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A Brief History of the 1st HMS Illustrious

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1st HMS ILLUSTRIOUS (1789 – 1795)




Length – 168 ft

Beam – 47 ft

Draught – 17 ft

Tonnage – 1616

Guns – 74


Commanding Officers:


1791 Capt. Charles P0LE Royal Navy

1794 Capt. Thomas Lennox FREDERICK Royal Navy


Battle Honours:


GENOA 1795




The contract for this ship was given to Henry Adams of Buckler’s Hard in September 1784.  She was launched on 7 July 1789, and was up to then the largest ship built there.


She saw action against the French at Toulon in 1793, and again off Genoa in 1795.


On 8 March 1795, ILLUSTRIOUS was lying in Livorno roads with Admiral HOTHAM's fleet of 14 sail of the line and 6 frigates when MOSELLE appeared in the offing with news of an enemy fleet.


On 10 March 1795, the French were sighted working back to Toulon and when it became obvious that they had no intention of stopping to fight a signal for General Chase was made on the 13 March 1795. 


On the 14 March 1795, ILLUSTRIOUS engaged the DUQUESNE, VICTOIRE and TONNANT.  Two of the French vessels were captured but at the cost to ILLUSTRIOUS of 20 killed and 70 wounded.  The foremast, mainmast and mizzen were brought down and the hull severely damaged.  She was jury-rigged and taken in tow, by MELEAGER, after the action but gales parted the towing hawser. 


The ILLUSTRIOUS, having parted company in tow of MELEAGER, anchored in Valence Bay, between Leghorn and La Spezia, to shelter from very bad weather but parted her cables and, when all efforts to save her failed, she was set on fire.  All her crew and part of her stores were saved.

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