Maritime archaeology on the warship Hazardous in Bracklesham Bay
Thiswas not a ship with a history that stands out from others of that generation but is surely representative of many other ships of the time.
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, avoiding the catastrophe of Vigo Bay which befell other ships of that fleet.
Loaned to a privateer in 1703, she took a few prizes before escorted a convoy of French merchant ships to Newfoundland. On return, she was captured by ships of the Royal Navy, then refitted and commissioned as Her Majesty's Ship Hazardous.
Used 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 early that 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.
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
Note: 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 of the Holy Roman Empire, the Dutch Republic, Spain, England and Savoy.
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 a match for the coalition navies. It scored several early victories in the war, including the significant victory over an Anglo-Dutch fleet at the Battle of Beachy Head on 30 June 1690.
In May 1692, a French fleet of 44 ships of the line under command of Admiral de Tourville was preparing to invade England with an army of Franco-Irish troops to restore James II to the throne. Though knowing he faced a larger Anglo-Dutch fleet off Barfleur, Tourville was under orders to attack whatever the odds. After a fierce but indecisive clash that left many ships on both sides damaged, Tourville disengaged. However, French ships returning to port for repairs, were chased down and many burned on the beaches, the French losing 15 ships of the line at Cherbourg and La Hougue.
The significant losses proved to be a pivotal point in French naval history. Louis XIV, disaffected by those losses, chose to concentrate on the land war and relegated naval operations to a supportive role.
Matching the growth of English and Dutch fleets became impossible and forced the French Navy to abandon the 'guerre d’escadre' or 'squadron war' and chose instead the 'guerre de course' which concentrated on disruption or destruction of enemy logistics on the open sea by attacking its merchant shipping.
By 1693 the French Navy had made good their losses of the previous year and in June 1693 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.
At the end of the war in 1697, though France was in social, political, and economic distress, the French navy was still a significant force with good ships and professional crews. The French navy's officer corps at the end of the seventeenth century was tactically superior to those of the Dutch and English and the French navy was well respected by its maritime rivals.
However, after the war and into the eighteenth century, the lack of finance meant few new ships were added to the French navy.
le Hazardeux construction
le Hazardeux was one of the first new builds for the Navy after the war. Constructed in the yards of Lorient (then known as L'Orient), 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.
Most publications show the designer and/or builder of le Hazardeux as P or Pierre Coulomb. However, Ministère de la Marine records show the designer of le Hazardeux as F Coulomb, presumably François Coulomb!
According to many sources, the Coulomb family was a dynasty involved in the design and construction of ships from mid 17th century until the revolution in 1789. It 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.
Laurent initially worked in La Ciotat then Toulon and was appointed to Port Louis in 1670. In 1689 he moved to the Lorient shipyard until 1696. He died in Toulon in August 1696.
In 1690, François became Master carpenter in Toulon following in his father's footsteps. Blaise also worked at Toulon.
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. It lists a number of ships attributed to Pierre after 1691, including le Hazardeux. This is the only referrence found that indicates Laurent Coulomb did not work at Lorient after 1692.
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.
The Coulomb family is a difficult area of research with little personal information. Adding to the confusion, in Navy circles, François became known as Coulomb fils (son) and his father Laurent as Coulomb père (father). François later became François père or François the Elder and his son François petit-fils or François the Younger. It has been suggested that the sobriquet 'père' may have been misinterpreted as Pierre and consequently several ships incorrectly attributed. 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 with a displacement of 726 tonnes. She was armed with 22 x 18pdr, 22 x 12pdr and 6 x 6pdr cannon with a crew of 350 with 7 officers.
The French foot or 'Pied du Roi' was 20mm longer than an English foot. The imperial dimensions would be approximately 138 feet deck length, 37 feet beam and 15 feet depth in the hold.
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 to 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.
