Dispatch boats were small boats, and sometimes large ships, tasked to carry military dispatches from ship to ship or from ship to shore or, in some cases from shore to shore. Dispatch boats were employed when other means of transmitting a message was not possible or safe or as quick.
Dispatch boats, which performed their dispatch-carrying duties only on a temporary basis, should not be confused with packet ships—sometimes called packet boats or paquetbots—which were cargo ships which also routinely carried the mail from port to port.
Generally, dispatch boats served the military, and paquetbots served commerce.
Dispatch boat was a term used by the United States Navy in its journal accounts to describe boats which carried messages, or mail—otherwise termed dispatches—between high-ranking military officials aboard other ships or to land-based destinations.
In 1776 the Continental Navy ship Lynch was assigned dispatch boat duty and, after delivering her secret dispatches in France, set sail for the United States with French secret dispatches, only to be captured, but not before destroying the French dispatches.
Once the Battle of Trafalgar had been decided in favor of the British in October 1805, the honor of delivering the news of the victory as well as the loss of Admiral Lord Nelson belonged to the dispatch boat which first brought the news to the Admiralty in London.
A 1000-mile sea race from the location of the naval battle resulted between Lt. Lapenotiere in HMS Pickle and Captain Sykes in Nautilus with the Pickle reaching England first to deliver the dispatches to the Admiralty. For his outstanding effort in the race, Lt. Lapenotiere was awarded the then huge sum of 500 pound sterling cash prize and, in addition, was promoted to Commander.
The American Civil War employed a large number of dispatch boats, such as Massasoit, Gladiolus and Geranium among numerous others. General Ulysses S. Grant depended on dispatch boats during his Virginia campaign to correspond with Union Navy ships on the James River.
The US Navy did not have enough dispatch boats available during the Spanish–American War of 1898, so private yachts and tugboats used by newspapers were frequently tasked by the Navy to carry messages. Vega was a US dispatch boat during World War I.USS
Dispatch boats became largely unnecessary with the advent of underwater cable and shipboard radio technology in the early 20th century. However, there was a brief reprise during the Falklands War in 1982. CS Iris, a cable laying ship owned by British Telecom, was taken up from trade by the British Government. She ferried supplies and dispatches (including troop's mail from home) between elements of the fleet and between Ascension Island and the Falkland Islands – she also recovered urgent supplies that were air-dropped in the South Atlantic by Royal Air Force, C-130 Hercules aircraft.
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Eight ships of the Royal Navy have been named HMS Pickle:
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HMS Pickle was a topsail schooner of the Royal Navy. She was originally a civilian vessel named Sting, of six guns, that Lord Hugh Seymour purchased to use as a tender on the Jamaica station. Pickle was at the Battle of Trafalgar, and though she was too small to take part in the fighting, Pickle was the first ship to bring the news of Nelson's victory to Great Britain. She also participated in a notable single-ship action when she captured the French privateer Favorite in 1807. Pickle was wrecked in 1808, but without loss of life.
HMS Minotaur was a 74-gun third-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 6 November 1793 at Woolwich. She was named after the mythological bull-headed monster of Crete. She fought in three major battles – Nile, Trafalgar, and Copenhagen (1807) – before she was wrecked, with heavy loss of life, in December 1810.
The Trafalgar Way is the name given to the historic route used to carry dispatches with the news of the Battle of Trafalgar overland from Falmouth to the Admiralty in London. The first messenger in November 1805 was Lieutenant John Richards Lapenotière, of HMS Pickle, who reached Falmouth on 4 November after a hard voyage in bad weather. He then raced to London bearing the dispatches containing the momentous news of Lord Nelson's victory and death in the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805.
The New Trafalgar Dispatch was part of the bicentenary celebrations of Lord Nelson's famous and momentous victory at the Battle of Trafalgar, in 1805. The prolonged and multi-focal ceremony took place between July and September 2005.
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Captain John Richards Lapenotière was a British Royal Navy officer who, as a lieutenant commanding the tiny topsail schooner HMS Pickle, observed the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805, participated in the rescue operations which followed it and then carried the dispatches of the victory and the death of Admiral Nelson to Britain.
Commander Robert Benjamin Young, RN was an officer in the Royal Navy. His service in small ships led to his presence observing the battle of Trafalgar in 1805 from the deck of the tiny 10-gun cutter HMS Entreprenante. Following this battle, Young performed well, acting as messenger and rescue boat during the storm, although the honour of carrying the dispatches back to England was given to John Richards Lapenotiere, commander of HMS Pickle; Young maintained that prior to the battle Admiral Nelson had promised this honour to him.
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HMS Entreprenante, was a 10-gun cutter that the Royal Navy captured from the French in 1798. The British commissioned her in 1799 and she served during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, participating in the Battle of Trafalgar. She has been the only ship of the Royal Navy to bear the name. She took part in several small engagements, capturing Spanish and French ships before she was sold in 1812 for breaking up.
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