2. YEARS OF EXPANSION (1700 – 1800)

Chapter 2


By 1700 it can be said that the English were settling down in Calcutta and consolidating the trading rights they had so recently been granted, this in spite of the disturbed political state of the surrounding country.

They did not allow the local unrest to interfere with their shipping on the River for this was their lifeline with home. As their trade developed so their shipping increased bringing with it fresh problems to the already difficult navigation of the Hooghly, in the form of large ships and deeper drafts, and the ever increasing demand for more Pilots.

That trade was their only interest is well illustrated by the following extracts from letters written (1) by the Bengal Council at the time of the loss of the “East India Merchant” (an account of which appears in the chapter “Toll of the River”). The first letter is dated Chuttanunttee January 7th, 1700 and is addressed to The Hon Thomas Pitt Esqr…. After lamenting the loss of the above vessel and her valuable cargo worth Rs. 348784 : 9 annas :

11 pies they write to say….. “we look forward and not backward, making all possible hast to discharge Ship “Josiah”, having sent away above 800 bales and expecting 150 more from Cassimbazar within 5 or 6 days and 200 in house which we shall make hast to prize (price?). Dusticks are gone for 300 more which we doubt not to have in by the 10th of next month to give the Captain his dispatch by the 15th at farthest with a cargo near 8 Lack (A Lack is 100,000) of rupees. See that if it please the Almighty after the afflictions of two ships being lost to send the “Sidney” and “Josiah” Safe home, we doubt not but our Hom’ble Masters by the good sales of these two Ships cargoes will increase in Riches and credit able to withstand their Opposites, who will not send one

(1) Letters to Fort St. George for 1699 – 1700.

Ship this year early enough to save her passage about the Caps; the “De grave” is ordered for Metchlepatam with about 500 bales and will Sayl from Chandinagur where she now rides about 4 or 5 days hence we are

J. Beard

Jon White.

Ralph Sheddon.”

The next letter dated ye 6th March, 1700 at Metchlepatam is sent by the company’s representative there to The Hon. Thomas Pitt Esqr, Governor etc (1) …. “May it please your Honr. etc this serves now to give your honour account of the “Degraves” arrival here yesterday, after 13 days passage from Bengal who bring the bad news of Ye Ship “East India Merchant” being cast away upon ye Sagor (Saugor) sands, and all her cargo lost, except ye Captains, who secured what he had, and was ye first man that left the Ship, we have a very strange account of this Sad Accident as it were Designedly done. God Comfort ye Sufferers and grant their Losses may be restored some other way.

S. Woolston”

Again on the 7th March, 1700 the Bengal Council wrote to Madras as follows:-

Our last to your honr. etc was by a French conveyance. Since then after all Possible means to be used have Saved about 100 bales out of the “East India Merchant’s” Wreck, with Some of her guns and Rigging all the rest is lost, past hope of recovery the S. West winds Setting in and the wreck Sunck into the sand.

On the 26th Ultimo the “Josiah” Sayl’d from Pipley road with a Gale at W. S. W. which continued about 8 or 9 days, so that we doubt not her passage, Pray God Send her Safely home being a rich Ship, her cargo on board cost about 8 Lack of Rupp’s.

This if he 7th of the month and the “Antilope” Captain Hammond, is design’d to be dispatched within 7 or 8 days from

(1) Letter to Fort St. George for 1699 – 1700.

Rungah fullah (Rangafala), so that twill be the latter end of this month before she get clear of ye Sand.

……being disappointed from Surratt, we are building a Buyer (a large type of Sloop – form the Flemish word buyer a sloop.) at Balasore about 70 or 80 tons.

Singed John Beard

Jonath’n White

Ralph Sheldon.

John Russell.

The following extracts from letters give an idea of the in ceased shipping using the River.

May 1700. Thomas South, commander of “Chamber” ffrigot for Bengal from Fort St. David.

Chuttanuttee 26th March, 1700……. “In case any Ship comes up the River this Season to Rungag fullah about 400 tins Burthen, we shall be able to dispatch her.”

Calcutta July 10th, 1700. “Chamber” Frigat and “Fame” from England arrived Balasore Road ye 22nd and 26th May latter vessel brought out President Eyre.

“Anna” and :Colchester” to come

Fort William in Calcutta 5th September 1700. “Colchester” and “Anna” arrived balasore Road 12th ulto.

Fort William, November 13th, 1700.

“King William’ arrived in Bengal, also the new Company’s Ship “London” arrived and the “Tankerville”

“Fame” to be sent home end of December, the “Colchester” in January 1701 and the “Anna” in February.

These vessels were between 350 and 480 tons and carried crews varying from 70 to 100 men and from 30 to 36 guns, so were by no means small vessels, they were in fact some of the largest and finest merchant ships of their day.

Fort William was named after William of Orange, and became in 1700 the headquarters of Sir Charles Eyre, the first President and Governor of Fort William in Bengal.


(1) Extract from a General letter from the Court of directors to the President and council of Bengal. Dated London 5th March, 1702.

“We are well pleased with your promises by all fair and gentle methods to Advance our Revenues not questioning but you will be as good be at in Strengthening your of fortifications you have Chinam (Chunam i.e. lime) and brick enough and if you are not sufficiently instructed in forming them to a Pentagon or figure of 5 equal sides and angles, Scarce a Commander that Comes to you, but will instruct you therein and give you his opinion what is necessary to be done to make your buildings more commodious, strong and tenable, fortification being one part of the usual Study of accomplisht Marriners, If their stay is short that you can’t complete what they advise in that time let them draw you out a Plan or Scheme on paper and do you perfect it at your leisure.

We did not apprehend you wanted a particular order to hoist the flag on your fort in the same manner, as is done at fort St. George although we had sent one if it had not been casually forgot however pray don’t fail wearing it henceforward.”


Up until 1702 no vessels of the Royal Navy had entered the Bay of Bengal, in fact naval ships in Eastern Waters were very scarce indeed and it was not until the Napoleonic wars that they gave any real protection to the Company’s ships, until then the East Indiamen defended themselves.

It was in September 1702 that Madras saw ships of the Royal Navy for the first time.

Commodore Thomas Warren R. N. arrived in H.M.S. “Harwich” with H.M. Ships “Anglesea”, “Hastings” and “Lizard”.

He had brought out Sir William Norris the King’s ambassador to the Mogul in the interest of the new Company.

(1) Old Fort William in Bengal. Letter Book No. 10 Para 50 & 51.


The officers of the Bengal pilot Service have always, by the very nature of there work, been completely independent of official control when it concerned the actual practical art of piloting vessels on the River and this independence still exists.

(During the 30 years I was a Pilot on the on the Hooghly I knew of many cases where the Pilot refused to take a ship to sea because in his professional experience it was vessel was to deep drafted for the Day of Tides, was overloaded, too slow for the strength of the tides, was loaded in such a manner that she had a list making her tender when rounding sharp bends at speed or increasing her draft above the safe draft of the day, or through sheer bad weather and in the vast majority of cases the Pilot’s decision was final. R.K.H.B. Editor).

One of the earliest records of a Pilot refusing to take a ship to sea was the case of the Ship “Duchess” Captain Hugh Raymond in 1704.

(1) The Ship “Duchess” arrived in Balasore in January 1704 and was brought up to Calcutta by Mr. Rainbow, Pilot, and the following is an extract from her Log on the way out to sea again. …”8th March, 1704, Mr. Rainbow, Pilot, boarded left Calcutta; anchored off Tanna. Three tow boats in attendance.

9th March. Anchored Pungelly (Pujali)

13th yesterday afternoon past by us the Pylot Collins having carried out the “Sedgwick” Capt. Rawlings.

14th… this morning we weighed from Poulte (fulta?)

16th…anchored below Danes Town.

17th.. Rogues River.

18th… Channel Creek.

(1) Marine Records Vol. LXXII. A(1) 714.

Monday March 21st….at Channel Creek….At I yesterday the Pylot gave orders to weigh was no sooner done but he ordered the helm to be put hard a weather so bore up bound for the River of Rogues where he Anchored about 5 in the evening and immediately moored her…. declaring positively he would not take charge to carry her being so deep laden also he observed Ye Sotherly Monsoon began to set in strong and that the Springs were coming on which at this time of Year run very violent he also declares he verily believes should he attempt it he should certainly loose Ye Ship & that he ha been merely forced against his will (by ye urgency of the council) to proceed so far.

28th March, 1704….. This morning about 8 a Clock Mr. John Rainbow the Pylot appointed to carry us out went away from the Ship with the “London yacht to Calcutta positively declaring he would take on further charge of the Ship and that he would sooner be hang’d… he rejoiced mightily he proceeded no further and saying if he had the Ship would certainly have been lost the weather proving so very bad.”

“November 7th, 1704, Jn. Rainbow boards to carry them out from Rogues Rover.”



February 3rd 1704. An order is sent to Josia Townsend, Pilot to bring the “Anna” Ketch up the River Hugli to convey the goods of the New Company down to Fort William.

February 4th !704. The Council wanted a Master to navigate the “Hugly Anna” Ketch to Fort St. George and Charles Hopkins offering his services, being an able man, ordered that we accept of him at the wages of fifty-six Rupees per month and that he get the Ketch forthwith ready. Then on the 7th they ordered that there be fifty tunes of petre Laden on board the “Hugly Anna” for Fort St. George and then filled up with rice for that port.

That the vessel be recommended to the Governor and Council there for their use, if they have occasion, by which means the expense of the Company’s small craft may be raised, and that the “William” Smack and “Rising sun” Smack, be laid up till a proper time for their saile, or to be sent to the Fort, if they may have occasion for them there.”

March 9th, 1704. the eight thousand Sicca Rupees borrowed of the New Company ordered it be paid them, also that a Pylot be sent them for Ship “Union” which they desire.

April 24th, 1704. Eighteen looms are ordered to be fitted in the Factory in order to make canvas, in the rainy season, for the use of the Company’s Sloops. (It is probable that this canvas was made from jute locally grown and not of imported hemp of flax, if so this must be one of the first efforts of what was to become one of Bengal’s greatest industries. R. K H. B.).

September 11th, 1704. It appears that the Council were not satisfied with the haphazard manner in which the accounts of the Company’s Sloops were being kept, and probably found that due to private arrangement they were not collecting all the dues they should…. “So it was agreed that they carry down, or bring up from European Ships, or to or from Balasore, that they may not stand at more to give an account to the Accountant of what private goods are sent down on freight, and what quantity of bales etc. are sent down for the Company’s Association, and that the freight be charged as follows:-

To and from Balasore Roads, Every Chest or Bale, Butt or Cask, two Rupees each. Saltpeter, Red Cowries, Iron, and all weighty goods Rupees fifteen per one hundred maunds. (A Maund is 40 Ibs.) Cordage, Coyer, and the like Rupees sixteen per one hundred maunds. And from below in the River in proportion.

The River Tariff to be charged, in charging the Merchant, so that the vessels may not be a charge to the Company.”


Apparently the amalgamation of the two Company’s on the 22nd of July 1702 left some repercussions amongst the New Company’s servants for some time after the event in the form of petty jealousies, one such is recorded in 1704.

“Captain South, commander of an East Indiaman pretending he was affronted by Mr. Robert Hedges, who was Second in Council at the time; he sent him a challenge in the following words directed on Ye back side.

To Mr. Hedges


Sr I’ve had the Honr. to serve the Rt. Hon’ble Ye Old East India Comp any Commdr. of their Ship “Chambers” friggott above these eight years to their Content.

Upon my arrival here I waited on you in your turn you withholding or forbidding ye usual ceremony of Guns (It was usual on ceremonial visits for gun to be fired). given to Captains in my station proceeded from ye secret malice and envy of your heart against the Rt. Hon’ble my Implorers aforesaid and is a very great affront to me.

I demand satisfaction upon it and that you immediately and Secretly appoint ye time and place to fight Thomas South.

Fort William May 15th, 1704. I’ve ordered ye bearer to wait you’re answer who knows nothing of ye Contents.”

Mr. R. Hedges replied as follows:-

“Sr Tis no small surprise to find you under an Imprudent mistake for I thought you’re Discretion greater than ye note I rec’d if it come from you would argue But I am willing to believe if you wrote it ‘twas in some unusual heat and that you will not be pleased with it on a review, for surely you as well as I ought to have more consideration then to be guilty of rash folly and I believe you will think as I do when you Consider more seriously

If any man Suggested what you seem to think ‘tis he and not I is malicious not only to the Hon’ble Old Company but to the New and the United Trade and in time he will reap as he sows.

I am interrupted and cannot enlarge but an willing to see you that we may without mistake understand each other in ye meantime defer yo’r Judgment of my answer to what I rec’d from you.

Sr Yo’r Hunb’le Serv’t

Rob’t Hedges”

Fort wm.15th May, 1704.

This did not satisfy Capt. Thomas South and he replied,

“Sir, I’ve no councilors neither is any man acquainted with my Design, I stand upon my own Legg.

The Ship “Canterbury” on ye 9th December Last was Deliv’d up to the French at some distance and before ye Enemy had fired one Gun at her I defended her overnight from ye Enemy when She was unprovided unready ill fitted or ill fixed and not clear for fighting and whoever reports that I gave a false acco’t of that action I’ll spit in his face.

I’ve slept since rec’d yo’r Letter it is no imprudent mistake or rash folly to resent a malicious affront but ye just contrary.

I will meet you wherever you desire for I must have some acknowledgement from you for ye affront offered to Tho’s South Fort William May 16th, 1704.”

No duel took place for Mr. Hedges consulted the council who advised against it, they of course being the local Government of the Company’s affairs had the power to stop it. It seems obvious from Capt. South’s second letter that the cause of the dispute was that someone had told him that Mr. Hedges did not give him his just Gun salute because he had been heard to pass remarks about the loss of the Ship “Canterbury.”

(1) 3rd December, 1704. “Sir Edward Littleton and council at Hugly having wrote to us for Pylots to carry out the “Tankerville” and “Halifax” and that both Ships were now ordered down to Culphy

(1) Bengal Diary 1704 – 1708.

so desired we would spare the Commanders able Pylots who making choice of Shaw and Rainbow Ordered that they proceed immediately on board to Pylot said Ships’.

(1) 12th February, 1705. “A letter being come yesterday to hand from Mr. Bowcher acquainting us that the ship “Scipio” Capt. Luke Burrish drawing 17 foot water which is surprising the Capt. & Pilots having informed us before she broke ground hence that she drew but 15½ foot water since which she took in no goods &part of the ships water & provisions are still aboard Tow boats Mr. Bowcher further adds that Capt. Burrish resolves to deliver back part of his petre to enable him to take in other goods which Occasions a considerable loss of time all occasioned by the Capt’s humour in Desiring fifty Tons of Petre more than first designed & not acquainting us truly when he found her deep what draught of water she drew.”

Modern Steamship Agents have caused exactly the same type of trouble, which I often had to contend with when I was the Deputy Port Pilotage Officer of Calcutta. R.K.H.B. Ed.)

(2) 17th December, 1706. Another incident which I have experienced being one on which a ship to which I was appointed as Pilot having failed to sail due to the crew claiming they were short handed but with less justification than the one mentioned here. R.K.H.B.Ed.)

“John Rainbow Pilot who was last Consultation day ordered to carry out the “Fleet frigott did last night return with this Report that going aboard to do his duty the Ship’s Company in General except the Mates declared that they would not weigh anchor till their Commander sends more men aboard for that in ye Condition they were in they could not nor would not stir having but 36 men aboard & most of them sick”.

(1) & (2) Bengal diary 1704 – 1708.

This vessel Commanded by Captain Thomas Burgess was of 300 tons with 26 guns and carried a normal crew of 61 men.

1st March, 1708. A Pilot infringes one of the Company’s strictest rules, which was that they were not to handle outside or, as they were called, Interloping ships.

“Antonic de Rota, a Head Pilot, was brought up before them and charged with using their Sloop to attend a Ship that belonged to outside merchants. They resolved this time only to fine him, but to caution him that for the next offence he will be turned out of the Company’s service, towns and protection”.

The foregoing report was taken from the Bengal Public consultation book but another report under the same date appears in the “Bengal Diary” which is identical except that the amount of fine is stated. …”We therefore think it necessary that for this first fault he he fined Rs. 300/- & severely reprimanded”.


October 19th, 1710. At a Consultation.

“Captain Henry Cornwall Commander of the Ships “Sherborne” having sent to the Council a Declaration of the refractory behavior of His officers and seamen who would not obey him nor do their duty in the business of his Ship The President and Council Their upon sent a Positive Command down to Rogues river on board the Ship to every Officer and Command down to Rogues River on board the Ship to every Officer and Seaman (also an Officer and a “Phile of Musqueters”) to do their duty in bringing the Ship to this Place and give their Commander all due obedience which order took such Effect that the Ship arriv’d before the Fort the q6th inst. and finding the Officers and seamen in General Complaining they had been hardly used by their Commander I was resolved to summon the Commanders of the Honourable company’s Shipping and give them a hearing.

The Chief Mate 2nd Mate 4th Mate Gunner Boatswain Carpenter’s Mate and several others were sent for and most of them shewed a very great Unwillingness to go any more on board under ye com’d of Capt. Cornwall allerdging he had used the Ships Company ill by often caning and Wiping ‘em for every Little fault and that most of them had their Discharge from him which ye Capt. says he was obliged to give them otherwise not one man would go on board to help get the Shipp off when she was ashore on Zealone and to excuse themselves to assist him they told him the ship was broken to pieces and her decks fallen in and positively refused to go on board with him all which they don’t deny but made his former ill Treatment of Themselves excuse which we could no waies approve of and severely reprimanded Them for it and would have proceeded to a further punishment but were ferefull of a Total desertion of the Ships Company and knowing the Impossibility of remaining her at this place was obliged to proceed more mildly than we would have don or they deserved.”

A long discussion amongst the Members of the Court of Inquiry must have taken place with the Company’s Commanders wanting to see discipline maintained and the Shore staff wanting a peaceful settlement, as usual a compromise was reached with the result….. “The Ships company to go back on the Captains promise to treat them more leniently except for the 2nd Mate Mr. John Cook who resolutely refuses to go he having declared to us under his hand that if he is obliged to go that he shall comitt such actions that he trembles to Express to ye ruin of himself and others”

He was kept a close prisoner and sent hom to England.


June 23rd, 1710. (1) “It was recorded that Mr. Samuel Blount desires of the council to give him the small piece of ground that lies between Mr. Russel’s warehouses and the house built by Dr. Warren which for the benefit of shipping he is to make a Dry

(1) “The Early Annals of the English in Bengal”.

dock of. Agreed he has it, paying ground rent for the same.”

While Mr. Blount was considering the building of a Dry-dock, there was already, presumable unknown to anyone in Calcutta, a letter from the Board of Directors in London on its way out suggesting the construction of a Dry-dock and other facilities for shipping alongside the Fort.

Work on the construction of a wharf before the fort had already begun as the result of a consolation in Fort William held on February 9th, 1710.

(1) “We have duly considered the Company’s Orders in Relation to building a Wharf before the Fort and find ‘twill be a great Security to the Banks and a strengthening thereto, ‘its therefore.

Agreed we instantly Sett about it and make it with brick and raise a Breast Work to Plant cannon there.”

The letter referred to above was addressed to The President Anthony Weltden and dated London January 9th, 1710.

(2) “We would have you on your arrival in the consider whether it is necessary for us to make a dock there to clean and refit our Ships upon occasions when necessary. What would be the charge and whether it can be made so bear fort William as to be protected by it and what you think is a fitt duty to be paid by every Ship that makes use of it and also whether it be necessary for us to have another at Ballasore or up higher for such of our Ship as can’t come up so high as Calcutta Consider also whether it be not convenient to have a good Hulk at fort William to careen by…”.

The reply to this letter and other matters concerning the alterations and improvements of Fort Williams is contained in the following extracts from abstract of a General Letter from Bengal to the Court and dated October 16th, and December 30th, 1710.

(1) & (2) “Old Fort William in Bengal” Pub. consultations.

(1) Oct.16th, “Shall go on with the Ditch and make it within the reach of the fort guns which will compass ground enough to secure the Inhabitants and Effects and make three passes over and contrive a Place to lay Ships in who Stay there and make them pay for laying may contrive to keep water in it. Think it needless to enclose Govinpore and Sootaloota. The Wharf near completed the two ends will be pallisadced and a Gate to Shutt up at night with Centinells to secure all goods on the Wharf-shall send a plan of all.

