Signed in as:
Signed in as:
After being purchased by Admiralty in 1803 HMS Hermes went to Woolwich for a 4 month refit and was laden with 14 x 24 pounder carronades on her main deck and 2 x 6 pounder chase guns on the forecastle.
The annals of maritime history are filled with stories of legendary ships and their daring exploits. Yet, some vessels remain shrouded in mystery, their origins and careers obscured by the passage of time. One such enigma is HMS Hermes 3, a ship whose official records have all but vanished, leaving historians and enthusiasts alike to piece together fragments of its history. While much about this vessel remains unknown, what little information has been uncovered reveals a fascinating tale of naval service and the role of young boys in the Royal Navy.
Little can be ascertained about the early years of HMS Hermes before its acquisition in 1803. It is believed that the ship was originally named Majestic and constructed in 1801, but it is important to note that this vessel should not be confused with the Majestic launched from Whitby in the same year. The true story of its origins, however, remains elusive.
In August 1803, Commander John Astley Bennett assumed the role of the ship's commanding officer, overseeing its deployment in the North Sea. Bennett's tenure was short-lived, as he was soon replaced in May 1804 by Commander John Davie, who transferred from his position with the "Sea Fencibles" at Harwich. Davie, in turn, departed the ship in December, leaving the command to Commander Joseph Westbeach in January 1805.
During the period between September and November 1805, HMS Hermes underwent fitting at Sheerness, preparing for its future endeavors. In October 1806, Commander Peter Rye took charge of the ship, but his command was again superseded in November of the same year, when Commander Edward Reynolds Sibly assumed control.
On the 9th of March 1807, HMS Hermes set sail for the Cape of Good Hope, embarking on a voyage that would take it to the distant shores of the British operations in the River Plate in 1808. The ship played a role in these military endeavors, contributing to the British presence in the region.
In May 1809, Commander Sibly left HMS Hermes to take command of Sheerwater, while the ship itself underwent fitting as a storeship at Deptford from April to June. The vessel was recommissioned in April, only to meet its eventual fate. On the 24th of March 1810, HMS Hermes was sold, marking the end of its documented existence as a naval ship.
While the story of HMS Hermes 3 remains fragmentary, it offers a glimpse into the unique world of the Royal Navy during that era. One notable aspect of naval life during this time was the active employment of children and minors within the ranks. Joining the Royal Navy as a boy was often an unspoken prerequisite for aspiring to an officer commission. Boys between the ages of eight and twelve, although sometimes as old as 15 to 17, served as "ship's boys."
Once enlisted as a ship's boy, further advancement within the ranks was possible through specialization. A cabin boy, for example, assisted with the ship's kitchen duties, while a powder monkey worked in the ship's armoury. Among the highest positions attainable for a boy was that of an "officer's servant," typically reserved for "young gentlemen" between the ages of 12 and 15. This role served as preparation for future service as a midshipman.
The time spent as a ship's boy was considered sea-service, and officers' servants could credit this experience towards the mandatory requirement for sea time in order to qualify for the Lieutenants' Commission Board. As the "Age of Sail" drew to a close, the position of ship's boy evolved into an official Royal Navy rank known as "Boy Seaman."
In addition to shedding light on the role of young boys in the Royal Navy, the limited information available on HMS Hermes 3 offers insights into the changing customs and practices of naval service during the early 19th century. It was during this period, starting in 1803, that the crew began to be outfitted in uniforms, following in the footsteps of officers who had been wearing them since the 1740s.
Although the true origins and subsequent fate of HMS Hermes 3 remain largely unknown, the glimpses of its story that have been unearthed provide a fascinating glimpse into the lives of sailors and young boys who served in the Royal Navy. The enigmatic vessel will forever remain a mystery, but its existence serves as a testament to the rich and diverse tapestry of maritime history.
Petty Officers uniform during the Napoleonic Wars