How a Parliamentary frigate was captured off Guernsey
Diarist Jean Chevalier provides us with a remarkable record of island life as incident followed incident during the turbulent years of Civil War and the Commonwealth (1643 – 1651). Although it is sometimes difficult to read his diary, written as it is, more or less in the patois of the Island, it provides a remarkable view of the events which occupied the attention of the Jerseymen of that period.
Nicholas Effard's ship
The following account of the incident in which Nicholas Effard lost his ship was written by Chevalier:
- ”22 February 1649 — On this day, there arrived in Jersey a frigate of the parliament, named the Heart, signifying in French Le Coeur ; she was considered the second fastest sailing vessel in England, and it was she that had taken a small frigate belonging to Sir George Carteret.
- ”The Heart mounted ten guns. After the death of the king, part of the crew, seeing how the parliamentarians had laid their sanguinary hands on the person of their sovereign, resolved to go over to the Prince of Wales, holding the parliament in horror; and they only awaited a favorable moment to effect their purpose.
- ”One day, when they were at anchor in the Downs, the captain and some of the crew went ashore, and did not return that night. The royalist party at once availed themselves of this opportunity, and sent those on shore in the ship's boat who would not join them, having seized them while asleep. They then immediately set sail for Jersey, with a fine north-east wind. The frigate's crew consisted of 70 or 80 men, of whom only 22 had secretly resolved to take her to that island.
- ”The master was named Collin, and him they made their captain; among them was the surgeon and the boatswain. Being arrived then opposite Elizabeth Castle, and not knowing the entrance to the roadstead of St Aubin, they fired a gun as a signal for a pilot, having no boat on board to come on shore for one. The people of the castle seeing them tack, perceived that they were strangers, but no one would venture on board, fearing that she was a parliament ship designing to entrap them, and perhaps to carry them away.
- ”At all hazards, however, Sir George sent a little boat to them with three men of the castle, who were joyfully received on board, and allowed to take the frigate to the roadstead. In entering, she saluted the fort with nine guns, which the castle returned with five.
- ”Having anchored, the master (now the captain) proceeded to the castle with two or three of the principal officers, and, on leaving, the ship, saluted them with three guns. Sir George received them with a hearty welcome, when they recounted their doings, and said that they had come voluntarily to serve the Prince of Wales, not approving of the manner in which affairs were conducted in England. They offered their services to Sir George, as well as the charge of the frigate, and he at once appointed the said Collin as her commander.
- ”Men were immediately sent on board to prepare the ship, so that she might proceed to Guernsey to endeavour to capture the frigate which had taken the vraicking boats at the Pierres de Lecq, and before the adhesion of this frigate to the prince, now called by his loyal subjects Charles II, was known.
- ”On the same day, Sir George also sent on board Captain Skinner and Captain Bowden, with above 50 men, so that with her own crew the frigate had nearly 80 men, and, at about seven o'clock in the evening, they set sail on the very day of their arrival in Jersey. All that night they kept on a wind, so as to get to windward of Guernsey, and in the morning came round, as if arriving from England. Having reached the bank, they saluted the town as they were accustomed to do when they had been to convoy vessels to or from St Malo, and the townspeople knew her at once to be the Heart.
Frigate at anchor
- ”There was a frigate at anchor near Fermain, under the guns of the land batteries, which was the one they were in search of. Her crew, observing the Heart salute the town, weighed anchor, that they might learn the news from England. The Heart, while pretending to furl her sails, kept drifting with the view of drawing the other frigate beyond the reach of the land batteries, which having accomplished, and being now within musket shot, she hailed and fired a gun, followed by a shower of musketry.
- ”On this the Guernsey frigate made all sail towards the land ; but it was too late, the Heart calling to her crew to strike, and firing incessantly upon them with small shot. They called out: " We are on your side; We are from Guernsey; We are for the parliament." And the others answered : " We are for Charles II; Strike for Charles II."
- "The Guernseymen continued making for the land, but the Heart had drawn them so far that they could not escape her ; and seeing that they would not strike, she ran her bowsprit into their rigging, by which manoeuvre the head of their mainmast was broken and the mast dismantled. At the same instant the Heart’s crew jumped on board, and became masters of the little frigate, which had only 13 men, the captain, (Effard) who was a Jerseyman, and the remainder being on shore.
- ”Many musket shots were fired at the prize; but, although several bullets lodged in her sides, she had none killed or wounded. Her 13 men were sent below, while the captors repaired the sails to take her to Jersey ; of the prisoners, ten were Guernseymen and three Jerseymen. This frigate was one of those which the parliament had given to Guernsey to cruise against the Jerseymen, and prevent their conveying supplies to Castle Cornet. She had four guns, and was well armed with muskets, carbines, pistols, swords, and was victualled for six weeks for the 22 men who composed her crew.
- ”She was the second of the three frigates given by the parliament to Guernsey. The largest was commanded by Captain Bonamy, of Guernsey, and the smallest by Captain Lempriere, of Jersey. Bonamy was in England with his frigate, and that of Lempriere was in St Sampson's harbour, otherwise the latter would also have been captured and brought to Jersey, the more as no suspicion was entertained of the Heart.
- ”The two Jersey captains (Effard and Lempriere) had sided with the parliamentarians at the commencement of the troubles in Jersey (1643), and had fled from the island with the rest. When the Royalist commissioners came here, they condemned them to death in their absence, and ever afterwards they did their worst to the Jersey people, avenging themselves on those who were not to blame. The prize was called the Scout.
- ”Of the three Jerseymen on board, Sir George sent two to the old castle, and the third entered the Heart to go cruising. Part of the Guernseymen also entered in the frigates, and the others were sent to France, Sir George giving each "a piece of eight" to assist them in returning home.
- ”To return to the Guernsey frigate. She was taken at about ten in the morning, in sight of the garrison of Castle Cornet, who, being ignorant of the cause, were greatly surprised to see a parliament frigate capture a Guernsey one on the same side, the more as they recognized the Heart, which they had often seen at anchor on the bank near the castle. But when they observed both vessels steering for Jersey, they suspected that there had been some stratagem.
- ”The two vessels arrived in Jersey at four o'clock the same day, and saluted the castle, the Heart with nine guns returned by five, and the Scout with three guns returned by one. The former anchored in the Great Road, and the prize was taken under St Janne, which is the harbour of Elizabeth Castle ; she was quite new, having been built the preceding year, well equipped, and ready to sail to prowl about Jersey and Chausey, and to cruise for the vessels which traded with St Malo; but she was prevented.
- ”Thus Captain Effard lost his frigate, his commission, his clothes, and his honour, for being so negligent in remaining so long ashore. As to his men, when captured, they were as poorly clad as one could see, and had not a sous in their purse ; but otherwise they were powerful, robust, and determined men, refusing to surrender and strike their sails, until compelled by force.