As with all of our kits, research began with the Admiralty Plans for
HMS Surprise. Being a French Prize, the captured 34 Gun Corvette
L'Unité, the Admiralty Plans are the 'as taken off'
lines which were drawn in February 1798 during the refitting of the
ship at Plymouth.
HMS Surprise Lines and Profile
HMS Surprise Quarterdeck Plan
As can be seen from the Admiralty Plans, Surprise is a three
masted ship with one main gundeck consisting of 13 gunports per side
and the quarterdeck which consists of three gunports per side on the
forecastle and five gunports per side on the quarterdeck aft of the
Note 1, the 'lines
and profile' plan shows that there were no gunports athwartships of
the ships wheel and capstan locations, this is confirmed by the quarterdeck
plan which shows the positions of the gunports filled in black.
Several secondary sources list Surprise as a captured 24-Gun
ship however, primary sources have confirmed that she was indeed a
34-Gun corvette. These primary sources include a letter from Thomas
Fremantle, captain of HMS Inconstant responsible for capturing
the prize, to Sir John Jervis, C-in-C in the Mediterranean, this letter
was also published in the London Gazette and reads as follows:
Inconstant, at Sea, April 23, 1796.
I Have the Honor to inform you, that on the 19th, cruizing
near Tunis, I received an Account that a French Frigate had
been seen off Cape Mabera, near Bon; I therefore made sail
for that Place, and, on the Evening of the 20th, perceived
a Ship under French Colours at Anchor on the Coast, which
I came to, by, and directed to Strike ; this was prudently
complied with : She is called L'Unité, a Corvette of
34 Guns and 218 Men. The Crew had made an Attempt to set her
on Fire, but by the Exertions of Lieutenant Hutchinson it
was soon extinguished : Had the Ship been of equal Force with
the Inconstant, I have every Reason to believe it would have
afforded me a further Proof of the Spirit and Steadiness of
every Officer and Person on Board the Ship I command.
I am, &c. &c.
THO. FRA. FREMANTLE.
Sir John Jervis, K. B. Admiral
of the Blue, and Commander in
Chief, &c. &c. &c.
2, the Progress Book
for HMS Surprise states that she was coppered during her re-fit at
Plymouth during February 1798. Amazingly, it was to be over three
years before any further work was required on her copper when, in
July/August 1801 her copper was repaired while at Sheerness yard.