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Nymphe vs Cléopâtre - Geoffrey Huband

Nymphe vs Cléopâtre - Geoffrey Huband

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The fierce engagement on the 18th June 1793 between the 36-gun frigates HMS Nymphe and the French Cléopâtre.

HMS Nymphe was commanded by Captain Edward Pellew with a crew of 240. The French opponent was under the command of Captain Jean Moullon with a similar number of crew.

Whilst cruising off the coast of Devon, Cléopâtre was first sighted by HMS Nymphe at 3.30 pm but it was not until 5 p.m. that Cléopâtre shortened sail to wait and engage with the British vessel.

Following a brief episode of chivalrous hat waving, the engagement commenced at 6.15, both ships running before the wind. The action proved to be furious the two vessels became entangled after Cléopâtre lost her mizzen mast and her steering. The intense bombardment by the British carronades cleared the decks of Cléopâtre. The crew of HMS Nymphe seized the opportunity, and boarded the French ship, notably led by eighty very tough Cornish tin miners. The impetus of the attack carried the day. By 7.10 pm the French colours came down and the battle was over.

The cost was high: HMS Nymphe lost 23 of her crew but Cléopâtre lost over 60 which included all the senior officers - notably Captain Jean Moullon who was later accorded full military honours. Captain Edward Pellew was knighted and went on to be a great Cornish hero. Cléopâtre was taken into the British Navy and HMS Nymphe was lost in the Firth of Forth in 1810. 

Oil on canvas signed lower left, framed.

Canvas size 20 x 28 inches (51cm x 71cm)


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