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Picture of Commander Jeffrey (Baron von) Reigerafeld
HMS Hermes, a remarkable vessel with a fascinating history, began her life as the Merchant Ship Hermes. Launched from North Shields in 1797, she was constructed by the skilled hands of Thomas Hearn. At the time of her launch, the sloop had an overall length of 100 feet, with a keel measuring 77 feet. With a beam of 28 feet 5 inches and a depth of hold of 11 feet, she possessed sturdy proportions suitable for her future endeavours.
A year after her construction, the Royal Navy recognized the potential of the Hermes and purchased her for the sum of £2900. The vessel underwent fitting at Gravesend under the watchful eye of the company "Cleverly," at a cost of £2975. Following this, she was taken to Deptford, where additional preparations were made at a cost of £3149. With a weight of 313 tons, HMS Hermes was manned by a crew of 76 capable seamen.
In May of 1798, Commander Henry Vansittart assumed command of HMS Hermes, leading her on missions in the North Sea. During this time, she was armed with 16 x 32-pounder carronades on the upper deck, accompanied by 2 x 16-pounder carronades on her forecastle. Commander Vansittart remained at her helm until October of the same year. In 1799, under the leadership of Commander Jeffrey (Baron von) Reigerafeld, she joined Mitchell's squadron. In November, Commander David Gilmour assumed command, followed by Commander James Watson around January 1801.
Throughout her service in the Royal Navy, HMS Hermes primarily carried out convoy duties in the North Sea, serving without any notable incidents. However, as with many vessels of the time, her service came to an end when the "Principal Officers and Commissioners of His Majesty's Navy" offered her for sale. On June 30, 1802, after the signing of the Treaty of Amiens, the Hermes found herself sold while lying at Sheerness.
Following her departure from the navy, the vessel underwent a transformation, returning to service as the mercantile vessel "Hermes" in 1803. This new role saw her engaged in convoy duties between London and Jamaica. Unfortunately, her fortunes took a turn for the worse in 1805 when she was captured by the French and taken to Guadeloupe.
The story of HMS Hermes is a testament to the versatility of ships during this era. From her humble beginnings as a merchant ship, she transitioned into a capable naval vessel and later found herself back in merchant service. Though her fate ultimately led her into enemy hands, her legacy lives on as a testament to the skilled craftsmanship and adaptability of ships during this period of maritime history.