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Latitude 50° 21.5 N
Longitude 004° 11.4 W
Accuracy Unknown
Location Description Hamoaze
Craft type 5th Rate
Date built 1798
Date of loss 14th December 1798
Manner of loss Burnt
Outcome Salvaged
Construction Wood
Propulsion Sail
Nationality United Kingdom
Departure port Plymouth
Hull displacement 898 tons BM
Hull length 43.8m
Hull breadth 11.4m
Armament 28 x 12pdr long guns
12 x 8pdr long guns
Built Bayonne, France
Crew 580
Master Lt. Dashwood
Owners Royal Navy

HMS Coquille

The French 36 gun Coquille class frigate Coquille was designed by Raymond-Antoine Haran, built at Bayonne and launched in October 1794. Originally the french frigate La Coquille (the shell), she was captured off Donegal at the Battle of Tory Island by Sir John Borlase Warren's Squadron on the 12th October 1798 when she was under the command of Capt. Léonore Depéronne. As a prize she was placed under the command of Lt. Charles Dashwood and because of the frigate's damaged state and the poor weather, Dashwood first sailed Coquille to Belfast for refitting before sailing her to Plymouth.

The ship had yet to be commissioned into the Royal Navy when she was burnt by accident in the Hamoaze on the 14th December 1798:

The Coquille, French Frigate of 44 guns was yesterday
totally destroyed by fire at her moorings, in Hamoaze...
Three midshipmen, ten men and a woman were all lost on board
.

Lloyd's Evening Post

The ship was moored at the foot of Millbrook Lake in the Hamoaze when fire broke out around 4 p.m. The fire started in the gunroom in the aft of the ship and less than five minutes later an explosion destroyed the quarterdeck and caused the mizzen mast to fall over the side. The flames ran along the main deck setting fire to the main mast and standing rigging, from there the fire took hold of the forecastle and foremast. In just half an hour the ship was completely consumed in flames, fanned by the strong easterly wind that was blowing that evening.

As the Coquille lay surrounded by other ships there was a need to move her from her moorings in order to prevent the fire from spreading. With the aid of dockyard boats and others she was cut adrift and towed toward a mudbank north-east of Southdown. She managed to pass all the ships around her without incident, apart from the Endeavour. This coal-laden Guernsey brig had grounded in the mud close to where the frigate had first brought up, she and cargo had caught fire and were totally destroyed but fortunately without losing any of her crew.

The Coquille had burned to the waterline by 11 pm but the fire was not fully extinguished until the following morning. Among the missing were three midshipmen, Drury, Evanson and Bate, ten seaman and one woman. A local customs house officer, John Jellico, was also lost as he had been in the gunroom at the time of the accident. During the incident a woman had been seen jump into the water and she was picked up by the Naiad's boat. Four men inside the ship had been seen to put their arms through a scuttle in a vain attempt to get help, their shrieks were heard but no-one could reach them. In all 15 persons lost their lives and another seven were badly wounded, tThe numbers lost were greatly reduced because at least 20 of the crew were on shore leave at the time.

"The Coquille continued burning till the ship was destroyed to the surface of the water"

Mirror of the Times, 15th December 1798

All the moveable stores had been taken from the vessel before the fire as she was soon to be surveyed and valued before being taken in to service. The only items left on board were the ballast and three large anchors. The frigate was estimated to be a loss of £10,000 to her captors. The cause of the incident was attributed to gunpowder, but as gunpowder had remained on board it suggested that the powder may have been concealed for some other purpose. The usual course of action for a captor's prize would be that their gunpowder is landed at the Magazine, in order to avoid accidents.

The remains of the Coquille were auctioned off at midday on Christmas eve 1798. The auction held at the Crown Hotel and Cavern advertised:

'the remains of the hull of La Coquille to be sold in one lot as she lies on the West Mud, near Millbrook Lake in Hamoaze; is an object well worth the notice of the public, being coppered and of immense length; at low water she is quite dry. Immediately afterwards will be sold in separate lots, some pieces of masts, bowsprits, &c,&c.'

Listed in the auction were the following lots:

'Lot 2. One piece of main mast with 11 stout iron hoops and cap.
'Lot 3. One bowsprit with 16 iron hoops.
'Lot 4. One topsail yard with 16 iron hoops and one gaff.

Which were all for collection at Mr Dunstervilles, Ship Builder's yard, Stonehouse.

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