HMS Avenger (1845)
HMS Avenger (1845)

Royal NavyVessels

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NameAvenger (1845)Explanation
Launched5 August 1845
Builders measure1444 tons
Ships book
Note1847.12.20 wrecked on Sorelle Rocks, off North Africa, 246 drowned
Snippets concerning this vessels career
28 April 1846
- 23 October 1846
Commanded by Captain Woodford John Williams, Channel squadron
2 April 1847
- 8 December 1847
Commanded by Captain Sidney Colpoys Dacres, Plymouth, tender to Caledonia
20 November 1847
- 20 December 1847
Commanded by Captain Charles George Elers Napier, Mediterranean (until Avenger, with 246 souls, lost; there were 4 survivors)
Extracts from the Times newspaper
We 21 July 1847



This morning, at about a quarter to 12 o'clock, the Undine steam-vessel, Master-Commander Allen, came up from Osborne to announce to Sir Charles Napier the intention of their Royal Highnesses Prince AlbertExternal link and Prince Waldemar of PrussiaExternal link to inspect the fleet under his command at noon; about which time the Fairy was observed coming up to the anchorage with Prince Albert's standard flying. When nearing the fleet the St. Vincent, 120, Captain Milne, let off a Royal salute, which the Queen, Howe, Caledonia, and Vengeance took up at the second gun, with their yards manned, presenting a most imposing spectacle, the effect of which was considerably heightened by the stillness of the water and the perfect calm which prevailed. The Avenger steam-frigate and the Spiteful steam-sloop, Captain Sir William Hoste, Bart, (which vessel had the honour of carrying Prince Waldemar from Colombo to Madras and Calcutta in Decembers 1844), also manned yards, and looked exceedingly well.
The Fairy hove to abreast of the Vengeance, when Rear-Admiral Sir C. Napier, K.C.B., went in his barge to pay his respects to their Royal Highnesses, by whom he was most cordially received. Sir Charles then conducted the Royal visitors, who were accompanied by the Chevalier Bunsen, Prussian Ambassador, his Serene Highness Prince Löwenstein, Baron Laner Munchausen, Count Oriola, Count Groeben, Lord Morley, Colonel Buckley, and Captain F. Seymour, Captain Lord Adolphus Fitzclarence, &c., in his barge to the Queen, 110, Captain Sir H. Leeke, who, together with all the officers of the ship, received the Royal party on the quarterdeck, under a Royal salute, the Prince Consort's standard being hoisted at the main. After going round the ship, and the officers had been presented, their Royal Highnesses took their departure under another salute, escorted by Sir C. Napier, for the St. Vincent, 120, Captain Milne, who, together with all the officers of the ship and Rear-Admiral Hyde Parker (who was on board paying the crew advance wages), was stationed on the quarterdeck to receive the distinguished visitors.
Sir Charles conducted their Royal Highnesses into the admiral's fore cabin to witness the mode of paying seamen advance wages, whence they were conducted into every part of the ship; when on the lower deck the men gave three cheers for the Princes. On ascending to the quarterdeck, Commander Ogle was presented to Prince Waldemar, who asked to see Lieutenant Rogers, the first lieutenant, and that officer was accordingly presented. Lieutenant Rogers's brother was, when living, well known to Prince Waldemar whilst in Ceylon, when his Royal Highness presented him with a handsome pair of pistols in token of his regard for him; these were shown to his Royal Highness to-day by the gallant brother of the deceased whilst the Prince was in his cabin on board the St. Vincent. Lieutenant Hamilton, flag lieutenant to Sir Charles Ogle, was also presented to his Royal Highness.
Having expressed their warm acknowledgments for the attention shown them, the illustrious visitors left the St. Vincent under another salute, having been on board about three quarters of an hour, and returned to Osborne in the Fairy.
Sir C. Napier dined this evening with Her Majesty at Osborne.
The Lords of the Admiralty were not present to-day, being detained in town until after the prorogation. Their Lordships, however, have intimated to Sir C. Napier that they will visit Spithead towards the latter end of this week.
Th 6 January 1848


The Peninsular and Oriental Company’s steam-packet Pacha, Captain Olive, has arrived from Malta and Gibraltar, bringing the melancholy intelligence of the total loss of Her Majesty’s steamfrigate Avenger.
The Avenger was on her passage from Gibraltar to Malta, and on the 20th of December struck on the Sorelli Rocks, 13 miles south-west of the Island of Eoleba.
The Pacha, on her voyage from Malta to Gibraltar, was met by a French war steamer coming out of the bay of Tunis, the captain of which gave information of the wreck, and offered to proceed with the Pacha to the scene of the disaster.
On the arrival of the two steamers at the Sorelli Rocks, on the 26th, the reef was found covered with fragments of the wreck, but no vestiges of boats or the crew were discernible.
The crew of the Avenger, consisting of 270 persons, including officers and supernumeraries, are supposed to have perished, with the exception of five seamen and three officers, one the surgeon, who had reached the African coast in one of the Avenger's boats. The Jupiter is expected here every hour from Gibraltar, and she may, perhaps, bring additional intelligence.

Fr 7 January 1848

Portsmouth, Jan 6.