Dec.30th, 1710, and Feb.13th, 1711. Shall make the fortifications defensible without alarming the Mocrs the Wharf was raised ¾ the length of the fort and are finishing the ends with a half Moon at each to command the River which is 500 yards over with 20 Culverings, musts carry a strong bridge in the middle to be in 3 or 4 feet of water at low water to work at all times shall make a ditch 40 feet broad 12 deep to Secure the fort from Insults and to have three draw bridges the tide to flow in one end. Palisadoed the other with a gate to make a dock at the open and for Ships to lay in.

To no purpose to make a dry dock, it will not quit the cost Nor will it to have a Hulk the Same reason holds for Ballasore River can’t receive a ship that draws above 12 feet.”

There was a further note to the effect that it would be difficult to make a ditch all round the town lest the rapid River in the wet season should wash all away.

A crane was built on the Wharf to work at all states of the tide.


During the war of the Spanish Succession two French fleets visited the mouth of the Hooghly.

The first comprising four men of war and three prizes anchored

(1) “Old Fort William in Bengal”

is Balasore Roads at the end of 1710. On receipt of the news in Calcutta on January 1st, 1711 the President ordered the Commanders of the East Indiamen (1) “to go down and bring their ships into the River which are now lying at Sago (Saugor) ready to be dispatched fearing the French may make an attempt on them which they may easily do.”

In August 1712 small swift vessels were sent to which the second fleet and a prize reported to be cruising off Point Palmyras waiting to capture the “Marlborough”, “Kent” and “Recovery” bound for Balasore.

In September the Pilot vessel “Russel” was captured while conveying news of the French fleet’s movements to Madras and her Master John Corneilson, Pilot, was a prisoner for several months during which time (2) “he lived very miserably and was in great distress when he was liberated.”

In October two Pilot sloops were fitted out, they were the “Cassimbazar” and “London” with instructions to cruise between Pt. Palmyras and the New Deeps (3)…”and once a week come into Balsore Roads and give Advices by which means all our Shipping bound out will be certain they are gone off the Coast before they do part with their Pilots.”

In all the wars and local conflicts the Pilot Service took an action part and many Pilots lost their lives defending the Company’s ships and property.


There was always the danger of attack from Pirates both Native and European who covered most of the Indian seas, particularly the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal.

The Native ones were the Angrias and the Halabars who were normally confined to the West coast of India though sometimes ventured round Cape Comorin in to the Bay, the European Pirates

(1) Diary and Consultation.

(2) Ibid.

(3) Bengal Diary and Consultations.

sailed off both West and East coasts and frequently at the Head of the Bay, they were Kidd, Every, Chivers and Culliford, they attacked all and Sundry without discrimination, and even lead raiding parties ashore to sack villages.

On the 21st October, 1720, the ship “Shaw Allum” arrived in Calcutta with the news that Pirates were very active off Bombay and …. “advise of a Pyrate cruzing off that place which had taken a rich Moor ship bound from Judda to Suratt. They put about 100 of her men ashore at Bombay in a long boat who rsported that the Pyrate has two teir of Gunns and about 300 men of different nations.”

The Angrias were a family of Marathas of mixed Indian and Portuguese or may be Arab descent, but to aggravate matters were Joined by renegade Europeans and became so powerful on the coasts of India that a British Naval squadron of 12 warships under Admiral Watson and a Military force under Colonel Clive captured their fortified base at Gheria and broke their power, but this was not until 1755.

The most notorious of the European Pirates were Kidd of the “Adventure”, Chivers of the “Soldado”, Every or Avery of the “Fancy’, Babington of the “Charming Mary” and Culliford of the “Resolution”.

Culliford’s piracies were mostly committed in the Bay of Bengal. In one year, during which time the Captain of a country vessel was a prisoner on board the “Resolution’ Culliford ransacked some native villages and captured five country vessels which he scuttled or burnt.

His most daring escapade was his attempt to capture the East Indiaman “Dorril”, commanded by Captain Hide, and although he did not succeed, the “Dorril” was disabled and sixteen of her crew were killed.

Culliford escaped death by taking advantage of the free pardon offered to all pirates, with the exception of Kidd and Chivers who gave themselves up to Captain arren, R.N. before the end of April 1699.

The Fort St. George Diary and Consultation Book for 1698 has the following account by the Captain of a country vessel of his adventure with Kidd and Chivers…. “The Master of the Ship “Sedgewicke”, Capt. Lockyer Watts acquaints that in going to Anjengo he was persued by Kidd the Pirat three days and three nights and with great difficulty escaped, it being calm and Kidd outrowing him, and that in his return from Anjengo he was taken by another Pirat Chivers a Dutchman in the Algerian gally near Cape Comerine which with her excellent sailing and rowing fetched up the “Sedgewicke” in nine hours.

The cargo of Pepper not being for their returne, they dismissed the Ship after they had robbed her of her two courses, Sheet Cable, anchor, Cordage, Pitch, Tarr, &ca stores. Though several of the Ships Company being Mightily taken with the “Sedgewicke’s build and usefulness for a Cruiser.

Captain Watts with great difficulty prevailed to save her by a merry management of a bowl of Punch among the ships company upon which they said he is an honest fellow left him goe.

With the Racquet came a narrative of Kidds proceedings, particularly that he took the “Quede Merchant” richly leden from Bengal and told the Persian factor (who had 400 bales aboard) that He toke the Ship by the King of Englands Commission and that the Persian would proceed o the Mogulls Camp to complain against the English as Pirates.”

Severs penalties were imposed upon any Pirates who happened to get captures. Ringleaders were hunged or shot, whilst lesser offenders were whipped and had the letter “p” branded on their foreheads.

(1) Some escaped death by claiming the “Benefit of Clergy”, an ancient privilege allowed to those who could read Latin. In order to prevent a Pirate from claiming the privilege a second time, he was branded on the hand.

Kidd was hanged at Execution dock, London, on the 12th May, 1701.

The “Soldado” the Algerian pirate commanded by the Dutchman Chivers was of 250 tons and carried 28 guns.

Coming back to the River on Monday 6th May, 1723, the following case was heard:-

“Gerard Brand Mariner belonging to the Ship “John and Mary” was this day brought before us the Governor and Council in Calcutta in Bengal Accused of Murther and Pyracie in aiding and abetting in with others a Frenchman and two Dutchmen in the Murther of Captain Marmaduke Crompton, Mr. Morrice the Purser and forcing Mr. Maine the Chief Mate with a servant named Carlo overboard on the 6th March last at 12 a clock in the night or near one in the morning and then practically taking Possession of the said Ship “John and Mary”.

The Serang named Behudy and the Tindal Tasundy Witness against Gerard Brand that he was aiding abetting and assisting with ye other pyrates having a Blunderbuss in his hand wherewith He did defend one Murther as aforesaid….. Ordered that Gerard Brand be kept close Prisoner in Irons till the time we can be able to send him where he may receive condign Punishment and for a publick Example as well as to deter others for the future.

Ordered that he be severely whipt every Monday morning and received his first Punishment to morrow the Garrison being under Arms”

(1) Note. Benefit of Clergy. From an early period the Clergy enjoyed an immunity of their persons in criminal cases tried before secular judges. The privilege was subsequently extended to other persons connected with the Church, and ultimately to laymen of education. A layman found guilty and claiming benefit was tested as to his ability to read Latin, usually from a religious book. If he passed the test he was branded on the hand with a hot iron to prevent his claiming the privilege a second time.

Doming a Portuguese a passive accessory was ordered to be whipt every court day.


A foreign interloping ship arrived at the Sandheads under rather suspicious circumstance in June, 1719.

The first news of her received by the Bengal Council was the report made by Captain William Hurst of the Ship “Prances” from Fort St. George. He had picked up his Pilot at Balasore on the 15th inst., and there passed by a large ship with her maintopmast down, and showing French Colours. They had previously received advice that an Ostend ship was in the Bay.

At a Consultation it was recorded ……”We suppose must be a ship from Ostend, who lately had advice was at Trincombar under the Emperours Colours a white flag with the Spread Eagle in the middle as we have already sent the Proclamination down to Balasore with farther particular orders not only to our Pylots but to all others who expect any favour or protection from us so we think none such dare go on board or give them any assistance and that our Merchants here may not pleade forgetfulness of our former orders in Consultation of 15th September, 1718.

Ordered that our Broker do now again repeat the same to them and all Inhabitants under our protection that they neither directly nor indirectly have any Comerce or the least correspondence with them.”

The Ostend Ship referred to above was a French Interloper with the Emperors Commission named the “Emperour Charles” (Charless VI of Austria) she was formerly named the “Griffine” a Zealand Caper.

The arrived at Negapatam at the end of April 1719 where four sailors were questioned by East India Coys officials at Fort St. George.

They found she had been 1 months on the voyage from Ostend, carrying 48 guns and 150 men including 8 and 20 officers, the main part are Flemmings with some French and English.

Sailors pay from 12 to 16 Gilders per month. The ballast was Guns and double headed shot, the cargo was firearms, swords, coral, and broadcloth; she had the Emperors Passport and throughout the voyage wore the Emperors Colours but since she came upon the Coast she used French Colours.

The Hon. Comp. benned her from Calcutta. In spite of the ban she came up the River having been piloted by a man named John comero for which he had one thousand rupees. He was found to be living in the French settlement. He was not English and his name is never mentioned again, in fact the vessel is not mentioned again either, but it is an example of the lengths the Company were prepared to go to prevent anyone poaching on their monopoly rights.


October 25th, 1725.

In 1719 John Bashpool a Pilot murdered Richard Deane another Pilot and then fled for safety, as he could not be arrested the Hon. Company took over possession of all his goods and sold them by ‘Public Outcry’ on April 27th, 1721; the amount realized being Rs 1041 and it was then “Ordered that it be paid into the Coys. Cash account and lay there till the Company’s orders concerning it be received.”

In the meantime the rent on Deance large town house was to be paid towards the maintainance of Richard Deance daughter.

Then on Oct. 25th, 1725, the following entry appears in the records “There standing to the credit of John Bashpool in Ye. Hon’ble Companys books ye sum of Rs 1041 paid into cash by Mr. Wm. Spencer then Buxey as Public order of Consultation ye 17th April, 1721, ye said Bashoopl being the person who murdered Richard Deance our Head Pilot and he being lately dead. Agreed the President deliver the money one their to the Widow and two thirds to the Daughter and that ye house of ye said Richard Deane be divided in the like manner.”

In connection with the above may be mentioned here the Last Will and Testament of one John Brown which was dated June 26th, 1720 from which it appears that either Richard Deanes Widow or Daughter were far from destitute.

(1) The Will. “In the name of God Amen” John Brown of Calcutta, Merchant …… “make my last Will and bequeath to my God Daughter Mary Deane the sum of Eight hundred current rupees. Item. I will and bequeath to my God Sone Henry Collier (a Pilot. RK.H.B.) the Sum of two hundred current rupees…..

Signed and sealed. Jno. Brown.”

Witnesses H. Cole. Thos. Phillips and John Cassells, the last named being a Branch Pilot.

There was a Codicil to this Will written in Portuguese the translation being as follows….. “ Item. I bequeath to Francisco De Aranjo, pilot (I do not think that he was a Hughli Pilot. R.K.H.B.) two pair of gold sleeve buttons with my silver hilted Sword and Belt.

Item. I desire that my pylott will write this in the Portuguese Language, having nobody on board that can write it in English and being myself incapable of taking a pen in hand, Sign’d in the presence of what Persons are on board and witnessed on board the Brigantine “Alexander” this 28th May, 1721.

I have made two of these memorandums of the same date. Ten Degrees thirty-three minutes Latitude. (N? R.K.H.B.)

John Brown.

19th October, 1730.

It was not unusual for Pilot to carry on private trade under the Hon. Company’s protection so long as they abided by the strict rules laid down to protect the Company’s monopoly and some Pilots owned Sloops of their won for such trade, any goods they wished to sell in Britain, had of course, to be shipped in the Company’s won East Indiamen at the standard freights.

(1) The Early Annals of the English in Bengal. Vol.111

Under the above date it was recorded that “Alexander Wood, Pilot having petitioned to go to Pagu to look after his effects there it was agreed that he be permitted to go.”

About this time the Company experienced a shortage of Sloops for the River and Coastal trade, due to several factors, some of which are outlined in the entries which follow.

25th June, 1731.

The British soldiers well known excuse for explaining away the loss of some article of equipment by saying it had been eaten by white ants, was not always as far fetched as it seemed, for under the above date we find the following statement.

“Pursuant to an Order of Council I have surveyed the “William” Sloop and find many of her timbers destroyed by white ants with which Vermin she swarms to such a degree that I am informed the most effective way of destroying them will be to sink the Sloop in some safe place and let her lye under Water five or six days.”

Signed. Thomas Snow.

“Ordered that Alexander Wood Pilot do sink the Sloop in the most convenient part of the River.” So it seems Mr. Wood was only away for a few months in Burma.

The consultation that day was devoted to the shortage of Sloops for the next entry says. “There being the “Cossimbazar” Sloop broken up the “Margery” Sloop employed to cruise in Balasore road in Company with a Dutch Sloop to look out for the Ostenders and “William” Sloop in a bad condition occasion us to want Sloop for the Hon’ble Company’s Service.

Ordered that Mr. Charles Hampton Buxey hire what Sloops are necessary at this juncture.”

27th April, 1732.

More Sloop trouble “The Pilots having complained to us that the “Mary” Buoyer was very Crank and wanted a great deal of Repair we now received a proposal from Edw’d Clarke Ship Carpenter about her. Ordered…… That we give him Rs 3500 to repair her.

17th July, 1732.

The Sloop “Margery” which had been cruising on the Pilot Station had gene aground presumably on her way up River. “The Margery” Sloop being run a shore at Sago (Saugor) Ordered that Capt. Thomas Show send down boats fully manned to her assistance.” They also “Ordered that the Sloop “Union” be purchased for Rs 6000 built of Jarrell and Teak.”

27th August 1733.

“Charles” Sloop having been surveyed by Thomas Show Master Attendant, Phillip Parsons Pilot and Francis Read Carpenter and found generally in good condition but suggested sheathing her with Teak.’

“Cossimbazar” Sloop having been rebuilt appears on the River again.

Thursday 18th October, 173.

Under this date is quite a different story concerning the Pilot Service Sloops.

“This day received a letter from the French Directors &c. Council at Chandonajur (Chandnagore) dated the 28th. N.S. enclosing a Complaint made before the Chief of their Factory at Balasore by the Pilot, Quartermaster and Seamen of one of their Sloops against Phillip Persons Pilot and Sunday Other for assaulting and wounding the said Sloop company and desiring that we would cause Justice to be done on the offenders.

Agreed that we write to the French Directors &c. that MR. Persons not being able to quit his Station had before sent up a Complaint against their People However according to their desire we would send strong and Sure Guard to bring the Offenders up to Calcutta and after Inquiry into the Nature of the Case they may be assured such Punishment shall be inflicted as may be Suitable to their Fault.”

Monday 29th October, 1733.

“Mr. Parsons having been Examined in relation to the complaint of the French Directors &c. who now Delivering his Answer thereto Agreed that it be sent to the French Directors &c. and that Mr. arsons be put under an Arrest till We receive an answer.”

Wednesday 14th November, 1733.

“This day received a letter from Mons’r Dupliex Directors &c. Council at Chandonagur advising they had sent down the Pilot, Quartermaster and people belonging to the Sloop “L’orient” to whom the Insult was made as they advised in their letter of the 28th October N.S.

They have deputed one of their Council Mons. Groiselle to introduce these People to be examined to be examined who has Orders to pursue the Process till a final Sentence be passed.

The People of the French Sloop being first examined in the presence of Mr. Groiselle and afterwards Mr. Parsons the Pilot and what People were up belonging to our Sloop we found that there was no Truth in the ffrench Allegations of their Sloop being pursued and guns fired at Her but that the Pilots and Seamen of both Sloops being in Liquor the using him ill a man who was along with him went aboard the English Sloop and which three or four of them blows were exchanged on each Side. Agreed therefore that we write the ffrench directore &ce. that finding there has been faults on both sides and their People the Aggressors We shall punish our People according to our Customs and that each party shall pay half of the Damages.”

Though England was not at war with France at that time the natural national antipathy of the English for the French kept asserting itself due to the close proximity of the two nations sharing the same River, and so incidents like the one recounted here were frequent. (Ed. R.K.H.B.)

Monday 5th December, 1737.

Received a letter from Mr. Thomas Joshua More dated at Ingellee the 3rd instant acquainting us that the “Bombay” Sloop in laying the Ship “Bedford” aboard to deliver the Hona’ble Company’s Bales had Bilged upon her own Anchor which went through her side about three foot under water. They attempted to run her ashore but she sunk at the mouth of the Ingellee River.”

The loss of Sloops for one reason or another was a heavy drain on the Company. Apparently Mr. A. Wood the then Chief Pilot, with his private trading business in Burma, had contracted for the building of new Sloops there, where there was a plentiful supply of cheep but excellent teak wood.

An undated entry in the Consultation Book was as follows:-

“Received a Letter from Mr. Alexander Wood Pilot dated in Pegue the 3rd October, 1737, advising the two Sloops Built for the Hona’ble Company their were launched the 15th September.

Mr. Smart says he will have them ready to sail by the 1st of November but he believes it will be the 15th, first because of the Holy days Having found the Sloop “Margery’s” false keel all rotten he was laid her on shore to put in another.

Those that send Rigging and other Stores from Madras have been much imposed on by them that provided them For the rigging is unsizable The bolts of Duck are all in short pieces not above thirty-two yards in each. The twine is rotten and they are obliged to make rope out of Cable.

The Master Carpenter is continually drunk which is a great hindrance to the work going forward.”

Monday 9th October, 1738.

“As we are in want of another Pylot for the River Service and Gilbert Sinsnicke who hath served the Hona’ble Company on board their Sloops in different stations upwards of twelve years and hath brought in many ships woth great safety being recommended to us by the Master of Attendance and producing a Certificate from him of his ability in the Seafaring way and another from Phillip Parsons Pylot of his capacity and knowledge of the River with several more from the Commanders of such ships as he hath carried in and out of the River.

Agreed that he be appointed one of the Pylots in the Honourable Company’s Service.”

It can be appreciated from this entry that one had to serve a long apprenticeship and be efficient before being promoted to the rank of Pilot in the Service’s 300 year history.

The Board of Directors in London were still worried about the shortage of Pilots and their standard of efficiency but at the same time being very careful of expenditure, they were yet to learn that if they wanted, as they did, exceptionally efficient men they must pay them well.

(1) 9th February, 1736. London.

“From the great encouragement given to the Pylots of adding five rupees a month to their pay our orders were construed in an extensive sense they were only in general terms.

Observing some of them were ffined we apprehended that such vigorous proceeding against so useful a set of men might prejudice our affairs.

You should be very cautious of making additions to Stated Allowances they swell the Buxey’s (Treasurers) accounts and entail upon us an expense in all future times.’

(2) 6th January, 1737. London.

“For the Wages of pylots and Seamen to be doubled upon us and yet to loose most of our Sloops at the same time is very grating and makes us apprehensive that able and skilled men are not fixed

(1) and (2). Letters to Bengal.” Vol.22.

upon to take charge of them or that by Drunkeness and otherwise the due care is taken you ought severely to check and reprimand the Masters and their Mates whenever you have reason to be dissatisfied with their conduct and on the contary encourage those who are deserving among them.”

The Lascars of today seem to have changed but little from those of the first half of the 18th century. Now as then, the system of Messing themselves is anything but satisfactory. Half way through a pilot Vessels stay at the Sandheads, the Serang will come to the commander and request that two or three men may be allowed to return to Calcutta to obtain more provisions, though more often than not they are not really short, it being merely an excuse to have a few days in town. (R.K.H.B.)

The following letter recorded in the Consultation Book bears out the above observation.

To the Hoboble Thomas Brasdyll Esq. President & Governor Etc at Fort William.

“Whereas the Laskars in the Honoble Company’s Sloops Service on pretence of buying Provisions going to eat and the like are frequently from their Duty and cannot be got together on any emergency and when they are Ordered into the Road they lay in Provisions so scantily that the Sloops are frequently obliged to run into Port to provide more to the great hindrance of the Company’s business and risqué of the Sloops.

To remedy this it is with submission proposed to the Honoble Board that provisions be [it on board for them which with your Honour etc. Approbation I will undertake to do. If their wages which are now five rupees current may be advanced to five rupees Madras per month and it is further proposed to your Honour &ca. in Order to furnish the Sloops with good Syrangs and Laskars that a Person under the Title of the Companys Syrang may be Entertained at ten rupees P. month with an assistant at five rupees P. month who shall be obliged to find such as will enter into a contract to serve on board them for a time Certain which is presumed will be a means to have always a Set of good People in the Sloops who will keep to their duty not having any longer their usual excuses for Absenting

I am with great respect &ce

William West.’

