter of 23 April, Captain Browne confirmed Hazardous would sail that night.
Both ships cleared Plymouth on 24 April 1706 but were then forced by bad weather into Falmouth on 27 April. On 29 April they sailed from Falmouth. On 1 May, Greenwich was in collision with a ship carrying messages from Admiral Sir Stafford Fairborne and was forced to return to Plymouth for repairs.
Hazardous continued on alone, arriving in Virginia on 29 July 1706. Greenwich sailed on the First of June arriving in Virginia on 11 August 1706.
The convoy's return had now been significantly delayed. Ships from places other than Virginia had arrived to join the convoy expecting it to sail in the Spring and the large number was causing problems. It was claimed that "provisions is not here to be gott for money and if they stay to eat up their Sea Store they must perish in their passage for want of bread".
It was later claimed by Merchants during a House of Lords discussion that "the greatest Part of the Fleet had been Sixteen Months in their Voyage. By this Length of the Voyage, their whole Freight was expended, in Wages, Victuals, and other incident Charges. The Ships lying there almost Two whole Summers, several of their Bottoms were perished by the Worm, which in those Parts always eats in the Summer Months".
In the evening of 17 September 1706, the fleet of about 200 (variously recorded between 182 and 206) merchantmen escorted by Greenwich, Woolwich, Advice and Hazardous left for England. The convoy is recorded as the largest to leave Virginia up to that date. The Hazardous Master's log states on leaving Virginia "the whole fleet now consists of upwards 200 sail".
September is the height of the hurricane season on the East coast of the Americas and 1706 was no exception. From 24 September to 4 October a hurricane swept up the coast from Barbados to Connecticut and 26 October there was another off the Virginia coast. One record states "England bound fleet of ships from America was scattered by a raging hurricane at sea. Many had to return to Virginia for repairs, other ships were lost at sea". This undoubtedly refers to the convoy which would have felt the full effects of both hurricanes.
The Hazardous Master's log records that within a couple of days of sailing, the convoy was into "hard gales and much rain". On the 7 October he records severe gales with thunder and lightning and a huge sea running. After 30 days, the fleet was just 320 leagues out from Virginia and 50 leagues from Bermuda.
Similar stormy weather pursued them across the Atlantic with several reports of ships showing distress signals. Men were sent aboard ships to help when possible but the weather remained relentlessly bad and many ships foundered. The convoy often became scattered by poor visibility and weather and at times fewer than 50 ships were in view from Hazardous.
The Greenwich Captain's log records that on 24 September, Hazardous was damaged in a collision with a merchantman and Greenwich provided 4 men to assist repairs.
Ships became separated and lost the protection of the convoy and it is recorded that 6 were taken by a French 20 gun privateer near the end of the crossing.
On 9 November according to the Greenwich Captain's log, "Hazardous and about 40 sail left the fleet for the Downs".
The Hazardous Master's Log records that at 6 am on 12 November 1706, SSW of the Lizard, "Our Capt Died Strangled In his own Blood Abead by himself" and Lieutenant John Hares took over command. Capt Browne had been ill for some time and spent much of the voyage in his cabin. On the same day, Advice escorted merchant ships bound for the West Coast ports of Bristol, Liverpool and Whitehaven into Plymouth Sound then continued to sail Eastward. Captain John Lowen of Advice expected to find Greenwich and Woolwich with more ships the following morning but instead found Hazardous, off Start Point, without a Captain, escorting 35 Virginia merchant ships and two Dutchman from Surinam that had joined for protection in mid-Atlantic.
At 3 o'clock in the afternoon of 13 November, Captain Browne was buried at sea about 3 leagues off Start Point and Advice fired 20 guns.
After some discussion with Masters, Captain Lowen thought it his duty to see the merchantmen to a safe port. He ordered Hazardous to keep with him for the security of the convoy.
With the wind veering between NE and NW but fairly light, the next afternoon they were 4 Leagues SW of Portland Bill.
