John R. Christian

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Closing In

Closing In

Inspired by the action of 31 March 1800 off Malta.

​The British had maintained a blockade off Malta since 1798, led by Rear-Admiral Lord Nelson, by March 1800 Lord Nelson was remaining ashore in Palermo leaving Captain Manley Dixon in command of the blockade on board 64 gun HMS Lion and Captain Sir Edward Berry in command of his Flag Ship 80 gun HMS Foudroyant.

On 30 March 1800 at 23:00hrs, wind from South, 36 gun frigate HMS Penelope, under Captain Henry Blackwood, noticed French 80 gun ship “Guillaume Tell” leaving Valletta under cover of darkness,

Blackwood sent word to the squadron positioned around the island and gave chase. Penelope gained and pulled up under Guillaume Tell’s stern, the Frenchman realised that to stop and engage would give time for the squadron to catch up, so tried to outrun the frigate. By staying on the stern of the Frenchman, Blackwood by morning had disabled Guillaume Tell with minimal damage and the loss of life to Penelope. The Frenchman had lost her main and mizzen top masts and spars, allowing HMS Lion and HMS Foudroyant to catch up from the South. The the Frenchman was captured and subsequently taken into the British Navy service as HMS Malta.

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