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Le Bucentaure Anonymous.jpg
Ship data
flag FranceFrance (national flag of the sea) France
Ship type Ship of the line
class Bucentaure class
Shipyard Arsenal in Toulon
Launch 1804
Commissioning 1804
Whereabouts Sunk on October 23, 1805
Ship dimensions and crew
51.0 m ( Lüa )
width 14.0 m
Draft Max. 6.0 m
displacement 1630  t
crew 840 men
Rigging and rigging
Rigging Frigate rigging
Number of masts 3
  • 36 × 36 pounder cannon
  • 32 × 24 pounder cannon
  • 18 × 12 pounder cannon

The Bucentaure was a sailing warship in the French Navy . She was the flagship of Vice Admiral Latouche Tréville , who died on August 18, 1804, and then the flagship of Vice Admiral Pierre de Villeneuve at the Battle of Trafalgar . The Bucentaure was a 80- gun - Battleship . She went down in a storm on October 23, 1805.


Battle of Trafalgar 1805

The Bucentaure at the Battle of Trafalgar

On November 6, 1804 Vice Admiral Pierre de Villeneuve was officially assigned to the Bucentaure and had his flag hoisted on this ship. It took part in the Battle of Trafalgar on October 21, 1805. At that time it was commanded by Captain Jean-Jacques Magendie . In this sea battle, the Bucentaure had a not inconsiderable influence on the fighting, which was as follows:

Napoleon Bonaparte ordered Vice Admiral Pierre de Villeneuve, who was anchored in Cadiz , to sail to Naples with his subordinate fleet in order to take 12,000 soldiers on board. Villeneuve followed this order only very hesitantly, because a few British warships of Vice Admiral Nelson's fleet crossed off Cádiz . Since Villeneuve threatened to be relieved of his command if he refused to give orders, he bowed to the order and let the united Napoleonic fleet, consisting of French and Spanish ships, leave the port of Cádiz on October 19, 1805, which was due to unfavorable winds and poor navigational skills Ship crews lasted until noon the following day.

The Victory in action with several French ships of the line

Since the British frigate Sirius had observed the departure of the enemy and immediately reported it to Nelson, Nelson was able to work out a battle plan.

On October 21, 1805, at 6:40 a.m. , he had the signal set on his flagship, the Victory , to take up the agreed sail formation. His plan was to sail towards the Franco-Spanish enemy in two lines and to cut the opposing battle formation. The Victory should lead the northern line and the Royal Sovereign the southern line. Both lines then sailed eastwards towards the enemy traveling south.

Villeneuve, however, who wanted to keep the possibility of an escape to Cádiz, gave his French-Spanish fleet the order to turn around at 8:00 a.m. Since the wind was weak and the crews were inexperienced and not coordinated with one another, the traditional order of battle, namely sailing in a keel line in the wake of the person ahead, was completely mixed up. The maneuver was finally completed at 10 o'clock, so that Villeneuve's ships were now on a northerly course - but there were now large gaps in the ranks when both opposing fleets met at right angles. The French fleet could not use the tactical advantage of " Crossing the T ".

Exterior views of the Victory - with her the Bucentaure got into a violent battle

The Commander in Chief's flag was hoisted on the Victory , which is why Nelson and his staff assumed that the enemy would do something to set it as a preferred target and fight it. For this reason, the Temeraire drove slightly offset to port in front of the Victory in order to secure her. The British flagship wanted to push into the small gap between the French Bucentaure and the Spanish four-decker Santissima Trinidad and came under the heaviest fire. At 12.20 p.m. the Bucentaure opened fire on the Victory and was able to shed three broadsides on the British flagship, which caused it to lose its main bullsail . Nelson's ship then stood in the crossfire of the Héros , Santissima Trinidad and Redoutable for 40 minutes without being able to return the attack. It was only at 12:45 p.m. that the Victory managed to break through the enemy line and approach the Bucentaure .

The ship constellation and order in the Battle of Trafalgar

At 1 p.m., the Victory was able to record the first hits on the French Bucentaure with its artillery . The Victory fired a broadside into the transom - the weak point of warships at the time - and was able, as Villeneuve later explained, to take out a crew of approx. 400 men and 20 cannons, whereby the Bucentaure was severely weakened after only two minutes in the first battle. Captain Magendie, who sustained a head injury, was among the wounded in this first battle . However , neither sails nor masts of the Bucentaure were hit by the bombardment of the Victory , so that it remained maneuverable.

The Bucentaure was the French flagship of Vice Admiral Pierre Charles de Villeneuve, but it was not marked as such, but only revealed itself as the flagship by hoisting the admiral's flag when the Victory had slowly crossed her stern. The French Neptune then hurried to the Bucentaure 's aid and involved the Victory in a violent firefight, in the course of which the latter received serious damage to the foremast and bowsprit . The Victory then fell off to port, but did not manage to lay directly alongside the Bucentaure .

Now the French Redoutable also intervened and in turn attacked the Victory , which was now attacked by three ships at the same time. Captain Thomas Masterman Hardy of the Victory then decided to leave the battered Bucentaure behind and instead concentrate the fire on the redoutable .

