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Stock# 98155

The Royal Navy cruises to India and Africa in the first half of the 18th century.

The HMS Syren's manuscript logbook provides a detailed account of the ship's journey through various ports in India, Africa, and back to India, reflecting something of the geopolitical climate of the time. During the period of August 1749 to November 1750, the Syren, a sixth-rate ship likely manned by a crew of around 150-240, navigated the waters of Madras, Pondicherry, Bombay, and Surattan, as part of the British naval presence in India amidst its burgeoning imperial interests and in the face of local power struggles. The log entries capture daily life aboard the ship, from receiving supplies and engaging in ceremonial salutes with friendly ships to chasing enemy vessels.

India, during this period, was a mosaic of powerful regional states and European trading companies vying for dominance, just before the onset of more direct British colonial rule. The Syren's patrols and interactions with other ships reflect the strategic importance of the Indian coast and the surrounding waters for trade, military endeavors, and diplomatic relations. The entries also hint at the broader geopolitical dynamics, including conflicts and alliances, as European powers sought to expand and protect their interests in the lucrative Asian markets.

The Syren's voyages to Congo and Gabon and then back to India illustrate the global nature of maritime journeys and the British Navy's extensive reach. The detailed records of daily life, encounters with other ships, and the logistics of naval operations provide a window into the experiences of everyday sailors and officers, the routines of naval warfare and diplomacy, and the complexities of 18th-century maritime trade and imperial competition. The logbook ends with the ship's return to Bombay in November 1750, a few years before it was sold by the navy in 1764, marking the end of its service.

The log book begins at the port of Madras, where the Syren was moored, with the first entry dated August 30, 1749. She then patrols through different ports in India and nearby waters, including Pondicherry, Bombay and Surattan, and arrives in the Congo and Gabon, then back to Bombay. On February 10, 1750, enemy ships are spotted and the Syren attempts to chase them, but they eventually escape. The final entry in the logbook is dated November 30, 1750. The Syren was sold by the navy in 1764.

Syren a Sixth-Rate Ship

Sixth-rate ships, exemplified by the Syren, typically had crews of 150-240 men, weighing 450-550 tons. A 28-gun ship included 19 officers, such as the captain, lieutenants, and various warrant officers like the master and surgeon. The crew, or 'lower deck', consisted mostly of experienced or novice seamen, with about 23 marines. They lived in basic conditions, sleeping in hammocks and eating on wooden benches. Larger sixth rates, armed with 28 guns, were classified as frigates, while smaller ones with 20-24 guns were post ships, comparable to modern light cruisers and destroyers. All sixth rates were commanded by a post-captain, earning them the name "post ships."

Selections from the logbook here follow, most of which appear under the column heading of "Remarkable Observations & Accidents":

4 Aug. 1749: Recv:d onboard 2 Bullocks, AM, recv'd from the Vigilant, four boxes of grape shot, and 600 paper cartrid: 9 pounders.

23 Sept. 1749: Recv:d from Severn India ship a new set of sails fore and aft; at 6 AM, saild hence his Maj:y Bomb the Bazilech, and at a 11 the Sharness serv'd 200 lb of fresh beef to the ships company.

12 Oct. 1749: At 1 PM, fired 15 guns it being His Majest: Coronation... At 7 Madrass fort saluted the Adm:l with 17 guns, he returned the same number at 1/2 past ? in 10 f[atho]ms water, Madrass NW distance 4 miles... signal in company with Adml: Boscanen in the Exeter Comd: Lisle in the Vigilant, 10th: the York, Deptford, Chester, Harwie, Ruby, Elthom, Deal Castle, and Yong Eagle / Bomb's Tender

13 Oct. 1749: Made sail, at 8 Pondicherry, saluted the Adml: with 15 guns he returned the same number...

14 Oct. 1749: Fort St. David saluted the Adml: with 15 guns he returned the same Number, at one PM, anchor'd with teh Best Bower in 10 f[atho]ms water, bore NW dist: 6 miles, found riding here his majestys ship the Tarter, and Swallow sloop at 8 AM...

23 Oct. 1749: ... served to the ships company 140 lbs of Bengall Pork...

8 Nov. 1749: Dundra head NWBW 5 miles... read the Articles of War to ye ships company

17 Dec. 1749: 6 the Duke of New Castle India Ship saluted us with 15 guns, returned 13, at 7 anchored... Tillechery, found riding here a French ship...

18 Dec. 1749: ....Working into Bombay Harbor...

10 Feb. 1750: ... we saw 4 of Angreas Grabb and one Gallavate in the offing: in Chaccin of the Drake, one of the Companys Arm Vessels; we slipped the Bridles & made sail and ran out of the Harbour, and gave chase to the Above Grabb 10th ye Drake in Company; at 1/2 past 3 we fired 13 shott at the Chase, at 4 they being gott out of Gun Shot we left of Chase; at 5 we made the Drakes Sigl: to leave of Chase... Worked toward Bombay Harbour at noon. Carnanja here...

27 Feb. 1750: ...Rec'd onbd.: 14 Chest of Money, at 3 sliped the Bridles and came to sail, the Fort Saluted us with 13 guns. We returned 13. At 4 we carved away the flying jib boom in company with a Grabb and Ketch, at Ballabar hill... Bombay Church E13 N 1/2 N 2 Longt... Saw the convoy, to leward at 8 saw the Ketch had lost her Main Topmast; Spoke with the Drake and sent her to assist the Ketch, and we bore down to the Grabb Scarfed the Jib boom and got it out again.

6 March 1750: ...the Ships in Surratt road... the Toomb NWW, the Entrance of Surrat River...found riding here His Majestys Ship Ruby, and Several Country Vessels.

27 May 1750: ... Anchored in Gombroom Road... The English Flagg Staff... Three Persia Men of War: at sunrise the English Fort Salutes us with 13 guns.

23 Nov. 1750: ...Fired a shot at one fo the Convoy, Bombay 8 AM, came onboard a Pilot.... Began to work into the Harbour.

30 Nov. 1750: ...In Company with the Tarter, Mayham Fort E.N.E. 6 miles Old Woman's Island... Made the signal for all Masters of Merchant Vessels: at 9 let go the B:Br: anchor, at 5 AM, the Swallows Ketch sliped and bore away for Bombay

Condition Description
Folio. Recent antique style half calf and marbled boards. Original stiff paper wrappers retained and bound in (these repurposed from contemporary accounting pages printed in red). Title page + 88 pages of manuscript text. Some moderate chipping and tearing to the original wrappers. Title page a bit soiled. Else internally clean and nice. Overall condition is very good.