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The Heywood Diaries Part 2: A proposed fireship attack, Basque Roads (1807)

Posted by Paul Martinovich , on March 25th, 2024


This post presents the second extract from the Peter Heywood diaries. Extract 1 described a naval duel in 1807. This extract describes a proposed fireship attack agasint the French fleet at Basque Roads in the same year.

During the Napoleonic Wars the captain of one of his Majesty’s ships would often have to deal with unexpected situations, and use his initiative to come up with solutions, all the while knowing his superiors at the Admiralty would hold him to account for any errors or missteps. Peter Heywood (1772-1831) has given us some examples of these challenges in his private journal, now held in the collection of McGill University Library, in Montreal, Canada.

Heywood was famous as the young man who was tried and sentenced to death for his supposed role in the Bounty mutiny in 1789. However he received a full pardon from the King, and went on to have a successful career in the Navy, specializing in marine surveying. The journal covers the period from 1806 to 1810 when he commanded three warships in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, and includes both routine information about the operations of the ship, and wider-ranging accounts of Heywood’s activities and interests.

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