15th November 1779

Navy gunship is grounded off Jersey coast

HMS Ambuscade was a 32-gun frigate, launched by the Navy in 1773, but it wasn’t the first ship of the fleet to bear that name. That honour had gone to a 40-gun vessel that Britain had captured in 1746. The 40-gun ship had originally been called Embuscade, so it’s perhaps not surprising that, when France rammed and captured its 32-gun successor in 1798, it was renamed Embuscade, perhaps in honour of the ship France had lost to Britain.

The French navy didn’t manage to hold on to Ambuscade for long. HMS Victory, with its 104 guns, retook her for Britain five years later and her name was changed back to Ambuscade.

A ship with a history

France had been lucky to get its hands on the Ambuscade at all as, almost twenty years earlier, it had been involved in a serious accident just off St Helier. As reported in the Hampshire Chronicle of 29 November 1779, “on Saturday last arrived his Majesty’s ship Champion… from Jersey with General Conway on board. We learn by this frigate, that on Monday the 15th… the Ambuscade of 32 guns… in a gale of wind was forced on shore near Jersey, but after having cut away all her masts she got off and carried into St Aubin’s bay in a very bad condition.” 

A letter to the Jersey Independent and Daily Telegraph on 21 October 1905 asked, “can it be possible that we in the Channel Island are not taking part in the [commemoration of 100 years since Nelson’s death] on Sunday next? … Do Jerseymen forget that his Majesty’s ship Ambuscade formed part of the fleet in which Nelson served as Lieutenant on its voyage to Jamaica to capture les ‘Isles sous le Vent’. The Ambuscade was wrecked off the Island on the 15th November 1779… the man-of-war with mast gone, lying on its side in a tempestuous sea, with the island of Jersey in the background.”


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Other events that occured in November