Mil Goose wrote:
From The Times, October 22nd, 1803:
".... In consequence of the capture of two of the Lisbon Packets, orders have been sent down to Falmouth, that the Lisbon Packet which is now there, and about to sail, shall not sail until a frigate be appointed to accompany her ......"
I have enjoyed reading Christopher Hall's "Wellington's Navy: sea power and the Peninsular War 1807-1814". It covers a slightly later period, but it is clear that the convoy system was an important part of the support that the RN gave to Wellington's army.
Early in the Peninsular War relations between Wellington and the senior naval officers on station were very cordial and cooperative, with the Admiralty fully aware of the need to support the army in Portugal and Spain. Towards the latter part of the campaign, this relationship became more acrimonious, with Wellington issuing increasingly petulant and complaining requests. He wanted more warships on station. At the same time he demanded better escorting of the convoys - but also resented the delay that the need to assemble a convoy imposed on his supplies. In its turn, the Admiralty seems to have been increasingly irritated by his uninformed demands.
This is the third book that I have read in recent years that casts the Duke of Wellington in a poor light, where personal relations were concerned. He seems to have become increasingly preoccupied by quashing anything that might have detracted from his personal glory as an all-round military genius.
From the earliest times until the present, there has been an ambivalent attitude towards the convoy system. The skippers of the merchantmen usually resented the need to conform to a level of control by their escorting warships. The captains of these warships resented having to escort a bunch of slow and uncooperative merchantmen, instead of being free to cruize in search of valuable prizes. Yet the statistical evidence has always been that a ship in an escorted convoy had a much smaller risk of capture that a merchantman sailing independently.