Master Attendant.

Fort William. March 19th, 1739.

Mr. W. West began something here with the proposal to appoint a Serang in Charge, which has continued to this day, in spite of Shipping Masters and a merchant Shipping Acts. In the case of the Pilot Vessels and a large number of Merchant vessels who sign on their crews in Calcutta, the Serang still has power to choose his men.

For as long as any one can remember the three senior Branch Pilots have constituted a Standing Advisory Committee which has made suggestions concerning the Pilot age of the River in all its aspects to whatever Official or Authority may be concerned. Usually their professional advice is accepted.

The following letter could well be one of the first occasions on which the Committee gave such advice.

To Captain William West. Master Attendant.


Whereas we the undersigned Pylots in the Honoble Company’s Service do entirely agree and think it necessary for the more safety of the Hon’ble Company shipping and effect that there should be five buoys laid Vizt. one at the Fairway at the Barrabulla head at Ingellee at Cockeelee and one in the East and West channel.

It is our request that you would represent this to the Hon’ble the President & Council.

WE are &ce. John Ransom.

Wm. Archdeacon.

John Crossfield.


Calcutta the 17th April, 1739.

In 1744 a Captain Alexander Hamilton published a book called (1) “A New Account of the East Indies” in which he gives his impressions of his visit to the Hooghly River, extracts from which now follow.

It has been said that he was an idle gossip, which may be so, however, his account gives a first hand impression of these times, covering as it does the whole of the area from Point Palmyras to the town of Hugli, the scene of this history.

…”four leagues from Raypore is the Island of Palmeire, which lies about a mile from the shore, and has a channel of two fathoms deep between them. the country is here very low, but the Island lower, and it fends off a very dangerous sandbank so far into the sea, that the island can scarcely be seen till a Ship is aground.

Within 50 paces of the bank are fifteen fathoms water, which sudden shallowings make it the more dangerous. Three leagues to the Northward of the Point Palmeira, is Cunnaca, which river is capable to receive a Ship of 200 tuns. It has a bar, but not dangerous, because the sea is smoothe, and the bottom soft.

The nabob of Cuttack commands the North side of the River, and a Rajah the other, which makes them both court the Merchant that comes to trade there, for he pays custom only to the Sovereign whose side of the river his Ship lies on.

About twelve leagues to the Northward of Cunnaca, is the River’s mouth of Ballasore, where there is a very dangers Bar, sufficiently well known by the many Wrecks and Losses made by it. Between Cunnaca and Ballasore rivers there is one continuous sandy bay, and a very delicious fish called the Pamplee (Pomfret? R.K.H.B.) come in sholes and are sold for two pence per hundred. Two of them are sufficient to dine a moderate man.

The town (of Balasore) is but four miles from the sea by land, but by the river, twenty…. The English, French and Dutch have their respective Factories here, but at present (he was writing

(1) “A New Account of the East Indies” by Capt. Alexander Hamilton. Printed for C. Hatch,

Paternoster Row, 1744.

about 1740) are of little consideration, the, in former times, before the Navigation of the Hughly River was cultivated, they were the head Factories in the Bay of Bengal.

The town of Balasore drives a pretty good trade to the Islands of Maldivia. Those Islands as I observed before, have no rice or other grain of their own product, so that Balasore supplies them with what necessaries they want, and in return, bring Cowries and Cayar (Coir) for the service of Shipping.

The sea shore of Balasore being very low, and the Depths of the Water very gradual from the Strand, make Ships in Balasore Road, keep at a good distance from the shore; for, in four or five fathoms, they ride three leagues off.

From April to October is the Season for Shipping to come into the Bay of Bengal. Pilots lie ready at Balasore to carry them up the River Hughly, which is a small branch of the famous Ganges. The European Companies, before mentioned keep theirs always in pay; but when none of their own Shipping is there, their Pilots have the liberty to serve other ships, which is no small advantage to them. (In this instance Capt. Hamilton errs as the Honourable East India Company were most particular that their Pilots should serve no one but the Company and severe penalties were imposed on those who disobeyed; fines up to Rs. 400 were levied, a large sum in those days. There were occasions when they did pilot foreign ships, usually Dutch, but only by permission of the President & Council).

The sides of the River are overgrown with business which give shelter to many fierce and troublesome Tygers, who do much mischief. I knew an Englishman that was in a Ship’s boat laden with fresh water, lying in the River, waiting the Tide to carry her over the Bar, and this man had the curiosity to step ashore, and being a litter way from the boat, had a call to exonerate, and had no sooner put himself in a posture near the bushes but out leaps a Tyger, and caught both his buttocks in his mouth, and was for carrying him away, but one of the seamen in the boat seeing the tragedy, took up a Musket and placed a bullet in the Tygers head, while the man was in his mouth helpless.

The tiger immediately let the man fall, and skulked in among the business , and the wounded man was carried on board of his Ship and the surgeon made a perfect cure of his wounds. I saw the marks of the wounds three or four years after the accident happened to him.

…Piply lies in the banks of river supposed to be a branch of the Ganges, about five leagues from that of Balasore; formerly it was a place of trade, and was honoured with English and Dutch Factories. The country p[produced the same commodities that Balasore does; at present it is produced to Beggary by the Factory’s removal to Hughly and Calcutta, the Merchants being all gone.

It is now inhabited by Fishers, as are also Ingellis and Kidgerie, two neighbouring Islands on the West side of the mouth of the Ganges. These Islands abound also in tame Swine, where they are sold very cheap, for I have bought one and twenty good hogs, between 50 and 80 pound weight each for Rs 17,,or 45 Shilling Sterling.

Those Islands send forth dangerous sand banks, that are both numerous and large, and make the navigation both out and in to Hughly River, both troublesome and dangerous, an after we pass those Islands in going up the River, the Channel for Shipping is on the East side and several Cresks run from the Ganges, two of which are more remarkable than the rest viz. Coxes and Sagor Islands, where great Ships were obliged to anchor to take in part of their cargoes, because several places in the River are too shallow for great Ships to pass over, whom their whole cargoes are aboard.

There are no inhabitants on those Island, for they are too infested with Tygers, that there could be no security for human creatures to dwell on them; nay it is even dangerous to land on them or for boats to anchor near them, for in the night they have swimmed to boats at anchor, and carried men out of them yet among the Pagans the Island of Sagor is accounted holy, and great numbers of Yougies go yearly thither in the months of November and December, to worship and wash in the salt water, tho’ many of them fall sacrifice to the hungry tigers.

The first safe anchorage in the River, is off the mouth of a river about twelve leagues above Sagor, commonly known by the name of Rogues who were followers of Sultan Sujah, when Emirjemal, Aurengzebs’ General drove that unfortunate Prince out of his Province of Bengal; for those Portuguese having no way to subsist after their Masters flight to the Kingdom of Arackan, betook themselves to Piracy among the Islands at the mouth of the Ganges, and that river having communication with all the channels from Vitigam (Chittagong) to the Westward, from this river they used to sally out, and commit depredations on those that traded in the River Hughly.

About five leagues further up, on the West side is another branch of the Ganges, called Ganga, (Rupnarain) it is broader than that of Hughly, but much shallower, and more incumbered with sandbanks. (The Rupnarain river has not been navigable for anything other than small Country boats for centuries, but there was a time long, long ago when it carried, according to legend, the bulk of Bengal’s trade to Ceylon, the East Indias and China. R.K.H.B.)

Along the River of Hughly there are many small villages and farms interspersed in those large Plains, but first of any note on the River side, is Culculla, (This place no longer exists, it was situated on what is now Vanzam’s Creek, which at one time must have been considerably large. The creek is just to the North of the Birla Jute Mill and Calcutta was to the North of that, somewhere in the neighbourhood of the present Moyapore Tidal semaphore, it was on this site that Clive landed in 1756 when he attacked and captured Budge-Budge. (R.K.H.B.) a market town for corn, coarse cloth, butter and oil, with other products of the Country, above it is the Dutch Bankshall, a place where their Ships ride when they cannot get farther up for the too Swift currents of the river.

A Little higher up on the same Eat side of the River is Ponjelly (Poojeli) a village where a Corn Mart is kept once or twice in a week, it exports more rice than any place on this River, and five leagues farther up on the other side Tanna Fort, built to protect the Trade of the River, at a place convenient enough, where it is not above half a like from shore to shore, but it never was of much use; for in Anno 1686, when the English Company quarreled with the Mogul, the Company had several great Ships at Hugli and this Fort was manned in order to hinder their passage down the River. One 60 gun Ship approaching pretty near the Fort, saluted with a broadside, which so frightened the Governor and his Myrmidons, that they all deserted their posts and left their Castle to be plundered by the English seamen.

About a league farther up on the other side of the River, (East) is Governapore, where there is a little Pyramid built for a land mark, to confine the Company’s Colony of Calcutta; of Fort William. On that side and about a league farther up, stands Fort William.

The English settled there about the year 1690, after the Mogul had pardoned all the robberies and murders committed on his subjects. Mr. Job. Charnock being then the Company’s Agent in Bengal, he had liberty to settle an Eaporina in any part on the River’s side below Hugli, and for the sake of a large shady tree chose that place, tho’ he could not have chosen a more unhealthy place on all the River; for three miles to the North Eastward is a salt water Lake that overflows in September and October, then prodigious numbers of fish are left dry, and with their putrefaction affect the air with thick stinking vapors, which the North East winds bring with them to Fort William.

One year I was there, and there was reckoned in August about 1200 English, some Military, some Servants to the Company, some private Merchants residing in the Town, and some Seamen belonging to Shipping lying at the Town, and before the Beginning of January there were 460 Burials registered in the Clerks Book of Mortality.

Mr. Charnook choosing the ground of the Colony, where it now is, Reigned mere absolute than a Rajah, though he wanted much of their Humanity, for when any poor ignorant Native transgressed this Laws, they were sure to undergo a severe whipping for Penalty, and the execution was generally done when he was at dinner, so near his dining-room that the groans and cries of the poor delinquent served him for music.

The Country about being overspread with Paganism, the custom of Wives burning with their deceased Husbands is also practiced here.

Before the Moguls’ war, Mr. Charnook went on one occasion with his ordinary guard of soldiers to free a young widow from that tragic catastrophy, but he was so smitten with the window’s beauty that he sent his guards to take her by force from her executioners, and conducted her to his own lodgings. They lived lovingly many years, and had several children; at length she dies, after he had settled in Calcutta but instead of converting her to Christianity she made him a Proselyte to Paganism, and the only part of Christianity that was remarkable in him was burying her decently, and he built a Tomb over her, where all his life after her death, he kept the anniversary day of her death by sacrificing a Cock on her Tomb, after the Pagan manner; this was and is the common Report, and I have been credibly informed, both by Christians and Pagans, who lived at Calcutta under his Agency, that the story was really a matter of fact.

Fort William was built as an irregular tetragon, of brick and morta, called Puckha, which is a composition of brick dust, lime, molasses and out hemp, when it comes to be dry, is as hard as and tougher than hard stone. The Town was built without order, as the builders though most convenient for their own affairs, every one taking in what ground best pleased them for gardening; so that in most houses you must pass through a garden into the house: the English built near River side and the Natives within land…

…..About 50 yards from Fort William, stands the Church, built by the pious Charity of Merchants residing there, and the Christian benevolence of Sea-faring man, whose affairs call them to trade there. Ministers of the Gospel being subject to Mortality, very often young Merchant are obliged to officiate, and have a salary of Rs 50 per annum, added to what the Company allows them, for their pains in reading prayers and Sermons on Sundays…..

…..The Company had a pretty good Hospital at Calcutta, where many go in to undergo the penance of physic, but few come out to give an account of its operation…..

…..On the North side of the River are Docks made for repairing and filling their Ships bottoms, and a pretty good Garden belonging to the Armenians….

…..Most Gentlemen and Ladies in Bengal live both splendidly and pleasantly, the forenoons being dedicated to business, and after Dinner to rest, and in the evening to recreate themselves in Chaises or Palanking in the Fields, or to Gardens or by Water in their Budgerces, which is a convenient boat, that goes swiftly with the force of oars. On the River there is sometimes the diversion of Fishing or Fowling, or both and before night they make friendly visits to each others houses…. The Garrison of Calcutta at Fort William generally consists of 2 or 300 soldiers….

In Calcutta all Religions are frssly tolerated, but the Presbyterian, and that they brow-beat…

….The Company’s Colony is limited by a land mark at Governpore, and another and another near Barnagul about six miles distant, and the Salt water lake bounds it on the land side. It may contain in all about 10 or 12000 souls…

Barnagul is the next Village on the River side above Calcutta, where the Dutch have a House and Garden; the town is famously infamous for a Seminary Destruction of unwarey Youths, who study more to gratify their brutal passions, than how to shun the evil Consequences that attend their Folly, notwithstanding the daily instances of rettenness and Kortality that happen to those who most frequent those Schools of Debauchery.

The Dutch Shipping anchors there sometimes to take in their cargoes for Batavia and those are all that are remarkable at Barnagul or Barnagur.

There are several other Villages on the river’s sides on the way to Hugli, which is 20 miles above Barnagur but none remarkable until we come to the Dance Factory which stands about 4 miles below Hugli, but the poverty of the Danes has made them desert it, after having robbed the Mogul’s subjects of some of their shipping to keep themselves from starving.

Almost opposite to the Danes Factory is the Place where the Ostend Company settled but in Anno 1723 they quarreled with the Governor at Hugli and he forced the Ostenders to quit their Factory is but, for want of money are not in a capacity to trade. They have a few private families dwelling near the Factory and a pretty little Church to her Mass in, which is the chief business of the French in Bengal.

About half a league farther up is Chinsurah where the Dutch Emporium stands; it is a large Factory, walled high with brick and the Factors have a great many good houses standing pleasantly on the River’s side, and all of them have pretty gardens.

Hugli is a Town of large extent but ill built. It reaches about 2 miles along the River’s side from Chinsura before mentioned to the Bandal, a Colony formerly settled by the Portuguese but the Moguls’ Fouzdar governs both at present.

This Town of Hugli drives a great trade, because all foreign goods are brought thither for import and all goods of the product of Bengal are brought hither for exportation. The Moguls’ Furza of Custom-house is at this place. It affords rich chargoes for 50 or 60 Ships yearly besides what is carried in small vessels.

Bandel at present, deals in no sort of commodities, but what are in request at the Court of Venus, and they have a Church, where the Owners of such goods and merchandise are to be met with, and the Buyer may be conducted to proper shops, where the commodities may be seen and felt.” He discreetly ends his narrative of his Hooghly River visit at this point.

During the month of May, 1739, there was a severe Cyclonic storm in the bay of Bengal, which caused tremendous damage to shipping, and as usual the Sloops suffered too, and three Pilots were lost with the Ships they were in at sea; this storm is recounted in the Chapter on “Cyclonic Storms”.

It left the Pilots Service once again of Sloops and Pilots so the following entry appears in the Consultation Books 15th April, 17140.

“The number of our pylots being greatly decreased by Death and by those who were on board the three Ships missing after the Storms in May last. Ordered that the Master Attendant to lay before the Board a List of the Masters, Mates and others in the Sloop Service with an account of their qualifications, capacity and behavior therein in Order for us from thence to make some pylots to fill up the vacancy occasioned as above.”

Then on Monday 26th May, 1740, the following entry appears:-

“The List of Pylots, Masters, Mates, Boatswains and Seamen in the Honourable Company’s Sloops Service having lain under our consideration for some time Also an examination of them by the Master Attended with Jenathan Ranson and William Kilman Pylots and having made a further strict enquirey into their Characters as to diligence and Sobriety.

Ordered that the following promotions be made. And for the better encouragement of those who shall hereafter behave with sobriety and Care in their stations and in order to discover and bring to punishment such as do otherwise.

Ordered that the Secretary do by letter acquaint all the Super Cargoes and Commanders of the English Shipping that it is the pleasure of the Board they should not fail to Give Certificates of the skill Conduct and Behaviour of the Persons who shall in future Pilot their ships either in or out f this River.


Mates to be made Masters.

John Strange.

Samuel Shirley.

John Afton.

John Bernand.

Anthony Phillips.

John Hobbs.

Boatswains to be made Mates.

John Robinson.

Fabian Stone.

James Pointer.

Clear Brear.

Thomas Allison.

Anthony Rooker.

Seamen to be made Boatswains.

Joseph Cummins.

Patrick Lockington.

John Pennity.

Jacob D. Freize.

Mathew Christopher.

Clois Gomez.

At the same time as these promotions were made two new sloops of 90 tons Burthen were ordered from Bombay (See Chapter on Pilot Vessels.)


In 1742 the Marathas invaded the Carnatic and it was feared in Calcutta that they might move in their direction also.

(1) The first defensive action taken was on the River when it was “Ordered that the Master Attendant do take with him two of the Hon’ble Companys Sloops with such of the Pilots, Masters and others in the River Service as may be necessary and with them proceed up the River as high as Chandnagore, sounding all the way and making proper remarks of the channels, sands shoals & in case it should be necessary to send armed vessels up later to oppose the enemy.”

(1) Old Fort William in Bengal. Indian Record Series 1906.

Then on the Thursday 22nd April, 1742, he was “Ordered to immediately get all the Sloops in readiness for Service. That he do see that all of them have their full compliment of men and that he do put a sufficient quantity of Arms and Ammunition on board of each.”

Thursday July 1st, 1742.

“Ordered that the “Calcutta” Sloop be manned and armed and that Mr. Alexander Wood, Pylot, do repair on board said Sloop and carry her up to Perrins Gardens off which place he is to lay to prevent any party of the Morattoes from crossing the River thereabouts and to give us the most timely notice should such an attempt be made.”

(Note. Perrins Garden was situated at the Northern extremity of Calcutta. It belonged originally to Capt. Charles Perrin, who was in Calcutta in 1703-07. R. K. H. B.)

While precautions were being taken on the River, there was no look of activity ashore for (1) “In the year 1742, the Indian inhabitants of the Colony requested and obtained permission to dog a Ditch at their own expense round the Company’s bounds from the Northern part of Soot a nutty, to the Southern part of Govindpore.

This work would extend seven moles, whilst the force to defend it did not exceed 300 Europeans and 500 Indians. In six months, three miles of this fortification were finished: when the habitants, seeing that no Morrattoes (Mahrattas) had over been on the Western side of the River within 60 miles of Calcutta, and that Allaverdy (Aliverdi Khan, Nawab of Bengal 1742) exerted himself vigorously to prevent their incursion into the Island of Cossimbazar, discontinued the work, which from the occasion was called the Moratto Ditch.”

( It is interesting to note that from the date of completion of the Mahratta Ditch all Europeans coming to Calcutta were known for their first two years as “Griffins” meaning Greenhorns or if you will Undebauched, and when they entered their third year of residence they

(1) Orme Collection O.V. Vol.LXV1 p.82.

Charter to the Company.”

A few months later the French sloop “L’Becqueel” manned by 27 Europeans captured the Pilot Vessels “Kitty” and “Fort St. George”. Our Pilots not realizing she was French allowed her to draw near when within range she fired a broad side into the “Kitty”; boarded her, and (1) “after securing our arms and us they directly gave chase to Mr. Aston in the Honb’le Company’s Sloop “Fort St. George”. Mr. Aston ran for the Braces closely pursued by the French. In the course of the chase they manned their small boat and tried to board the “Fort St. George” but were beaten off by fire from swivel guns and small arms. Finally she was driven into shoal water close to the breakers on the inner edge of the Eastern Brace and was compelled to surrender”. After a small action on August the 10th, in the vicinity of kedgeree the “Kitty”, “Fort St.George” and “L’Becqueel” were taken from the French by the Sloops “Belvidera”,”Experiment” and “Tryall”.


While Britian was engaged in a major war in which tied down the bulk of her naval forces, the French sent out their warships to Indian waters to support their land forces and attack our Merchant shipping. The result was that Madras fell to the French and the Honourable Company’s affairs were at a low ebb. In this situation the Mahrattas, then the most powerful military force in India, decided it was a suitable time to expand to the North Eastward; they attacked and captured Cuttack in Orissa and entered Bengal, and eventually reached the West bank of the Hooghly.

(2) May 13th, 1745.

“Having this day received certain advices of the Marrottoes taking the Fort at Cuttack under the command of Rogojee Goslah, (Raghoji Bhosal, the Maratha General, who became the first Raja of Nagpur in 1740.) and several small partys having entered this Province and robbed and burnt many villages and made some attempts near

(1) Ibid.

