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"HMS Emerald at Viveiro, 1808: a classic cutting-out" Topic


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401 hits since 5 Feb 2018
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Tango0105 Feb 2018 4:14 p.m. PST

"Though the term "Naval Special Forces" as exemplified by the United States' SEALS and Britain's SBS is a relatively recent one, the era of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars saw large numbers of inshore operations of a type that would be assigned to Special Forces today. The most common form was "cutting-out", in which the Royal Navy acquired vast proficiency. Such operations involved boatloads of seaman and marines rowing in close inshore under cover of darkness to capture enemy naval or merchant vessels, more often than not under the guns of coastal fortifications, and to carry them out to sea. Many such exploits necessitated neutralisation of the forts since running a captured wooden ship past them would be tantamount to suicide. Though the risks involved were very high, such attacks were welcomed by the participants, not least because they offered a chance of substantial prize money should they be successful. Viveiro, a small port in North West Spain was to see a classic cutting-out operation in 1808.

The personnel involved were drawn from the frigate HMS Emerald, commanded by Captain Frederick Maitland (1777 1839). This officer already had a very active career and more was to follow but he is best remembered for the fact that it was to him, when captain of HMS Bellerophon in 1815, that the ex-Emperor Napoleon surrendered after his defeat at Waterloo. In March 1808 the Emerald was operating off the northern coast of Spain. The small port of Vivero, occupied by the French, stood at the southern end of a bay three miles long and a mile across. A French privateer schooner, L'Apropos, powerfully armed for her size with eight carronades, was sheltering there. Any approach to her would be under the guns of two coastal forts armed with 24-pounders, weapons with range enough to dominate the entire bay. Maitland determined nevertheless to capture or destroy the privateer…"


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