The melancholy loss of the Avenger steam frigate as reported in The Times of this day, has caused a gloom to spread over this community, many of the men and officers having relatives and dear connexions residing in this locality. Further details are most painfully looked for. The Avenger was a new vessel, built on the design of the Surveyor of the Navy (professedly) at Devonport, in 1845; was of 1,444 tons, and 650 horse-power. She was first commissioned by Captain W.J. Williams (now of the Amphion screw-frigate); subsequently Captain S.C. Dacres was appointed to her, but, on that officer accepting the appointment of Flag-Captain to Sir C. Napier, the step-son of the gallant Admiral (Captain C.G.E. Napier, 1840) was appointed to command her, and he, it is feared, has perished. The ship has borne a good name, if any reliance may be placed on the favourable reports made of her to the Admiralty by her various commanders; the engines have occasionally been out of order, and this has been the chief expense attending her; even the anti-Symondian shipwrights and naval architects give her a good name. She was the best war-steamer on the design of the late surveyor; any uncharitable expressions, therefore, published to connect the construction or constructor of the vessel with her loss are premature in the absence of any details respecting the cause of the calamity, and show an animosity to the man, not his works.
Sa 8 January 1848


[The following appeared in a second edition of The Times of yesterday:—]
We have received advices from Malta to the 29th of December, which enable us to publish further particulars of the loss of the Avenger, communicated by our own correspondent.
A Neapolitan schooner arrived this morning, December 28, from Tunis, bringing news of the loss of Her Majesty’s steam frigate the Avenger, 650-horse power, at 10 o’clock p.m. of the evening of the 20th instant, on the Galita rocks.
The most melancholy part of the story is the supposed loss of all the crew, except Lieutenant Rooke and three seamen. These arrived safely in Tunis on the 24th instant in the launch, which when it left the ship had six men, the Lieutenant and doctor. She was, however, capsized near Bizerta, when the doctor and three men, out of the six, sank to rise no more. The Arabs gave the survivors every possible assistance. Faint hopes are, however, yet entertained that more of the ill-fated crew may be ultimately saved by boats, or on spars, but at present the above is all the news that has reached this island.
On the news of the accident reaching Tunis, the Pasha immediately sent out ships to afford assistance to the distressed seamen, and the French Consul despatched a steamer which plied between Tunis and Stora.
The Avenger was commanded by Captain Napier, a son of Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Napier, in command of the Lisbon squadron, who lately superseded Captain Dacres. She was bound to Malta, and had some specie on board for private individuals.
On the news of the disaster reaching Malta, Rear-Admiral Sir Lucius Curtis, Bart., immediately despatched the Hecate steam-ship to the scene of the melancholy event.
The following is from the Malta Times, 28th of December:—
“When the vessel struck upon the rocks laid down on the chart, two boats were instantly lowered, one containing Lieut. Rooke, the surgeon, second master, and five others, who hoped to be in a situation to render assistance to their companions, but the sea running high they were driven out to a hopeless distance, from which they saw the vessel thrown upon her beam ends with the sea making clear breaches over her.
"The violence of the weather drove the boat ashore at Bizerta, and in the attempt to land, she was swamped, and only four persons beside Lieut. Rooke reached the land. Some friendly Arabs rushed through the surf to rescue the poor fellows, and carrying them on their backs provided them with refreshments and the means of getting to Tunis, from whence the news was despatched to this place. The French authorities lost no time in despatching aid to the scene of the wreck, and it is to be hoped that the remaining boat’s crews are in safety. Captain Napier, the son of the gallant Admiral Sir Charles Napier, commanded the unfortunate vessel, and a son of the celebrated novelist, Captain Marryat, is amongst the list of Lieutenants.
"The melancholy news was brought by a Tuscan brig schooner the Bella Maria, which arrived this morning with despatches for the Admiral. Sir Lucius Curtis immediately sent Her Majesty’s steamer Hecate to the scene of the disaster.
"It is needless to say that the utmost excitement prevails in Malta with reference to the appalling catastrophe; many rumours as to the cause of the dreadful loss of life are afloat, but we wait for authentic intelligence."

SOUTHAMPTON, Friday, Jan. 7.

With reference to the additional particulars that appeared under this head yesterday, it is discovered that an error has been made as to the date on which the Peninsular and Oriental Company's steamer Pacha and Her Majesty's ship Avenger were reported to have left Gibraltar. The date should have been the 17th of December, instead of the 19th; and, as the Avenger struck the Sorelle Rocks on the 20th of December, her loss on that day precisely coincides with the statement of yesterday that the Island of Galita is three days’ sail from Gibraltar, and the impossibility of the Avenger being off Galita in 24 hours from Gibraltar.
The Pacha saw the Avenger on the 20th of December . the exact position as follows — Cape Bugiaronii, bearing E. ¾ S., distant about 28 miles; the Avenger running to the eastward 9 or 10 miles to the northward of the Pacha. It may, therefore, be supposed that the Avenger could not have been in the vicinity of the Sorolle Rocks till the evening of the 20th, or could not have gone so much out of her course, unless she had been drifted by a powerful current to the southward, of the existence of which the commander and officers in charge were ignorant. Before the last overland mail (now due) left Malta it is expected fall particulars will have reached that island from the survivors at Tunis, and the same may, therefore, be shortly looked for viâ Marseilles.
The absence of information as to the names of the three officers and five seamen that were saved necessarily cause deep anxiety on the part of the friends and relatives of the officers and crew of the unfortunate ship.
Ma 10 January 1848


We have been favoured with the following correspondence, received by the Lords of the Admiralty, relative to the loss of Her Majesty's Ship Avenger:—


Ceylon, at Malta, December 30,1847.

