HMS Bellona (1760)

HMS Bellona was a 74-gun Bellona-class third-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy. Designed by Sir Thomas Slade, she was a prototype for the iconic 74-gun ships of the latter part of the 18th century. "The design of the Bellona class was never repeated precisely, but Slade experimented slightly with the lines, and the Arrogant, Ramillies, Egmont, and Elizabeth classes were almost identical in size, layout, and structure, and had only slight variations in the shape of the underwater hull. The Culloden class ship of the line was also similar, but slightly larger. Thus over forty ships were near-sisters of the Bellona."[2] Bellona was built at Chatham,[1] starting on 10 May 1758, launched on 19 February 1760, and commissioned three days later. She was the second ship of the Royal Navy to bear the name, and saw service in the Seven Years' War, American Revolutionary War and the Napoleonic Wars.

Great Britain
Name: HMS Bellona
Ordered: 28 December 1757
Builder: Chatham Dockyard
Laid down: 10 May 1758
Launched: 19 February 1760
Honours and
Battle of Copenhagen
Fate: Broken up, 1814
General characteristics [1]
Class and type: Bellona-class 74-gun ship of the line
Tons burthen: 1615 bm
Length: 168 ft (51 m) (gundeck), 138 ft (42 m) (keel)
Beam: 46 ft 11 in (14.30 m)
Draught: 21 ft 6 in (6.55 m)
Depth of hold: 19 ft 9 in (6.02 m)
Propulsion: Sails
Sail plan: Full rigged ship
Complement: 650 officers and men
  • Lower gundeck: 28 × 32 pounder guns
  • Upper gundeck: 28 × 18 pounder guns
  • QD: 14 × 9 pounder guns
  • Fc: 4 × 9 pounder guns

Bellona left to join the squadron blockading Brest (this being the Seven Years' War) on 8 April 1760. She was later detached to patrol off the Tagus River in Spain, and on 13 August, while sailing with the frigate Brilliant, she sighted the French 74-gun ship Courageux in company with two frigates. The British ships pursued, and after 14 hours, caught up with the French ships and engaged at the Action of 14 August 1761, the Brilliant attacking the frigates, and Bellona taking on the Courageux. The frigates eventually got away, but the Courageux struck her colours, and was later repaired and taken into the Royal Navy.

In 1762 Bellona was paid off and did not see action again until 1780, during the American Revolutionary War. She was coppered at this time, one of the first British ships to receive the hull-protecting layer. Until 1783 she cruised in the North Sea and the West Indies, and participated in reliefs of Gibraltar.

Bellona was once again paid off, recommissioned briefly in 1789 in expectation of war with Russia, but didn't get into action again until 1793, when she went to the West Indies.

On 10 January 1797, Bellona and Babet drove a small French privateer schooner ashore on Deseada. They tried to use the privateer Legere, of six guns and 48 men, which Bellona had captured three days earlier, to retrieve the schooner that was on shore. In the effort, both French privateers were destroyed. Then Babet chased a brig, which had been a prize to the schooner, ashore. The British were unable to get her off so they destroyed her.[3] Babet and Bellona were paid headmoney in 1828, more than 30 years later.[4]

Bellona took part in the Action of 18 June 1799, securing the surrender of the frigates Junon and Alceste, and helping HMS Centaur in capturing Courageuse.

In 1801 she was in the Battle of Copenhagen, participating despite having grounded on a shoal. She continued to serve in the North Sea and Bay of Biscay until 1814, when she paid off for the last time and was broken up,[1] having served in the navy for over 50 years, an unusually long time for one of the old wooden ships.

Bellona in fiction

Bellona appears in the Patrick O'Brian novels The Commodore and The Yellow Admiral as the pennant ship of a squadron led by the character Jack Aubrey.


  1. Lavery, Ships of the Line, vol. 1, p. 176.
  2. Brian Lavery, Anatomy of the Ship: The 74-gun ship BELLONA, Conway Maritime Press, London 1989, , p.7
  3. "No. 13996". The London Gazette. 25 March 1797. p. 289.
  4. "No. 14829". The London Gazette. 4 January 1828. p. 27.


  • Lavery, Brian (1985). The 74-gun Ship Bellona. Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-87021-148-X.
  • Lavery, Brian (2003). The Ship of the Line – Volume 1: The Development of the Battlefleet 1650–1850. Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-252-8.
  • Winfield, Rif (2007). British Warships in the Age of Sail 1714–1792; Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Seaforth. ISBN 978-1-84415-700-6.
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