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HMS Calypso (1783)
Career (United Kingdom) Royal Navy Ensign
Name: HMS Calypso
Ordered: 28 December 1781
Builder: Edward Graves, Deptford, London
Laid down: May 1782
Launched: 27 September 1783
Commissioned: 1 December 1783
Out of service: 30 July 1803
Fate: Sunk on 30 July 1803
General characteristics
Class & type: Echo Class
Type: Sloop-of-war
Tonnage: 342 (bm)
Length: 101 ft 6 in (30.94 m)(gundeck) 83 ft 7 in (25.48 m)(keel)
Beam: 27 ft 9 in (8.46 m)
Draught: 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m) (unladen);9 ft 9 in (2.97 m) (laden)
Sail plan: Brig rigged
Complement: 125 (121 from 1794)
Armament: UD:16 x 6-pounder QD:4 x 12-pounder carronades Fc:2 x 12-pounder carronades

HMS Calypso was a Royal Navy Echo Class ship-sloop. She was built at Deptford between 1781 and 1783, launched on 27 September 1783 and first commissioned on 1 December 1783 for service in Northern Ireland and Scotland. She served in the North Sea, Atlantic and the West Indies. Calypso was sunk whilst acting as a convoy escort on 30 July 1803 after colliding with a West Indiaman merchant ship during a violent storm.

Service History

HMS Calypso was first commissioned in September 1783 under Commander Ralph Dundas for service on the Irish and Scottish stations. She was then refitted at Plymouth and placed in ordinary in October 1785.

Her second commission began in January 1787 under Commander William Mitchell. After fitting for Channel service she sailed for Jamaica on 16 May 1787, returning to home waters in 1790 and once more being placed in ordinary.

HMS Calypso underwent a period of repair and was refitted at Portsmouth between July 1793 and March 1796. Her third commission began on Janauary 1796 under Commander Andrew Smith who took her to sea following her repair and refit to join Admiral Duncan's North Sea Fleet.

In January 1797 Commander Richard Worsley took command and operated Calypso as a convoy escort and crusier. He was succeeded by Commander C Collis in November 1797 who continued operating in this role until April 1798 when Calypso returned to Portsmouth for refit.

Commander Henry Garrett took command in April 1799 and was succeeded by Commander Joseph Baker in November of that year. Baker took Calypso to the Caribbean, sailing for the Leeward Islands in February 1802. Whilst under Baker's command on this station, HMS Calypso participated in several notable actions.[1]

  • 13 April 1800 - Her cutter took the schooner La Diligente (6-guns)
  • 15 November 1800 - Fought off a French squadron, saving a convoy and capturing 16-gun sloop Ganso (with HMS Crescent 36-guns)

In October 1801 Commander Robert Barrie assumed command, followed by Commander Edward Brenton in April 1802 and finally by Commander William Venour in August 1802.


On 30 July 1803, HMS Calypso and the 74-gun HMS Goliath were escorting a convoy of heavily laden West Indiaman from Jamaica. The convoy was caught in a violent storm which dismasted 21 of the vessels, Calypso was run down by one of the merchantman and sunk with the loss of all hands in the ensuing collision.

Commanding Officers

As an unrated sloop-of-war HMS Calypso was too small a ship to warrant a Post-captain and was instead commanded by an officer in the rank of Commander, although aboard ship he was afforded the courtesy title of Captain. The commanders of HMS Calypso were:[1]

  • Cmdr Ralph Dundas (September 1783 - October 1785)
  • Cmdr William Mitchell (January 1787 - 1790)
  • Cmdr Andrew Smith (January 1796 - January 1797)
  • Cmdr Richard Worsley (January 1797 - November 1797)
  • Cmdr William Collis (November 1797 - April 1798)
  • Cmdr Henry Garrett (April 1799 - November 1799)
  • Cmdr Joseph Baker (November 1799 - October 1801)
  • Cmdr Robert Barrie (October 1801 - April 1802)
  • Cmdr Edward Brenton (April 1802 - August 1802)
  • Cmdr William Venour (August 1802 - July 1803)