Sir,— It is with great regret I enclose, for the information of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, a copy of a letter to Sir W. Parker, and enclosures, acquainting him of the unfortunate and melancholy loss of Her Majesty's steam frigate Avenger, (for I fear by Lieutenant Rooke's statement there are few if any survivors,) at 10 p.m, on the 20th instant, on a reef near the island of Galita, on her passage to Malta, that island bearing N.E., distant 12 miles, a copy of which is enclosed to the Vice-Admiral. This reef I consider to be the Sorelli rocks, which lay about that distance from Galita.
2. I beg to acquaint their Lordships that, on receiving the intelligence on the 28th, I instantly despatched the Hecate, with cable, hawser, and stores, &c., to render every assistance; but, I fear, too late, as the Ariel yacht, which has arrived here, passed off the Cane Rocks, and for nearly the whole day of the 25th instant, parts of a recent wreck, bulwarks, tubs, &c., the bulwarks being painted like those of the Avenger, and I am informed that several parts of the wreck were not more than 10 feet long. The only hope I have is, that the vessels sent from Tunis may have arrived in time to save any survivors of the crew, but as four days had elapsed between the date of the wreck (the 20th) and these vessels leaving Tunis it is much to be doubted.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your most obedient humble servant, LUCIUS CURTIS, Rear-Admiral and Senior Officer at Malta.


Ceylon, at Malta, December 30, 1847.

Sir,— It is my painful duty to report to you the wreck of Her Majesty's steam-frigate Avenger, Captain Charles E. Napier, at 10 p.m. on the 20th instant, on a reef between the island of Galita and the mainland on the coast of Africa, the island of Galita being N.E. about 10 or 12 miles; and I enclose the letter of Lieutenant Francis Rooke, of that ship, which came under cover to you, reporting this unfortunate occurrence, and his arrival at Tunis, as also a letter from Sir Thos. Reade, addressed to you thereon, and the measures adopted for rescuing the officers and crew, if possible.
On the receipt of the above-mentioned letters on the 28th instant, by a Tunisian merchant brig, which had been sent from Tunis by Sir Thomas Reade, with the intelligence, I instantly despatched the Hecate, Commander Moorman, with hawsers and stores, to render assistance, to ascertain the state of the Avenger, and heave her off if practicable, but, if found impracticable, then to save as many of the stores as possible, as also to obtain information at Galita, and on the coast between the port of Bona and Tunis, as to the fate of the officers and crew, should they not be met with at Galita, or the wreck, and I enclose a copy of my orders to Commander Moorman.
You will perceive, Sir, by the letters of Lieutenant Rooke and Sir Thomas Reade, that vessels have been despatched from Tunis for the purpose of rendering assistance, amongst which his Highness the Bey had sent a Tunisian brig and two gunboats, and that it was probable the French Government steamer Lavoisier would also proceed fort hat purpose.
It is gratifying to observe, by the report of Lieutenant Rooke, the kind attention shown to him and the survivors of his boat's crew by the Arab herdsmen and others under their misfortunes.

I have, &c.,
LUCIUS CURTIS, Rear-Admiral.


Tunis, Friday, 8 a.m.

Sir,— With sorrow I have to report to you the wreck of the steamer Avenger on a coral reef between the Island of Gilita and the main land: the island bore about N.E. 10 or 12 miles, at the time the ship was running under square yards and also under steam at the rate of eight or nine knots. She struck about 10 p.m., and in a few minutes was a wreck, her masts and funnel gone, she nearly on her beam ends, with the sea breaking over her.
The captain and master were on the paddle-box at the time, the captain immediately giving the order "out boats," and she having struck so heavily as to convince everybody that the case was hopeless. The master had taken bearings of a cape on the African shore (I forget the name) at 4 p.m. the same day, according to Mr. Betts, second master, who was with me in the cutter, and whose watch it was at the time. On the order "out boats" I had run on deck, and seeing that not a moment must be lost, tried to get men to clear the two cutters away. I cast the gripes of the starboard one off, put the falls in their hands, and then, as I turned, finding the gunner I got him to assist with some others in getting the port one down. I meant to get both cutters under the lee of the ship, which had now swung broadside to the lee, and there wait to render assistance as I could. Just as the boat I was in took the water the ship fell on her beam ends and some heavy seas broke over her, the masts and funnel having gone. I waited close to her for one hour and a half, when the wind and sea increasing, and our crew exhausted, I, with the opinion of the rest, thought the only course and best would be to seek assistance, the wind being fair for Galita. When near the island the wind shifted round, and being obliged to keep before it, I then ran back towards the ship, but the wind still coming round I kept away for the African shore, the wind and sea had increased greatly, and I thought it impossible for the boat to live. She had a close-reefed mizen, and we steered with oars. I beached her, there being little or no shelter. She upset in the breakers, when four of us reached the shore, the others losing their lives in the attempt; we should have done the same, but an Arab herdsman saw our boat, and came down, took us to his house, gave us milk, and a large fire. Next morning we started on foot for Beserta, distant about 35 miles, with our host as guide, travelling as long as we could walk, when, after a few hours' rest, I prevailed on some Arabs to give us horses to Beserta. From there our Consul gave me a boat to Tunis, there being nothing there large enough to go to the ship in. We arrived at Tunis last night, at 12 p.m., when I immediately sent for our Consul, who came, and began preparing two feluccas for me, there being no steamer here. I called this morning on the Consul-General, Sir Thomas Reeves, who is forwarding my views in every way. The Bey of Tunis has placed at my disposal one of his brigs and two gun boats, and I hope to be under weigh with them by 2 p.m. The French Government steamer, which is hourly expected, will follow. I shall search Galita, and go to the wreck. Horsemen will be sent along the African coast, and you may rest assured, Sir, everything possible shall be done, although I do it more as a duty than thinking of saving the men, for both wind and sea were very high on Tuesday. If I can hear or see nothing of the ship, I shall then proceed to Malta and give further particulars.

I remain, Sir,
First Lieutenant Her Majesty’s ship Avenger.
The names of those saved in the cutter:— Lieut. Rooke, Mr. Larkham (gunner), Wm. Hill (steward), James Morley (boy).
Drowned.—Dr. Steele, Mr. Betts (2d master), Mr. Ayling (master’s assistant), John Owen (seaman).