(2) Indian Records Series.

Became known as “Ditchers” as they lived within the perimeter of the “Ditch”, and as such they are still known today. While I was in Calcutta there were two first class Rugby fifteens known as the “Griffins” and the “Ditchers”. R.K.H.B.)


At a time when the Honourable Company’s affairs were a low ebb Destiny decreed that Robert Olive should arrive in India and his arrival od recorded in the Fort St. George Record Book as follows:-

Diary for the 31st May, 1744.

“About seven this evening Anchored in our Road the Hon’ble Ooys ship “Winchester”, Captain Gabriel Steward , from England, last from the Coast of Brasil.”

In the list of Covenanted Servants for that year we find the entry.

“Robert Olive, Time of Arrival 31st May, 1744. Station at Arrival, Writer. Salary at Arrival, Writer. Salary at Arrival, 25 per annum. Present Employment under the Secretary, Age19.On the 25th September, 1744, Olive drew the sum of Pagodas 3 fa 19 ca 53 the equivilent of £1.11.11, being his salary for three months and 25 days from the 1st June.”


Only one incident worth mentioning occurred on the River during this war.

In March, 1747, the President was informed that three French sloops were fitting out at Chandernagore with the intention, it was belived, of attacking our Sloops in Balasore Roads, ordered that twelve European soldiers and six pounders be put abroad each Sloop and that the Deputy Master Attendant in command of them should be given (1) “a Commission to act offensively and Defensively but not to act offensively on this side of the Braces as We think We have a legal Power to grant such a commission by the Kings most Gracious

(1) Diary and Consultations.

Chandernagore and Hugli, and a body of them having crossed this River at Kissnagore and Committed Hostilitys there.

We esteem it necessary to prevent any attempt on our Bounds to entertain 300 Buxerys extraordinary and 6 Ponsways to be kept on the River. (Buxerys and Ponsways were small native river craft.) Also that a lieutenant and 30 men be sent to Perrins Garden as a guard to that end of the Town, and to secure the Gunge (Riverside Bazar) at Govindpore that a party of a Sergeant and 20 men be placed at some Convenient Place thereabouts with the “Belvidera” Sloop to lay off the Gunge.”

A Letter was received by the Governor and council in Bengal last in 1748 from the Court of Directors in London and dated there the 16th October, 1747. This letter brought good news for it said that at last a strong Naval Squadron was on its way out, in fact as the letter came out with the Squadron, they knew it had arrived, an occasion for great rejoicing.

The Letter read, “ Upon our Strenuous Application His Majesty had been Graciously pleased to send a Strong Squadron of Men-of-war under the Command of the Honourable Rear-Admiral Boscawen with three Ships whereupon this letter is sent. (These were three of the Company’s vessels sailing under the protection of the Squadron).

In case Rear-Admiral Boscawen or the Commander-in-Chief of H.M.Forces should require your assistance in Attacking the enemy any where near you, we here by Order you to give it to him to the almost of Power, and to put under his Command what Military, Marine or other forces you can possibly procure or spare consistent with the safety of your Place.”

Admiral Boscawen arrived at Fort St. David ( Which was situated a Little south of Pondicherry) at the end of July 1748 with the strongest fleet which had ever been seen in the Indian seas and with about 1000 troops on board, this large force altered the entire situation in Britain’s favour.

A certain Company’s Military Captain named Fenwick sent in a Report on his views concerning the Defences of Calcutta, in which he was involved during 1747-48. It was as follows.

(1) “To return to my Remarks on what has fell out in a Military way, you will please to recollect, I was ordered by Governor Forster to seize upon the commander of the Morattoes encamped at Dean’s Town side of the River almost opposite Hooghly point, South of the Rupnarain) was I to drop upon him with my detachment in a cloud…..

In the second year of the Morattoes ‘entering Bengal Allyverdy Cawn our Nabob sent a public Compliment to Governor Bradyll, with a Suropaw ( or Rich Habit) warning him to be upon his guard against the Morattoes, and requesting that he would prevent their crossing the River, as much as in our power; the Governor did me the Honour to appoint me to Command the detachment on this public Occasion when he went to receive the Surpaw, which is always out of the Fort and as soon as the Ceremony was over, I was Ordered with a party on board a Sloop to Cruise upon the River, to watch the Morattoes motions and prevent their crossing, agreeable to the Nabobs Advice and Request….

(He proposes to the Governor to build a large redoubt upon the Point of the Ganges near Deans Town on the opposite side of the River. R.K.H.B.)

I Further put the Governor in mind of an Hospital on that spot which stands high….. As the Hospital would be a Receptacle for our sick soldiers, so it lies convenient for the Ships anchoring either at Culpee or Ingelee to send their sick men to. I further added to make it a place for stores, anchors, cables, and topmasts, be readily assisted with any of these necessities; or if she run a ground, which latter is frequent, and to which end 20 Lascars should be kept there with Proper boats, to be ready upon any emergency; and all such Right the Company might have to any Salvage, Would come in,

(1) Extracts from letter No. 5 from Capt. Fenwick on the Company’s affairs 1747-48. Orme collection, India V1. and they should dispose of their own anchors, cables &ce”…..

(Was this I wonder the origin of the name Hospital Point on the East side of Kukurhatti Crossing, North of Diamond Harbour? R.K.H.B.).

Other precautions were taken to prevent them raiding Calcutta but this is only one instance mentioned in Records of where they did any damage on the River.

On April the 20th, 1751, Mr. Viccary Pilot of the Sloop “Fort St. George” was anchored near the Broken Ground buoy bound for Balasore Roads when, owing to bad weather the cable parted unknown to the Watch and the vessel went ashore on the sands three miles below Ingellie Point.

When the tide ebbed Mr. Viccary put all the stored ashore as he expectef the vessel to become a wreck at the next high water and

(1) “Whilst they were there in this Situation a party of Morattoes Horse surprised them when they happened to be dispersed and plundered their Tent of all the Arms cut the Sails all to pieces went in board the Sloops as she was then dry and Plundered or spoiled what ever came to their hands dangerously wounded one of the Europeans on the Arm and carried the Boatswain off to their Camp which was about 4 or 5 miles off but afterwards sent him back again.”


8TH January, 1752.

(2) “We direct that when any of the Company’s Sloops attend on the Country ships or take on board Money or Effects belonging to them that each Country ship pay Rs.100 to the Company for such attendance and Service but the said Sloops are on no account to leave their Stations when they are ordered to wait for the Company’s Ships.

(1) Bengal Public Consultations.

(2) Bengal Letter Book.. Vol. 28.

That all the craft used in bringing up or carrying down goods for the Europe Ships to take the Draught of water, Number of Men, Guns, ammunition and Stores and Certify the Condition the Ships are in for the Homeward bound voyage.”

(1) Letter to the Hon. Roger Drake Governor & ce. Fort Wiliams. 25th March, 1754.

“ I am sorry to inform your Honour &ce. That upon a farther examination of the Hon. Coy’s Sloops on their being Held ashore. Find the White Ants to be got into the “Grampus” “Bonetta” and “Mermaid” almost as much as in the “Hawk” Which Sloop I reported to your Honour some time ago and had your permit for sinking her in order to destroy them which is now doing and I hope will have the desired effect.”…. Samuel Lutton. Master Attendant.

(2) “On Friday 23rd August, 1754, at half past Seven in the Evening an account was brought to me that the “Hawk” Sloop had taken fire on which I immediately went on board and having got all possible assistance I could at that time of night we used our almost endeavours to Extinguish it but the fire had got to such a head that all our efforts were in vain finding which got a hawser from the Bakkshall having fastened it to her hauled her ashore to prevent her driving foul of the other shipping as to be able to save her Iron work, Knetledge &ce. On board her where she continued burning very fiercely till almost to the waters edge since which I have made as strict as enquiry as I could how the accident happened but cannot come at any certainly only am I informed by the syrang and Lascars that were on board that one of the Europeans had sometime before carried his tea Kettle down below just after taking it off the Fire

(1) Bengal Letter Book. Vol. 29.


and that a Coal of Fire might have stuck to it……

Samuel Lutton.


In March, 1754, the Directors intimated that the King had ordered a Naval Squadron of six ships under Admiral Charles Watson, together with Colonel John Adlercrons’ Regiment of foot, and a detachment of Royal Artillery under Capt-lieut William Hislop to proceed to the East Indies for the protection of the Company’s possessions.

Two of the ships, the “Eagle” 60 guns, Capt. George Pocock, and “Bristol” 50 guns Capt. Thomas Latham were damaged by a storm at the outset, and were sent to Plymouth to refit.

Admiral Watson sailed with the “Kent” 64 guns, Capt. Henry Speke, “Salisbury” 50 guns, Capt. Thomas Knowle, “Bridgwater” 24 guns, Capt. William Martin and the sloop “Kingfisher”.

Pocock, who had in the meantime been promoted, hoisted his flag in the “Cumberlan” 56 guns, Capt. Harrison, and with the “Tiger” 60 guns, Capt. Latham, followed later as second-in-Command.

In September, 1754, Admiral Watson reached Fort St. David, where Adlercrons’ Regiment disembarked; these where the first of the Crown Troops to land in India.

The Squadron could not have arrived at a more opportune moment, for the whole Province of Bengal was in a state of unrest and insecurity created by the Marataha invasions and economic pressures, and local feude, which had to a certain extent been kept quite during the Govenorship of Ali Wardi Khan, on his death in April 1756 flared up again and his grandson Siraj-ud-daula, who succeeded him, turned to war against the English.

Meanwhile the French, motivated by their defeats in the previous war, were taking active steps to drive the British out of India in 1756.

Dupleix’s intention, when he was appointed Govenor General of the French possessions in India, was to drive the English out of the country, but in the war of the Austrian Succession and in the “Seven Years’ War” which followed in 1756, not only did the English strengthen their position in India but forced the French to abandon hope of founding a Colonial Empire.

During the “Seven Years War” several minor engagements were fought on the River and Admiral Watson and Colonel Clive recaptured Calcutta from the Indians and took Chandernagore from the French.

The main event, the fall of Calcutta, its recapture, and Clive’s victory at Plassey are so well known that here we will only deal with those which are directly connected with the Hooghly river, and which concerned the Bengal Pilot Service.


The first Company’s post to fall was the factory at Cassimbazar on the 4th June, 1756, then the whole of the massive forces of the Nobob marched unmolested on Calcutta.

Fort William had been completed in 1716 and due to neglect was in no position to withstand heavy battering, and in addition the garrison was very small, consisting of about 270 men, assisted by about 250 armed civilians, only 200 of them being European, the India levies did not exceed 1500, so from the beginning no real defence was possible.

The English had gone to India purely for trade and the Company’s soldiers until this date were mainly for local police and guard duties. Unfortunately, due to a weak Govenor at the time, the defence was not properly organized, and no plans were made for an orderly evacuation of civilians and a subsequent rearguard action.

A mass, uncontrolled, exodus took place during the first night of the assult, which was led by the Govenor and Commander of the Garrison. A Mr. Holwell, a junior member of the Council, rallied about 200 men and courageously defended the Fort for a further 24 hours, when he was compelled to surrender, which was on the 20th June, 1756.

At the outset the marine Service was operating normally and a Pilot Sloop was stationed in the River off the entrance to the Mahratta Ditch as an outposts. On the 16th June the following dispatch was received by the Council from the Military officer in charge of the defence party.

(1) “Advice from Ensign Paccard the 16th in the afternoon that the enemy were bringing up heavy cannon it play upon the redout and the Pilot Sloop that lay before it for the defence of the Ditch. They had six pieces of cannon playing on the redout and Sloop. Four Europeans had been killed on the repulse the Enemy.”

At the time of the hasty evacuation there were 30 vessels in the Port and the Mariners in the town were allotted to them.

The only Company’s Ship in Port appeared to be the “Prince George” which it was intended to use as a rearguard. She was lying at Baagbazar, but could not be got down lower than Mr. Watt’s house and was useless…. the position where she stuck was 1500 feet above the Crane Wharf or centre of Fort William

The refugees from Fort William fled ion their motley armada to Fulta, 28 miles below Calcutta. There they lives partly ashore and partly afloat, almost destitute, short of clothing, food, ammunition, medical supplies and other daily necessities. Living with them aboard the Company’s yacht was the Gorernor Drake.

(1) Old Fort William in Bengal. Vol.2.


When Suraj and Daula attacked Calcutta the seamen were ordered aboard their ships. To their lasting shame only Captain Nicholson of the Schooner “Hunter” made any effort to rescue the people left in the Fort after Drake, the Governor, deserted it. Nicholson’s attempt failed because his crew refused duty.

Many books contain accounts of what occurred subsequently but a source of information which I believe has not been used before is the Logs of Ships. The following summarized extracts are taken from the Log of the East India Ship “Delawar”, 425 tons, Captain Thomas Winter, and covers the time the refugees spent at Fulta.

(1) August 4th, 1756….”got up to the shipping in Fulta and moored… Sailed hence the “Bombay” Frigate. Found riding here the “Fort William”, “Dodaly” and sundry other country boats, ships and vessels but the late Inhabitants of Calcutta were greatly distressed and almost destitute of clothing.

August 6th….. the Natives have not yet attempted to molest us here.

August 7th. As the troops in general begin to grow sickly and from the number of our own People being in that Condition a survey was ordered, to be made by Major Kilpatrick and the late Governor &ce. pf Calcutta by the Commanders and principal Officers of the Shipping on the Sloops lying there to see if any could be made to serve as Hospitals but none was thought proper for that Purpose.

Employed in clearing as much as possible between Decks for the Benefit of Air. Carpenter employed in making Flagg Staffs for the “Fort William” on board which Ship Roger Drake Esqr. and family resides.

August 9th…… In the morning the late Governor and Council of Calcutta came on Board sent the 3rd Mate with 10 hands on

(1) Ships Logs 323. C.

Board the “Mermaid” Sloop to proceed to Culpee in order to buy Provisions…

August 10th….. the 3rd mate and People returned in Sloop from Culpee having procured 8 Bullocks only.

Augusts 14th……. Came on Board the Dutch Fiscal from Chintsers. (Chinsura) A Detachment of 70 Soldiers under the Command of Captain Campbell were in the Afternoon sent ashore to forage but the Assurances of being supplied at present from the Dutch Fiscal they were ordered on Board their respective ships again.

August 21st…. came up a Prussian Pinnace who left their Ship on Shore on the Barrabulla Sand and ‘tis believed cannot be gotten off…… This Day the late Governor of Calcutta and some other Gentlemen dined on Board and were saluted as usual.

August 26th……arrives here the Fleet from Dacca with the Chief Mr. Beecher the other Gentlemen and People….

September 12th….(Died) on board other Vessels Lieutenant Bogar of the Military and Mr. Walket long since returned from being Prisoner to the Moors…. (During the 17th & 18th Centuries the Mohammedians in India were always reforred to as Moors. R.K.H.B.)

September 14th….Our Seamen and Soldiers both very sickly and unhappy Circumstance especially in a Enemy’s Country and but few of us in the whole admit we were well.

September 23rd….The Governor and Councill having at last fixed on the “Success” Gally for an Hospital Ship the most of the sick soldiers were sent from the shore on board her.

October 23rd. News of the arrival of the Sloop “King Fisher” at Kedgeree to be followed by a squadron under Admirals Watson and Pocock and a large number of Land forces under colonel Clive “to our great joy and satisfaction.

September 24th…..This morning a Flagg Staff was erected on shore and the British Flagg hoisted which we saluted with 9 Guns it is situated without the Dutch Bounds….

November 18th…..P.M. an Alarm was made on shore it being reported that a largebody of Moors was very near to Fulta Cleared ship &ce. but the Cause of this Alarm was entirely groundless.

December 12th….Anchored here the Honourable Company’s Ship “Protector”.

December 14th, 1756…H.M.S. “Kent” and “Walpole” Indiaman arrived.

January 7th, 1757. Proceeded to Calcutta.’


As already stated, while the British were involved in the above troubles, the Seven Years War also in progress and the first action in Indian waters took place on the 15th July, 1756 when a French Privateer captured the Pilot Sloop “Bermudas” in Balasore Roads.

She was in charge of her Mate, Mr. Spencer Pearson, when two ships were sighted to the Southward flying English Colours so he sailed towards them. As the got abreast of the nearest vessel her English Colours were hauled down and French substituted and a gun was (1) “fired from her larboard side loaded with round shot which did no execution but Immediately after it fired Seven together with Grape Shot from the same side which cutt their rigging but did no other damage that ther upon they endeavoured to get away from them but the Ship haling up her Main Sail bore down after them and Sailed much better than the Sloop came up with them and give them their Starboard broadside which also cutt their rigging that finding no Possibility of getting from them they were obliged to Strike to them and Laying them a Long side with the Sloop that she is a Ship about 200 tons

(1) Diary and Consultations.

built in the Country mounting Bixteen Carridge Guns maned with 30 Europeans besides Lascars that when he came on Board them found them all Cowragiously Drunk and they had 10 Europeans in the Sloop believes they might have taken the Ship.”

From now on to the end of the Section concerning the Seven Years War all actions in both confliots are taken in the order in which they take place as both conflicts were waged simultaneously.


The news of the loss of Calcutta reached Madras on the 16th August, 1756. At that time the British forces in Madras were preparing to attack the French in the Deccan, but the Governor and Council in Fort Sts, George decided to postpone that operation and send a strong force to the Hooghly to recapture Calcutta instead, considering the general situation at the time this was a most courageous decision.

The relief expedition sailed from Madras on the 16th of October with Admiral Watson in Command of the fleet and Colonel Clive in Command of the military.

The following extracts from the Logs of Admiral Watson’s Squadron were copied in 1885by the late R.F. Barlow, Branch Pilot, Bengal Pilot Service, the discoverer and co-Editor with Col.Yule of Hedges Diary.

He states that the Long are “preserved re-bound, in thick folios at Deptford – but several are missing. Forinstance the “Cumberlands” could not be found, and though the folio of the ‘salisbury” contained her doings apparently from January 1753 to December 1762 – the between February 1756 and March 1758 could not be discovered and had never in fact been bound in the volume. The “Bridgewaters” Log could not be found, except between 1741 and 1748. However the Logs of the “kent’, the “Tyger” and of the “Kingfisher” gave an insight into the details of the Actions.’

After the destruction of Geriah (Apirates lair on the West Coast) on February 13th, 1756, the fleet was overhauled at Bombay. It left there on April 27th, and anchored at Fort St. David on May 14th. From there it proceeded to Madras where it remained from July 21st to October 15th.

On December 3rd it arrived off Point Palmyras and on the same day the “Kent” weathered the reef but the “Tyger” drawing 19 ft.8 ins. aft and a little to leeward with a N.E.wind shoaled from 16 fathoms t0 6 and anchored all standing. (1) “had only 4½ fathoms at low water, laid out an Anchor to Windward. Sick 136 seamen and 24 soldiers.”

The “Kent”, Admiral Watson’s Flag Ship, meanwhile got up to Balasore and obtained two Pilots, one of whom was Mr. Alexander Scott, who piloted her the whole way up river. The “Kent” had to wait for the Spring tides so that the “Tyger” rejoined her, after a second narrow escape, for her Pilot anchored her in such little water that (2) “We struck several times in the swell being 3¾ fathoms at low water, but escaped as the flood rose.”

The overall picture of the position was that the “Kent” arrived at Fulta on December 14th, and the “Tyger” on the 16th. The “Cumberland” struck on Palmyras Reef and put back to Vizagapatam. By December 26th the following Ships were assembled at Fulta. H.M. Ships “Kent”, “Tyger”, Salisbury”, “Bridgewater” and “Kingfisher”. The Hon. Comp Cruisers “Protector” and “Delaware” and “Walpole’ Indiaman.

On December 28th 3 men of the “Kent” were punished with 12 lashes each for Mutiny, desertion, and neglect of duty, and a fourth “ran the Gauntlet for theft.”

(1) & (2) Log of the “Tyger”.

December 29th, 1756. The “Kingfisher”, “Kent”, “Tyger” “Salisbury” and “Bridgewater” preceded by six pilot Sloops moved up to Moyapore. Here Colonel Clive and the Company’s troops landed and marched up to Budge Hudge dragging two of the “Kents” guns with them. The “Kents” Log describes what followed.

December 30th. “6 A.M. weighed and came to sail for Burzea Bugee, at ½ pasts 7 the enemy fired at the “Tyger”, at 6.3 disembarked the King’s troops to join Colonel Clive who appeared on the bank of the River to the Westward of the Fort. 9.25 the King’s troops took possession of a battery from which the enemy had withdrawn their cannon. 8.45 P.M Capt. Bridge came on board with an account of our being in possession of the Fort. Received back our two guns from Colonel Clive.’