About 3 o'clock on 15 November, Capt Lowen signalled the Masters to see what they wanted to do given the slow progress. In his log, Capt Lowen wrote that the majority wanted to go on and try to reach Spithead even though "half of them almost starved for want of Provisions & we none to spare...." The weather started to deteriorate to "moderate gales and close weather".
Advice log states their position at noon on 16 November as Peveril Point to NE by N and the Needles E by NE.
The convoy struggled in worsening weather and adverse swinging winds. At noon on 17 November, according to Advice log, the ships were WSW of Dunnose in the Isle of Wight.
On 18 November with "hard gales and much rain with dark close weather", winds shifted to the south, swinging SE and SW, the decision was made by Captain Lowen at 5pm to seek shelter. Advice led the convoy into St Helen's Roads to the NE of the Isle of Wight. Advice log states that around 8 pm, Advice, Hazardous and several merchantmen anchored in about 8 fathoms in the Roads.
Unknown to Advice, Hazardous had missed stays and failed to secure anchorage. In the darkness of that November night with seas churned by gale force winds and with blinding rain, Hazardous was blown relentlessly across Bracklesham Bay. Throughout the night she was pushed further towards the shore by a strong SW wind, continuing to strike the bottom. Anchors were put out and the following morning the Main and Mizzen Masts were cut away to reduce windage in a further attempt to save the ship.
According to Hazardous Master's log, that morning, Lieutenant Hares had no option but to "cut and run our ship onto shore for the preservation if possible of the ship". Anchor warps were severed and the vessel was run as far into land as possible.
The Advice Captain's log for 19 November states, about 9 o'clock they saw Hazardous cut down her Main Mast and about 10 o'clock watched as Hazardous ran ashore "under her Fore Sails and Spar Set Sails with colours flying".
It has been established from tidal predictions that it was a neap tide and Hazardous went aground with the tide at about its highest.
At half past ten Hazardous made a signal for help. In the Advice Captain's log it records "at 11, It Clearing up, I sent our Ten Oawred-boat with Mr Arthur Field 2 Lieutenant and 11 hands and our Deale Yawle with 5 hands to their Assistance".
At the same time a boat was launched from a Dutch merchantman but could not get near Hazardous because of the breakers. In Advice log it states that the Dutch boat "towed our yawle off on board of a Pink which lay near them who tould them our Ten Oawrd boat was Oversett in the Breakers and beleived all the Men were drowned for they could not goed to help them". Though recorded in the Captain's log, there is no confirmation of deaths in later entries.
A message from officers in Bracklesham Bay that morning reported "seventeen Saile of Merchant Ships, unhappily at anchor amongst those dangerous Shoales, and that also the Hazardous is on Shore near Selsey Bill".
It is not known if the crew of Hazardous all safely made it to shore. However a note sent to the Commissioner of Portsmouth Dockyard on 19 November stated "we are now indevouring to Save the men great part of which are on Shore".
The total number of ships lost in the crossing is not known but at least sixteen bound for London were lost and others taken by a French privateer. Other ships left the convoy and failed to return to England.
In House of Lords Journal Volume 18: 17 December 1707 it was claimed by ship owners that: "they were forced to make a Winter Passage Home, between the Middle of September to the Middle of November, which, by the Badness of the Weather, &c. Sixteen or more Ships foundered, and sunk in the Sea, and about 8000 Hogsheads of Tobacco with them; and besides several taken, with above 2000 Hogsheads more, and carried to France; sundry others forced back to America; and since returning without Convoy, several were lost belonging to the Port of London, and not heard of"...... "By this Loss, the Public Revenue suffered more than £150,000, besides the Loss to the Private concerned, which was very great".
There was a considerable loss to the traders concerned. However it was not all bad news. In a letter from Virginia to a London merchant on 20 August 1706, it states "all agree this long Stay of the Convoy hath very much raised the price of Tobo".
Salvaging the wreck
Two days after going aground, The Commissioner of Portsmouth Dockyard, Isaac Townsend, took over responsibility for the wreck. He organised a team from Hazardous crew members headed by Lieutenant Hares, instructing him to return to the ship and save what he could.