British Consulate, Tunis, December 24, 1847.

Sir,— It is my most painful duty to inform you of the loss of H.B.M. steam frigate Avenger, Captain Napier, of which I have been informed this instant by Lieutenant Rooke, belonging to the vessel. He informs me that the ship, about 10 o'clock on the night of the 20th instant, struck on a coral reef, betwixt the Island of Galita and the main land, about half-way; that he with seven others got into one of the ship's cutters, and the wind and sea being so strong at the moment, drove them on at once to the eastward; that about 10 o'clock next morning they were abreast of the coast, where the mountains named Chef Abees are situate, and perceiving a small bay, they determined to run the cutter in; but, unfortunately, the sea was so high that she was instantly swamped, and four of the unfortunate people on board her were drowned; the names of whom were Dr. Steele, Mr. Betts, the second master, Mr. Ayling, master’s assistant, and a seaman named Owen. As Lieutenant Rooke was not able to give me any further information in respect to the unfortunate vessel and the remainder of the crew, I have thought it my duty to hire a vessel specially to convey this disastrous intelligence to you, under the impression that you will at once send a steam vessel for the purpose of rendering every assistance possible on this melancholy occasion. In the meantime I have hired other vessels to convey Lieutenant Rooke and Mr. Larkham, gunner, who were saved in the cutter, together with Thomas Hill, the steward of the vessel, and a boy whose name Lieutenant Rooke does not recollect, to Galita, for the same purpose. I have also applied to the local authorities for assistance, and in the course of this day a brig and two gun-boats will be despatched to the neighbourhood of the wreck. As the French steamer Lavoisier is expected to-day from Algiers, I have likewise made application to the French Consul-General, begging that she may be despatched to Galita, without loss of time, to render assistance. I request that the Tunisian brig schooner which conveys this letter may be sent back hero as quickly aa possible with any information or suggestions that you may think advisable to offer to me.
I transmit herewith a letter from Lieutenant Rooke, and
Have the honour, &c.
Tu 11 January 1848The Island of Galita.— A letter to a morning contemporary says:— "At this moment, when the relatives and friends of. the unfortunate officers and crew of the Avenger are in such agonizing suspense relative to their fate, it may afford their families some consolation to know that if any part of them should have reached the island of Galita, in the paddle-box and other boats, which is only about 14 miles from the scene of this sad disaster (and of their having done this I hope and believe that there is a great probability), there is but little fear of their suffering from want of food and water, as of the latter there is an abundance, and of the former they will find a quantity of goats on the island; added to which, about 35 years since, when cruising near it, I put thereon a quantity of rabbits, some hares, some fowls, and, I think, a small male and female pig also; and I have been informed by different brother officers that when they have occasionally landed on Galita since that period, they found an abundant of rabbits, and saw part of the produce of the hares and fowls, but they were very wild; of the rabbits, however, they brought off large quantities. Thus, I trust, we shall soon learn that very many of the crew of the ill-fated Avenger have reached this island, and that they have found an ample supply of food from the goats and the animals placed there, with the hope that they might one day prove useful, should any unfortunate shipwreck cause any of our fellow creatures to seek safety on those shores"
We 12 January 1848The doubt which we expressed on Thursday respecting the fitting of the Avenger with paddle-box boats has been cleared up by the gallant inventor of those "life-preservers" having informed us that she was supplied with them. That these boats are good appliances to steamers no one who has seen them made use of in a surf or roller can doubt; they were the only means which could be relied on to work safely between the Sphynx and the shore at the back of the lsle of Wight last year, and they have proved themselves invaluable in innumerable other instances; the means of launching them, therefore, should be upon the simplest plan possible. But what is the case at present? They are a part and parcel of the paddle-box itself, for they, are so fitted as to render their being got over the side a matter of the greatest danger, instead of a certainty of succour in the hour of need. Notwithstanding the intended universal adoption of paddle-box boats to steamers by the Government, there is as yet no fixed system resolved upon as a good and safe one of launching them; at the present moment there are three or four plans of davits, by a like number of inventors, for getting these boats into the water, not one of which, however, has been proved by trial superior to the other, nor has any committee or board been ordered to test the efficacy of the said plans. Thus whether a paddle-box boat may be safely lowered to the assistance of drowning crews remains as yet a matter of uncertainty, especially in night casualties. The Avenger, it appears, by the very little we can deduce from Lieutenant Rooke's letter, fell on her beam-ends immediately after striking, and the heavy spars on her deck fell upon and smashed the boats before they could be got out. The order for "out boats" should have begun with those on the paddle-boxes, but such does not appear the system, and those in board are first attended to, whereas the top-hamper on the paddle-boxes being first removed would have considerably lightened the vessel. Instead of the boats being fixtures to the paddle-box (as they, to a considerable extent, are, under the present imperfect system of davits), would it not be better to affix tackles to them connected with the spars aloft, so that they might, on the first alarm of danger, be the first got over the side? and, as accidents of the nature of the melancholy one under consideration in nine cases out of ten happen in the night, would it not be a good plan, when the hammocks are piped down at sunset, also to pipe "Rig paddle-boat gear?" We think it would, and that it would offer a much more certain chance of such life boats being effectually brought into service than any that at present exists. The Avenger, it appears, went on her beam-ends, and, therefore, we conclude, smashed one of the paddle boats at once; the other then became a fixture, and was doubtlessly smashed in its turn from other causes and the want of a good and infallible mode of getting it into the water. We trust that after this dreadful warning a committee will be appointed to investigate, try, and report upon the plans now offered for adoption in the service with regard to the means of launching paddle-box boats, so that their service may be more certainly relied on. The boats also should be made lighter; their weight is their destruction. The cast-off boats of the Retribution were so heavy when fitted, that on an attempt to get them out, they straightened their davits (of massive iron of immense thickness) and could not be got in again. On the vessels arrival here they were cast off, and remain at this moment in the dockyard, a disgrace to the establishment which turned them out.
Sa 15 January 1848


We have been favoured by the Admiralty with copies of the following despatches, received yesterday from Malta:—

Her Majesty’s ship Ceylon, Malta, Jan. 4, 1848.

