On board HMS Medusa, 1802-1810

A sailor’s view of service during the Napoleonic Wars

The second page from Andrew Service's logbook recording details of his time on board HMS Medusa, with the first entry dated 23rd March 1802.  Further down, the entry for 5th October 1804 details the engagement at the Battle of Cape Santa Maria, off Portugal.  (GUAS Ref: UGC 182.  Copyright reserved.) ‌The logbook (our Photo Gallery features all twenty-one of the pages of the logbook) of Royal Navy sailor Andrew Service covers the period 1802 to 1825 but predominately includes remarks on his voyages on board HMS Medusa between 23 March 1802 and 10 June 1810.  He arrived back at Greenock, Inverclyde, on 10 June after 9 years and 12 days having voyaged around the world to the East and West Indies, the Americas and Europe.  He was present at the Battle of Cape Santa Maria on 5 October 1804 which contributed to Spain joining forces with France against Britain.  He comments (see image, right): View larger image

"In company with HMS Indefatigable, Livly [Lively], and Amphion fell with the Mede [Medea and] Marsides [Mercedes] (blown up in action). Le Fama [and] Le Clara, Spanish frigates of Cap St Marys from the River of Plate. Commenced action and after 3½ hours ingagin 3 of thim struck and blue up in action. They were laden with monny."

Throughout the volume he comments on the harsh and dangerous conditions and the payments they received as well as the ports they visited including St Helena, Cape Town and Madras.  The crew suffered numerous deaths, illness and injuries, including limbs blown off, fever, drownings and his own loss of a finger, commented on in a typically matter of fact fashion.

The national context is a piece of Royal Navy heritage.  The 1804 battle has been portrayed in popular fiction in both C S Forester’s Hornblower and Patrick O’Brien’s Aubrey-Maturin series.  However, this log book is significant because it tells the story of 9 years in the navy from the viewpoint of a junior member of the crew.  For such written accounts to have been created is rare enough but for this volume to have survived in the Service family for over 170 years is extraordinary and for it now to be made available to the public on-line is very important to the nation and historical endeavour.

See also:
Andrew Service, HMS Medusa,
Photo Gallery (includes the Logbook of Andrew Service, Conservation of the Logbook, Plans of HMS Medusa)

External References:
Napoleon Series - Seizing the Gold of Spain: the Action off Cape Santa Maria For further information (or if you have some suggestions regarding the text of the logbook) about the On Board HMS Medusa exhibition or if you would like permission to use the images and text accompanying this exhibition, please contact us at enquiries@archives.gla.ac.uk in the first instance.