The Log of the “Tyger” (Captain Latham) has the following entries of her share in the Budge Budge incident.

December 25th. Punished 2 men with 6 lashes each for leaving their boat ashore.

28th. “A Pilot and an assistant Pilot came on board.

29th. “Unmoored. Weighed and moved up the River in company. Backed and filled to Williamourg.” (Colobaria or now Ulubaria)

30th. “Engaged Bougia Bougia Fort.”

31st. “Demolished it and drooped up the River.”

“Amount of ammunition expended in the attack. Round shot of 24 lbs. 283. Round shot of 6 lbs. 542. Half pounders 264. Grape shot of 24 lbs. 57. Grape shot of 12 lbs. 97. Grape shot of 6 lbs. 101. Power 52 barrels.”

January 1st, 1757. “Passed Sangrallor (sankrall) Reach and anchored off Tanna Fort, found it abandoned, dismounted 30 cannon, sent the sick on board the Pilot Sloops, proceeded up to Calcutta and at 10 A.M. after a slight engagement English Colours were hoisted at the Fort.”

(1) Admiral Watson in a dispatch dates H.M.S. “Kent”, Calcutta, January 31st, 1757 reported that Budge Budge fort was well sited but insufficiently armed. The British lost one Captain, one Ensign, and eleven Privates killed and twenty four wounded.

Tannah Fort and the battery opposite contained forty guns. From Tannah he sent a party up River during the night to destroy some fire ships which the enemy intended releasing on the tide.

“The next morning (referring to January 1st, 1757) early, agreeable to the Colonel’s request, I landed the Company’s troops who immediately began their march to Calcutta. (The position where those troops were landed corresponds to the present Akra Tidal Semephore, opposite Munikhali ‘Point. Here the River takes a large sweep round Sankrall Bight to Panchpara Crossing and so into Garden Reach, Clive with his troops, had half the distance to march by land. R.K.H.B.)

The “Kent” and “Tyger” soon after weighed and proceeded up the River together with the twenty gun ship sloop, which last had directions when I should anchor off Calcutta, to pass me and the “Tyger” and anchor above, where they saw they could most annoy the enemy. As there was no necessity for more than two ships at Calcutta and the keeping Tanna Fort was of some consequence, I thought proper to leave the “Salisbury” there as a guard ship to provent the enemy from regaining it, and the battery opposite.

The “Tyger” being the leading ship, at forty minutes after nine o’clock the enemy began to fire upon her from their batteries below Calcutta, which they deserted as we approached. At twenty minutes past ten, the “Tyger” anchored abreast the Line of Guns at Calcutta, at half an hour after ten the “Kent” anchored and both ships made a very warm fire, insomuch that the enemy were soon drove from their guns and presently after ran out of the Fort.

Captain Coote of the king troops and an Officer from the “Kent” entered the Fort a little before eleven, but the flight of the enemy was so sudden that only two or three poor ignorant fellows ere taken. I garrisoned the place that day with the King’s troops

(1) Indian Record Series. Bengal in 1756-57. Ed. by S.C.Hill. Vol.11.

and appointed Captain Coote to take Command. The next day 1 delievered it up to the Company’s representatives with all the effects found within their bounds.

the Governor and Council now being in possession of their principal Settlement, determined for the violence they had received from the Nabob and his subjects, to declare war against him and to publish the same throughout the Country and wrote me a letter desiring I would do the same, in the name of His Majesty, which I accordingly did.”

What Fort William was captured four mortars and ninety one guns of different calibers. In the attack very little damage was done to the ships and there were a few men killed.

A footnote to the dispatch mentions that the casualties aboard the ships from the Floots arrival in the River to the destruction of Hugli Fort were nine seamen and three soldiers killed and twenty six seamen and five soldiers wounded.

Destruction of Hugli Fort. Admiral Watson sent an expedition under the Command of Captain Smith of the “Bridgewater” to destroy Hughly Fort. It was delayed for two days owing to the “Bridgewater” going ashore just above Calcutta.

The “Kingfishers” Log had the following brief entry of the event.

(1) January 11th, 1757. “Attacked, and took, and burned, Hughly Fort.”


In another dispatch from the “Kent” dated the 31st March, 1757 Admiral Watson reports that he sailed from Calcutta with the “kent” “Tyger” and “Salisbury” on March 15th, having previously sent the “Bridgewater” and “Kingfisher” up the River to protect the boats supplying Colonel Clive’s camp. On the 18th he anchored about two miles below Chandernagore as he found the channel barred by sunken vessels and two booms moored with chains. In the night the booms

(1) Bengal in 1756-57. S.C.Hill.Vol.2

were cut adrift and his Pilots found a passage between the sunken ships.

On the 23rd at six in the morning the “Tyger”, “Kent” and “Salisbury” in the order named weighed and sailed up to Fort Orleans. At seven the attack began and at nine fifteen the French surrendered.

With the Fort was captured 500 Europeans, 700 Indians, 183 cannons, three small mortars and a considerable quantity of ammunition.

The French had 40 men killed and 70 wounded. The “Kent” was so irreparably damaged that she was broken up later at Calcutta. Her casualties were 19 men killed and 49 wounded. The “Tygers” 13 killed and 50 wounded. The Salisbury” was not in action at all.

Admiral Pocock was wounded and Captain Speak of the “Kept” and his son were hit by the same cannon ball. The son eventually died and is buried in ST. Johns Churchyard, Calcutta, where his epitaph informs one that was 18 years of age and that he “lost his leg and his life” in the battle.


Fears must have been entertained after the Fleet had left Calcutta that an attempt would be made by the French Men-of-War to sail up the River, because in February 1758 a letter was sent to the President signed by the Master Attendant and several Pilots suggesting that the following measures should be taken to provent them from doing so.

(1) “That it is highly necessary the Buoy of the Fairway Broken Ground and Ingellee should be taken up also the Buoy of the South End of Burrabulla and lower do. of Cowcollea to be displaced the Large tree at Ingellee to be cutt down and the Pagoda to be blacked and one Sloop to lay at the Fairway and another at Ingellee the “Kent” (It seems she was not broken up immediately. R.K.H.B.) to be moored a little above Sermons Gardens (Here they are referring to

(1) Diary and Consultations.

Surnams Garden which was at Kidderpore near the mouth of Adiganga Creek at present known as Tollys Nullah, this point was the Southern extremity of the Settlement. Surnams Bridge corresponds to the present Kidderpore Bridge. R.K.H.B.) with the two Europe Ships and Sea Sloop laded with Stones and Mud in Readiness to Sink them if Required the Said Ships and Sloops to be Dismasted also a Chain Three Hundred Fathoms long to be prepared with Tarr and Pitch Barrells old Coire Cables and other Cobostables and a small Chain to secure them together also between Each Boat a Large Bundle of Dry Bamboes or raft of Do. to drive down on the Enemy In order to Set them on Fire and it is our humble Opinions that the above ought to be got in Readiness as soon as possible for in case of the Enemy Approaching it will be Impossible to get Workmen of any kind.”

Whether this recommendation was carried out or not is not recorded, but some modified scheme on these lines must have been adopted for the defence of the Port. What is recorded is the fact that from how onwards right through the Napoleonic ware there were several Pilot Sloops engaged on reconnaissance across the Head of the Bay of Bengal.


(1) “Colonel Clive informs the Select Committee that Admiral Pocock at his departure represented to him the necessity of having a dock in Bengal for the Reception of H.M.Ships in case the Squadron should winter here, and as he thinks the Expense of making such a Dock would be greatly overbalances by the Advantages resulting from having the Squadron refit at Bengal instead of Bombay, by which means they would have it in their Power to return much earlier to the Coast he hopes further the Committee will immediately order a Survey to be made of the Spot most proper to make a dock at and give

(1) Select Committee Consultation May 29th – June 5th, 1758.

Directions for its being begun and completed as soon as it possibly can be done. The Committee was in full agreement with this.”

“It was immediately ordered that Captain Brohier, the Mester and Deputy Master Attendant give us their opinion if a Dock can be expediously made, and the properest situation for such a Work and the Expense it would amount to”

On June 2nd, 1758, the Master Attendant gave his report the spot he chose was in the vicinity of Surnams Garden slightly above the present Kidderpore Dock. On June 5th orders were given by the Council for work to begin.


There was no knowing when Admiral Pocock might need to use and he obviously communicated with Colonel Clive on this matter and asking for local advice, a the following letter, written by the Pilots to Col. Clive shows.

“Agreeable to your Honours &ce. Orders signified to me by your Secretary the 10th inst. Have summoned the Deputy and Pilots now in Town in conjunction with myself and beg leave to acquaint your Honour &ce. Council that we look upon it there is no Risq of the Squadrons lying in Balasore Road any time in December and January.

We also give it our Opinion there is no Danger in going over the Braces with any ship that does not exceed 21 feet 9 inches at that time of the year.

But if Admiral Pocock should think the Risq too great in going over the Braces we can with greet safety carry the Squadron up the New Deeps to Ingellie by placing Sloops upon the Tail of the Western Sea Reef and so up the Channel at Proper Stations to the Fairway as Leading Marks and the only inconvenience attending this will be its taking up more time than in Standing over in the Proper Track. We are with the greatest Respect &ce. Alexander Scott. Peter Connor. Richard Dean. Archibald McLaughlin. Francis Snaker. John Cheworth.


Calcutta 11th September 1759.


The English and Dutch fought off Melancholy (Munikhali) Point in November, 1759. When the fleets met the Dutch Commander sent a letter of protest to the English Commander under a flag of truce in which he rote that the intention of the English was to hinder him from attaining his destination; that he thought himself within his rights to make what reprisals he could and that he had orders to prevent the three English East Indiamen from passing above the Dutch fleet.

The English Commander’s reply was that he was ordered to proceed to Calcutta with his ships and, should they be opposed, whoever, whoever were the aggressors “let them answer to God and their Country and to the consequences.”

The English ships in the action were the “Duke of Dorset” 499 tons, Captain Barnard Forrester. “Calcutta” n499 tons, Captain George Wilson and the “Hardwick” 499 tons, Captain John Samson. The following account of the action is from the log of the “Duke of Dorset”.

(1), “Monday 12th November, 1759. (at Kulpee)…. Orders came on board to prepare the ship for going up to Calcutta and that with the greatest Expedition on Apprehension the Dutch Intended to Commence Hostilities. Cleared the Gun Deck run out the Guns and loaded fore and aft…sailed hence the Honourable Company’s ship “Hardwick” up the River.

15th Nov. Anchored… just round Hughley Point. Saw the “Hardwick” and “Calcutta” at anchor at Fulta.

16th Nov… not being able to clear the Wilbrahm (Ulubaria) sand dropt the anchor to kedge off. Captain Forrester had advice from Mr. Scott Master Attendant who now has charge of the “Hardwick” that the Dutch had taken and plundered one of our pylot Sloops and the “Leopard” Snow and the “Clive” Sloop.

17th Nov. In the morning Weighed & Dropt up with the flood the Dutch ships weighed at the same time. AT noon the flood being spent

(1) Ship Logs 612. F & H

anchored again.. Capt. Forrester went on board the Commander where a Packett had just arrived for the Governor and Council with orders to make the best of our way to Calcutta &should the Dutch oppose our Passing & to that Purpose fire at us with Ball it is their positive orders to force our way sink, burn, or otherwise destroy them if in our Power all hands were called aft on board of each ship when the Captains acquainted the People the Encouragement the Honourable Company gave viz 2000 pounds to the People of each ship for Defending their Property and saving their ship the three Ships Companies are in great spirits we Understand ColClive has hoisted English Colours in Tanna Fort & that Garrison & one opposite to it is well supplied with men & ammunition being determined they shall not pass up without a strong Resistance…

18th Nov…Weighed & dropt up the River the Dutch Ships Weighed at the same time. At Noon anchored again the flood being done the Dutch Ships being now about 4 miles above us….

19th Nov. At 9 A.M. Mr. Scott Master Attendant came on board & relieved Mr. Sneager the Pylot who went on board the “Hardwick” at ½ pasts 9 weighed at the same time as the Dutch fleet and all dropt up with the flood at noon we had the pleasure to see two of the Dutch ships on shore and another a thwart one of their Hause.

At 1 P.M. anchored with the best bower the tide being done within a cable length of the Dutch fleet the Dutch ships that Tail on shore hove off again…

20th Nov…. this morning weighed & dropt up the River being all in high spirits & very ready for a stout Defence. AT 11 A. M. was in the center of the fleet our Commander & the “Hardwick” above the two sternmost Dutch ships at ½ past P. M. being through them all and the tide being almost spent Anchored off melancholy Point our Commander & the “Hardwick” Anchored abreast of the Dutch Commodore.

At 9 P. M. kedges with the Best Bower a little higher up as did the Commander & “Hardwick” & we are now all above the Dutch fleet and hope in God shall be able to keep our station.

21st Nov…. In the morning weight & dropt higher up as did the Dutch fleet. At 11 A. M. the “Hardwick” unfortunately Grounded on the sand of Sangrall by the timely assistance of the “Calcutta’s” Longboats with anchor and cable & a fine breeze springing up…she soon cleared & anchored in the Fairway Anchored about 1 P. M. as did the Dutch Fleet.

22nd Nov… In the evening weighed and dropt a little higher up & anchored again at 2 in the morning as did the Dutch fleet. In the morning we could plainly see the Dutch troops & Mallays marching with their cannon &filed pieces about two miles from the water edge the “Hardwick” being nearest them fired several guns at them…(There were seven Dutch ships in the fleet and they had transported to this positions no less than 700 European and 800 Malayan soldiers. R.K.H.B.)

23rd Nov…. Weighed in the morning & dropt up stern fore most up Tanas Reach. At Noon Anchored a little above Tannas Fort as did the “Calcutta” and “Hardwick”….. all the troops are in full march from Tannas to join Col. Fort he having got between the Party that Landed belonging to the Dutch & Chineery (Chisurah) Party.

Orders were received for our three Ships to fall down the River again & when near the Dutch fleet to demand with a Flag of Truce a Categorical answer to some Proposals…. IN the Evening Weighed & dropt down the River again as did the “Hardwick” and “Calcutta”… P.M. a Flag of Truce came from the Dutch Commodore begged to know the Reason for our falling down River again the answer was to this purport to demand restitution for sundry damages sustained by the English the answer returned by the Dutch Commander was that the Dutch would by no means submit to the proposal our Commodores orders were if they did not give satisfactory answer to fire into them accordingly every ship was prepared for engaging the “Duke of Dorset” to lead the Van the “Calcutta” in the center & “Hardwick” in the Rear. Capt. Chas. Mason of the late Horourable Companys Ship “Stretham” came on board & with him 10 of his People. Anchored at Night about three miles above the Dutch fleet.

24th Nov. In the meantime weighted according to signal & dropt down. At 9 we being very to the Headmost of the Dutch fleet which was the Commodore; Capt. Wilson hove out a union Jack at the Maintopmast head the signal for us to Engage.

Our Stern Chasers were the only Guns we could bring to bear. Notwithstanding the indifferent situation we were in to the enemy Instantly on the signal fired a General engagement ensued between our ships & the Dutch fleet but more closely with the Dutch Commodore… the whole Dutch fleet by help of springs on their Cables got their ships athwart the tide so brought their broadsides to bear on us being and on they racked us fore and aft those quartered all forward from the two after Guns plyed their small arms the second broadside they gave us Capt. Forrester was wounded.

Mr. Scoot Master Attendant cut the best bower cable and dropt the small Bower by which lucky circunstamance we brought our broadside to bear being now in the middle of their fleet we played on them as fast as we were able to Load & Fire as did the Dutch upon us which was pretty galling on both sides but with the most success on ours for after a smart fire of 2 hours with double round and Grape shot the Dutch Commodore struck his broad Pendant and hoisted a Flag of Truce at their Mizen Peak when we ceased fireing at him but continued engaging the other Ships which on 10 minutes close fire all struck.

Proper Officers were sent on board to secure their magazines spike their cannon, & divide their Prisons on board our three ships two of them were near the shore but by the order & timely assistance of Mr. Scott they were hauled off that flood into the Stream the killed and wounded on board of us is very inconsiderable to that of the enemy.

Captain Forrester was wounded in the knee by a grape shot in the steerage the second broadside when Bravely animating his People to load Brisk and take good aim 6 men more received wounds but not dangerous our ship appears like a wreck…the Crew behaved with great Bravery &n Resolution little or no Damage was received by the other English ships they being bearly within Gun shot.

N.B. the surgeons of the other ships were sent for to assist in dressing Capt. Forrester’s wounds.

25th Nov…. sent on hundred Prisoners to Calcutta… the Commander-in-Chief of the Dutch fleet Monsieur sydland is gone to Calcutta on Parole.

27th Nov… Capt. Forrester had but an Indifferent night. In the morning he was much better the surgeons of the fleet assembled & were so happy to extract the Ball. It proved to be Grape shot weighing about 4 or 5 ounces.

Mr. Thompson senior Master Attendant came on board to take charge of our ships as Pylot.

Saturday 2nd February, 1760…. this morning the most aminent surgeons & Physitions of Calcutta assembled at Capt. Forrester’s House they acquainted him the necessity there was of taking off his leg other sinues having appeared Representing the Danger that might ensue in a few days he gave his consent when Doctor Tennant performed the amputation with great applause from the faculty present. Capt. Forrester bore the pain with surprising resolution.

In the Evening he was as well as a Person in his Melancholy situation could be.

(He died on the 2nd March, 1760.)


(1) Although Calcutta had been recaptured and the Moghuls forces under the Nobob of Bengal, Behar and Orissa had been defeated and completely routed at Plassey, and the French power in Bengal destroyed by the capture Chandernagore, the situation still continued to be critical.

(1) Calcutta Light Gorse. (History of)

Published by Gale & Polden Ltd., Aldershot 1957.

The French were besieging Madras fiercely while to the Northward, a powerful French force held Important town of Masulipatam and the surrounding country. To relive pressure in the Madras area, Clive sent the greater part of his available force (which it will be remembered, originally came from the British forces in Madras) to the Northern Circars, with his best officer, Major Francis Forde, who had recently entered the Company’s service from the King’s Army. Forde defeated the French at Condore, and then performed the remarkable feat of taking Masulipatam by storm although the garrison was considerably larger than his own force.

When it became known that the Dutch, with seven ships carrying 700 European and 800 Malayan soldiers, had arrived in the Hooghly, Clive sent his few remaining troops, less than 300 of the Bengal European Regiment, who were joined by a small body of volunteers and a sepoy battalion, to meet this threat, leaving Calcutta to be held by the Milita.

The Milita had, after the recapture of Calcutta, been reorganized and placed under Mr. Holwell, an officer in the previous Militia who was among the few survivors of the Black Hole.

(1) The Volunteers who accompanied the force sent by Clive included a small mounted troop, probably less than fifty in number. These known as the Calcutta volunteer Cavalry, were the first Volunteer mounted men in the British connection with India, and it is from this Troop that the Calcutta Light Horse claimed decent.

Forde had providently returned from the Carnatic and, though in very poor health, took command of the striking force. With him were some troops of the Nawab who, after conniving at the arrival of the Dutch, joined Clive, at least nominally, in opposing them. These troops were of little value, although they included 150 cavalry.

(1) (For 14 years I had the honour to be a Trooper in the Calcutta Light Horse, as were several other Pilots, this in addition to our Pilotage Dutch which came firsts.

I was in No. 1 Troop, Horsed Squadron. R.K.H. Brice.)

Clive, action with his usual enery, sent the three English ships then in the River to attack the seven Dutch ships, and authorized Forde to fight the Dutch though Holland was at peace with England. Fortunately, the Dutch committed the first hostilities, seizing an English ship (Pilot Sloop) and destroying the Company’s property.

Forde, with equal promptitude, intercepted the second Dutch force, consisting of 120 Furopeans and 300 Sepoys, with four guns, which the authorities at Chinsurah, the Dutch settlement, had dispatched to join the invading troops. Here again the Dutch began hostilities by attacking Forde’s men, who reuted them, took their guns, and chased them aback to Chinsurah.

Forde then heard that the newly landed Dutch were advancing, and obtaining Clive’s consent to fight them immediately, met them in a prepared position. He had only 240 European infantry, with 80 artillerymen, 800 Sepoys, and his small force of Volunteers, of whom probably more than were mounted.