Sir,— With reference to my letter (No. 532) of tho 30th of December last, forwarding for the information of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty a copy of one addressed to Vice-Admiral Sir William Parker, with enclosures relating to the loss of Her Majesty's steam-vessel frigate Avenger, Captain C.E. Napier, on the 20th of that month, on a reef near the Island of Galita, and acquainting their Lordships of my having sent the Hecate, Commander Moorman, to render every assistance, I have now the honour to enclose a copy of a subsequent letter to the Vice-Admiral, of this day's date, acquainting him of the return of that vessel to this port on the 2d inst., and forwarding copies of the reports, as per Margin*, relative to the total loss of the Avenger and her crew, with the exception of those mentioned in the first letter of Lieutenant Rooke, as under-named:-
Lieutenant Francis Rooke.
Mr. Larkham, gunner,
William Hill, steward.
James Morley, boy.
It is with great regret that I forward these reports of the unsuccessful exertions and endeavours of those who were sent to rescue any survivors of the ill-fated Avenger; and their Lordships will perceive by these reports, as well as by my letter to the Vice-Admiral, that not a vestige of this vessel was to be found near the place of wreck, except those therein mentioned, but that several parts were met with by vessels in the neighbourhood of the Islands of Galita, Sembra, and Maritimo.

LUCIUS CURTIS, Rear-Admiral.

H. G. Ward, Esq.

*Commander Moorman, dated 2d Jan 1848; Sir Thomas Reade, dated 28yh and 29th Dec, 1847; Lieutenant Rooke, dated 28th Dec.

(Number 381.)

Her Majesty’s ship Ceylon, Malta, Jan. 4, 1848.

Sir,— With reference to my letters, No. 827, of Dec. 30, 1847, and its enclosure, informing you of the wreck of Her Majesty's ship Avenger, on the night of the 20th of that month, on a reef near the Island of Galita, and of my having sent Her Majesty’s steamer Hecate to render assistance and rescue any of the survivors of the crew, as well as to save any of the stores of the former vessel, it is with great regret I have to inform you that the fears I then entertained as to the safety of any portion of the crew of the Avenger are too true, the Hecate haring returned to this port on the 2d inst., after an unsuccessful search; and by the reports of Commander Moorman, Lieutenant Rooke, and Captain Du Penhoat, commanding the French Government steamer Lavoisier, copies of which are enclosed, they could not discover a vestige remaining of the wreck of the Avenger, except the few articles mentioned in the report of Compandor Moorman and that of the Captain of the Lavoisier; therefore, I fear there cannot be a doubt that the whole of the crew of the Avenger have perished, with the exception of those mentioned in the first letters of Lieutenant Rooke, as named in the margin*; neither do I think that there can be any doubt but that the rocks on which the Avenger struck were the Sorclli.
The Ariel yacht, which arrived here on the 28th of December, passed off the Cane Rocks, on the 25th of Decernber, a very considerable quantity of wreck, consisting of bulwark planks about 10 feet long, casks, tubs, &c.
The Indus contract steam-packet passed, on the 30th of December, off the island off Zembra several pieces of wreck, a circular or companion ladder, and a spar or balk of tim ber; and Her Majesty’s steam-vessel Ardent, on the 1st of this month, passed off the island of Maritimo a binnacle and part of a bulwark.
I do not consider but that these pieces of wreck and other articles must have belonged to the ill-fated Avenger. Lieutenant Rooke and the persons before referred to arrived in the Hecate, and I have ordered that officer to prepare and forward to me, for your information, a detailed account of all the circumstances attending the loss of the Avenger, from the time of her leaving Gibraltar to that of her running on the beforementioned rocks, as far as have come within his knowledge, and that he may be able to recollect. I beg to acquaint you that I have forwarded copies of this letter and its enclosure, together with a copy of my former letter on this subject, to the Secretary of the Admiralty.

I have, &c., LUCIUS CURTIS, Rear Admiral, Senior Officer at Malta.

Admiral Sir W. Parker, G.C.B., Commander-in-Chief.

* Lieutenant Francis Rooke; Mr. Larkham, gunner; W. Hill, steward; J. Morley, boy.

Her Majesty’s Steam-vessel Hecate, Malta, Jan. 2.

