V. The Achilles: Introductory note

Pages 169-172

The Barrington Papers, Vol. 77. Originally published by Navy Record Society, London, 1937.

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The Achilles, to which Captain Barrington was transferred with the ship's company of the Norwich, was a new 60-gun ship, built at Harwich by Barnard and launched on February 6th, 1757. It was April 22nd before Captain Barrington with the last of his men transferred to the Achilles, as the Norwich did not come out of dock at Chatham till April 6th. Meanwhile, on March 13th, Barrington had given Tickets of Leave to such of his ship's company as desired 14 days' leave.

On April 19th Lieutenant Osborn with no Petty Officers and Seamen from the Norwich arrived at Harwich in a tender and began the work of fitting out the Achilles. Captain Barrington followed three days later. In accordance with his Orders from the Admiralty Barrington sailed from Harwich on May 17th and on the 24th anchored in Plymouth Sound, having escorted from the Downs to St. Helens a convoy of four East Indiamen. After carrying out his Orders. about the ship's company of the America, and returning to Plymouth, Barrington was ordered to Limerick to escort the East Indiamen Chesterfield, Portland and Edgcoate to the Downs. The Achilles then returned to Plymouth, where she arrived on July 10th. Admiralty Orders, dated July 18th, ordered the Achilles to Spithead, and on July 23rd Barrington sailed from Plymouth for Spithead, to join the fleet assembling there. He passed Boscawen on the 26th off the Isle of Wight and came into Spithead to report to Rear-Admiral Broderick. After a week's cruise between Portland and Beachy Head, the Achilles returned to Spithead on August 4th, and there received on board part of a detachment of the 2nd Battalion of Lord Effingham's Regiment, for service as Marines (the rest of the detachment going to the America). On August 7th Hawke hoisted his flag in the Ramillies and assumed command of the fleet destined to accompany the military on their expedition against Rochefort.

The fleet sailed on September 8th and on the 22nd anchored in Basque Road. Next day Hawke put Barrington under the command of Captain Byron of the America, and directed him also to receive on board any French prisoners taken. Hawke, in his dispatch of September 30th, states that:

On the morning of the 23rd, I observed a French Man of War, over the land, to the S.E. of the Isle of Aix. Being desirous of destroying her, I directed Captain Byron of the America to take with him the Achilles and Pluto fireship, and, as soon as the Rear Division should begin to batter, go and destroy her. But the French slung their guns over board, cut their cables, and otherwise lightening her, ran up the Charente. It is said she was the Prudent of 74 guns bound for Louisbourg.

Beyond capturing the fort on the Isle of Aix, the expedition accomplished little. The Army was commanded by LieutenantGeneral Sir John Mordaunt, who had with him Major-Generals Seymour Conway and Edward Cornwallis, with Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Clark as principal Engineer and Colonel James Wolfe as Quarter-Master-General. They decided against attacking Rochefort, and the decision was supported by the Court Martial that subsequently acquitted Mordaunt of disobedience to Orders and Instructions.

So far as Barrington was concerned the most important result of the expedition was probably Hawke's discovery about the possibilities of using Basque Road. In his dispatch Hawke said:

Though, before I came here, this place was represented as very difficult of access, and so narrow that Ships could not lie in safety from the Forts, nay, the Pilots made many baulks before we came in; yet I find it a safe spacious Road in which all the Navy of England, Merchant Ships included, may ride without the least annoyance; and that a Squadron may, at any time, by laying here, prevent any Armament from Rochfort, and ruin all the French Trade to Rhe, Oleron, or the Continent, within these Islands.

It was to be the lot of the Achilles to be one of such a squadron.

The Achilles was one of the ships left behind with Keppel when Hawke sailed for home on October 1st, 1757. Keppel's squadron returned to England after carrying out a cruise off Cape Ortegal, and in their return encountered first the Grafton (Holmes's flagship) and then the Devonshire, both from America and both dismasted. The Achilles took the Devonshire in tow on November 1st and brought her to St. Helens.

On November 18th the Agent came on board the Achilles at Spithead and paid such of her ship's company as had been present in the Norwich their Head Money for the capture of the Arc en Ciel.

The Achilles sailed with Cornish on December 8th, 1757, in an attempt to intercept De Kersaing; she parted company from Cornish on February 8th, 1758, off Plymouth and came in for refit. On April 26th, 1758, the Achilles sailed again from Plymouth, and, joining Captain Pratten, participated in the capture of La Raisonnable.

Pratten's squadron arrived at Spithead on May 22nd. Next day Anson hoisted his flag in the Royal George and superseded Hawke in command of the Channel Fleet. The fleet sailed on June 1st, escorting Commodore Lord Howe and his transports. As a cruising Captain, Barrington was detached under Commodore Douglas to reconnoitre Brest, and subsequently under Proby. In July the Achilles had her refit at Plymouth and subsequently sailed in company with the America for a cruise from which Barrington returned to Plymouth with a French prize. Here he found Saunders in command of the Channel Fleet, in succession to Anson, who had resumed duty at the Admiralty.

The Achilles was detached cruising, first under Denis and, in February 1759, singly. Whilst on the latter service Barrington recaptured the brigantine Kingston of Glasgow and, on April 4th, 1759, captured the Comte de St. Florentine.

In June 1759 Rodney hoisted his flag in the Achilles at Spithead and sailed in the first week in July to bombard Havre. On his return to Spithead on July 10th, Rodney's flag was struck in the Achilles, and Barrington was ordered to join Hawke, who was now once again in command of the Channel Fleet. Hawke detached the Achilles to reinforce Hervey off Brest. In October there occurred an unfortunate 'incident' that nearly resulted in the loss of the Achilles. The Achilles reached Plymouth on October 24th, escorted by the Gibraltar and Actœon, and was docked. The incident prevented Barrington being present at Hawke's victory over Conflans.

After her refit the Achilles was ready for service on December 1st, 1759, and Barrington was sent with a small force to endeavour to intercept Thurot off the west coast of Ireland. Thurot's continued stay in Norway rendering this service unnecessary, Barrington returned to Plymouth, where the Achilles was again docked.

In March 1760 Barrington was sent with Byron to Louisbourg, to assist in the demolition of the fortifications there. He returned to Plymouth in November and the Achilles was again docked.

In February 1761 Barrington was put under Keppel's command, and the Achilles arrived at Spithead on March 14th to join the expedition assembling for the attack on Belle Isle. Upon the landing being effected, Barrington was sent home with dispatches. He spent the remainder of the year either with Keppel at Belle Isle or with Sir Thomas Stanhope in Basque Road; and when the operations were drawing to a close he remained behind with Howe when Stanhope handed over to Howe on March 7th, 1762. On April 30th, 1762, Barrington left Basque Road with Howe's dispatches; the Achilles returned to Plymouth and was thence ordered to Portsmouth for docking.

The Achilles was ready for sea on June 18th and joined Sir Edward Hawke at Spithead. Hawke sailed on the 23rd, and the following day Barrington's command of over five years in the Achilles was brought to an end: he was transferred to the Hero, in succession to Captain Edgcumbe, and succeeded in the Achilles by Captain William Fortescue.