Admiralty Pay Books show a crew of ten listed on Hazardous from 20 November 1706.
On 24 November 1706 the Commissioner reported to the Admiralty that he had been on board Hazardous to assess her condition. He wrote that he "finde her so much downe on the Larboard side that her Gunwale on half Ebb, was under water". He stated that "the ship is certainly Irrecoverably lost and considering the unlucky place there is no coming near her but in very fair Weather and the Wind Directly from the Land, which makes me afraid that a great part of her Stores will be so too".
On 29 November 1706 Lieutenant Hares wrote that "a major part of the Small Armes were secured in a Hoy belonging to the office of Ordnance". He stated that some of the guns from the upper and quarterdecks might still be salvageable if vessels and men were provided and the weather improved but that "those below to leeward are continually under water".
On the same day, the Commissioner reported on the poor conditions suffered by men working on salvaging stores from the Hazardous and proposing they be given immediately provisions and lodging on the Royal Katherine in Portsmouth.
A salvage operation was organised and started in November using Hazardous crew members, Portsmouth Dockyard personnel and contractors from Emsworth. On 4 January 1707, The Commissioner reported that he had visited Hazardous and that "we Saved Such Stores as we Could Come at". In addition two anchors had been surveyed to be lifted in the next fair weather and some guns had been recovered and there was hope to retrieve the rest.
At the end of The Commissioner's report he added "I am mind to propose to you that we may sett up that wreck to be sold by inch of Candle with hope she'll Go Off at as Good a rate as the Nassau".
The Nassau was a Third Rate with 70 guns wrecked on 20 October 1706 on Bembridge Ledge off Spithead. The Commissioner believed there was good interest in buying the wreck and on 18 January 1707 it was sold at auction in Portsmouth for the sum of £60.
It was later reported that before sale, 55 cannon were recovered from the Nassau and 21 guns and other 'Gunners Stores' were recovered from Hazardous.
On 6 June 1707, The Commissioner produced an estimate for the cost of recovering guns from both the Nassau and Hazardous in the amount of £152 13s 5d. The work included "raising of Sheers, scuttling the Decks and cutting downe the mast for the more convenient coming of the guns" and "for the making of gangways for and aft for the better conveniency of bringing guns to be hoisted out".
In letters to the Navy Board, The Commissioner several times pursued his request for an order to sell Hazardous and in one, stated that he had several people interested in buying.
On the first of October, The Commissioner reported that "the very hard gales that we have had these two days past, have parted the Wreck of the Hazardous; and a great piece of One of her Sides, with Two Frames is driven on shore upon Selsey Beach". Once again he pressed for an order to sell Hazardous "otherwise I fear that if the wind Continues, she'll be Entirely lost to us in a little time".
On 6 October 1707 The Commissioner confirmed receipt of the Navy Board instruction of the 4 October to sell Hazardous and states that he will "set up Publications for the purpose in the most proper places hereabout".
The wreck of Hazardous was sold in Chichester by auction on 17 October 1707. The Commissioner wrote "at the Candles going out Mr John Day of Emsworth had bid Thirty three pounds". Today's value about £7,750.
John Day was a contractor to the dockyard for the supply of small boats and other shipwright functions. He is mentioned several times in Portsmouth records going back to 1689.
The Principal Officers of Her Majesty's Navy in their letter of 24 December confirmed that "the wreck of Her Majesty's ship y Hazardous" was sold by auction for "Thirty Three pounds of Lawfull money of Great Britain".
In November 1707, the Yard prepared an account of ship's stores saved from Hazardous and handed to the Yard from a list of people "of the Dock, Holloways and others of Emsworth" and the value of stores recovered by them. It shows that stores to a total value of £1168 2s 2d had been recovered, including one entry for "Widdow Goodfaith" to the value of 2s. This sum did not include guns and gunnery stores that were lifted for which a bill was raised on the Ordnance Board covering the cost of recovery.