The previous year, there had been another ship initially named le Hasardeux built at Lorient. She was a Fourth Rate Ship with 46 guns. 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.
le HazardeuxThe French Third Rate
In Feb 1701 the order was given to Lorient to arm le Hazardeux. Commanding was François-Annet Joubert de La Bastide, Marquis de Châteaumorand. He was a nephew of Maréchal de Tourville and from a family distinguished in service to the kings of France.
On 3 April 1701 (13 April NS) le Hazardeux joined Jean Bart's Northern Wing in Dunkerque. However, soon after, all major ships were moved to Rochefort.
In May 1701, the French sent the Comte de Coëtlogon with eight ships to Veracruz with orders to assist the Spanish return treasure ships that had been unable to sail the previous year and was vital for the Spanish economy. The weakness of the Spanish navy left the government in Madrid little choice but to rely on French warships for escort duty.
The French fully expected that England would attempt to interrupt return of the Spanish treasure fleet. To oppose it, they began assembling a naval force under Vice Admiral the Comte 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, Admiral Benbow left England for the West Indies with ten ships of the line. By mid December he was at the Jamaica station.
To support Coëtlogon, defend French possessions and oppose Benbow, 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, Châteaurenault's orders were changed and he was instructed to prepare to attack Barbados and other English colonial posts. Châteaurenault and his officers concluded that they lacked both equipment and troops to carry out such attacks. Having found that Coëtlogon had sailed without the flota, Châteaurenault proposed that he should instead escort the Spanish treasure ships back to Spain. In February 1702, he sent twelve of his warships that 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 May 1702 England and the Dutch Republic officially declare 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 stop the treasure fleet sailing from Veracruz.
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 men of war with him to Veracruz to persuade the Spaniards under his convoy.
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.
Both English and French fleets suffered badly in the Caribbean climate, the French worst affected. Dysentery, malaria, scurvy and yellow fever killed many of the French sailors and senior officers, including the Commander of le Hazardeux, the Marquis de Châteaumorand, who died in Havana on 9 June 1702 (20 June 1702 NS). French crews in Havana were particularly hard hit by disease, most probably yellow fever that occurred each year between May and October. One report states that thirty Officers and more than a thousand men died.
In July 1702 the combined French and Spanish fleet left for home. The convoy consisted of fifty-six ships. It was estimated the flota was carrying more than 13.5 million pesos worth of gold and silver. At a contemporary exchange rate of about three pesos to the pound sterling, this equalled around £4.5 million, current equivalent of almost £1Bn. Other estimates give the total value of treasure considerably higher. To that date, it was the richest treasure fleet ever to sail.
About the same time, a combined English and Dutch fleet under Admiral Rooke sailed for Cadiz. The intention was to capture Cadiz and to secure a base in the Iberian Peninsula which would open the Straits. Cadiz was also the normal destination for trade from the Americas including the treasure flota.
Having learned that Rooke was at Cadiz and another English squadron under Sir Cloudesley Shovel was patrolling off Finisterre, Châteaurenault considered other options. These included the Spanish port of Pasajes on the Bay of Biscay or if necessary La Rochelle. He wanted to head for a French port 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. 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 in harbour, the Battle of Vigo Bay was a heavy defeat for the French and Spanish with as many as 28 ships taken or burned. Some ships were deliberately burned in order to stop them being taken by the attackers. Vigo Bay was a major naval disaster for the French, losing 15 ships of the line which they were unable to replace. Eleven ships were taken and added to allied fleets.
Vigo was heralded as a great victory by the Allies with claims of huge treasure taken, however most of the gold and silver had been landed before the battle and was saved, if not multiplied. Spanish revenues from the Americas had long been mortgaged in advance to foreign bankers, in this case mainly Dutch bankers. The Anglo-Dutch attack gave Philip V a perfect excuse to repudiate his debts and confiscate the money.
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 Customs officers of the day reported very little silver. 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!
