The Keith Papers

The Keith Papers


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34. Owen to Keith

H.M.S. Immortalitê, off Boulogne.
October 7. 1803.

My Lord, In obedience to the directions contained in your lordship’s letter of yesterday, I enclose herewith such observations I have from time to time made on the several harbours on the enemy’s coast on which I have been cruising.

I beg to state that it is my opinion that vessels may certainly approach the harbour of Boulogne sufficiently near to throw shells very far up the harbour, I think as far as the upper vessels now lie. With the pier heads bearing from S.E. to E.S.E. there is seven fathoms at about a mile from the pier head within gunshot. In this direction and for some distance on both sides the harbour mouth a long flat runs off dry at low water for full half a mile from the pier. With respect to the practicability of destroying the vessels now collected there, I can only observe that they appear to me to be placed in tiers of three abreast which may appear to be a small object to fire at. I consider the range of a shell to be at all times uncertain, and though it is possible to throw them into a town or any considerable space, I consider it requiring much more practice than can be obtained afloat to make them bear upon any one object, and ships passing along under sail cannot, in my opinion, injure the vessels within the pier by shot.

What I have stated relates only to the depth of water and distance vessels may approach the shore; but in placing vessels in a proper position to bombard the harbour those vessels must themselves be exposed to the fire of batteries mounting certainly not less than 40 guns and 10 mortars, which are many of them within half gunshot in advance of the enemy gun vessels and the Lower town of Boulogne. Part of these guns are on heights above the level of our guns and others amongst sandhills. When the enemy gun vessels are outside the harbour they generally anchor a cable’s length asunder.

I have thus answered your Lordship’s queries to the best of my judgement and am not aware that anything can be added thereto, but should I not have answered fully to them I shall be happy in adding to or correcting my answers. I have &c.

E. W. C. R. OWEN.

LLoyd, C . (eds.) (1955) The Keith Papers, vol III, 1803-1815. Navy Records Society, pp. 41-42

Web Page: Rickard, J (24 July 2006), Keith to Secretary of Admiralty


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