On 4 December 1707, Portsmouth produced a report in support of "the Case of Holloways and Hedger" involved with salvage from Hazardous which stated that between 23 November 1706 and 22 April 1707, they had spent 29 days on site with their "Hoys and Boats" and had employed twelve other people. They had "in Conjunction with Officers and Artificers of the Yard" saved stores to the value of £729 5s 6d and a further £243 later including ship's sails out of the hold. It supported their claim for £169 9s 8d given the "hazard they went thro' in preserving the Said Stores".
A Portsmouth dockyard archive letter dated 10 February 1716 to the Board of Ordnance at Woolwich, requests clarification regarding the serviceability of six bronze and iron culverin raised from Hazardous and delivered to them by a Capt Cole. There is no date of recovery given. Unfortunately, Royal Armoury records for that period were lost in a fire so details of the cannon cannot be verified.
The Calendar of Treasury Books shows a payment in the financial year 1715/1716 of an unspecified amount to "Capt John Meric Cole, for salvage from the Hazardous man of war near Chichester". There was a further unspecified amount paid the following year.
It is not stated specifically what the payments were for. Given the notorious delay in paying it is probable that salvage was undertaken some years ealier.
This poses an interesting question regarding Capt Cole's authority to salvage from the wreck. If the wreck was still the property of John Day or his heirs, given the proximity to Emsworth, it is unlikely this action would have been unnoticed. Had ownership passed from John Day to Capt Cole or was there an arrangement between them?
Were those guns actually from the wreck of Hazardous? There is no indication in records seen that bronze cannon were carried on Hazardous. Discussion with knowledgable sources on the subject indicate it very unlikely that either English or French bronze cannon would have been on the ship at that time.
Recent discovery of an additional nine cannon presumed to be from Hazardous near the wreck site, does appear to account for more cannon than carried by Hazardous, if those recovered by Capt Cole are included. Work is under way to identify the new find and confirm whether or not they are from Hazardous.
In the Last Will and Testament of John Day dated 18 October 1712, there is no mention of the wreck amongst his possessions to be bequeathed. John Day died in November 1713.
It is presumed that John Day, as a shipwright, would have salvaged as much of the useable timber and fittings from Hazardous that he could get at. It is also probable that recovery of guns, if taken from within the wreck by Capt Cole would have further degraded it. Ten years after going aground, it was likely that very little or perhaps even nothing was visible showing the final resting place of the warship Hazardous.
The Court Martial
On 27 December 1706 at Spithead a Court Martial was convened to enquire into the loss of Hazardous. Capt John Lowen was found guilty of "ill conduct" for not going into Plymouth when he could have, given that "ye ship in so ill a condition as to ye Sickness of his men and his want of Provisions". They also found him guilty of "afterwards not making directly with ye Merchant Ships for ye Downs" and, after the decision to seek shelter, that he had failed to signal Hazardous she was coming into Shoal Waters which led to Hazardous missing stays and being wrecked. Capt John Lowen was found guilty under the 25th and 33rd Articles and dismissed the Service. The Court also found Robert Bonner, Master of Advice, guilty of "steering an improper course and therby bringing both her and ye Hazardous into Shoale Water" and dismissed him.
Though Capt Lowen was sentenced in accordance with the law, the Court Martial did draw the attention of the Lord High Admiral to his case. National Archives records indicate that he was restored to his rank and re-employed by the Navy. In 1709 he is listed as commanding Ruby, 54 gun Fourth Rate then in 1710 once again as captain of Advice. He died in 1713.
Lieutenant Hares and other officers of Hazardous were exonerated.
The wreck discovered
Although a gun was raised from the vicinity of the site in 1966, the wreck was not located by divers until stumbled upon by members of Sub-Aqua Association (SAA) 308 in 1977.
After establishing the wreck to be Hazardous it was registered as a Protected Wreck Site and The Hazardous Project Group formed.
And so another phase in the history of Her Majesty's Ship Hazardous began..............