Loss of many men of the Portuguese frigate San Juan Prinicipe



Loss of the Portuguese frigate San Juan Principe
from various printed sources - Pascal Kainic


Letter written from Gibraltar, by Mr. Alexander Wilson from Kelso April 19th, 1810

"On Sunday, the 5th instant, I witnessed a scene of horror I never can forget. A Portuguese frigate, the "San Juan Principe", captain RJF. Lobo, was reported to be wrecked on the east coast, about four miles from the Spanish lines. About eight o'clock in the morning, I could plainly perceive, with a glass, the vessel dismantled and a great number of men on board.

A friend of mine, Mr .Masser, and I, immediately took horse and arrived on the beach about nine. We found the ship almost at that instant gone to pieces, and about 200 men were floating  on the fragments of the wreck, driving towards the mouth of a small river  which was swelled by the late rains. At the same time, a most tremendous sea set in, which had raised  a bank of sand at its mouth. A number of Spaniards were looking on. I instantly plunged into the river and found I could ford it about shoulder deep. Mr.Masser followed me and four or five Spaniards imitated our example.

For two hours, we were employed in snatching from a watery grave the unfortunate creatures who were clinging to pieces of timber and dashing every moment upon the bank of sand, and upon each other. I saved captain Lobo with great difficulties; he was driving upon a piece of the vessel, almost exhausted and senseless; the next breaker, in all probability, would have been his end.

I dragged out the second captain and shortly after a lieutenant who expired on my landing him on  the beach; I likewise saved a midshipman, as did Mr. Masser, the purser. These are all the officers saved. The crew consisted  of 315, out of which there are 116 survivors. I pledge you my word more than two-thirds of that number owe their lives to Mr.Masser's exertions and my own. On officer and four men died in my arms , from being bruised and exhausted before I could land them.

Many a poor fellow we were obliged to let go, from the quantity of wood driving in about every direction, and saw them dashed to pieces on the sand. The sight was most dreadful, but the cause we were embarked in nerved our arms. About half past twelve, nine of the unhappy sufferer remained on the last piece of wreck. I was, as you may suppose, very poorly for some time, from the bruises and over exertion; but I am now recovered.

God grant that I may never witness so melancholy a sight again, but should that be my fate, God grant that I may have it in my power to be equally serviceable !"

Gibraltar   Frigate

The strait of Gibraltar - A frigate

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