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HMS Saint Fermin (1780)
Career (Spain (Compañía Guipuzcoana de Caracas)) Spanish Navy Ensign
Name: San Fermín
Launched: 1750
Captured: On 8 January 1780, by the Royal Navy
Career (UK) Royal Navy Ensign
Name: HMS Saint Firmin
Acquired: 16 January 1780
Captured: On 4 April 1781, by Spanish Navy
Career (Spain) Spanish Navy Ensign
Name: San Fermín
General characteristics [1]
Class & type: 16-gun sloop
Tons burthen: 250 (bm)
Length: 170 ft 2 12 in (51.880 m)(gundeck)
Beam: 80 ft 0 in (24.38 m)
Draught: 26 ft 0 in (7.92 m)
Propulsion: Sails

Spanish service:60

British service:138
Armament: 16 guns

San Fermín was a 16-gun private ship of war corvette of the Gipuzkoan Trading Company of Caracas. She was launched in 1779 but the British Royal Navy captured her at the Action of 8 January 1780. The Spanish recaptured her in 1781.

British service[edit | edit source]

At the time of her capture she was under the command of Captain J. Vin. Eloy Sanchez. Admiral Rodney sent to Britain under the escort of the captured 64-gun ship Guipuzcoano the vessels of the convoy that he had captured on 8 June that were carrying commercial goods. He took with him for the relief of Gibraltar those vessels that carried naval supplies, together with the two smaller captured escorts, Saint Fermin and San Vicente.[2] The British commissioned Saint Fermin in Gibraltar as the 16-gun sloop of war HMS Saint Fermin,[3] under Commander Jonathan Faulknor.

Despite Rodney's delivery of supplies and reinforcements, Spain's siege of Gibraltar continued. At 1am on 7 June the Spanish launched an attack on Gibraltar by seven fireships. Boats from Saint Fermin helped tow some of these to where they could do no harm. By the firelight the British observed that some Spanish warships were waiting outside to intercept any British vessels that might try to escape. None did and the attack failed completely.[4]

On 19 October Saint Fermin exchanged shots with some Spanish gunboats. Saint Fermin was not harmed.[5]

Fate[edit | edit source]

On 3 April 1781 Saint Fermin sailed for Minorca with dispatches, together with the tender to Brilliant,[6] and a settee.[7] At the time, the British maintained contact with the British forces there, at least until 1782 when that island fell, by sending small, fast-sailing ships to run the blockade.

When Saint Fermin left, two Spanish xebecs immediately set out in pursuit. That evening Faulknor saw two vessels approaching and made every effort to escape.[8] Moonlight revealed them to be two xebecs, and that they were gaining. Even after the moon set the chase continued with the Spaniards sporadically firing their chase guns and Saint Fermin replying with her stern guns. Just before dawn the two xebecs came within gunshot range, stationed themselves on their quarry's quarters, and one prepared to fire a broadside.[8]

Out numbered and outgunned, Faulknor surrendered off Gibraltar.[9] The two xebecs were the San Antonio, of 26 guns, and the San Luis, of 22 guns. They then took her into Cartagena, Spain.[8] From there the Spanish brought her into their naval service as the 16-gun San Fermín.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Lavery, Ships of the Line vol.1. p182.
  2. "No. 12056". 8 January 1780. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/12056/page/ 
  3. Colledge/Warlow p.352
  4. "No. 12104". 25 July 1780. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/12104/page/ 
  5. Ancell (1793), p. 58.
  6. Drinkwater (1786), p.138.
  7. Ancell (1793), p.85.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Hepper (1994), p.62.
  9. Russell p.101

References[edit | edit source]

  • Ancell, Samuel (1793) A circumstantial journal of the ... blockade and siege of Gibraltar, from the 12th Sept., 1779 to the 23d. Feb., 1783; letters. (A. Edwards).
  • Colledge, J. Ben Warlow, Ben. Ships of the Royal Navy: The Complete Record of All Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy Chatham Publishing (2006) ISBN 1-86176-281-X
  • Drinkwater, John (1786) A history of the late siege of Gibraltar: With a description and account of that garrison, from the earliest periods. (T. Spilsbury).
  • Hepper, David J. (1994). British Warship Losses in the Age of Sail, 1650-1859. Rotherfield: Jean Boudriot. ISBN 0-948864-30-3. 
  • Russell, Jack (1965) Gibraltar besieged, 1779-1783. (Heinemann Publishing).
  • Syrett, David (2007). The Rodney Papers: Selections from the Correspondence of Admiral Lord Rodney. 2. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.. ISBN 0-7546-6007-9. 

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