Loss of HMS Minotaur

MINOTAUR was wrecked on the Haak Sand near the Texel on 22 December 1810.

The 2nd lieutenant and eight midshipmen with 100 men were saved and made prisoner; the rest, numbering about 500 and including the captain, lost their lives.

Lieut. SNELL, Mr THOMPSON, master, and the few surviving crew were tried by court martial on 30 May 1814.

It was decided that she was lost due to an error in reckoning her position, the pilots believing her to be over Smith's Knoll when she was actually 60 miles away.

It appeared in evidence that the Dutch might have saved more people if they had attended to the urgent requests of those who were fortunate enough to land first.

Whilst sailing from Gothenburg to Britain, she struck the Haak Bank on the Texel off the Netherlands in the evening of 22 December 1810, after becoming separated from her consorts, HMS Plantagenet and HMS Loire. She rolled on her side rapidly, where waves dismasted her and pounded her hull which began to split. Prior to the roll, 110 of her crew had taken to her boats and soon reached shore, where they informed the Dutch authorities of the disaster. Another 20 survivors were rescued by a pilot vessel. The authorities placed the survivors under custody and refused to dispatch more rescue vessels until the following morning. The rescue party found however that apart from four men who reached shore by clinging to wreckage, no survivors remained on the vessel or in the surrounding water, with the death toll being between 370 and 570. All survivors were taken to France as prisoners of war.

Three and a half years later, when the prisoners were released, the customary court martial decided that the deceased pilots were to blame for steering the ship into an unsafe position, having misjudged their location by over 60 miles because of the weather. The Dutch authorities were criticised for their failure to despatch rescue boats sooner by some of the survivors, including Lieutenant Snell, who gave examples of 'how easy it would have been for the Dutch admiral in the Texel to have saved, or to have shown some wish to have saved, the remaining part of the crew.' Reports from the Dutch chief officer of the marine district of the North coast indicated that two boats were sent out to the examine the wreck site on the morning of 23 December, but were prevented from approaching by the wind and seas. Maritime historian William Stephen Gilly concluded that 'There is not the slightest doubt but that, had the Dutch sent assistance, the greater part of the ship's company would have been saved.