Accidents involving Post Packets
Although there were fears of attack by the French, and the Admiralty had been asked to protect the first postal packets to operate between Weymouth and the Channel Islands in 1894, all went well until 29 October 1811.
The privateer L'Epervier, operating out of Cherbourg and carrying 14 guns and a crew of 50, captured the packet Chesterfield on her way to Guernsey. The Post Office was forced to pay £1,626 in compensation to the owners.
Chesterfield’s captain Starr Wood, wrote in his log: "It was a large lugger and had 14 guns and was full of men. We gave him broadside which made him sheer off". It is believed that the Frenchman was San Joseph, 14 guns, which was captured in Channel Islands waters the following October, She carried 68 men.
The Times of 25 November 1811 reports that the Chesterfield was underway from Weymouth to Guernsey and was taken by a French privateer.
In letters received from some of the passengers on board and taken by the privateer, they state, that as far as the French police laws will permit, they are treated by the inhabitants of Cherbourg with great humanity and politeness; but they had orders to be all marched to Verdun in the course of a week after their landing. The French privateer permitted the passengers to keep their watches and valuables.
A British army colonel going to join his regiment was severely wounded and the Captain and two men of the packet died of their wounds at Cherbourg.
Sir John Doyle, Lieut-Governor of Guernsey, lent his scout, the Mary to the Post Office to avoid mail delays but returning from Jersey and rounding La Corbière in high winds and lost her mast and boom. The owners claimed £97 in compensation but were only given 50 guineas.
Hinchinbrook and Francis Freeling
On 2 February 1826 the packet Hinchinbrook, under the command of Captain Thomas Quirk, was sailing past Alderney towards Guernsey in fine weather when she struck a submerged rock and rapidly filled with water and sank. The mails and all 24 crew and passengers took to the ship's boats and landed safely in Alderney. Captain Quirk, who was 67 years old, was adjudged to be responsible by a committee of inquiry and pensioned off two months later.
On 6 September in the same year the Francis Freeling was crossing the Channel on a particularly dark and stormy night when she was run down by a Swedigh brig, who failed to see her before they collided. All nine crew and seven passengers were lost and over 100 children are said to have lost their fathers in the incident.
SIr Francis Freeling was instrumental in the introduction of steam packets to the Weymouth-Channel Islands route in 1927. The first three of these vessels to be used were HMS Wildfire, HMS Ivanhoe and HMS Meteor.