The Mutiny At The Nore
The following interesting account of the Mutiny at the Nore was written by an eye-witness of the events described, then a workman in the Sheerness Dockyard. We have been permitted to publish it by the kindness of Mr. Thomas Bastard, who possesses the original M.S., the writer being Mr. Bastard’s father. The account has not only the merit of being genuine matter of fact narration, but it displays, in several passages, “touches of nature,” which will enable the reader, seventy-two years after the event, to place himself, with a small exercise of imagination, in the position of the writer, when, from hour to hour, the dweller in Sheerness listened for the “alarm,” and the common fear was that the mutineers would storm the fort and destroy the town. What ever the real danger was, the fear of some “deeds of violence” towards the inhabitants was, at the time, evidently a very lively feeling of impending evil. Another value this narrative has is the fact that the writer saw the events of the time from another point of view, from that occupied by Captain Cunningham, of whose full and precise history we completed the publication last week. Captain Cunningham appears to attribute the mutiny to over indulgence of the men, and ignores or undervalues the grievances which certainly did exist in the then treatment of the navy. Mr. Bastard, without at all showing sympathy with the cause of the mutineers, by some of the facts he sets down, maybe considered to admit that the discontent of which Parker made capital was not an entirely unreasonable feeling. Bad as the course taken by the mutineers was, it was not an “effect” without “cause,” and Captain Cunningham’s suggested influence of “foreigners” and the “corresponding societies” were not the only causes. The numerous reforms of the last seventy years, and the improved circumstances surrounding our “Hearts of Oak” of the present day, have happily made the state of navel affairs which obtained before the mutiny, “a matter of history,” and nothing more.
“May 12th, 1797.- Loving brother and sister, we are happy the hear of the welfare of yourselves and family, and I am to announce that these few lines leave us all in as good a state of health as possibly we could wish to be, considering the distress of mind we have laboured under from the 12th of May to the present time, June 14th, when things begin to wear a more favourable aspect.
“Dear Brother, I
cannot help hinting to you that the poorest person in the place could find
asylum, but your sister and family. I may say with safety there were not twenty
women left in the place. We had the good
fortune to have a friend at
“I now proceed to give you a
short sketch of the proceedings of the mutineers, as near the truth as I could
possibly get at it, as for newspaper accounts you must not credit them. On
“First I should have told you how they treated
their officers on board the
Ships Guns Ships Guns
Sandwich 90 Inflexible 64
Grampus 54 Brilliant 36
Phaeton 36 Champion 32
Tisiphone 24 Iris 32
Le Epsion 24
On May 31st the following ships joined:-
Standard 64 Montague 74
Monmouth 64 Repulse 64
On June 5th the following also joined:-
Agamemnon 64 Ranger 18
Leopard 50 Belligneux 64
Ardent 64 Palades 18
“On the 13th May all the delegates
came on shore, with a large red flag flying. In that manner they paraded the
Blue Houses and Garrison, with a band of music and their colours
flying every day. On the 14th May they went to the sick quarters to
enquire how the sick were treated. (The sick quarters were in the buildings
known as the “Old Swan,” which were pulled down before
the same day (14th) the whole body of delegates went up to the harbour to inspect the
They much approved of the treatment
on board the
“On the 14th the ships of the fleet then in port all began to turn their officers on shore, some more and some less of them, accordingly as they were liked or disliked by the ship’s company. The command of the ships then devolved on the delegates. They came on shore every day in a manner sufficiently threatening to try the stoutest hearts, armed as they all were with pistols and cutlasses.
“About the 22nd, Admiral Buckner left shore to go to the Sandwich, all the delegates following him in boats to the number of twenty-three, to try and settle their grievances if possible, but did not succeed. On the 28th Lord Spencer (First Lord of the Admiralty), Lord Harden, and another lord came to Sheerness.
At the next day they
had a meeting with the delegates at the commissioner’s House but they could
settle nothing. About this time there were two thousand soldiers in the Garrison
under Sir Charles Grey. On the 28th, about in the afternoon, orders were given for the guns
round the battery to be shotted and furnaces got
ready to heat red hot balls. The inhabitants were in great anxiety of
mind. On the 30th, about in the morning, nine or ten guns from the battery
were fired on the
“I believe, about
the 30th, in the evening, the
“June 2nd.- The Garrison and the shipping in the harbour kept a very strict look-out, and would suffer nothing to pass by the fort, not even a fishing boat.
“June 5th.- Between eleven and at night the Serapis store ship, and a transport, slipped their cables, ran through the fleet, and came into the
harbour. The drums beat to arms; what few women there were and the inhabitants were very much alarmed from the time of night. However, some hundreds of people gathered in the dockyard and on the battery, and gave three cheers as the slips past the fort, the crews answering them with loud cheers.
“June 6th.- We are and have been for some days as we may say in a state of siege. On this day the delegates on board the Montegue ordered their midshipman to be severely ducked, then flogged and turned ashore. All their lieutenants they put on shore, and the doctor of the ship they tar and feathered., and then ordered him on shore.
“June 7th.- The delegates of the Inflexible sent some of their lieutenants on shore; they flogged the sergeant of marines and another man; the sergeant’s head was first shave, and then both were sent ashore.
June 8th.- About five o’clock in the afternoon the Leopard slipped her cables, and ran up the London river away from the fleet; they fired at her, but did no hurt. We are informed that the men onboard divided, and had a desperate engagement with one another, and that several were killed on both sides. At the same time the Repulse slipped her cable to run in, but a mile and a half from the fleet she got on shore, and lay there for upwards of an hour.
Several ships fired on her and she received, as was calculated two hundred shot, one of which cut off the second lieutenants leg. It was miraculous that the ship was not destroyed, from the number of shot fired. This took place in the presence of some thousands of people, and had you been there you would have been troubled to get a place on the battery to get a site of the ship, although the batteries are so extensive. About the Ardent slipped her cable, when the Monmouth fired at her. The Ardent then ran up alongside the Monmouth, and poured a broadside at her, and then came into the harbour.
“June 9th.- The wind strong from the East. About two hours before high water the whole fleet their topsails loose, and some guns were fired, which caused us to be very much alarmed. The drums beat to arms and both soldiers and sailors were at their quarters all in readiness for action.
“June 10th.- Things appeared much more favourable. A great number of merchantmen got under weigh; it was supposed there were about one hundred and fifty sail that had been stopped by the fleet. That morning a great number of ships in the fleet did not hoist the red flag, but hoisted up the union jack instead.
nothing particular occurred, but the delegates and their president ordered a
brig-cutter to be ready to take them onboard, that they might go round the
fleet, as the sea often ran so high they could not go in an open boat. This
scheme introduced a feeling of jelousy among the men
on board the fleet, from their suspicion that the president and delegates meant
to take the brig and make their escape to
“Richard Parker hung on His
“Brother, I will thank you when you have perused this journal to return it, as I have nothing to refer to. ****.”
Re-typed verbatim by Vic Basten 30th September 2003
I am attaching for your interest a copy of a journal written by one of my ancestors.( I Think?) My Great Great Grand-father, Thomas Bastard, sent the original journal to The Sheerness Guardian, in 1869. it was published on June the 12th of that year. The journal was written by his father, John Bastard, while onboard The Sandwich, during the Mutiny at the Nore in 1797. It makes for very interesting reading and I thought that you might like to include it on your Website.
I have one concern, according to my records, my direct
ancestor John Bastard, had two brothers, but they both died as
children, and as you will see he writes,
I hope you enjoy "The Mutiny At The Nore".
Vic Basten ( My Grandfather changed his name to Basten from Bastard just before he married)