Euryalus was commissioned on 1 January 1804 by Captain the Honourable Henry Blackwood. She was initially employed off the coast of Ireland and then off Boulogne in Admiral Lord Keith’s squadron, but had joined Vice-Admiral Sir Cuthbert Collingwood’s squadron off Cadiz by August 1805. There the squadron observed the return of Vice-Admiral Villeneuve’s combined French and Spanish fleet from the West Indies, where it had been unsuccessfully pursued by Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson. Collingwood ordered Blackwood to sail to Britain and report this news to the Admiralty in person. Euryalus anchored off Lymington on 1 September and Blackwood immediately took a coach overnight to London. He stopped briefly at Merton at 0500 next morning to inform his old friend, Nelson, who soon followed Blackwood to the Admiralty. There it was decided that Nelson should take command of the British fleet assembling off Cadiz.
On 15 September 1805, Euryalus sailed from Spithead in company with Victory (wearing Nelson’s flag). They joined the British Fleet off Cadiz on 28 September. Euryalus was put in charge of the inshore patrol and a line of frigates and other ships stretched out to the British main body. This was poised below the horizon, mainly to hide the British strength and movements. After a number of alarms and false starts, Euryalus, just outside gun-range from Cadiz, signalled that the enemy ships were warping out to the mouth of the harbour on 14 October. Time was running out for Villeneuve, who had heard that Napoleon was sending someone to relieve him. On 18 October, Villeneuve ordered a squadron of eight French ships out to try to capture Euryalus and the other frigates he could see, in order to find out the strength backing them. The British were too alert and nimble however, and with the wind now preventing the French squadron returning, Villeneuve decided that the whole fleet should sail, his last chance for victory at sea. Once again Euryalus signalled this development to Nelson on 19 October. This began a series of signals, using Popham's new code, which was to keep Euryalus ' signal staff busy for the next few days - for even when the fleets made contact Euryalus and the other frigates stood out of the line to repeat Nelson's and Collingwood's signals. This was necessary as the wind and gun smoke nearly always made seeing signal flags difficult.
The combined fleet ships were shadowed by Euryalus and their every movement reported, until the British fleet made contact on 21 October 1805 and the Battle of Trafalgar was fought. The British fleet consisted of 27 battleships, 4 frigates and 2 small craft, commanded by Nelson in Victory. The combined French and Spanish fleet consisted of 33 battleships, 5 frigates and 2 small craft, commanded by Villeneuve and Admiral Don Frederico Gravina. At daybreak on 21 October the enemy were 11 miles to leeward. At 0600 Blackwood went on board Victory and witnessed Nelson's signature to some papers and a codicil to his will. He also watched the discussion between Nelson and his signal officer, Lieutenant Pasco, on the composition of Nelson's famous signal to the fleet. He remained on board with the Commander-in-Chief till about 1145. Blackwood had hoped that Lord Nelson had sent for him to offer him command of either the Ajax or the Thunderer, both of whose captains were in England as witnesses at Sir Robert Calder's court martial. When the subject was mentioned Nelson would not agree to the idea, remarking that the acting vacancy was the birthright of the first lieutenants. At 1156, Euryalus repeated Nelson's signal, "England expects that every man will do his duty”.
