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 Fleet of Observation 
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Post Fleet of Observation


From The Times of February 17, 1791::

" ..... Lieutenant Burrows, of Oneston, is appointed to a rendezvous at Dock Plymouth, for entering seamen for the Fleet of Observation ..."


It's the first time I've come across mention of the "Fleet of Observation".

What was it? ... or was it just terminology for being extra vigilant? ... Was it a section within the Navy? Memories of the old Royal Observer Corps spring to mind - minus the planes, of course. ;) Was it something like that?



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Sat Nov 01, 2008 9:33 am
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Possibly the inshore squadron of a blockading fleet?

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Sat Nov 01, 2008 11:11 am
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The terms “Fleet of Observation” and “Squadron of Observation” were commonly used to characterize a fleet or squadron set to watch or monitor an enemy or prospective enemy. e.g. in 1802, when peace was being arranged between Great Britain and France, the French despatched a fleet and army to the West Indies to regain control of Santo Domingo which had rebelled. The British were doubtful of Napoleon’s intentions and sent a fleet of some thirteen ships of the line to the West Indies as a “fleet of observation” to keep an eye on the French armament and to ensure that it did not deviate from the announced purpose.

The particular example quoted from “The Times” seems to refer to the “Russian Armament” - preparations for a war with Russia when a fleet of thirty-six ships of the line was put into commission under Hood. The differences with Russia, principally in relation to Turkey, were settled in August of 1791 without war and most of the ships paid off.

The expressions can also be used with reference to a squadron detached for or assigned to a specific purpose e.g. Duncan had a light Squadron of Observation watching the Dutch coast prior to the Battle of Camperdown and Admiral Gravina commanded a part of the Combined fleet at Trafalgar as a Squadron of Observation, the purpose of which was not fulfilled.

The term “Army of Observation” has been used in a similar sense on land.


Sat Nov 01, 2008 1:12 pm
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....thank you for adding to my knowledge; appreciated!



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Tue Nov 04, 2008 2:15 pm
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The Times, May 30, 1788:

" ... Portsmouth, May 28. The Scipio of 64 guns, Capt. Lutridge, from Sheerness, makes the seventh ship of the line at Spithead, which is the number intended for the fleet of observation under command of Rear Admiral Gower. ..."



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Tue Jul 07, 2009 12:51 pm
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Post Re: Fleet of Observation
The Times, July 27th, 1789:



" ...... The fleet of men of war, which will sail in a few days from Spithead, is meant simply for a squadron of observation; and will not convoy the fleet of Swedish merchantmen, now in our ports, as was conjectured. It will stop for a few days in Portland Roads, where the different naval evolutions will be performed before their Majesties. ...."

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