28th November 1807
HMS Boreas sank at Hanois

Yarmouth-built HMS Boreas was just 12 months old when wrecked on the reef at Hanois, having been launched on 16 November the year before. Her loss, along with 120 crew, contributed to public calls for a lighthouse to be constructed on the reef. Work on such a lighthouse eventually got underway in 1860 and was completed two years later.

HMS Boreas wrecked

Boreas was a gunship, carrying 28 cannons, but was on a mercy mission at the time of her loss. She had sailed out from St Peter Port to rescue a pilot boat at around 6pm. In the words of James Saumarez’s letter to the Admiralty, “the wind at the time [was] blowing very hard at NE”. The pilot boat was having trouble in rough waters and, having attached the two boats so that the Boreas could tow the cutter, HMS Boreas’ captain, Robert Scott, turned about and made for Guernsey. It was then that Boreas struck Requiers rock.

The captain ordered his men to abandon ship. Some of them took lifeboats to Hanois rock, but others simply deserted. This meant that, having dropped off their passengers, the craft were unable to return to rescue others. This contributed to a very high death toll, which included the captain himself.

As for the pilot boat that the Boreas had been trying to save, its crew cut the lines securing it to HMS Boreas and sailed away to safety on their own. They did nothing to save the crew of the Boreas themselves. Neither did they raise the alarm once they got to shore so that boats could be dispatched to help.

James Saumarez had been alerted to the sinking of the Boreas at around 2am the following morning. He sent boats to help it, but by then the ship was going down fast and little could be done. Just 30 men were rescued from Hanois rock, and even some of the boats sent to help went down in the rough seas.

Diver Richard Keen retrieved one of the Boreas cannon from the wreck in 1974. It is now on display at Fort Grey, where it has been positioned so that it points towards Boreas’ final resting place.

Category: Guernsey History | Other events tagged ,

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