The British fleet approached the enemy in two lines (see drawing right) and the French ship Fougueux opened the battle at noon by firing on Royal Sovereign, the leader of the southern line. At 1210 Collingwood, in Royal Sovereign, broke the enemy's line and at 1300 Nelson, in Victory, did the same. Lieutenant W. W. Pike of Euryalus wrote this in his journal "...at 1215 Royal Sovereign hawl'd more to the Wind, to form a line with the Enemy, at 1215 the Enemy opened a very heavy fire on her, at 1216 the English Admirals hoisted their respective Flags, and the Fleet their colours, at 1220 repeated the Signal to Engage closer. At 1221 the Victory broke the line thro' the Centre, at 1230 the Action became severe in the Centre and Rear..." As soon as the light wind permitted, the remaining British ships came up and engaged, and by 1330 the battle was at its height. As was the custom for frigates of all navies at the time, when battleships engaged, Euryalus kept out of the battle, taking a position to windward of Nelson’s line. At 1325 Nelson was mortally wounded while walking Victory’s deck with the flag captain, Captain Hardy, and by 1500 the firing had diminished. At 1640 having learned of the completeness of the victory, the British Commander-in-Chief quietly and without a struggle ceased to breathe. By 1700 the fight was over, the fleet then being 8 miles NW by W of Cape Trafalgar. Taking over command of the fleet, Collingwood ordered Euryalus to tow the heavily damaged Royal Sovereign, but it proved impracticable to relay signals through the frigate, so at 1755, Collingwood shifted his flag to Euryalus where he was to remain for over a week. Collingwood then had to deal with the Great Storm which threatened to overwhelm the many shattered ships of both sides, especially the prizes which only had small prize crews and dangerously large numbers of prisoners. Having won the battle by superior leadership and gunnery, the Royal Navy's seamanship was to enable the fleet to weather the most dreadful storm off a lee shore.
The problems the fleet faced are well illustrated by the collision between Euryalus and Royal Sovereign. Euryalus, towing the battleship, was taken aback and the swell brought Royal Sovereign crashing alongside, taking away Euryalus' topmasts and sails. With this loss of manoeuvrability Euryalus was unable to tow Royal Sovereign clear of the shoals to make for Gibraltar and the ships could only ride out the storm. In the morning, turning over her tow to Neptune, Euryalus sailed among the over 40 ships adrift in Cadiz Bay while Collingwood tried to get the fleet together, Many of the British and captured ships had been partly or wholly dismasted. The situation was further complicated by a brave re-entry into the bay of a group of less damaged Spanish ships aimed at recapturing some prizes. Often prizes had to be abandoned, sometimes without being able to rescue the prize crews and their prisoners. British and enemy were often forced to cooperate to try to save a prize, but usually in vain. Of the 18 enemy ships captured, 3 were retaken, 6 sank, were burned or blew up, and 5 were wrecked on the Spanish coast. All HM ships and four prizes survived and eventually got to Gibraltar. The British lost 449 killed, which included Nelson, 2 captains and 34 officers, and 1,241 wounded including 106 officers. It has been calculated that the enemy lost about 7,000 killed and wounded which included 2 admirals and 7 captains killed.
By 26 October, in a lull in the storm, Collingwood was able to think about getting news to Britain. Collingwood’s famous Trafalgar Despatches which were published in the Times, were written on board Euryalus. Euryalus was originally selected to take home the news, and her captain, the Hon. Henry Blackwood, thought he would be taking home Nelson's body too. However, after due consideration of the risks involved, Collingwood decided to send the first despatches, including his initial battle reports written in Euryalus, home in HMS Pickle, a small fast schooner. Meanwhile, Collingwood sent Blackwood into Cadiz under a flag of truce to arrange for many of the Spanish prisoners to be taken ashore in exchange for British prisoners. Later, after repairs in Gibraltar, Victory carried Nelson's body in its famous barrel of spirits (was it brandy or rum?!) back to Britain. Euryalus' duties were to be Victory's escort and to take back the high-ranking prisoners, including Villeneuve, together with Collingwood's more formal reports to the Admiralty.
Victory and Euryalus arrived off Portsmouth on 4 December. The despatches were taken up to London by Hardy and Blackwood. The ships remained at anchor, while preparations for the reception of Nelson's body were completed. Eventually they sailed for the mouth of the Thames and on 22 December, Nelson was transferred to the Admiralty yacht, HMS Chatham. She went up to Greenwich where the body was taken ashore on 24 December.
Euryalus had been deeply involved before, during and after the Battle of Trafalgar, perhaps her most important contribution being as Collingwood's flagship in the dangerous days of the Great Storm. Euryalus was subsequently employed on convoy duty and in 1806, after escorting a fleet of merchantmen to Portugal and the Mediterranean, she joined Collingwood again off Cadiz. Later she was deployed off Carthagena and cruising in the Gulf of Lyons. In 1807 she escorted transports with troops under Sir John Moore from Gibraltar to England.
