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Raid on Begu

Unit/ Formation: Royal Marines

Location: Begu

Period/ Conflict: Napoleonic Wars

Year: 1807

Date/s: 7th August

The Spanish port of Begu was attacked by a party of 50 seamen and marines from HMS Hyperion quickly capturing four 24 pounder guns.

These the marines used against the French while the navy boarded 3 ships in the harbour and brought them safely away.

On the evening of 6 August 1807 the 'Hydra', 38 guns, Captain George Mundy, drove three armed French vessels into the Catalan port of Bagur, a narrow rocky harbour defended by a tower and a battery. The following day he anchored off the entrance and opened fire on the Spanish works. The fire was returned but the reply presently slackened and boats were sent in under Lieutenant Edward O'Brien Drury, in spite of a hail of bullets. The seamen landed and rushed the battery, which was evacuated by the enemy as the storming column pressed in. A detachment was left to garrison the battery while the rest of the landing-party, covered by fire from 'Hydra', hurried forward towards the town, entered it, drove out the enemy and secured the French vessels. A galling fire was, however, maintained by such crews as had fled ashore and taken post on the heights overlooking the harbour. Nevertheless, the enemy vessels were carried off and the party at the battery re-embarked. The British loss in this gallant enterprise was absurdly small. Only one man was killed and six wounded. For his brave and skillful conduct, Drury was promoted to be Commander.

On a board on the back of the picture is the inscription; 'On August 6 the British 'Hydra' 38 guns, Captain George Mundy, cruising off Catalonia, chased into the Spanish harbour of Bagur an armed ship and two brigs. On the following morning these vessels were discovered lying under the protection of a battery. About 1 pm the 'Hydra' opened fire, which was quickly returned and followed by an hour's close action. A division of boats under Lieutenant E O'B Drury then left the British frigate and after a gallant attack captured the fort and in a short time the town. At 5.30 pm Lieutenant Drury gained entire possession of the vessels. The captured ships were the 'Principe', 'Eugenio', 'Bella Carolina' and 'Carmen del Rosario'. The British loss was one seaman killed and six wounded.'

The painting shows the harbour of Bagur with the rocky coast and tower on the left in the background. 'Hydra' is in the centre of the painting in starboard-bow view, firing on her port side. A launch full of sailors rows in the foreground and 'Hydra' has booms rigged out for boats to both port and starboard. Another ship can be seen at the entrance to the harbour. The scene is one of calm. [1]

Admiralty-Office, October 10 , 1807. A Letter from Captain Mundy, of His Majesty's Ship Hydra, addressed to Vice-Admiral Lord Collingwood, of which the following is a Copy, has been transmitted to the Honourable William Wellesley Pole, by Rear-Admiral Purvis.

His Majesty's Ship Hydra, at Sea, My Lord , August 7,1807.

I have the Honor to relate, that I chased 3 armed Polaccas into the harbour of Begu, on the Coast of Catalonia, late last night and having reconnoitred this morning, deemed an attempt on them practicable, although under the close protection of a battery and tower.

At 50 minutes after noon the ship was anchored, witih springs on the cables, at the entrance of the port, and began the attack ; a smart fire was returned by the enemy, which however considerably abated after somewhat more than an hour's action ; on perceiving which, I ordered a party of 50 seamen and marines, under the command of the Second Lieutenant, (Mr. Drury,) with Lieutenants Hayes and Pengelly, of the Marines, Mr. Finlaison, (Midshipman,) Mr. Goddard, (Clerk,) Volunteer, attended by Mr. Bailey, Assistant-Surgeon, to land on the flank of the enemy, and drive them from their guns, keeping up a heavy fire from the Hydra, to cover the boats ; yet, notwithstanding our endeavours to draw the particular attention of the battery, the detachments were soon exposed to a cross discharge of landgrage from the shipping and fort, as well as musketry from the rocks: unshaken, however, they advanced; and having mounted the cliss, which was most difficult of access; they attacked the fort with such intrepidity, that the enemy did not think proper to await their closing, but spiking the guns, rushed out o:r the one Side as our brave fellows entered at the other.

The battery contained 4 26-pounders.This gallant achievement gave me an opportunity or employing the broadside solely on the vessels, from which a constant fire was still kept on our people on shore. On gaining the guns Mr. Drury advanced with the seamen aud a few marines to the town, leaving Mr. Hayes and his party to retain them, and to occupy the heights that commanded the decks on the vessels, and from which he could annoy the enemy, who were in great numbers on the opposite side of the harbour, which is extremely narrow .

As soon as the town was cleared of the enemy, the crew abandoned their vessels, but formed in groups of musketry among the rocks and bushes, on the seamen, who I had now seized the boats on the beach, and were boarding the Polaccas, while another party of the enemy had gained aHeight above the marines, and kept them continually enraged, notwithstanding some guns were kept on them from the Hydra.

At Half pall Three, observing Mr. Drury in full possession of the vessels, I sent the rest of the boats, under Lieutenant Little, to assist in towing them out, aud at Four had the satisfaction of seeing them rounding the point, when the marines reimbarked under a heavy discharge of musketry, the enemy having collected their whole force to harrass the retreat.

When I review the circumstances attending the debarkation of this handful of men, and reflect on the many difficulties they had to surmount in an attack on a fort strongly defended by nature, as well as art, there opposed to more than 3 times their Force for 2 hours, succeeding in possessing themselves of the vessels, and deliberately laying out hawsers to the very rocks that were occupied by the enemy, and warping them out against a fresh breeze, exposed to a galling fire of musketry, I feel perfectly incapable of writing a panegyric equal to their merits ; but it has not required this exploit to stamp these Officers with the character of cool judgment and determined bravery.

During the term of 4 years I have witnessed frequent instances of the gallantry of Lieutenants Drury and Hayes ; and Lieutenant Pengelly, (though not of so long a standing in the Hydra,) has ever been a volunteer on such services.

I have also the greatest pleasure in adding, that the above-mentioned Officers speak in enthusiastic terms of the behaviour of all employed under them : to your Lordship's notice and protection, therefore, I beg most strongly to recommend them.

The Conduct of the rest of the Officers and ship's company fully equalled my utmost Wishes ; to the tremendous fire they kept up I attribute the smallness of our less and damage, namely—1 killed and 2 wounded on board, and 4 wounded of the detachment, the Fore and Mizentopmasts and Foretop-Sailyard shot through, a few in the hull and the rigging trislingly cut, is all the damage.

To Mr. M'Kenzie, the First Lieutenant, who has served svith me the whole of the War, I feel much indebted lor his assistance throughout this little enterprise.

A Description of the captured Vessels, and the Names of the Killed and Wounded, I inclose, for your Lordihip's Information. The Prince Eugene and Caroline were returning to Marseilles.

I have the Honor to be, G. MUNDY. To the Right Honourable Lord Collingwood, Commander in Chief, life. &C.

A List of Vessels captured by His Majesty's Ship the Hydra, August 7, 1807. Polacca Ship Prince Eugene, of 16 Guns (pierced for 20) and 130 Men. Polacca Brig La Belle Caroline, of 10 Guns (pierced for 14) and 40 Men. Polacca Brig LL Carmen de Rosario, of 4 Guns

Mr. Goddard, Clerk, lightly wounded. Sarjeant Bulb, ditto. Charles Simpson, Seaman, ditto. Jer. M'Carty, Seaman, severely wounded. James Sullivan, Seaman, dangerously wounded. George Salisbury, Private Marine, ditto. [2]

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