Sir,— In compliance with your orders of the 28th ult., that I proceed with Her Majesty’s steamer under my command to the Island of Galita, for the purpose of obtaining any information relative to the wreck or crew of the Avenger, I have the honour to report for the information of the Commander-in-Chief my proceedings in accordance thereto.
On Thursday, the 30th, at daylight, Galita bore W. by N. 12 miles; stood in for the island, and descried three boats under the east end of it. On communicating with them I found that two of them had that morning reached the island from Bizerta, sent thither by the consul of that place, in charge of his son, to glean intelligence of the wreck, and, further, to save such portions of her as they could.
I ascertained from these boats, as also from the other one, which was a Neapolitan fisherman, that a French steamer, together with an English one, had been at the island four days previously, and had cruised about it for four hours; they also informed me that I should in all probability find the wreck on the west, and between the small islands of Aguglla and Galitona.
I accordingly steamed round to the spot indicated, and perceiving no trace of the vessel, sent a boat, with a lieutenant in her, to pass between the islands, whilst I proceeded with the ship round them, picking up the boat to the eastward of them. No trace of the wreck could be discovered on these islands, either by the officer in the boat or from the ship. I then stood in for another part of Galita, and perceiving some fragments of wreck on the beach, where the boats from Bizerta had in the mean time landed, I sent a boat onshore to bring some portions off, and to ascertain the descriptton of the wreck. It consisted of small pieces of bulk-heading and other like fittings, of which I brought off two pieces of musket-stands, a limber-box belonging to a field-piece, the bed of a 12-poundor carronade, and part of a hatchway grating.
I now, at 1 p.m. proceeded from the south end of Aguglia, steering a W. ½ S. course by compass 10½ miles, the course and distance of the Sorelli rocks from the Island as laid down In the Admiralty chart by Captain Smith. I could not perceive the least vestige of the wreck, nor of broken water; but as there is very deep water all about those rocks, which are, I believe, of a conical form, I am inclined to think that their position will be seldom discovered by any ripple or break of the sea.
I obtained soundings in 50 fathoms — coarse sand and shells.
I then bore up again for Galita, for the purpose of communicating with the boats sent from Bizerta, they having undertaken, during my absence, to search on the north side of the island; but they stated, from the heavy surf, they were unable to effect a landing.
Under the conviction, as well from the pieces of wreck on the south ride of Galita as from the statement of Lieutenant Rooke, that the ship struck on the Sorelli rocks, I lost no more time in proceeding to Tunis in order to ascertain if the French steamer Lavoisier had gleaned any or more tidings of the wreck than I had, and arrived there at 4 p.m. on the 31st.
It appears that the Lavoisier left Tunis at noon on the 25th, and was at Galita, in company with the Oriental Company’s steam-ship Pacha, on the following day. Both vessels steamed round the island and towards the Sorelli rocks, where they obtained soundings in 26 and 28 fathoms. All they could discover relative to the wreck were broken pieces of planking and beams, some casks, a cabin door, and furniture, consisting of a chair and small table, which the Pacha took on board.
The fact of those portions of the wreck and casks being seen will be conclusive of the vessel having gone to pieces, which, from the tempestuous weather at the time of the ship striking, must have very soon ttaken place. This, together with the distance of the wreck from the land, will preclude all hope of any of the unfortunate crew being saved beyond those who reached the coast in the cutter. The gig, as I am informed by Lieutenant Rooke, was swamped in the attempt to lower her, and he has every reason to beleive the other cuttet shared a similar fate.
Sir Thomas Reade, Her Majestys Consul-General at Tunis has sent horsemen along the coast for the purpose of giving interment to such bodies of the crew as may be cast on it, and also to save anything that may be thrown on shore.
I have taken occasion to thank the commander of the Lavoisier for the effectual and persevering means which he adopted to discover the wreck, or to rescue such survivors as might hive been cast on shore at Galita, The Commander-in-Chief will be more fully apprised of this by the copy of his statement of proceedings furnished by Sir Thomas Reade.
Lieutenant Rooke; Mr. Larkham, the gunner; Thomas Hill, steward; and James Morley, boy; were received on board the Hecate yesterday, and at 4 p.m. she left Tunis on her return to Malta, where she arrived at 4 15 p.m, of this date.
With this I take leave to enclose a track chart, showing the course and progress of the Hecate, in pursuance of your orders.

I have the honour, &c.,
R. Moorman, Commander.

Rear-Admiral Sir Lucius Curtis, C.B., Malta.

Tunis, Dec. 29, 1847.

Sir,— Since I closed my letter of yesterday I have been put in possession of a copy of the report made by the commander of the French steamer the Lavoisier, and which I transmit herewith.
From the general tenour of its contents I fear there is but too much reason to apprehend that the Avenger had broke up, and all on board perished, with the exception of Lieutenant Rooke and his party.
A steamer was seen passing this place to the westward about 4 o'clock p.m. to-day, but whether it was our distance from the neighbourhood of the wreck, or one of the packets from Malta to England, we could not make out, as she was too far from the land.
I have despatched a boat with a good crew, and who are well acquainted with Galita and its vicinity, to remain for several days, in order to gain information if possible, and to endeavour to pick up anything belonging to the unfortunate vessel, as well as bring any bodies they may find cither on the sea or on the Island of Galita.
A Protestant clergyman likewise went this morning to traverse the coast from Bizerta to the westward as far as Cape Negro, to inter any of the bodies which may be discovered in that direction.

I have, &c., T. READE.

Vice-Admiral Sir W. Parker.
Copie de la lettre addressée par Monsieur du Penhoat, capiteine de corvette, commandant la corvette à vapeur de l'etat le Lavoisier, à Monsieur de Lagan, Consul General et Chargé d’Affaires de France à Tunis:-


Enfin après toutes mes recherches consciencieuses, ne voyant rien, j’ai du quitter la Galite le 26, à 3 heures du soir, et faire route pour Goulette, où j’ai mouillé aujourd’hui, 27, à 4 heures du soir.

Je suis, avec respect, Monsieur le Consul Géneral,
Votre tres humble et tres obeissant serviteur. Le Commandant du Lavoisier, PENHOAT.

Tunis, Tuesday, Dec. 28.