The Dutch had by then landed 700 Europeans and 800 Malayans, with a considerable number of Sepoys, newly enlisted by the Dutch in India. They had, neither guins nor cavalry, (This conflicts with the statement in the “Duke of Dorset’s” Log entry for November 22nd, which stated that they could plainly see the marching troops with their cannon and filed pieces. Perhaps they began by dragging some borrowed artillery from the ships which they abandoned later, due to the heavy going through jungle. R.K.H.B.) and, advancing across an open plain under the fire of the English guns and small arms, were finally halted by an unexpected ravine, in front of the English position. Their discomfiture was completed by a charge of the Volunteer Cavalry. Terrified by the sight of the dashing horsemen, the Dutch broke and fled, and practically the whole force was destroyed – killed, wounded or taken prisoner. The 15o cavalrymen of the Nawab took no part in the action, but joined in cutting down the flying men who had thrown away their arms. The charge of the Volunteer Cavalry on the 25th November, 1759, was certainly a glorious beginning for the history of the Mounted Volunteers of India.

Described by Clive in his dispatches as “short bloody and decisive,” the action lasted no more than half an hour. Kleek de Reuss, in his ‘De Expeditie naar Bengal’, secks to excuse the ineffective showing of the Malay troops by stating that they were “armed with the old plug-bayonets which had been disused in Europe for some sixty years,” The truth would appear to be that Clive obtained complete tactical surprise by finding cavalry at short notice.

As events proved, this single engagement at Bederrah, broke the invasion and destroyed for all time Dutch hopes of succeeding France as Britain’s rival in India.

Note. Colonel Forde was lost at sea off the cape in December, 1769, when the ship he was in disappeared, and was never heard of again.


From the earliest days of the Company’s inception it was only concerned with trade, and all the Members were Merchants; these even included Factors, later Agents, Presidents of Councils, and the First Company’s Governors.

Not only did they carry out their Company’s business but were, within limits, allowed to trade in their own right to augment their incomes.

In 1675 the Board of Directors in London reorganized their overseas staff and their pay. Apprentices were to receive, during their seven year apprenticeship, £5 per annum for the first five years and £10 per annum for the last two. They were then promoted to Writers and after a year’s service in the higher grade were promoted to Factors on £20 per annum.

The next grade was that of Merchant commanding a salary of £40, rising to Senior Merchant at £50 per annum. The Governor and two Senior Members of Council, who headed the local Directors Board enjoyed special emoluments of £300, £100 and £70 respectively, but in the case of the first, only £200 was salary, the remainder being gratuity. These rates prevailed for many years with little modification.

By 1760, as a result of Clive’s victories and expanding trade, the Company found itself for the first time officially administering Indian Territory which had been thrust upon them against their will. Hence, by force of circumstances, they were compelled to appoint Administrators, who, at the beginning, still relied on trade for their living, but in about 1770, for the first time the Company appointed to their expanding empire, Collectors, Magistrates, Government Secretary, and even Judges who were paid a fixed salary, making them quite independent of Trade. It can therefore be assumed that the Civil Service as we know it began then, some 100 years after the Pilot Service. The Pilot Service has always claimed to be the oldest ‘Service’ in India.


At a Consultation held at Fort William on January 12th, 1763: Peter Amyatt Esq., President, informed the Board (1)… “that the Chowky Boat arrived at Town last night at 12 o’clock with William Mirtle on Board late Mate of the “Speedwell” Snow, Captain Ramsay, who brings the following intelligence Namely, that they were taken on the 7th Instant in 25 fathoms of water by a French Squadron consisting of two Ships & Frigate which is cruising in Balasore & has made besides the following Prizes Vizt. The “Walpole”, bound to Madras, the “Grampus” Pilot Sloop, Mr. Savage Pilot, & a Sloop from Chittagong supposed to be the “Clive”. That he (Mirtle) on the morning of the 9th repossessed himself of the “Speedwell” & was pushing in for the River, but finding he was in danger of being again taken by the French Frigate he took to his Boat with ten Lascars and made his escape.”

(1) Bengal Public Consultations.

In the debate which followed it was decided that the East Indiamen “Clinton”, “Harding”, and “Drake” should remain at Kedgeree as they might be delayed I they were sailed up to Kulpee, but that Pilots should be sent aboard of them with instructions to sail up he River if the Enemy attacked, and that twenty sepoys should be detailed to each Ship as a further safeguard.

It was also decided to send a Sloop to cruise off Pt. Palmyras to warn in warn bound ships, and that Captain Wedderburn in another sloop well armed and manned should (1)…”watch the Motions of the French Squadron & annoy any Boats or Sloops they may send into the River that if he should see the Capital Ships they or any Part of them making towards the River, to return & give Notice thereof to the Ships at Kedgeree & to keep an open Communication on with the Commanders of them for giving and receiving and receiving Intelligence.

That if he should have occasion to perform the last mentioned Service, to lift the buoys at Cockerley in his way, and take any other steps which may occur to him to deceive and obstruct the Enemy in their Passage up.”

On January 20th, 1763 the Board was informed by Capt. Nathaniel Smoth at kedgeree that the French frigate and Sloop had been in Balasore Roads three days before and had captured three Burrs loaded with rice. He thought the distress the French were in for want of food would induce their Commanders to risk sailing their ships up to Ingelee and he asked for permission in that event to attack them, as he considered his ship, with the assistance of men from the other vessels, a match for the “Fidele”.

The only event of importance during the French Squadron’s visit to Balasore was a fight with the East Indiaman “Winchelsea” which escaped after an engagement lasting for two hours. Commenting on this engagement the Directors wrote

(2) “It is with real pleasure we have received from the President

(1) Ibid.

(2) From the Rev. J.Long’s Selections from Records of the Government of India 1748-1769.

(Courts letter, Dec.30th per.30)

and Council at Fort St. George an account of the gallant defence of Captain Thomas Howe of the “Winchelsea” in an engagement with two French Ships of War in January last off Hooghly River. His behaviour on this occasion having fully shown how worthy he is of the good opinion we have always entertained of him.”

The French Squadron had sailed by February 3rd, 1763, as the Captains of the East Indiamen were allowed to return to Calcutta. Before sailing Captain Palliere of the “Vengeur” and Captain Bellesme of the “Conde” sent ashore officers and men of the ships they had captured who were sick. With Captain Bellesme’s prisoners went the following courtecus letter to the President.

(1) “Sir, I embrace this Opportunity with pleasure to send you 29 Prisoners, Officers, Soldiers & Sailors being part of those who were upon the “Walpole” which ship we took off the Island of Ceylone, the Remainder are no board our Man of War the “Vengeur” & our Frigate “Fidelle”, I do not know if I shall join them again, therefore will not assure you if so favourable an Opportunity will offer again to Convey them to you. I wish it & if I can contribute any Assistance to their Liberty I will with the greatest pleasure. O made the Gentlemen Both the Officers in the Land & Sea Service sign an Obligation a Copy of which I send you. I hope also Sir that you will provide the same of Soldiers & Sailors as I send you, when an exchange shall happen. WE regarding them always as our Prisoners & sending them only to save them from almost certain Death the better half being very bad with the Scurvy. Accompanying I also send you an Account of those who have died since they have been on board this Ship.

I am with Respect


Your Most obedient & humble Servant

Gront De Bellesme.”

Ship “Conde”

At the Mouth of the Ganges the 20th January, 1763.

(1) Bengal Public Consultations.


To the Right Hon. Robert Lord Clive, President &ce, and Council:

The Lascars in our Marine Service are greatly injured from the bad behaviour of the Syrangs of which I have lately seen Instances, the wages they are allowed are as much or rather more than any private Merchant pays out of this Port but from the Villainy of the Syrangs and from bad Practice I find a few of the number on Board receive a small advance, other again short of their wages but the Major part not above half by which means they gett a set of Helpless Wretches unfit for Service and indeed are often Cooleys Picked up in the Streets and either forced or inticed a Board, by which they people taking the first opportunity of deserting and 1½ Sicca Rupees per month for their provisions for which there is only allowed them Coarse Dry Rice, without either Doll or Ghee as is costmary or any equivalient in their room (stead) These are real hardships and is the occasion of our Marine being worse served than any other vessels to prevent which I beg leave to recommend that the pay of the Merchant Service and allow them the same Provisions, by which means those who have no abodes will be sure of having provisions they labour under from the Syrangs and then have no excuse for absenting themselves from their Duty.

The amount Charge of their provisions will not exceed the difference of the Wages, between what is paid in the Merchant Service and what is now allowed by the Honourable Company and for which I make no doubt many Persons in the Settlement would Contract for, or probably less.

Page Keble

Fort William, Master Attendant.

16th June, 1766.

At this time 1765-66 there were 21 Pilot Vessels in the Service, of which 7 were over 13 years of age, and 4 over 10 years old, the remainder less. The minimum number considered absolutely necessary to run the Pilots Service was 10.


The following letter from Capt. Henry Wedderburn, Master Attendant to William Aldersey, Esq., President & Council &ce.was written from the Marine Office, Calcutta on the 20th June, 1772, and gives his views and suggestions for the best use of the Pilot Vessels, under the changed conditions on the River.

(1) “I take the liberty to lay before your Honour the present state of the Vessels that are employed in the Pilot Service by which you’ll be pleased to observe that no less than two of them are sent on voyages, and one to attend Mr. Reed. The increase of the Navigation of this River for some years past requires all the Sloops that are belonging to the Pilot Service to be employed for that Service only.

When they are on other services I have it not in my power to Supply the Roads, with a sufficient number of Sloop, more particularly in the months of May and June, when all of them receive their repairs and are cleaned for the Season. One is generally repaired in February to be sufficient as few or No ships arrive until the month of June when the Europe and other Ships are Expected.

This Season there were some days that No Sloops were in the Roads; the “Grampus” was sent down for that purpose but the Pilot falling sick went into Ingelee creek and lay there several days when I imagined she was in the Roads. The Pilot died and the Master of her instead of proceeding into the Roads came up to Town with the Sloop so that the Roads were deserted for that time until I could get another ready to supply her place.

(1) Fort William Public Consultations.

The taking of Pilot Sloops to carry down the Bales for the homeward bound ships late in the Season when the South West Winds blow hard and the Sloops are generally torn to pirces alongside of the Ships which effectually distresses the Plot Service by being obliged to gave them tedious and expensive repairs. I should therefore be glad if another method could be found to load the latter Ships, which can only be done by getting some person to contract to supply sloops to load and unload the Hon’ble Companys Ships for the Season. This I would with pleasure undertake.

The employing of Pilot Sloops as Yachts for the accommodation of gentlemen going up and down the River is another hardship I labour under in the execution of my Duty, were I allowed two Yachts as usual it would remove these evils in a great measure. I would in that event engage that the Roads would be constantly supplied with a proper number of Sloops, and there would be no reason for Complaints, the property of the Merchants would be les liable to risqué and the Service be carried on with ease and satisfaction to everybody.

Another proposal I have to lay before the Honourable Board, is the many proofs I have of the Pilots in going down the River loitering away their time when out of sight, even when the Europe Ships are expected and the most pressing call for them in the Roads; they remain in Ingellee Creek undisturbed for days together when Ships service to be stationed in Ingellee Creek with orders to the Captain to permit none of the Sloops to Remain there longer than 24 hours to receive provisions and firewood which I could always have ready for them by the time they arrive in the Creek, this would help greatly to having the Roads well supplied with Pilots and as I am well convinced that every step than can be thought of for the benefit of the Navigation of this River will be favourable accepted by the Honourable Board has induced me to make this proposal and hope they will be pleased to take it into consideration and furnish me with their orders accordingly.”

The Board’s reply was dated 2nd July, 1772, and was as follows:-

“Ordered that the Secretary do inform the Master Attendant that we deem the present number of Pilot Sloop to be fully sufficient if properly regulated – that we approve the purpose for stationing an armed Schooner in Ingellee Creek and direct it may be put into execution immediately – with respect to the Companys Sloops carrying Goods down to the Europe Ships the Board remarks it is only done in Case of Emergency, and at such times they must perform this Duty.”

The remarkable thing about these letters is that this was the firsts time that an attempt had been made to use the Pilot Sloops purely as Pilots Vessels, on Pilot age Station. Though on this occasion the Board did not entirely agree, it was not long before they did, for of January the 18th, 1773, the Board decided that “Five Schooners and Four Establishment for the Pilots Service….. the “Minerva” and “Amazon” (Two armed Snows) to be considered as Pilot Vessels, immediately under the Master Attendant, and be employed during the Season when most of the Shipping was expected and when the smaller vessels cannot with safety go into the Road, due to bad weather, but kept in a condition for any longer service.”

The vessels selected for the sole use of the Pilot Service were “Minerva”. “Amazon”, “Harland”, “Phoenix”, “Russell”, “Triton” and “Diligent” Schooners: “Seahore”, “Grampus”, Bonnetta” and “Commett’ Sloops. (The lasts two should be spelt “Bonetto” & Comet”)


The first quarantine regulations for the Port of Calcutta came into being on the 9th June, 1773, as a result of the Council asking the Master Attendant for advice on such, as Plague had broken out is Bussorah, Persia.

The regulations were divided in to ten parts as follows:-

“1st . An armed vessel is stationed in Balasore Roads with orders to make up to and hail every vessel that arrives at the greatest practicable distance, and to question her without any other communication touching her voyage and the last Port she came from, if there is sufficient conviction of her not coming from the Gulph of Persia she is to be allowed to take her Pilot on board, and proceed as usual.

2nd. If it is found that she comes from the Gulph the Master is then to be requested to produce a Bill of Health if he has it and at any rate to be enjoined in the strictest manner to declare the true state of the health of his crew.

3rd. If from his answers or evasions there is ground to believe that he has the Plague on board immediate advice is to be sent by Express to the Govenor, and until his Order arrive in return, the vessel is to be kept in the Roads with the strictest watch over her. In the meantime the Master of the Armed vessel or Pilot Sloop will be required to furnish her in the Manner hereafter prescribed with such Necessaries as she may be in immediate Want of and such as these vessels can spare.

4th. If from the Bill of Health or the declaration of the Captain there is reason to believe that the Distemper has not shewed itself in the Ship then the Master of the Armed Vessel is to take down in writing the Particulars of what he has learned and dispatch them to the Presidency directly to the Govenor, in the meantime (till orders can arrive from Calcutta) the Vessel will be detained in the Roads as in the former case, and will be furnished with such supplies as can be provided, but no boat or person whatever is to be permitted to go on board or any person to be suffered to quit the Ship.

5th. The manner of supplying these vessels with Necessaries in Balasore Roads is as follows. They are after first washing their boat well to veer astern by a rope, the People of the other vessel are to approach to windward and to put in whatever stores or Necessaries they have to supply them with, the boat will then be Hauled on board again.

6th. On the return of the Advices from the President as mentioned in the 4th Article, and an order being received for what Purpose, she will be sent to the Island of Chedube on the Coast of Aracan, and there perform Quarantine; a Guar Vessel will attend her to prevent any communication with the Shore or any of the Lascars from quitting the Ship.

7th. The Vessel must remain there for 40 days and during that time she will be supplied with every kind of Necessary and Refreshment, the People will be sent on shore, particular Directions will be given for their Treatment and Management of the Vessel and Cargo during the Quarantine and proper assistance will be furnished in carrying the Directions into execution.

8th. If on the Expiration of the 40 days no sympton of Infection appears, the Vessel will then be released, but all the Letters on board Publick or Private must be delievered over to a person who will be appointed to receive them and they will be fumigated with Brimstone and dipped in Vinegar before they are dispatched to their address.

9th. The Pilots are instructed to act in Conformity to these Regulations when they happen to fall in with a Ship before the Armed Vessel shall have met with her.

10th. It is also ordered to be observed as a Rule that every Bill of Health, Bill of Leading, or any Paper or Document offered to be produced by any Captain on first hailing him in Proof of the Nature of his Voyage or the Mate of his Ship be fastened on a Board open so as to be read if possible, and lowered down into the Sea, and then veered away until it is within Reach of the Vessel who is to receive it, it must not then be touched by hand but be received on the end of a Pole or Pair of Tengs or Pincers or any other Contrivance both Board and Paper well fumigated with Brimstone and dipped in Vinegar; after the Paper is read it must be returned in the same manner without having over been touched by Hand.”

The same Regulations were to apply to Chittagong also the French, Dutch and Danish Presidents & Councils agreed to the same Regulations.


On the 2nd December, 1773, the Master Attendant reported to the Board that the Dutch buoys in the River were too small and that their moorings were not strong enough as they were always breaking adrift. He said that a cylindrical buoy was the best type and sent in the following “Estimate of the Charges of building a New Buoy.”

“To Coopers work making a buoy.”

Iron work, Hoops Etc……….. Rs. 648. 0. 0

6 cwt 2 qrs 0 lbs @ Rs6. 10. 3. p.cwt 43. 2. 6

One Anchor of 29 cwt 2 qrs 12 lbs

@ Rs13.11.9 per cwt 406. 10. 3

Mooring chain of 8 cwt 1 qrs 10 lbs.

@ Rs18.13.0 per cwt. 155. 9. 6

Chalk. 1 qr @ 2. 0

Pitch ½ Barrell 7. 8. 0

China Dammer. 2 Maunds @ 9 Rs per maund 18. 0 0

Oil 2 @ Rs 10 – 8 21. 0 0

Cheenaum (Lime) @ Rs 1 – 4 2. 8 0

Brimstone. 3. 2. 0

Nails. 10 maunds 2. 14. 6

Tar. 10 @ Rs 8.13.6 a Barrell 11. 9

Cotton. 10 4. 0. 0

Oakum. 20 2. 4. 0

Fire wood. 10 “ 2. 1. 6

Reeds. 50 bundles 2. 11. 3

Dungaree piece. 1. 6. 0

Tin plate 100 10. 14. 0

Cutchery poot. 8. 0

Painter work 8. 0

Cooley hire 5. 0. 0

Current Rupees. 1338. 9. 9

Date Marine Office

29th November, 1773 Signed. H. Wedderburn

Master Attendant.

(Note. A maund is 40 lbs.)


As has been shown, the East India Company began with very small trading posts, precariously balanced on the very edge of the vast sub-continent of India, had by the vagaries of destiny, become by the year 1773 the unwilling rulers of vast domains.

All the Company’s servants in India were merchants engaged in trade, and with few exception were not qualified for the position of Administrators, and the new heavy responsibilities was having an adverse effect on their business. This situation had been foreseen by several of their senior members some time before and they (Clive and Hastings in particular) had suggested to the British Government that they should take over the Administrative responsibilities from the Company, leaving them free to get on with the task of making a commercial profit, which is what they were there for.

Parliament in London passed the ‘Regulating Act’ in 1773 which established the control of Parliament over Honourable Eat India Company, and Government appointed Warren Hastings as the first Govenor General of Bengal. It was on the 2nd of February, 1772, that he sailed from Madras for Calcutta in the Pilot Vessel “Minerva”. HE had under him a Council consisting of four Members who were, General Clavering, Messrs. George Monson, Philip Francis and Richard Barwell.

The Bengal Government had the power to control the other Presidencies in regard to war with the India Princes, and European powers who were at war with us. A Supreme Court of Justice was established in Calcutta, with a Chief Justice and three Judges, besides which other Administrative Officers were appointed, mainly as Revenue Collectors at first, and later extended to Magistrates, and it was this fine body of men who were the pioneers of the renowned Indian Civil Service, which brought a stable civil Government to India for the first time.

The Pilot Service was unchanged by these events, except that from this time henceforth they prospered with the ever increasing shipping using the River, and also from the fact that the Governor General took a great interest in the Service, no doubt due to some favourable impression gained during his voyage up from Madras to Calcutta.

WAR WITH PRANCE 1778 – 1783.

France, encouraged by the victory of the American Colonists at Saratoga, and to avenge her defeat in the “Seven Years War” declared war on Britain in 1778. Peace was signed in Paris in 1783, leaving the French even weaker in India than they were before.

During the 1778 – 1783 war only two incidents of any interest took place. In July 1778 the British captured the Ship “Margaretta” and Snows “Le Vincent” and “Aimable” and the Pilot Vessel “L’Orient” at the mouth of the River and in January 1783 the East Indiaman “Hawke” escaped from the French Battleships at the Sandheads.

Soon after the capture of the “L’Orient” the following letter singed by Puget, Chief French Pilot, Cheneaux 2nd Pilot and J.Lo. Roy Pilot was received by the President.

