Frigates, Maidstone v Lion
Frigate action, American War of Independence. The Trafalgar Collection.
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A frigate action in the Caribbean during the American War of Independence.
The client’s brief was “I would like a painting of 2 frigates in action, but not one of the well-known actions“.
Gordon found this story in the Naval Chronicle at Plymouth Naval library (now closed by the council, a pity it was a very fine collection with a first class curator) on his second attempt.
The first story he found was perfect, even a ballad written, until he checked the times.
It was a night action!
“Maidstone“, frigate 28 guns, British attacked the larger French “Lion“, 40 guns.
Normally that should have been fatal for “Maidstone” as “Lion“‘s guns were bigger as well as threw a lot more weight of metal.
“Maidstone” was driven off, her rigging badly damaged.
For 2 hours she self-repaired then attacked again.
Many of “Lion“‘s crew were sick and weak with illness and hunger.
Although well-handled and bravely fought, eventually “Lion” submitted, was captured by “Maidstone“.
“Maidstone” was easy to research, “Lion” a bit more difficult.
Flags to note, “Lion” flying a white flag, the correct flag for the period for a French man of war.
HMS Maidstone is flying the pre union with Ireland flag, again, correct for the period and location, a white Ensign.
At that period British ships of war were using white, blue and red ensigns depending on which part of the world they were stationed.
Today only British war ships may fly the white ensign, blue by special charter, ships on government service or those commanded by a RNR officer, not warships, from 1869 often had their flag marked with an appropriate symbol (Trinity house, the few Royal Yacht Clubs etc).
The blue, used extensively world wide has been adopted by many Commonwealth countries.
Other British vessels, merchant ships, yachts and so on fly the red ensign, occasionally by crown permission ‘defaced’ with a symbol as in the case of Bermuda.
Affectionately called ‘the red duster’ the red ensign was often flown until near worn out, ready for use as a duster.
The origins of British flags are very ancient. Today many countries including the U S A use a flag design based upon an earlier British flag.
Both ships are flying their ‘commission’ pennants which indicate they are ships of war in service.
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Gordon Frickers © 02.03.2004 updated 28,03,16, 27.04.2016, 26.01.2017
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