Wrecking of HMS Minotaur
The 22nd of December 1810 AD
HMS Minotaur was a 74-gun frigate with a proud record. Since the launch at Woolwich in 1793 Minotaur had fought with distinction at the Battle of the Nile, the siege of Genoa, the Aboukir Bay landings, Trafalgar and Copenhagen. Somewhat ironically it was not enemy action that sank her, but navigational error.
Sailing home from Gothenburg in appalling weather the ship ran aground on a bank off the Frisian island of Texel in the evening of December 22 1810. Soon rolling on her side, the ship was demasted and helpless, though more than 100 of her crew managed to take to the boats while they could. These men made the shore rapidly, and informed the Dutch authorities of Minotaur’s predicament, requesting immediate assistance for the crewmen left aboard. Inexplicably, and against all the lore of the waves, the Dutch forces refused to act that night – not the last time the Dutch military would stand by uselessly as men perished.
By the following morning Minotaur had been pounded to oblivion; only four further survivors were found washed ashore clinging to wreckage. The exact death toll is unclear, though the generally accepted figure is 480. The artist Turner later painted a dramatic imagining of the shipwreck, the picture now kept in Lisbon.
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