(1) “Sir, Permit me to claim your Humanity in Favour of the Unhappy French Pilots of the Ganges. We are actually suffering in Prison and have been ever since the Capture of the Kings Pilot Boat “L’Orient” which I commanded as Chief Pilot of the nation; almost all of us established at Chandernagore we ask the Permission of you Sir to return to our families and to live there on our Parole of Honour as you have been pleased to permit the other Inhabitants of that Colony, taken without Defence as they, we think we have the same rights to your Kindness. Our Families will be the Securities for our Conduct and we shall be all our Lives with as much respect as Gratitude” etc.

The French Pilots were released and a year later sent another letter to the President informing him that owing to the oath they had taken not to leave Chandernagore they were unable to earn their living and asking to be allowed to Pilot neutral ships; tale charge

(1) Bengal Public Consultations.

of cargo boats on the River, or be granted an allowance sufficient to live on.

After the receipt of this letter the Master Attendant was ordered to employ them as Master in the pilot Service, but they were not to be promoted to a higher rank. Some months later the Master Attendant informed the Board that although they were receiving the pay of their grade they were not doing any work.

On January 27th, 1733, the Govenor General informed the Marine Board that (1) “Lieutenant Leigh and some other Gentlemen just arrived in Town have informed him that they came in the “Hawke” Indiaman which was chased into the Roads by a French Line of Battle Ship and a Frigate, that she ran into the Flatts into shallow water, to avoid them, and is now at anchor in 17 fest of water near the Island of Coja Deep where two boats full of People have left her, the Captain is determined in case the Enemy should follow him to run the Ship shore and so disable her as to render her useless to them.

The Frigate has disappeared but the Line of Battle Ship was still standing towards the “Hawke” at the Distance of about 8 miles. He believes that a Design was formed to board her as some Armed boats which when they approached the Ship perceiving them prepared to defend themselves retired again.”

The Matine Board ordered that the Company’s ships in charge of Pilots should go to the rescue of the “Hawke”, and also that a detachment of Fifty European soldiers and a company of “Golandas” should be sent to her. Before these orders could be carried out the French battleship, finding it impossible to get close enough to the “Hawke” to attack her, sailed away, and she arrives safely in the River.


The following petition was sent by the Pilots to the Governor

(1) Bengal Public consultations.

General and Council on the 21st February, 1780.

“Shewith that your petitioners from Motives of Duty and gfatitude thinking it incumbent on them to disclose whatever may in their Humble Apprehension tend to the Utility or Advantage of the Honourable Company beg leave to represent that for some years past there has been a set of Black Serangs who were originally brought up in your Marine Service on board the Pilot Sloops by which means they have acquired a knowledge of the River, it is usual as soon as they find they are capable of navigating vessels up and down, for them to quit your Service and turn pilots themselves and carry down upon an average as your petitioners compute at least one hundred vessels of different Burthen per annum. (The so called vessels those Indian Serangs were piloting, were of course, small Country boats drawing about two feet of water, currying general cargoes, from village to village, they were not sea going vessels as we know hem R.K.H.B.)

That in consequence of this obligation your Petitioners constantly and regularly attend their Duty in navigating all Ships and Vessels into and out of the River of Hughley and are always employed by Ships coming in, and likewise by those going out when the weather happens to be variable or stormy.

That the Black Serangs and others who have deserted from the Pilots Sloops carrying down a great number of ships and vessels, your Petitioners humbly apprehend they are much injured and deprived of what they conceive they have a right to, by their appointment in the Honourable Company’s Pilot Service. It frequently happens when your Petitioners are attending in Order to give their assistance to outward bound ships that a Serang or other deserter is called and employed as a Pilot and if a Storm or any other great appearance of danger happens then your Petitioners assistance is demanded, as it known they dare not refuse, by which means they are frequently exposed to imminent Danger and they and their families suffer great hardships by being deprived of all the advantages your Honours intended them.

That your Petitioners humbly apprehend exclusive of the above Considerations if the increase of the Serangs is not put under some Restraint it may by productive of great Inconveniency to the Settlement as the Young Officers in the Marine Service are thereby prevented from making themselves Masters of the River and Acquiring Skill by Experience after the Honourable Company has been at Great Expense in order to their being qualified for the Duty and Office of a Pilot, and as these but of a small draft of Water, they are the most proper that can be for the Young officers to initiate themselves, in the less intricate and Difficult parts of their Proffession.

Your Petitioners are credibly informed that there are a great number of Snows and other Small rafts consigned for Mr. David Knox and other Gentlemen annually carried down the River by persons not in the Service of the Company.

That it is the Practice at other Ports for those who chuse to trust their ship without pilots to pay the Established fees due to Pilots.

That your Petitioners cannot avoid being of the opinion, that Little strese ought to be laid on the fidelity of those People who have assumed to themselves the Authority of Pilots and that they would equally serve an enemy or a friend for a small Compensation beyond what is usually paid them.

Your Petitioners humbly hope for such relief as your Honors shall judge reasonable, and further beg leave to observe that a Private Signal may be agreed on by Ships and Vessels when in sight of the Pilot Schooners and Sloops to prevent any approach of the enemy.

Signed. Hugh Castlemain,

Senior Branch Pilot.

and pilots.

A Committee appointed by the Board reported as follows on the foregoing Pilots petition.

(1) May 29th, 1780. “We have maturely considered a Petition laid before us by Captain John Sampson from the Pilot of Bengal to the Govenor General and Council and are of opinion that some of the grievances herein set forth should be remedied the letter to regulate and secure the navigation of this River.

We think that no Blackman or others not properly belonging to or being a part of the Crew should be suffered (under a penalty of Five hundred current rupees) to take charge of any Ship or Vessel in the River unless he has previously passed an examination for such office before the Master Attendant or his Deputy, and three Branch Pilots, and this we judge they ought to be compelled to before they are allowed to take charge or Pilot, no such liberty being granted to any person in the River Thames until they have proved their skill before a Committee of Board for that purpose from the Trinity House.

WE are clearly and unanimously of opinion that the Petty Officers and foremast man in the Pilots Service who have been taught the first rudiments of there art can only gain that experience which is necessary for them to have before they are entrusted with the charge of capital ships in this River by conducting the small Craft up and down.

(1) Bengal Public Consultations.

We therefore think for the encouragement of and forming good Branch pilots that those Black Serangs or others after they have passed as above should not be allowed to take charge of any vessel which Burdens one hundred Tons and more unless the owner or Master of her had applied ineffectually for a pilot from the master Attendant or his Deputy.

We know of no such rule at any Port for Merchants to be obliged to pay Pilot age when they risk their ships without Pilots, and we consider Owners and Masters of Ships in this river to be already very effectually prevented from such a practice by being in case of loss subject to a prosecution from freighters or respondentia senders. Yet to prevent a measure of this kind from being risked, we are of opinion that a tax of Rs.50 on all vessels burdening from 50 to 150 Tons and 100 rupees on all that exceeds that tonnage going up or down this River without Pilots being Levied towards defraying the expenses of Buoying the river up, would have a good effect.

Signals to show the pilots on approaching Balas ore Roads cannot we judge have any good tendency. They might probably serve to make the pilots less wary than they at present are. In war time when they have no signal to expect they must necessarily be on their guards.”

Signed. Curd Bert Thronhill.

Master Attendant.

No action seems to have been taken until 1789 when it was ordered that any person not belonging to the pilot services, who should act as a Pilot o the river should pay in to the Master Attendants office one third of the sum he received as pilot age for the use of the company’s buoys. Country vessels (called Doyens) of between 1000 and 4000 pounds, (A pound is 40 lbs.) which were usually piloted by Native pilots, were ordered to pay pilot age at the rate of one sicea rupee for every 100 pounds of their burthen with a minimum charge of Rs.10 and a maximum of Rs.40.


In February, 1793, Republican France declared war on England. This great war lasted for 21 years, with the exception of a short lull from March, 1803, and while Napoleon was in Elba.

The French navy was a powerful one. The ships they built at the end of the 18th Century were in many ways better designed than their opposite numbers in the Royal Navy, but the British officers and men were far superior both in character and ability, their seamanship, then as now, second to none, so France was finally defeated at sea.

With direct reference to India Napoleon said, “Had I been master of the sea, I should have been Lord also of the orient.”

Though the French Military power in India had already been broken, they were still powerful at sea, and their Warships and Privateers remained as a serious menace to British trade.

There were no naval engagements in the Hooghly River, but many took place in Ban galore Roads and the Sand heads at the mouth of the River, which directly involved the Bengal Pilot Service.

As has been shown the Royal Navy were Late in coming out in to Eastern waters, and their numbers were few. France, realizing this, had sent cut a considerable number of first line warships with the deliberate intention of crippling cur trade and Military supply lines.

The French navy, based on Pondicherry and later on Mauritius, known then as the Isle of France, berried the English East Indiamen and ‘Country’ vessels throughout the war. All the honorable company’s ships were armed and actions between them and the French raiders were frequent, particularly at and near the Sand heads where the trade routes to Calcutta converged.

Generally the French were victorious in these actions, as their vessels were regular naval ships fully armed and manned for war, while the Fast Indiamen, were first and foremost merchant vessels and armed primarily for defense.

The British captured the French Pilot Vessel “Chandernagore” of 85 tons in 1793, while a Dutch Pilot sloop, subsequently handed over to the services as the second “Mermaid”, was pinned down at Chins rah in 1796. In contrast to these small gains, the following British Pilot vessels were captured or sunk by the French, “Gillett” 140 tons, in 1795; “Russell”, 110 tons in 1796; “Cartier”170 tons in 1796; “Cornwallis” 170 tons, in 1796; “Harrington” 150 tons, in 1797; “Hay”, 150 tons, in 1797; and the “ Trial” 160 tons, in 1797.

The Lose of these little ships, together with the far more serious financial lose involves by the capture of several Indiamen, induced the British to maintain a patrol at the Sand heads for the safety of their shipping, and East Indiamen sailing up from the Southward would often encounter a Company’s cruiser or one of his Majesty’s frigates, as well as the Pilot vessel, on arrival at the mouth of the Hooghly.

Pilot Vessels were given the strictest orders to skirt the edges of the shoals while cruising at the sand heads, to another at night in shallow water, always to keep to windward of a strange sail, and never to use their own boats to supply inward bound ships with pilots. Special flag signals, varying from month to month, were used to distinguish friendly ships, and great precautions were taken in every possible way to avoid surprise and capture by French Privateers.

What was described as “An act of daring piracy” by the

(1) Calcutta Gazette occurred on October 29th, 1795. Nine French prisoners on parole accompanied by an English woman and child hired

(2) Selections from Calcutta Gazettes: by W.S.Seton-Karr.

A budge row at Calcutta under the pretence of going shooting. They first went to Serampore where they took aboard their luggage, then ordered the boatmen to take them down River.

Arrived at Kedgeree they saw the Pilot Schooner “Gillett” at anchor and approached her. “As the Budge row neared the Pilot Vessel, Mr. Should man observed a man and woman, both very well dressed, seated in chairs on the top of the Budge row; the woman had a young child at the time in her arms; when they were within hail, they enquired for any one of the name of Benjamin Jones. Mr. Should man replies that there was no such person.

The Budge row then came alongside, when a rope was given, and the Pilot expecting the lady would come on board ordered the red ropes to be3 put over the side. The man on the Budge row asked many frivolous questions about his pretended brother, and a conversation was held for several minutes.

The Captain, on walking from the gangway up the deck, heard a signal being given, and in an instant nine Europeans rushed from the budge row up the sides with cut lasses and pistols in their hands, and confined all the Europeans belonging to the Schooner in the cabin under threats of immediate death.

Orders were then given by the Frenchmen for getting under weigh, and the Budge row was sent back. After they had made repeated enquiries for charts and quadrant, and finding none were on board, they seemed to hesitate as to what should next be done.

Soon after this they called a tow boat which they had alongside, and ordered all the Europeans belonging to the “Gillett” on board it, except Mr. Watson, the master, who was detained to pilot them out.

About three o’clock in the afternoon Mr. Should man and the others left the Schooner, and at ten at night overtook the Budge row which they boarded, and proceeded in her to town, they arrived on Saturday morning”.

On November 20th the Governor General in Council was informed by the Marine Board that a Court of Enquiry had been held on Mr. Schoolman and that it was thought (1) “Proper to censure him for having suffered himself to be surprised, but in consideration of all the circumstances of the case together with the opinion of the committee of Enquiry, in Extenuation we directed that Mr. Schoolman should be returned to the Duties of his Station in the Service”.

And to prevent a similar thing happening, they requested that at least one armed vessel should be “Permanently stationed at the proper place in the narrow channel to guard and Defend the river against Pirates”, as although the “Hastinga” schooner had been sent in pursuit of the “Gillet ” the day after her capture she was too late to overtake her nor could Mr. Merridge the Pilot of the “Hastinge”, trace her movements or find out anything of two Budge rows or Ponsways manned by armed Europeans who were reported to be Pirates.

(2) Robert Surcouff, the French Ptivateeraman, in the “L’Emilie”, 180 tons, 30 men, captured the pilot schooners “Russell” and “Car tier” at the sand heads on Saturday January 14th, 1796. The “Russell” commanded by Mr. Thompson, Pilot was captured during the night and a prize crew put abroad her. At daylight Mr. Bartlett in the “Car tier” whose turn it was to Pilot not knowing that the “Russell” had been captured and, presuming that everything was correct by seeing her close to a vessel flying the American Ensign at the fore top gallant as head, made sail and ran towards her.

Arrived a beam of her she hauled up her ports and fired as broadside at the “Car tier” and at the same time hoisted French national colours.

(1) Public O.C., December 7th, 1795, No. 8a.

(2) H. D. Public O. C., 14th March 1796.

The discharge carried away the “Car tier” main stay and cut her sails and rigging so badly that Mr. Bartlett, finding it impossible to escape, surrendered.

A Court of Enquiry held later found that there was no misconduct on the part of the two Pilots in having “suffered” the loss of their vessels.

After capturing the pilot vessels and transferring from the “L’Emile” to the “Car tier” surcouff continued to cruise at the Sand heads. (1) On January 28th, 1796 he captured the “Diana” loaded with rice and sent her and the “Russell” to Mauritius. Next day he sighted the “Triton”, and Indiaman armed with 26 guns and a crew of 150 men.

Not realizing her strength he sailed towards her and approached so close that he found it impossible to run away without the risk of being captured. As usual Surcouff took a bold course. He sailed straight at the “Triton”; fired a broadside; hoisted French colours and boarded her, before the English were aware that she was not a Pilot vessel.

In the confusion which followed caused by numerous casualties from the broadside any by men who Surcouff sent aloft with small arms, to pick off the officers on the Poop, the English were driven below. An attempt to blow up the quarter deck by the men below was stopped by volleys from small arms.

(2) Towards the end of December, 1796 the Pilot Schooners “Cornwallis” (Mr. Atkins, Pilot), “Ranger” (Mr. Murrage, Pilot) and “Hay” (Mr. Harding, Pilot) were captured near the French Flat Buoy by the French Privateer “Le Esperse”, Captain Le Dane, 22 guns.

(1) Final French Struggles in India and on the Indian Seas.

By Colonel A. B. Malleson, C.T.E.,London 12878.

(2) H. D. Public O.C., 2nd January, 1797, No. 17.

The morning after their capture the “Cornwallis”, with a prize crew of a Commander and 4 Europeans, and the “Ranger” with a commander and three Europeans were ordered to Mauritius. That evening the French Commander of the “Ranger” caught one of the Lascars taking a fish from the Pilots stock and warned the Serang that if this occurred again he would cut his throat and throw his body overboard.

After this incident the Serang proposed to the other 19 members of the Crew that they should attempt to recapture the vessel and they agreed to support him. As soon as it was dark enough they crept at and with bamboos, handspikes, and ‘codallies’, killed one of the Frenchmen on watch, and chased the other blow.

Next morning after persuading the three survivors to hand up their arms through the skylight, four or five lascars went into the cabin and put on irons. On the return journey to Balasore Roads the schooner was kept close in along the shore to avoid meeting the Privateer, and later arrived safely on Calcutta.

At a meeting of the Marine Board on December 30th, 1796.It was recommended that in addition to a gratuity the crew of the “Ranger” should be paid salvage and “as prompt payment encourages merit we submit to you the propriety of our immediately paying the Account thereon.” The Members also suggested that as a French squadron was said to be bound for the Sandheads the Bombay Frigates should be ordered to Bengal; the Pilot sloop “Triton” well armed and manned sent to the Sandheads to act against the “Hay” which the French were using as a decoy and the “Laurel” Captain Foggo should be chartered for Rs. 10,000 a month, provided with extra men and guns and stationed in Balasore Roads, or some other suitable place.



On Sunday the 24th March, 1797, the East Indiaman “Osterly” Inward bound from England, arrived at the Sandheads, where her Captain John Piercy, had expected to meet hos Majesty’s frigate “La Sybolle” of 44 guns, or the Hon. Company’s cruiser “Nonsuch”, as well as the Pilot vessel at the entrance to the Eastern Channel. Finding neither, he anchored hos ship on 7 fathoms and waited for them to arrive. Anchored nearby was a large Country ship, also waiting for a Pilot.

It was a hazy morning with a gentle Southerly breeze blowing. The “Osterly” rode comfortably to her anchor, and the crew were piped to breakfast. Everything seemed very peaceful.

At 9.30 a.m. the masthead look-out reported a sail to the S.S.W. In view of his orders with regard to a ‘rendezvous’, her Captain assumed this to be the British patrol and, heaving up his anchor, he stood down towards her.

At 10.30 a.m. the ship were close enough to distinguish each others flags, so “Osterley” hoisted the pre-arranged signal for a Pilot, and fired a gun to draw attention to it. The approaching vessel was head on to the East Indiamen, so that it was difficult to make her out, so that at about 11.00 a.m….. “being resolved not to trust entirely to appearances,” . . .the “Osterly” ran out her guns, and cleared ship for action.

At 12.15 p.m. “being within point blank range, “the stranger hoisted French colours, and at the same instant opened fire with her bow chasers. The “Osterley” replied with a broadside, and the fight was on.

After the battle had lasted for forty-five minutes. . . “finding the ship had received considerable damage to the hull; the rigging out to pieces; the Mainmast, main top mast mizzen most badly crippled; several of the guns rendered useless by the ‘people’ being blown up at them, and finding I cold not continue the action longer with any hope of success, and to prevent unnecessary sacrifice of the ‘people’ under me, Republican frigate “La Forte” of 52 guns and 420 men from the Isle of France, and commanded by Captain Beaulieu La Loup.”

Captain Piercy praises the conduct of his Officers and men, saying “All hands behaved bravely, especially my Officers and Lieutenant Broomhead who commanded a detachment of H.M. ‘s 28th Light Dragoons that happened to be on board at the time. Four men were killed and 13 wounded on board”.

Captain La Loup treated his prisoners chivalrously, and was thanked for doing so by the East Indiaman’s Captain who was allowed to take his ship to Dimond Harbour as a (1) Cartel under French Colours; Captain La Loup had put a prize crew on board under the Command of one of his Lieutenants, unfortunately for the Frenchman, the “Osterley” fell in with H.M.’s frigate “Sybelle” at Kalpi Roads on her way up River and was recaptured without loss.

During the “flurry of the battle” the Country ship escaped.

It should be noted in this engagement between a Merchant ship and a Warship, that the “Osterley” was a vessel of only 775 tons, with a crew of, maybe about 150 men, whereas the “la Forte” was a vessel of 1401 tons and a crew of about 400 men; she was in fact one of the most heavily armed and largest frigates then at sea.


On Chrisman Eve in the year 1799, two ships bound for Calcutta were approaching the Sandheads. They were the Hon.Company’s Ship Eliza Ann” and the American Ship “Atlantic”.

Both Ship’s companies were fully alert, for French privateers

(1) Cartel. A written agreement relating to the exchange or ransom of prisoners etc. (Murray’s Dictionary) The crew were to be landed at Diamond Harbour as prisoners

were known to be active at the Head of the Bay, and on this occasion the Sandheads patrol vessels had been withdrawn to Calcutta to provision the ships, and give their crews Christmas leave.

At whether was fine with a light Northerly breeze, and almost smooth sea and no swell. As the sun rose, the ships were washed down, the brass work polished, and the normal routine of the day began.

At 10 a. m., the masthead lookout of the “Eliza Ann” hailed the deck to report a sail to the North East. The news was signaled to the “Atlantic” and both ships prepared for action, loading and running out their guns, decks sanded, fire pumps and houses connected, the powder and shot ready beside the guns, and in a very short time the two vessels were ready for battle.

The action, however, was delayed till the afternoon, for the breeze was light and fitful. It was not until 4 p. m. that the strange ship hoisted English colours. The two Ships “Eliza Ann” and the “Atlantic” replied by flying their own ensigns, and all seemed well, though the flying of false colours was too well known a ruse of was for vigilance to be relazed. Accordingly, the two Ships kept their guns ready with their crews standing by.

