|Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
||Light Squadrons and Single Ships
by the Biter and Boxer gun-brigs, Lieutenants William Norman and Thomas Gilbert, and the four fire-ships Wasp, Captain John Edwards, Falcon, Captain Henry Samuel Butt, Comet, Captain Thomas Leef, and Rosario, Captain James Carthew, with the cutters and small-craft attending them, entered Dunkerque roads. At about midnight the Dart and her companions got sight of the French ships. Soon afterwards one of the latter hailed the Dart, and asked whence she came. The answer was, " De Bordeaux." The Frenchman then desired to know what convoy that was astern, meaning the gun-brigs and fire-ships. The reply was, " Je ne sais pas."
This conversation ended, the Dart continued to pass on unmolested, until she arrived alongside of the innermost frigate but one, when that frigate opened upon her a very heavy fire. This the Dart was enabled to return with 15 double-shotted 32-pounders, discharged in much quicker repetition than common, owing to the carronades being mounted on the non-recoil principle. The Dart then ranged on, and boarded the innermost frigate, the Désirée, by running her bowsprit between the latter's foremast and forestay, having previously let go a stern-anchor to check her own way. The first lieutenant, James M'Dermeit, at the head of a division of seamen and marines, immediately boarded the French frigate on the forecastle, carrying all before him, but not without being badly wounded in the arm. He then hailed the Dart, to say he had possession of the ship; but as he feared the crew would rally, and he was wounded, he requested that an officer might be sent to take charge. Having cut her stern-cable, the Dart had just swung alongside the Désirée; on whose quarter Lieutenant William Isaac Pearce instantly leaped with a second division of men. This officer completely repulsed the French crew, who were rallying at the after hatchway. Lieutenant Pearce then cut the frigate's cables, got the Désirée under sail, and steered her over the banks that could not have been passed half an hour later in the tide.
In this dashing enterprise, which was concluded in about 15 minutes, the Dart had only one seaman killed, her first lieutenant, already named, one master's mate (James Hall), and nine seamen and marines, wounded; while the loss sustained by the Désirée, a fine new frigate of 1015 tons, was supposed to have amounted to full 100 in killed and wounded together, including nearly the whole of the officers present. The established complement of the Désirée was from 300 to 350 men; but it does not appear that the frigate had all her crew on board. The exact number that was on board we are, however, unable to state; especially as, from some unexplained cause, no head-money certificates were signed, or at least recorded.
The four fire-ships were admirably conducted, and not abandoned by their officers until completely in flames: on board the Comet, indeed, the captain and one seaman were wounded by
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