HMS Superb (1798)  (4th)
3rd Rate 74-gun

This the fourth ship to bear the name Superb was a 3rd Rate, 74-gun, ship-of-the-line.

Built by Pitcher of Northfleet, launched  on 19-Mar-1798, of 1,919 tons builders measurement, 182 ft long, 49 ft wide and carried 74 guns. Her predecessor was also a 3rd Rate 74.

Superb number four served for twenty-eight years and saw action throughout the height of the Napoleonic wars. She opened her fighting career by taking a pivotal role in Admiral Sir John Saumarez’s action at Algeciras 12 July 1801.

A combined French and Spanish Squadron of 9 ships of the line (including 2 of 112 guns, 1 of 96 and three of 80 and some frigates) left Algeciras for Cadiz. A British Squadron of 5 ships of the line including Superb and three frigates sailed in pursuit from Gibraltar.

Superb under the command of Captain R G Keats, being the best sailor was ordered to crowd out all sail and attack the first ships he came up with. By 2300 Superb, by now some 4 miles ahead of the rest of the squadron, came up with the Real Carlos of 112 guns, on the larboard beam and another ‘three decker’ the Hermangildo, nearly abreast of her to starboard. Superb opened fire on both at them at a range of three cables, shot away the fore topmast of the Real Carlos and put the crews of both ships into such confusion that they were left firing at each other. With the Real Carlos on fire. Captain Keats left them, stood after the San Antonio of 74 guns, which surrendered after a 30-minute action. 
Meanwhile the Real Carlos and the Hermangildo had run foul of each other and were both in flames. Soon after midnight both blew up with the greater parts of their crews.

Superb and the frigate Calpe secured their prize whilst the rest of the squadron chased the remaining enemy until they reached Cadiz. Superb lost one officer (Lt Waller) and fourteen men wounded. Nearly 2000 died in the two Spanish three deckers.

Superb's next contribution to the war against Napoleon came at the Battle of San Domingo on 5 February 1806. Vice Admiral Sir John Duckworth in Superb (Captain Keats as Flag Captain) with a squadron of 7 ships and 2 frigates were refitting in the West Indies when they learned that a French Squadron was anchored at San Domingo. The British Squadron arrived off San Domingo to find a French Squadron of 5 ships (L’imperial of 130 guns, 2 of 84 and 2 of 74 and two frigates. All the British were of 74 guns except Canopus of 80 and Agamemnon 64.

Duckworth at once made the signal to attack and “with a portrait of Nelson suspended from the mizzen stay of the Superb, with the band playing ‘God Save the King’ and ‘Nelson of the Nile’, bore down on the leading French ship L’alexandre of 84 guns and engaged her at close quarters. After a severe action of two hours, two of the French ships were driven ashore and burnt with three others captured. Only the French frigates escaped”.

As an after note Captain Keats was awarded a Vase value £100, for his ‘noble and gallant efforts in the brilliant and decisive victory on 6 February 1806 off San Domingo’. Also in honour of his achievements Superb’s crest is derived from the badge of the later promoted Admiral Sir Richard Goodwin Keats.

For the rest of her career Superb saw further action at Copenhagen and the Baltic as flagship of the now Rear Admiral R G Keats. 
In 1814 she saw action off North America taking part in the conflict of 1812. 
Her final action came on 27 August 1816 where she took part in the bombardment of Algiers. Superb fired 4,500 round shot and suffered 8 killed and 84 wounded. 

Broken up 17-April-1826.

Won the Battle Honours: Gut of Gibraltar 1801, San Domingo 1806 and Algiers 1816.


Other HMS Superb
- 1st  HMS Superb
- 2nd HMS Superb
- 3rd HMS Superb
- 4th HMS Superb
- 5th HMS Superb
- 6th HMS Superb
- 7th HMS Superb
- 8th HMS Superb
- 9th HMS Superb

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- Specifications
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- Plans/Schematics
- Full Battle Honours

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This page last edited - 06 December, 2012.

Copyright © Ian M King, except where otherwise indicated.