In 1703, silver and gold coins bearing the word 'VIGO' were issued by the Mint 'to continue to posterity in rememberance of the glorious action'. Later, medals with a view of Vigo harbour were also issued. All were supposedly made from the treasure captured at Vigo. Undoubtedly more coins and medals were issued than could possibly have been made from the captured bullion!
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. Whether le Hazardeux sailed with the fleet is not known but 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 going to Newfoundland and one death on le Hazardeux fighting the Dutch ship Amazon off Finisterre in September 1702.
French Marine archives has a note showing le Hazardeux was ordered to Brest, however it is not clear at what stage this occurred.
le Hazardeux was one of only four warships from Châteaurenault's fleet in Havana that were not in Vigo at the time of Rooke's attack.
The French Privateer
Background 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 State also contracted privateers and were prepared to loan ships and crews as a joint enterprise known as 'l’armement mixte' or mixed armament.
Privateering under a 'Letter of Marque' was widely recognised as legitimate though the line between privateering and piracy was often quite vague. In the 1690s the French state had contracted privateers to support and defend French possessions and attack enemy shipping, a strategy which had been very successful.
Jacobite privateers also operating out of France but the English government viewed them as pirates and traitors rather than legitimate privateers. Jean-Baptiste Lévesque - the Corsaire captain
Jean-Baptiste Lévesque, known as Beaubriand-Lévesque (aka Beaubriant-L'Évêque ), was from a family of ship owners and outfitters in Granville that had moved to Saint Malo. He commanded his first privateer ship at the age of 24 in 1689. In 1692 he was loaned Fortune, a third-ranked warship, armed with 56 cannons and a crew of 300 men, by the State.
Over the next couple of years he took a number of impressive prizes. Off the west coast of Ireland, in cooperation with René du Guay-Trouin, he took Defence,Success and Resolution belonging to the English East India Company that were returning from the Indies. This was extremely lucrative and made heroes of both captains. It is reported that the shareholders in du Guay-Trouin's enterprise made 2000% on their investment. English accounts estimated the total loss as roughly a million pounds sterling. 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 from Saint Malo was chosen to command L'Alcyon.
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.
le Hazardeux privateering
In March 1703, le Hazardeux was loaned to Beaubriand-Lévesque as a replacement for L'Alcyon. It appears that the loan was until November 1703.
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".
There is also a declaration by Henry Floch, 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 are more judgements concerning De La Rue commanding other ships dating from 1697. Though not a rare name this could possibly indicate Francis De La Rue was an experienced privateer captain?
According to De La Rue's testimony later during interrogation, "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 possibly le Juste as both ships arrived together in Plaisance in August 1703. Their arrival discouraged an English fleet under the command of Rear Admiral John Graydon, that was considering an attack on Plaisance. Graydon was later cashiered from the service in part for neglecting to engage the French convoy.
There are Prize Council judgements in the Canadian archives showing 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 ships appear to have been taken on 18 September 1703 (NS).
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 to the State). It also states that 30 men suffering from scurvy were to be sent back to the Naval Hospital in Oléron, near la Rochelle, presumably on 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". It would appear that both le Juste and le Hazardeux had sickness on board.
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, and a host of other ills, all of which accounted for many more deaths than enemy action. Scurvy, “the plague of the sea”, killed tens of thousands of sailors in the navies of European nations. It was considered that on any long voyage, up to 50% of the crew would suffer from it and many die from it.
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.
There are two judgements concerning prizes taken by De La Rue dated November 1703. These appear to indicate that le Hazardeux captured Commencement from Bristol on 17 November (NS) which was taken into Brest and was also in partnership with le Juste in capturing a second ship which was taken into Saint Malo on 19 November (NS).
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!
It is difficult to imagine 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. le Hazardeux captured
In the afternoon of 13 November 1703 (24 November NS), le Hazardeux was spotted by Her Majesty's Ships Orford, Lichfield and Warspite, ships of Sir Cloudesley Shovel'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 Lichfield 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 Lichfield 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.