From 1794 the Admiralty allowed a crew of 121 for a 16-gun sloop such as HMS Calypso. The Commander and Lieutenants were professional sea officers, trained in gunnery, navigation and seamanship in equal measure and appointed to the ship by Admiralty Commission. The Lieutenants were all at least nineteen years of age, having served a minimum six year apprenticeship as Midshipman or Master's Mate before undertaking and passing the examination for Lieutenant. The Commander would usually have been an experienced Lieutenant who had come to the attention of the Admiralty or his Commander-in-Chief through some distinction in service or by having an influential patron. His duties were almost identical to those of a Post Captain, although on a smaller scale, the exception being that as a Commander he had no automatic rights of promotion to the flag list and could quite easily remain a Commander for the rest of his career.

The Warrant Officers were specialists appointed to the ship by Navy Board Warrant. The Wardroom Warrant Officers were allowed all the privilages of a Commissioned Officer, eating and sleeping with the Lieutenants. The Standing Warrant Officers stayed with the ship throughout its commission and remained aboard when the ship was placed in ordinary. They were heavily involved with the fitting out of the ship and general maintenance. Cockpit Officers had a higher status than the Petty Officers and could generally expect to reach the Wardroom in time, with its members aspiring to be Lieutenants, Masters, Pursers or Surgeons. Petty Officers performed particular roles that required additional skills or expertise, and they were usually rated by the Captain or First Lieutenant on joining the ship. Unlike the Warrant Officers, the Petty Officers had no job security and could be demoted by the Captain for negligence or lose his rating on moving to a new ship.

The seaman were classed as either Able Seaman, Ordinary Seaman or Landsman. An Able Seaman was an expert all rounder, happy aloft in the rigging or taking the helm and all other aspects of shipboard life. An Ordinary Seaman was one who had a grasp of basic seamanship and could be useful aboard ship but was not yet an expert or skilful sailor. Whilst a Landsman was a man with very little or no prior sea experience at all, most commonly a product of the press gang.

The full crewing requirements for a 16-gun sloop are given in the table below.[2]

Commissioned Officers Qty
Commander 1
Lieutenant 2
Wardroom Warrant Officers Qty Standing Warrant Officers Qty Cockpit Officers Qty
Master 1 Boatswain 1 Clerk 1
Purser 1 Carpenter 1 Master's Mate 1
Surgeon 1 Gunner 1 Midshipman 2
Surgeon's Mate 1
Senior Petty Officers Qty Petty Officers Qty Junior Petty Officers Qty
Armourer 1 Armourer's Mate 1 Captain of the Afterguard 1
Carpenter's Mate 1 Boatswain's Mate 1 Captain of the Forecastle 2
Caulker 1 Coxswain 1 Captain of the Foretop 2
Ropemaker 1 Gunner's Mate 1 Captain of the Maintop 1
Quarter Gunner 4 Carpenter's Crew 2
Quartermaster 1 Cook 1
Sailmaker 1 Sailmaker's Crew 1
Ship's Corporal 1 Steward 1
Yeoman of the Powder Room 1 Quarter Gunner 4
Yeoman of the Sheets 1 Quartermaster's Mate 2
Seaman & Servants Qty
Seaman (Able/Ordinary/Landsman) 42
Boys & Servants 12
Marine Detachment Qty
Lieutenant RM 1
Sergeant 1
Corporal 1
Marine 16


  1. 1.0 1.1 Winfield, Rif (2008). British Warships of the Age of Sail, 1793-1817. Barnsley: Seaforth. p. 249. ISBN 978-1-84415-717-4. 
  2. Lavery, Brian (2009). Nelson's navy : the ships, men and organisation 1793-1815 (Rev.ed. ed.). London: Conway Maritime. p. 328. ISBN 9780851775210. 

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