In 1808, Euryalus, Captain the Honourable H.G.L. Dundas in command, joined the Baltic Fleet under Vice Admiral James Saumarez, who was conducting an intricate naval and diplomatic campaign in northern waters. In June, Euryalus' boats, under Lieutenant Michael Head, assisted by boats from Cruiser (sloop) captured a Danish 2 gun vessel and burnt two transports near Naskon in the Great Belt. In July, Euryalus was sent to Colberg in Prussia to rescue the exiled Queen of France and her son, the Duke of Angouleme. Euryalus took the large royal party to Karlskrona in Sweden where, because the passage through the hostile Belts or Sound was considered too dangerous, they disembarked for a land journey to Gothenburg, where Euryalus picked them up again to sail to England.
On 28 July 1809, still under the command of Captain Dundas, Euryalus sailed from the Downs in a fleet of 246 warships and 400 transports, the largest fleet ever to leave Britain until D-Day. This was commanded by Rear-Admiral Sir Richard Strachan with his flag in Venerable. The transports carried some 40,000 troops under the Earl of Chatham. Many of the men-o' -war removed their lower deck guns and carried horses. The expedition aimed to destroy French ships and bases in the Scheldt and Antwerp but only achieved limited success before the British were forced to withdraw.
In November 1809, Euryalus captured the French 14 gun vessel L'Etoile, a privateer, off Cherbourg. Euryalus was engaged in the blockade of Toulon in July 1810, as part of the inshore squadron. She assisted in the chase of a French convoy into the little port of Bandol and on one occasion exchanged some innocuous broadsides with a French 74 gun ship. She was still engaged in the blockade of Toulon in 1813.
In 1814, Euryalus crossed the Atlantic to join the war with the United States, as part of Sir Alexander Gordon's squadron in the Potomac. Soon after arriving, she took part in the raid on the new, still building, capital of Washington. Seahorse (Captain James Gordon) and Euryalus (Captain Charles Napier) led a flotilla of bomb ketches, rocket ships (one with the delightful name HMS Fairy) and boats up the Potomac, while a joint Army/Navy Brigade of some 4,000 soldiers, sailors and Royal Marines, under the command of Major General Ross and Rear-Admiral Cockburn, landed at the mouth of the Patuxent and marched through Maryland directly towards Washington. A US militia army of about 7,000 men attempted to block this brigade at Bladensburg on 24 August but badly led, fell apart under the determined British attack.
Meanwhile Seahorse and Euryalus proceeded up to Alexandria (now a prosperous suburb of Washington) and putting Royal Marines and sailors ashore, captured it on 28 August. The USN burned two of their own ships in a shipyard there, to prevent their capture. The town was held for four days, diverting larger US forces. The joint brigade marched into Washington and set fire to many new buildings including the Capitol and the Presidential Mansion. Subsequent repairs to the latter included painting it white – since when it has been called the White House. The Euryalus and Seahorse flotilla meanwhile plundered the warehouses in Alexandria, loading everything possible into the ships and boats before both forces retired to the coast. It took six days to get back to open sea, but US attempts to attack the flotilla with fireships and shore batteries failed. The joint brigade casualties were 65 killed and 191 wounded, while the flotilla suffered 7 killed and 35 wounded, including Euryalus' captain. In September 1814, she provided men and boats for an unsuccessful attack on Baltimore. At the end of the war, she returned to Britain in 1815, and paid off into reserve at Woolwich.
From 1826 to 1844 she was employed as a convict ship at Chatham, and from 1845 to 1859 she performed the same service at Gibraltar. In 1859 her name was changed to Africa and she was sold in 1860 at Gibraltar to a Mr Recano, probably for scrap, for £337 6s 8d.
|The first Euryalus was a typical frigate of her time, classified as a fifth rate warship:|
|Length on Main Deck:||145ft 2ins|
|Length on Keel:||121ft 11 ins|
|Depth of Hold:||13ft 3ins|
|Main Deck:||26 x 18 pounders|
|Quarterdeck:||12 x 32 pounder carronades|
|Fo'c'stle:|| 2 x 32 pounder carronades
2 x 9 long pounders