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!
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 1705, 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* 174, 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 is why the King does not give his vessels to young St Malo captains".)
The English Fourth Rate Ship of the Line
Note: It is not entirely clear whether this ship was actually named Hazardous Prize or just Hazardous. Sometimes, a captured ship was given the name of the ship that had taken her with 'Prize' added to differentiate it. In this case the ship was given the anglicised version of its original name. As there was not an existing ship named Hazardous when she was commissioned, it wouldn't have been necessary to add 'Prize' to the name to differentiate it. There is no evidence that 'Prize' was customly included in the name of captured ships. If named Hazardous Prize, 'Prize' was dropped very early in history with little or no use of it found after commissioning. In all records, the name most commonly used, by far, was just Hazardous so we have used that in this history. Commissioning Hazardous
It was decided that le Hazardeux could be refitted and taken into Her Majesty's service. The ship was described as "having more Ports and was larger than any one of our 60 gun ships".
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.
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.
On 19 March 1704, Hazardous was 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.
It was also noted that with the exception of one 18pr, "which was broke", "those Guns now in her, as well as their Natures as for their goodness, are proper for her".
The survey estimated the "Burthen of Tuns about ....875". This appears to be a significant increase of 150 tons over that shown in French archives. Obviously the dimensions had not changed so the difference is undoubtedly more to do with the method of calculation and unit used than anything else. Or, one of the figures is wrong!
'Burthen' was broadly the carrying capacity of a ship calculated from its dimensions. Introduced in the 13th century, ships were levied according to the cargo they could hold. Wine was a major cargo and measurement of capacity eventually evolved into units of wine that could be carried. The 'tun' was a large wine cask. Originally about 256 gallons it gradually changed and by the 17th century in England and the Colonies, it was standardised as 210 Imperial Gallons (955 litres) weighing 2000lbs or one 'tun'.
Throughout 16th and 17th centuries there were a number of different calculations used for capacity and other countries no doubt had their own methods and sizes. For example whether measurements were taken inside or outside. The difference between Pied du Roi and Imperial feet may have also been partially responsible for the disparity. The French 'tonneau' (ton) as a measurement of wine volume was only 900 litres. As a measurement of mass, the the French tonneau was about 1440 litres. It can be seen how a different result could be easily achieved.
Hazardous was larger than the normal English Fourth Rate 54 gun ship and also larger than many of Fourth Rate 60 gun ships in service at that time.
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 23 April 1704 it was reported by Captain Harris 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.
On 5 May 1704 Captain 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. The first years The Captain's Log shows that Hazardous sailed from Plymouth on 13 May 1704 as part of 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.
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.
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 January 1705 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. It was ordered by the Admiralty to stay in Virginia until reinforced from England. 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 that Hazardous was to be prepared to sail for Virginia to escort merchant ships back to England. Hazardous returned to Plymouth on 8 December.
On 29 December 1705, the Clerk of the Survey at Hamoaze acknowledged receipt of orders to fit the Hazardous for a voyage to Virginia, asking if she should be supplied with fishing gear.
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, it was not until mid February 1706 that they received the direct order that "Hazardous be forthwith refitted there for a Voyage to Virginia and Clean'd and Grav'd with all possible dispatch".
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 about 25% of all prisoners in England died of 'jail fever' each year.
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 and some ships were having 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). On 17 September 1706, the fleet of 182 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".
The Master's log gives the picture of a convoy troubled by inclement weather from the start. By the first week of October the convoy was into "hard gales and much rain". Similar weather pursued them across the Atlantic with several reports of ships showing distress signals and others abandoned and men taken on board Hazardous. The convoy often became scattered by poor visibility and weather and at times fewer than 50 ships were in view from Hazardous.
From 24 September to 4 October a hurricane swept up the East coast of the Americas 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 effects of both hurricanes.