Sir,— I returned last night about 12 p.m. from my search for the wreck of Her Majesty's ship Avenger, which, I am sorry to say has been of no avail. I reached as near as possible the spot where she struck on Sunday morning, and there cruised about for some time, until assured that she had either got off or sunk. From the sea on Tuesday, together with the shift of wind, having lifted her, I then wished to land and search the island of Galita for some further signs, but the cowardly Maltese crew would neither cruise any more about, or go to the island, and all I could say had no effect on them. I could not even get them to run down that I might speak two steamers that were to leeward of the island. On my way back I spoke one of the Tunisian gun-boats that was assisting, and asked her if she would take me to Galita, but she declined; so I was brought back to Tunis against my will, without examining Galita. I am happy to learn on my arrival from Sir Thomas Reade that the Pacha and the French steamer went round the island and spoke a fishing-boat at anchor there. I saw a third steamer close into the African shore. All the vessels have returned from the search, numbering eight or nine. For further particulars from them I must quote Sir T. Reade’s letter. The cask found I think must have been one that was in the gunroom. The accounts from the horsemen sent to scour the African coast have not yet come in. Everything possible has now been done, and I shall now wait here for orders, and to be of any further use in showing the exact spot of the wreck, and that you may think fit, Sir, to order. I think this my best plan in the expectation of a man-of-war steamer from Malta. The vessel this goes by is on the point of sailing immediately.

Hoping this will meet your approbation,
I have, &c., Lieutenant Francis Rooke.

Sir W. Parker, Bart, G.C.B., Commander-in-Chief.

P.S. I have had every assistance here from the authorities.
Sa 15 January 1848

(From our own correspondent)

Malta, Jan 4,

The loss of the steam frigate Avenger, mentioned in my last letter is, unhappily, too fully confirmed by the return to this port on Sunday last of Her Majesty's steamer Hecate, with the survivors from this harrowing disaster on board.
They are four, as I previously stated:— Lieutenant Francis Rooke; the gunner, Larkham; a steward, Hill; and a boy, James Morley.
From the imperfect details I am enabled to collect, it would seem that at the time she struck she was going at 9½ to 10 knots per hour. The officers off duty were on the point of "turning in" after the labours of the day were over, when a sensation, not as of a thump, was experienced, but as of being dragged along over some rude substance. The one order only seems to have been given— "clear away the boats;" and in executing this a great loss of life ensued, two being crushed under the ship before they could push off. At the time when some 50 poor fellows in despair of saving their lives hurried to the paddle-box boats, the funnel and mast fell over, and many were crushed by the accident.
Lieutenant Rooke and seven more succeeded in getting into one of the cutters; but in doing so had nearly perished, for a coat had got foul of one of the fall blocks whilst the stem of the boat was in the water; but, owing to the exertions of the gunner, it was overhauled, and the boat was safely lowered into the water.
For a time Mr. Rooke waited near the ship in the hope of saving some of her crew, and again nearly escaped destruction by being engulfed under the body of the ship, which now fell over, and he was obliged to pull hard to escape destruction. The wind at the time was blowing strong towards the shore, but suddenly shifting, became fair for the ship, when Lieutenant Rooke made another essay to reach it, in the hope of saving some of the crew, but the event proves he was unsuccessful.
The rest is known, — the capsizing of the boat near shore, and the loss by this second accident of the surgeon Steele, the second-master Betts, a stoker, and a steward.
To the exertions of the gunner Larkham, of whom Lieutenant Rooke speaks in high terms of commendation, and his ability in steering the boat with an oar, as it had no rudder, until she struck on a reef, is, next to Providence, owing the safety of those who live to tell the awful story. On the boat capsizing, three struck out for the shore, and fortunately reached the only accessible spot on which they could hope to be thrown up without danger of perishing on the rocks — the boy clung to the boat, and was also washed towards the shore. The assistance given by the Arabs, and their humanity, I have before described.
By this accident 256 persons, as nearly as can be calculated by the survivors, have been hurried to a premature grave.
Nearly every steamer which has reached Malta since the accident has seen parts of the wreck. The Hecate picked up a part of a gun-carriage with "Avenger" on it; the Ardent, from Marseilles, saw one of her binnacles floating; the Erin and the Indus, blocks, spars, &c.
At the time of the accident the deck was in charge of the Second Master, and the Captain and Master were on the paddle-box.

January 5.

The accidental detention of the mail till 11 a.m. this morning enables me to add a few items to my account posted yesterday of the loss of the Avenger, and to correct some small inaccuracies.
I last night saw a friend, who gave me the following as unquestionable:—
As soon as the vessel struck Lieutenant Marryat ran on deck, and shortly after a heavy sea broke over her, carrying him forward into the lee waist. Recovering from the shock, he endeavoured, and succeeded in getting forward, and shortly after the mainmast went by the board, carrying with it the funnel, and killing several men (as I have before stated). The Captain gave the order to lower away the boats, and it was with difficulty that Lieutenant Rooke could pick up the few who got into his boat, so paralysed were the men.
When the ship struck she was going 9½ knots, with all sail set, and but steam enough to make her wheels revolve.
It is known from the survivors, that the Avenger, which was on the Lisbon station, had no charts of the Mediterranean on board.
Lieutenant Rooke has been discharged from the Hecate into the Ceylon, where he will await the result of the court-martial which will be held on him on the return of the Admiral to this port.
Before the Hecate had arrived at Galita the French steamer Lavoisier, from Tunis, had keen to the spot, and so anxious was the Pasha of that Regency to afford all the assistance in his power that, knowing his own vessels to be too small to accommodate all he hoped to save, he freighted an Austrian bottom to proceed to the scene of the disaster at no less a sum than 400l.
Since the loss of the Athenienne, Captain Raynsford, on the Skerkis, in the year 1806, England in her navy has experienced no such disaster, and may she never again know one so great as I now record.
Tu 18 January 1848


The following letter from Mr. Larcom (the gunner) to his wife, residing at this port, describing the loss of the Avenger, differs in some particulars from the statements made by Lieutenant Rooke :—

"Malta, Jan. 4.