Half an hour later their suspicions were confirmed, for the unknown French Privateer, hauled down British flag, and hoisting his own ensign discharged a broadside at the “Eliza Ann”.

The Indiaman replied immediately with a broadside of her own, and to quote her report…. “A brisk fire was kept up for one hour and ten minutes, the “Atlantic” also joining in with her six pounders, but not being near enough to reach the ship with her carronades, were ship in order to get into close action. The Frenchman, seeing this, shore off for the night.”

“Eliza Ann” and “Atlantic’ followed her, keeping close together, and at 5.30 a.m. on Christmas morning the enemy turned to meet her pursuers. The battle began again when…. “The “Atlantic” being to windward commenced the action by raking her within Pistol shot. Our ship now joined in, and a very heavy fire continued on both sides for 20 minutes, when the Frenchman drew away with two pumps going.”

The Merchantmen gave chase, but they were too slow, or damaged by the action, to overtake the unknown Privateer, who got clear away….. “She appeared to be a complete vessel and a very fast sailer,” wrote the “Eliza Ann’s Captain a little sadly….. “pierced for 26 guns, and mounting 22 twelves, and crowded with men.”

The Honourable Company were naturally delighted with the result of the battle and rewarded the Ships companies with money, while the two Captains received gold cups in recognition of their part in this gallant little action.


28th February, 1799.

Perhaps one of the most brilliant actions ever to take place in Eastern waters, occurred on the night of the 28th February, 1799, when H.M.S. “Sybelle” met the French Republican frigate “La Forte” in Balasore Bay, and battered her into submission, after a fierce and bloody action, lasting for over two and a half hours, and involving a total of 167 casualties.

Naval Officers of the time did not consider the British frigate to be any match for the “La Forte”, which was a vessel of some fourteen hundred tons, with 52 guns, and a crew of 370 men, she was commanded by Captain Beaulieu, an elderly but very experienced Officer, with the fearsome nickname of “La Loupe” (The Wolf).

Captain Edward Cook, son of the great Navigator, who Commanded H.M.S. “Sybelle” thought otherwise. Though his ship was 310 tons smaller and carried fewer guns, of considerably lighter caliber, he knew that the “La Forte’s” discipline was poor and her Captain weak and too old for his work.’

For nearly two years H.M.S. “Sybelle” (sometimes called “La Sybille” R.K.H.B.) based on Calcutta, cruised the Bay of Bengal, giving protection to the Pilot vessels, meeting and convoying East Indiamen and ill found “Country” ships, stopping and searching suspicious foreigners, always however with a weather eye lifted for the Frenchman, who had caused considerable damage to British shipping on the Bay, having captured no less than seven of our ships, besides the “Osterley”, which, as we have just read, was immediately recaptured.

At long last Captain Cook was rewarded for on the evening of the 28th February, 1799, H.M.S. “Sybelle” was patrolling the Sandheads, some miles to the Eastward of Palmyras shoals when flashes were observed to the North West. Supposing this to be lightning from a distant squall, Captain Cook took no particular interest, for squalls, time of the year. But when the “Lightning” stopped suddenly and no squall or even sign of one appeared, he because suspicions. It occurred to him that the flashes could have been caused by gunfire, so the “Sybelle” was put about and stood up to the North West, to investigate.

It was a brilliant moonlight night, when at 9.30 p.m. a ship was sighted right ahead. The “Sybelle” approached the “La Forte” with all her lights covered, and was mistaken by the French naval vessel for a merchantship, and so was allowed to get to windward without interference. Meanwhile the Frenchman was busy putting prize crews aboard two ships which she had captured.

At a quarter to one in the morning, the “Sybelle” was well to windward, with the “La Forte” abaft her beam. Putting his helm up, Captain Cook ran down across the Frenchman’s stern raking her, as he passed, with a most destructive broadside, at very short range.

The “La Forte” was caught at a great disadvantage, with two prize crews away and insufficient men to handle the forecastle and quarter deck guns. She responded gallantly, however, and for nearly two hours the battle continued fiercely.

By 2.30 a.m. the Frenchman had only four guns in action and Captain Beaulieu, seeing that victory was impossible, broke off the action and attempted to escape to seaward. Twice H.M.S. “Sybelle” hailed her enemy to surrender, but there was no reply. Accordingly, “Sybelle” opened fire again; this time she brought down the Frenchman’s masts, and the helpless “La Forte” surrendered.

H.M.S. “Sybelle’s casualties were five killed and seventeen wounded, but amongst the latter was her gallant young Captain who was badly hit in both arms. He lingered for over three months, and died miserably (probably of gangerene) in Calcutta on the 25th May, 1799, Aged 27. He was given a public funeral, and was buried in North Park Street Cemetery, and the East India Company put up a monument to him in Westminster Abbey.

In addition to the “Sybille’s crew there was on board 131 soldiers of the “Scotch Brigade”. The report on the action said briefly…”the soldiers fought very well”. Their Captain Davis, who was A.D.C. to Lord Mornington was killed in the action. (Fort Mornington opposite Hooghly Point was named after Lord Mornington, who was originally Richard Wellesley and was made Marquis Wellesley after the fall of Seringapatam, and was known as Lord Wellesley when Govenor-General.)

Both ships were badly damaged, the British ship having her masts and rigging…”much cut up,” but hull came off lightly, as most of the enemy’s shot had passed overhead, whereas the “La Forte” was in a terrible mess, being completely dismasted and her starboard side almost beaten in from the effect from the “Sybille’s broadsides, having over 300 round shot in her hull.

Wreck though the “La Forte” was, she was towed up to Calcutta, and repaired, and the Royal Navy bought her for a substantial sum in prize money, which was distributed among the Officers and men of H.M.S. “Sybille”. She was rerigged as H.M.S. “Forte” and entered in the Navy List as a 44 gun ship under the Command of Captain Lucius Hardyman, who had been First Lieutenant of the “Sybille”, who had taken over Command of her when Captain Cook was mortally wounded. She was finally wrecked in the Red Sea in June 1801.

After the battle, fifteen Pilot Sloops, each with a guard of soldiers, were sent down the River for carrying the prisoners back to Calcutta.

It was a proud day for the City when the “La Forte” was seen being towed up the Hooghly by the “Sybille”. This did not take place until the 2nd April, 1799.

Chapter 5.


During this century the Bengal Pilot Service was to reach the pre-eminence among the Pilot services of the world they have retained up to the present time.


A particularly fierce engagement took place in the early hours of October 7th, 1800, between the East Indiaman “Kent” and the French Privateer “Confiance.”

The “Kent” and the “Confiance” were evenly matched as regards weight of metal, the “Kent” carrying 20 short 18 pounders on her gun deck and 6 “short nines” on her forecastle and poop, while the Frenchman had 20 guns of different calibers on her gun deck and 6 caronades on the deck above. Apart from their nearly equal armament, however, the ships were as different as it was possible for the two vessels o similar size to be.

The “Confiance” was, to all intents and purposes, a warship of some 550 tons, being a French sloop of war, carrying a well trained, experienced, and disciplined crew of some 250 men under the command of Captain Robert Surcouf, who had for some time carried out successful stacks on British Merchant ships, in the Bay of Bengal. On the other hand the Hon.Company’s Ship “Kent” was a bluff bowed, Merchantman of some 800 tons, armed it is true, but slow and unhandy, whereas the Sloop was fast and manoeuvreable. She had a crew of 104 men and a number of passengers, including 24 women and children, in addition there was a draft of recruits for the Company’s Army. Her bottom must also have been pretty foul, being at the end of a long voyage out from England, this would have reduced her speed, if she ever had any, and make her more unmanageable in action.

Mr. Methold, the Second Officer, kept the morning watch on board the “Kent” on the day of the action. At six bells, an hour before he was due to be relieved, the lookout a sail to the N. E. the “Kent” was then approaching the Sandheads, and thinking the ship was the Pilot Brig or the Sandheads patrol vessel, she held her course and stood towards her; but it soon because clear she was neither of the two vessels expected, so the “Kent’ went to Action quarters, and cleared ship for battle. The women and children were put in a place of safety, below decks, while the male passengers, were ordered to stay on the upper decks, while the male passengers, were ordered to stay on the upper deck and give a hand in defence of the ship.

Captain Revington (0r as one report has it Rivington) of the “Kent” opened proceedings by ordering Mr. Methold, who combined his duties as Second Mate those of Gunnery Officer, to fire a shot across the strangers bows, with the idea of making her declare herself by hoisting her coloure, this having no effect, the “Kent” gave the enemy her full larboard broadside.

This drew an immediate reply, and for an hour and a half there was a fierce fire between the two ships, the Indiaman putting up a stiff fight “with the great guns, supported by musketeers from the poop,” now the Frenchman putting her main topsails aback, dropped astern of the “Kent” to carry out repairs, Captain Remington then tacked, with the intention of bringing his disengaged guns to bear on the enemy, but missed stays and fell off the wind, close to the Frenchman, who putting on sail, ran up alongside, entangling his fore rigging in the “Kent’s” mizzen shrouds.

Immediately the two ships were locked together the boarding parties from the “Confiance”, more than 150 men, leapt aboard the luckless Indiaman, it is reported that the boarding party was led by Surcouf himself disguised as a seaman, to hide his real identity.

A terrific hand-to-hand struggle followed, aboard the Merchantman, Captain Revington was shot dead while repelling the boarders, and eleven of his crew died beside him, while 44 were wounded, 13 of them mortally, before Mr. Hall the Chief Officer, struck his colours, and the “Kent’s” resistence ended. Five male passengers were also killed.

The Chief Officer was taken aboard the “Confiance”, as a prisoner of war, but Mr. Methold, who was wounded in the action, was put off to an Arab vessel, together with the somen and children, and the rest of the wounded. Captain Surcouf treated his prisoners with great humanity and kindness and was most courteous to the ladies. the Arab vessel took them to the Pilot Station at the Sandheads, where they were transferred to the pilot Brig, which set all sail and made a quick passage to Calcutta.

The Second Mate, in his report, attributed the loss of the “Kent” to her “missing stays”, thus allowing the Frenchman to board, and also, (a pathetic commentary on the East India Company’s parsimony in matters not directly concerned with their business)…. “to the badness of the arms.”


(1) The following letter was sent from Fort William, Calcutta tp Fort St. George, Madras at the end November, 1800.

“I am directed by the Most Nobls the Govenor General in Council to request that you will acquaint the Right Honourable the Govenor in Council that “L’Adele”, French Privateer, Commanded by Captain Nicholas Surcouff, (the younger brother of Capt.Robert Surcouf. R.K.H.B.) was captured on the 13th inst about 30 Leagues to the South of the Sandheads by His Majesty’s Ship “Albatrcs”, commanded by Captain Waller.

I am further directed to request that you will inform the Right Honourable the Govenor in Council that the Honourable Company’s Ship “Phoenix” commanded by Captain Moffat, arrived at this Port

(1) Bengal Commercial Consultations and Selections from the Calcutta Gazette.

on the 24th isn’t., and that on the 10th inst., about a degree to the Southward of the Sand heads, she captured the French Privateer the “General Malartic”, commanded by Captain Duterte.

Signed. G.H. Barlow.

Chief Secretary.

Captain William Moffat of the Ship “Phoenix” was presented with a sword of Honour for his gallant action.

In spite of these success great damage was caused at the mouth of the Hooghly by French Privateers. The Calcutta Gazette announced on the 12th of December, 1805, that in the previous ten days the “Melville”, “Waldegrave”, “Commerce”, and “Phenix” valued at 11,000 of Rupees had been captured. (11,00,000 is eleven Lacks, a Lack being 100,000. R.K.H.B.) And, many others, not yet known; for while the “Bellona”, the “Nepoleon”, the “Henrietta”, and “Caroline”, and perhaps other privateers are cruising, there is no knowing what extent they may have carried their depredations.”

From all the foregoing it may be understood that the Pilots very closely concerned with the war at sea, which was right on their doorstep.


(1) The following letter was published in the Calcutta English newspaper “The Englishman” in 1801 and refers to the death and burial of a Mrs Carey, the Country born wife of a Hooghly Pilot.

“Readers of ‘Echos from old Calcutta’ will remember that according to Dr. Busteed’s informant, Mrs Carey, the Country born wife of Peter Carey, Mariner, was buried in the Murgihatta (Catholic Cathedral) Churchyard (1801). In confirmation of this statement it may interest some of your readers to know that both the announcement of her death and the entry of her burial have new been traced, – The following from the Calcutta Gazette of April 2nd, 1801

(1) “Echoes from Old Calcutta” by H.E. Busteed, C.I.E. 1908

Deaths. On Saturday last March 28th, Mrs. Carey.

IN the Cathedral burial Register the entry is in Portuguese runs as follows:- (Translation) “28th March, 1801, Died Mary Carey; was buried in the churchyard, with the accompaniment of one priest.” This does not give her age at the time of her death. It was 60 years for she was but 16 when she entered the Black Hole. There is no inscription over her grave.”

This letter was signed “FitzWalter.”

A. M. Jean Law, Chief of the French Factory at Cassimbazar, wrote a Memoir in about 1763 in which he stated that Mrs. Carey was the wife of one of the “Ganges Pilots.” It is also a fact that a Mr. Peter Carey, described as a Mariner, died in the Black Hole as his name is inscribed on the Holwell Monument.


There is evidence in (1) Captain Hamilton’s work “A New Account of the East Indies” concerning the docks; “on the other side of the river are docks made for fitting and repairing their ships’ bottoms. This would be along the Sibpur Strand, somewhere in the vicinity of the present Shalimar Paint Works. the present sandbank on that side, meaning the Lower College Sand, was formed by the wreck of a ship named “Sumatra”, which diverted the deep channel to the Calcutta side.’

(2) “There so called docks were not docks in the currently understood sense of the term, but slipways or mudbeds for careering. The modern meaning of a dock as a water basing dated from 1811, when St. Katherine’s Dock, near the Tower of London was built, the first such dock in the world.

(1) “A New Account of the East Indies” by Capt. Alexandra Hamilton London, 1744.

(2) The Calcutta ‘Statesmen’ Staff Correspondent. 1955.

From 1707 until at least 1850 the position of the Port of Calcutta remained radically unchanged with regard to the installation of modern docking and berthing facilities. Frequent rention is made in the annals of the period to docks, which is quite misleading, these references musts be understood as referring to shipbuilding and careering slipways, or to natural creeks and gullies improved by digging but not retaining water at low tide.

In 1758 a proposal was mooted to have a dock in Bengal “in case the squadron should winter here”. This led to the formation of a dock at Surnam’s Garden just south of Tolly’s Nullah. Nothing much seems to have came of it. Colonel Watson, Chief Engineer to Government, obtained a grant of land at the same spot for the establishment of wet and dry docks and a marine yard. He began this work in 1780 and spent ten Lakhs of rupees on it.

In 1781 he built and Launched the “Nonesuch” frigate of 36 guns, and in 1788 another frigate the “Surprise”, of 32 guns. By then his resources were exhausted and he was obliged to give up the project. The docks were afterwards bought by James Kyd and became known as Kidderpore. Between 1781 and 1800, 35 vessels were built in Calcutta. From 1800 to 1821 no less than 200 ships were built. In 1800, the largest merchantman ever built at Calcutta was launched from a yard at Titaghur. The was the “Countese of Sutherland”, 1,450 tons. In 1821, James Kyd’s two sons launched the “Castle Huntley” a 74 – gun man -of war, of 1,705 tons. At that time, Bengal ships built of teak and sal were preferred to any other for durability.

About 1758 the old Government House was turned into a narine yard or bankshall imeaning a Warehouse, or office of the Port officer or other Marine authority it has also been suggested it oult be from the Benali banksala, meaning ‘hall of trade’). From this Bankshall Street would appear to have derived its name. Here in 1790 a dockyard was built for the repair of Pilot Vessels; but this was discussed and filled up in 1808. In 1823, Strand Road was constructed, which forced the ship builders in Clive Street to remove to Howrah and Salkia.”

(1) The loss of life and property in the cyclone of 1842 drew the attention of the Government to the importance of providing against such calamities. A committee was appointed to discover different measuresfor the safety of the shipping in the river. This committee recommended the construction of wet docks at Kindderpore, after the design of General Watson. They were to costs 500 lakhs of Rupees and to accommodate 200 vessels per year of 400 tons burden. However, for some reason or other, most probably lack of funds, the whole scheme fell through. During the next few years several other schemes were conceives, and some attempted, including a dock at Akra, but nothing ever came of them.

It was not until another, and more damaging, cyclone swept through the Port of Calcutta in 1864, creating great havoc to the exposed shipping in the river, and causing great financial loss, that the Government and Local Authorities were forced to take the matter of building docks and wharfs seriously. Unfortunately no action was taken, until in 1870 the Port Rust was constituted and the whole management of the affairs of the Port – with the vital exception of the Bengal Pilot Service – was handed over them.

The Howrah Pontoon Bridge was opened for traffic on the 17th of October, 1874. It would have been opened earlier in the year, but completion of the Bridge was delayed by an accident to the steamer “Egeria”, who broke from her moorings in a Bore on the 20th March and rammed the half finished bridge sinking three pontoons, smashing the main truss girders and damaging the superstructure to the extent of Rs 80,000.

The Lieutenant Goveror, Sir Richard Temple, made some trenchant remarks to the Port Commissioners, and ships moorings were very much strengthened before the end of the year.

(1) Various sources.

In 1877, James Kimber, put forward his plan for a ship canal between Calcutta and the Mutlah River. The canal was to be some thirty miles long, and was to cost 1½ crores of rupees. Kimber argued that not only was the Mutlah a deeper river than the Hooghly, but also, through not being connected so directly with the Ganges like the Hooghly, the Mutlah was not what he called “a silt bearing river” and was far less likely to should up at some future date. The scheme, however, never got beyond the stage of discussion.

Calcutta’s continually expanding trade made it absolutely necessary to provide more facilities, in the form of berths for shipping at or near port. Proposals for building docks and jetties at Diamond Harbour were made in 1881, and the Government appointed a committee to examine them.

By a majority the committee was in favour of carrying on with the project, but many of the mercantile firms and shipping agents of Calcutta opposed the scheme, and it was eventually dropped. it seems to have been a waste of time and money appointing all these committees, for no one ever carried out their suggestions.

The merchants’ objections were

(i) Diamond Harbour forms a “Lee shore” during the South West Monsoon.

(ii) There was a possibility of danger to shipping from cyclonic storm waves, and

(iii) Last, but possibly not the least of the objections, the scheme would involve the double expense of running two offices, one at Calcutta and one at Diamond Harbour.

The rejection of the Diamond Harbour project left the Bengal Government with no alternative but to increase the accommodation for ships in Calcutta itself, and so in 1883, Sir Rivers Thompson, the Lieutenant Govenor, appointed a new committee to enquire into measures for extending the existing facilities of the Port.

The committee found that no less than twenty one jetties for sea going ships could be built on the Calcutta side of the river, and twenty on the Howrah side, all in Garden Reach, between the Botanical Gardens and the Panchpara Boundary Pillars. They estimated, however, that the same amount of accommodation could be given by a wet dock. The letter would cost more initially, but its upkeep would be less than that of forty one tidal jetties.

Two great advantages of a wet dock over jetting were stressed: The first was that ships in a dock would be out of tidal water, and therefore much safer, and the second was, that for the same reason, loading and unloading would be eassier and more convenient.

The recommendation of a wet dock was accepted and the excavation of the Kidderpore docks was begun in 1884. The dry dock was first opened on the 10th July, 1891, though the first ship did not enter it until the end of August, as the following paragraph taken from the Calcutta “Statesman” for the 1st of November, 1891 shows.

“Another stage in the development of the Kidderpore docks was reached on Friday when the British India Company’s steamer “Lindula” was taken into the new graving dock to be cleaned and painted. The “Lindula” is a vessel of 2199 tons register (B.I. records show her as being 3, 396 gross.) and 350 feet long, but there was ample room for a much longer vessel, as the working space in the dock is 550 feet long. This is the first vessel taken into the Port Commissioner’s dry dock. The arrangements for pumping the dock are very satisfactory and complete. There are two Gwynne’s centrifugal pumps, which can raise 38,000 gallons of water a minute. The preconce of this vessel in the dry dock commences to give to the locality something of a commercial aspect.’

The wot dock was not opened officially till the 28th September, 1892, due to Lack of railway communications, though the first ship entered it three months before this date. The capital cost of the new docks was 287 Lakhs of rupees.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: