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Purchased by the Royal Navy in 1795, William, under the direction of Sir Sidney Smith, was fitted as a hoy rigged gunboat at Plymouth Yard.
As fitted, William was armed with 1x24pdr cannon, 2x12pdr carronades and a compliment of 25 men.
Of special interest is the innovative design of an early form of turret mounting for the 24pdr cannon. The cannon and carriage were mounted onto a bed which in turn sat on a bearing race made up of cannon balls, allowing the whole assembly to rotate on the flat (camber less) forecastle.
Although capable of sail, with a fore-and-aft style hoy rig, William would have been more commonly rowed. This is further illustrated not only by the evidence of rowlocks and oars but by the way the mast is mounted on a pivot allowing it to be rotated down to deck, extending aft, guided by the fore and aft mast carlings. The mast would have been lowered in this manner in order to lower the centre of gravity and reduce resistance making the boat far more manoeuvrable by oar power.
Built for anti-invasion duties, William was manned by 25 men. These men would usually be members of the 'Sea Fencible', the maritime equivalent of the Militia and volunteers.
Although unclear, William is believed to have been wrecked in Guernsey Roads on 4th November 1801.