"I take this most welcome opportunity of writing a few lines to you to tell you I am safe, after suffering the most dreadful shipwreck ever known. The Avenger ran on a reef of rocks on the night of the 20th of December, about 10 o’clock. I was in bed at the time, but was awoke by the shock. I jumped out of bed and began to feel for my clothes, but a very heavy sea striking the ship hove her entirely on her beam ends. I ran on deck without my clothes, when I was ordered to get the cutters lowered, but there was such a dreadful sea that not a man would clear away the boats. At last some of the officers, together with myself and the captain’s steward, lowered one of the boats, and myself and seven others shoved off from our ill-fated ship with hopes that we should be able to render some assistance to our dear and lamented shipmates, but I am sorry to say without success. We had hardly shoved off from the ship when the mainmast went over the side, taking with it the funnel and mizentopmast, which fell in-board and must have killed a number of men. A minute or so after this the foremast and bowsprit went, leaving the ship a total wreck in less than 20 minutes. All this time the wind and sea were driving our little boat away from our ill-fated ship, which we lost sight of in less than an hour and a half, and in this time the wind blew a gale; and I then began to inquire who was in the boat; when, to my sorrow, I found that I had not a man in the boat who could do a thing. It must have been nearly 12 o’clock, when it came on to hail and rain in such a way that I thought we should have been sunk; one moment we were on the top of the mountain wave, the next seemed the bottom of the sea. Expecting every second to be our last, we were all praying for daylight, and at last it came, bringing to our gaze all the horrors of the previous darkness. I then took a glance at my ill-fated companions; oh, what a sight to see! four of the eight lying lifeless, or nearly so, at my feet, the wind still increasing, and the sea running mountains high, which broke over and nearly filled us a great many times. At last land appeared right ahead, and our little boat was tearing through the sea. We made out the land to be the coast of Barbary; we were forced to run right for the land; if we had not we should have assuredly been lost. It was now about 10 o'clock, and I found my eyesight and strength leaving me. Our boat was nearing the shore at an amazing rate, and when within a few hundred yards of the land our little boat was capsized, when four sank to rise no more; the other four reached the shore and fell senseless on the beach, or nearly so, but coming to our senses we got up and commenced walking, we knew not whither. At last we fell in with an Arab, who took us to his hut and gave us some warm milk which brought us to our right senses, when we tried to make him understand we wanted to get a place where we could get a vessel to take to the assistance of our lamented shipmates. We got a vessel ourselves after travelling 100 miles, which we did in two days with our faithful Arab for a guide, but I am sorry to say when we got to the place where our ship ran on shore she was gone down and every soul had perished, being in all 256 persons.”
Ma 31 January 1848Loss of the Avenger. - A letter from the British Consul at Palermo announces that a portion of the wreck of the Avenger has been washed on shore at the west coast, of Sicily. Amongst other matters there have been found the body of an officer in uniform lashed to a spar, a boat and a carronade gun, marked Avenger, 10lb. Some surprise is felt, not only at the distance from the wreck where those portions have turned up, but also at the state of the currents, which would make the place appear a most unlikely one whence to expect any tidings or anything to elucidate the melancholy catastrophe.— Observer.
Tu 15 February 1848The Loss of the Avenger.— The following is the sentence read by the officiating Judge-Advocate at the close of the court-martial upon the survivors of the abovementioned vessel:— "The Court, after having the narrative of Lieutenant Rooke read, and the evidence adduced, are of opinion that the Avenger was wrecked on a reef of rocks, about 10 o'clock on the evening of the 20th of December last, but that there is not sufficient cause shown in the evidence to account for the accident. No blame is attached to Lieutenant Rooke, or the other prisoners, and they are fully acquitted. The Court consider the conduct of Lieutenant Rooke to have been proper, in lowering the cutter, as he was acting in obedience to orders given. The Court consider the conduct of Lieutenant Rooke, in lying off the ship to save the lives of any who might seek safety, and his persevering efforts for the same object, in returning to the vessel from Tunis, to have been most praiseworthy and humane. The Court cannot separate without expressing their warm approbation of the conduct of Mr. Larcom throughout the trying scene. The Court warmly eulogize the humanity of the Arabs who assisted the sufferers on their reaching the land. The Court have very considerable doubts if the Avenger had the Admiralty charts of the Mediterranean on board. The Court fully and entirely acquit the prisoners." The President, calling Lieutenant Francis Rooke, thus addressed him:- "Lieutenant Rooke, it is needless for me to make any comment, after the expression of the opinion of the Court you have just heard read, and I nave the greatest pleasure in returning you your sword."
Tu 28 March 1848

PLYMOUTH, March 25.

Her Majesty’s ship Amazon, 25, Captain James J. Stopford, which arrived yesterday from Malta and Gibraltar, has brought home the gunner, steward, and boy lately belonging to Her Majesty’s steam-ship Avenger, lost on Christmas-day in the Mediterranean. They have been since transferred to the guard-ship.
The damage done to Her Majesty's ship Queen two days before the Amazon left Gibraltar is not very extensive. She grounded astern, and her crew having started a quantity of her water and got her provisions forward, she was the next day readily towed off the sand and soft mud by Her Majesty's steam-sloop Polyphemus. The Queen and the Polyphemus were the only British men-of-war in the bay.
The Amazon has been out three years and five months. Her crew do not class her among the "good ships," and earnestly desire she may be at once paid off. They complain of too much black listing and flogging. Some of her hands ran from her at Smyrna, others at Barcelona and Carthagena.

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