HMS Hydra at Cape Bagur, 7 August 1807

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.

The composition of this picture partly relates to George Chambers's 1832 version of the same action, lithographed by Paul Gauci in 1833 (see NMM print PAF4765), although which came first is not known. Chambers' painting was a pair to one of 'Hydra's' action of 1802 with the French 'Furet', also lithographed by Gauci, while this is the pair to BHC0572, a different interpretation of the 'Furet' action. A technically notable point in the representation of 'Hydra' is her repainting in this image with two broad ochre bands, rather than the one in BHC0572.

Object Details

ID: BHC0577
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: British School, 19th century
Events: Napoleonic Wars, 1803-1815; Napoleonic Wars: Action in Burgur Harbour, 1807
Vessels: Hydra (1797)
Date made: After 1833
People: Ministry of Defence Art Collection
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Macpherson Collection
Measurements: Frame: 542 mm x 740 mm x 70 mm;Painting: 405 mm x 610 mm

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