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CAMELEON Built in 1816, Bombay (Cherokee class).
Broken up in 1849.

  • 1816 Lieut. John M'Arthur LOW was appointed acting commander of CAMELEON at Bombay by Captain Robert O'BRIAN, an exercise of authority which O'BRIAN did not hold and for which he was tried by Court Martial (See CHALLENGER 1813). Lieut. LOW was later to complain bitterly to the Admiralty about the expense involved in quitting his former ship REVOLUTIONAIRE in the Straits of Malacca and providing furniture and fittings for his cabin which amounted to more than triple his pay for the time he commanded CAMELEON.
    In April 1816 Lieut. LOW took responsibility for the treasure which had been brought to Madras by CHALLENGER for delivery to Calcutta and Bengal.
  • On 14 February 1817 Lieut. LOW was accused by a George SPAIN from East Cowes of tyrannical conduct and indirectly charging him with the murder of his son, George SPAIN Jnr., who had been sentenced to 55 lashes for theft (which he denied and produced evidence which exonerated him) and drunkenness on 14 June 1816. SPAIN was thought to have deserted in Simon's Bay at the Cape of Good Hope on 6 September but 13 days later his body was found floating along side the frigate HORATIO. The court found that the charges against Lieut. LOW had not been proved and he was fully acquitted. Lieut. LOW was advanced to the rank of commander on 20 January 1818.

    The Court Martial
    On 10 April 1817 a court martial was assembled in Portsmouth Harbour to hear the charges.
    The first witness, Robert Morrison, late acting surgeon of Cameleon, stated that he had attended the punishment of the young George Spain after he had been sentenced to fifty-five lashes for theft and drunkenness on 14 June 1816; that the young man had denied being guilty of theft but acknowledged that he had drunk some of the wine stolen from the commander's cabin by a clerk; who completely exonerated the other accused. The surgeon also said that Spain appeared dejected after his punishment and he believed that he had deserted in Simon's Bay, Cape of Good Hope, on 6 September 1816, until his body was found floating along side the frigate HORATIO on the morning of the 19th.
    Under cross-examination Mr Morrison agreed that he had not reported the punishment as severe and consequently Spain was not placed on the sick list. He also agreed that Spain had been punished before he had been acquitted by the clerks confession of guilt.
    A marine private, William Willett, called on behalf of Lieut. Low, deposed that Spain had confessed to him his share of the robbery and offered to replace the wine stolen. He also described the effects which the claret had apparently had on the stomachs of the parties concerned. He further stated that, after his punishment, Spain had taken a part in a play called the 'Recruiting Officer' and that everyone believed he had deserted at the Cape since the greater part of his effects had been either smuggled ashore or sold for grog previous to his disappearance.
    The court found that the charges of cruel and tyrannical conduct had not been proved and that Lieut. Low should be fully acquitted.

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© 1995, 2007 Michael Phillips