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.
On 8 November as they neared the Soundings, the number of ships visible to Hazardous, decreased to less than 40 with no other escort ships.
The late start and winter passage meant great losses for the convoy; sixteen or more ships destined for London were sunk or foundered with about 8000 hogsheads of tobacco lost. Other ships with about 2000 hogsheads were taken and carried to France. Some were forced back to America and were lost trying to return without convoy. It is not known the total of ships lost in the crossing but it was estimated the financial loss to Public Revenue was more than £150,000, about £34M at today's value, besides a considerable loss to the traders concerned.
However it was not all bad news for the traders. 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".
At 6 am on 12 November 1706, SSW of the Lizard, according to the Master's Log, "Our Capt Died Strangled In his own Blood Abead by himself" and Lieutenant John Hares took over command. 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 bound for South coast and London ports and two Dutchman from Surinam.
At 3 o'clock in the afternoon of 13 November, Captain Browne was buried at sea and Advice fired 20 guns. After some discussion, 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. The majority wanted to go on and try to reach Spithead even though many of them "starved for want of provisions". 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 in St Helen's Roads. Advice led the convoy into the shelter of 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 failed to secure anchorage. Throughout the night she was pushed further towards the shore by a strong SW wind, continuing to strike the bottom. Goods were thrown overboard to lighten the load and the following morning the Main and Mizzen Masts were cut away to reduce windage in an 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". At about 8 o'clock, anchor warps were severed and the vessel was run as far into land as possible.
It has been established from tidal predictions that it was a neap tide and Hazardous went aground with the tide at about its highest.
It was at daybreak that morning Advice watched as Hazardous ran ashore "under her Fore Sails and Spar Set Sails with colours flying".
At 10.30 Hazardous made a signal for help. Boats were lowered from Advice and from a Dutch merchantman but none could get near Hazardous because of the breakers. In the Advice log there is reference to "a 10 oared boat that was overturned in the breakers and all men drowned". It isn't clear whether the boat belonged to Advice or the merchantman.
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 on 19 November stated "we are now indevouring to Save the men great part of which are on Shore".
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".
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. It was sold at auction in Portsmouth for £60 on 18 January 1707. Salvage from the Nassau wreck before sale, recovered 55 cannons.
It was later reported that 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 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. 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". 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 Inch of Candle 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 an occasional contractor to the dockyard for the supply of small boats and other shipwright functions.
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 "the sum of Thirty Three Pounds of Lawful money of Great Britain".
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 6 culverin raised from Hazardous and delivered to them by a Capt Cole. There is no date of recovery given.
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.
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?
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.
Evidence suggests that 27 guns in total and a substantial amount of the ship's stores and rigging and two anchors were recovered by the Navy within a few years of Hazardous going aground.
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 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 war ship 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.
The court found Lieutenant Hares and other officers of Hazardous not guilty.
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..............
This article started out as a casual trawl of the internet when it was realised that the previous history had a number of inaccuracies and omissions. As more information was revealed it became obvious that retrospectively recorded history is not an easy area to research; it can be conflicting and confusing and very often has a bias, not necessarily intentional. Without visiting archives and reading source documents, the inevitable difficulty is establishing what on balance is probably correct.
Most of the information in this history about le Hazardeux for the period prior to capture is taken from a wide variety of internet sources but there are few contemporary records specifically about the early life of le Hazardeux. French Naval Archives were approached but could provide very little information. We believe what we did find and have set out is both reasonable and probable where not verifiable.
In the absence of detailed information about le Hazardeux, we have instead tried to give a flavour of the environment in which le Hazardeux would have operated.
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 had just the single mission to the Caribbean without playing a significant role that would create noteworthy historical events.
She was then 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.
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.
Captain Harris'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 Advice and Greenwich are available and did provide some information for that period.
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.
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 2018 we believe it to be both reasonable and probable and in the main a true statement of the history of this ship.