Introducing the Carronade: All Carronades All the Time

In the aftermath of Nymphe’s being taken by Flora, the Navy Board quickly became enamored of the carronade and the weapon’s effectiveness in combat had silenced naysayers. By January 1781, 604 carronades were mounted on 429 ships. This is probably a record for a new weapon being adopted.

The next step in the experiment was an all-carronade frigate. For this project the HMS Rainbow (44) under Captain Henry Trollope was chosen. Rainbow exchanged her 20 long 18-pounders and 22 long 12-pounders for 20 68-pounder, 22 42-pounder, and 6 32-pounder carronades. Then went out hunting.

On 2 September 1782 Ile de Bas she encountered the French frigate Hebe (40). The ships maneuvered for position and Captain Trollope engaged Hebe with the 32-pounders on his forecastle. One or more of the shots hit killing five Frenchmen. The captain of Hebe examined the fragments of the hollow carronade shot and concluded that if she was firing 32-pounders as chase pieces she was actually a ship of the line in disguise. He fired one broadside, “pour l’honneur de pavilion,” and struck his colors.

Rainbow lost only one man. The French lost five killed, including the second captain, and several wounded out of a crew of 360 men.


Filed under Age of Sail, Naval Equipment, Naval Gunnery, Naval Weapons, single ship actions

4 responses to “Introducing the Carronade: All Carronades All the Time

  1. Stephen Quintero

    I would like to ask is anyone has information on the guns carried by HMS Flora and by HMS Rainbow during the battles with USS Hancock, USS/HMS Fox, and USS Boston in 1777. I wanted to know what types and quantities of guns they each carried. I gathered from the above article thatRainbow carriedtwenty long 18 pounders, twenty two long 12 poundres, and ? what were the remaining two? This was a 44…no? Flora I have little information for that year.

    By the way, every article/discussion here is outstanding. Kudos.

    Tallahassee, Florida

    • billcrews

      the extra two guns on Rainbow were long 9 chase guns on the foredeck. I took the description of the ship from a contemporaneous account and I’ve found the chase guns are routinely omitted from the battery descriptions, my apologies for not doing the math.

      The Flora was a 32 or 36 gun frigate, depending on the source and there is a possibility that it was both at various times in its career (captured from the French in 1761). Typically a 36 would carry 26 12-pounders in main battery, 8 long 9s on the quarterdeck, and two 12s on the forecastle.

      The typical 32-gun frigate at the time of this action would carry 26 12s in battery and 6 6-pounders on the quarterdeck/forecastle.

      I’ve tried to find specific info on how Rainbow and Flora were armed at this encounter but with no results.

  2. Kirk Fraley

    I just watched a show on the History channel about the battle of the Nile. They are diving on what they say is the wreckage of L’Orient in Aboukir Bay. They show a Carronade as proof. Had the French adopted Carronades by then?

    • The Flora was initially armed as a standard 32-gun frigate. She would have mounted 26 light weight 12-pounders on her main deck (27.5 cwt, in weight and 7.5 feet in length) plus 6 light weight 6-pounders on the Quarter-deck and Forecastle. ( these would have been 16.5 cwt and 6.5 feet in length) This gave her a broadside of 174 pounds.

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