Apr 232013

Writing in his notebook about extreme weather conditions, Richard Hall notes:


The Terrible, launched in Harwich in 1762, was the fourth of that name (if you include vessels captured from the Spanish and the French, and then re-named). It doesn’t seem to have had a particularly impressive life. It was classified as a ‘third rate ship of the line’ and had taken part in the First Battle of Ushant in 1778. Later she went on to feature in the Battle of the Chesapeake but was badly damaged in the encounter and was scuttled by fire (1782). A sad end for a crew which had already suffered the indignity of losing their shirts in a lightning storm!

  5 Responses to “23 April 1779: a storm shivers the timbers on HMS Terrible”


    Third rate doesn’t mean poor quality when describing ships. It refers to the size, number of decks, and number of guns.



      Thanks, Mark and Sarah, for the information. I was aware that “third rate” referred to size and gun power, but meant that the ship did not seem to have had a particularly impressive or fortunate career. In my ignorance I had never even heard of the two battles which I see she was involved in. Perhaps I should do some more research….


    haha, Mark got there first, a third rater would be a 74 gun ship of the line, which was basically the standard line of battle ship. They by far outnumbered second and first rate ships, and there were more first raters [like Victory] than second raters. A first rater would have around 100 guns, a second rater would have 80-90, they were pretty variable because there weren’t many built – they cost almost as much as a first rater, needed almost as many men to crew, and weren’t therefore economically a good idea. By contrast the third rater, which was the work horse of the set piece battle was cheaper to build and crew, and any two third raters could easily take a first rater. A 74 has two gun decks; the first and second raters have 3, and that makes a helluva difference in the ease and cost of building.


    amazing occurrence though, and proves that truth is stranger than fiction


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