The Bucentaure continued on its course without being fought by the Victory any further - however, the British Neptune took up their pursuit, which they could catch up later. Finally, after three hours of fighting , the Bucentaure could be captured by the British ships Neptune , Leviathan and Conqueror , so that Vice Admiral Villeneuve was forced to drop his flag . He surrendered to Captain James Atcherly of the British Conqueror .

Whereabouts of the ship

The Bucentaure was taken over by a British prize garrison after the lost battle . In fact, the captured French crew managed to take the prize crew by surprise and recapture their own ship. Despite all the effort, the Bucentaure sank in a storm on October 23, 1805.

Composition of the Bucentaure crew

The functional composition of the Bucentaure's crew is as follows:

number French function (rank / rank) translation annotation
23 officiers: Officers:
1 capitaine de vaisseau Sea captain
1 capitaine de frégate Frigate captain
4th lieutenants de vaisseau Captain lieutenants
4th enseignes de vaisseau Ensign at sea
2 officiers de garnisons Garrison officers
1 agent comptable Paymaster official accountant
1 officier de sante en chef Ship's doctor / chief field officer Rank with basic medical training
9 aspirants Officer Candidates
117 officiers mariniers: NCOs of the Navy:
2 maîtres de manœuvre ou d'équipage:
  • maître d'équipage
  • maître de maneuver
Master of the Navy
2 second maîtres d'équipage Boatswain possibly also submarine man
3 contremaîtres de manœuvre Chief mate
18th quartiers-maîtres de manœuvre Quartermaster Rank comparable to mate
2 maîtres canonniers des classes First master gunner in 1st or 2nd class
2 seconds maîtres canonniers des classes Second master gunner in 1st or 2nd class
24 aides-canonniers des classes 1st or 2nd class auxiliary gunners
2 maîtres canonniers militaires First master gunner in 1st or 2nd class not a member of the Navy
1 second maître canonnier militaire Second master gunner in 1st or 2nd class not a member of the Navy
24 aides-canonniers militaires Auxiliary gunners no members of the Navy
2 maîtres timoniers First helmsman
5 seconds maîtres timoniers Second helmsman
8th aides-timoniers Helmsman's mate see also Maat (rank)
1 pilote côtier Coastal pilot
1 maître charpentier First ship's carpenter see also ship carpenter
2 seconds maîtres charpentier Second ship's carpenter see also ship carpenter
5 aides-charpentiers Carpenter's assistant see also ship carpenter
1 maître calfat First caulk master Responsible for sealing the ship's hull (caulking)
2 seconds maître calfat Second caulking master Responsible for sealing the ship's hull (caulking)
5 aides calfats Caulking assistants
1 maître voilier First master sailmaker
1 second maître voilier Second master sail maker
2 aides-voiliers Sailmaker's assistants
1 capitaine d'armes Boatswain with police authority responsible for discipline and law compliance on board
569 equipage: Ship crew:
95 matelots de 1st class 1st class sailor
95 matelots de 2nd class Sailor 2nd class
95 matelots de 3e class 3rd class sailor
95 matelots de 4e class Sailor 4th class
125 novices Ordinary seaman
60 mousse Cabin boy
129 garrisons Garrison soldiers Branch of Infantry , Marine no affiliation
28 surnuméraire: Additional crew:
3 armuriers gunsmith Craft occupation: armorer or gunsmith
5 surgiens Surgeon
9 preposés aux vivres Provisioner or provision manager
11 domestiques servant


Rémi Monaque: Trafalgar . Paris 2005, ISBN 978-2-286-01869-6 .

Web links


  1. The similarity of the name to the designation of the state ship of the Doges of the Republic of Venice in the 18th century is clear: the Bucintoro . A Bucintoro was first mentioned in 1253. Its name is said to come from a chimera in Greek mythology, a mixture of cow and centaur .
  2. The section of the painting is actually called La Redoutable and comes from the artist Auguste Mayer. Investigations of the painting and research have shown, however, that the depicted untackled ship can only be the French flagship Bucentaure - and not the redoutable as it is called.
  3. Regarding the losses after the first battle between the Bucentaure and the Victory, there are different statements. Vice-Admiral Villeneuve is said to have reported the loss of 400 crew members and 20 cannons after the battle after the Victory had fired its broadside into the stern of the Bucentaure . Other sources put 197 dead and 85 wounded.
  4. The French functions / ranks / ranks recorded in the table cannot be translated into German in individual cases. In this case, the terminology is explained by a paraphrase or as far as possible by a function / rank / grade that comes close to a German definition - or not defined if the meaning is unclear. In addition, over the centuries there may be changes or shifts in the ranks, officer ranks, tasks, etc. which may not be further explained or taken into account here. The table enables a representative inspection of the traditional composition of a ship's crew from 1805
  5. The degree des officier de santé was a result of the reform of the medical system during the early Napoleonic era. In a medical two-class system, the "officiers de santé" went through a shorter and less specialized training that was supposed to prepare them for the standard cases of everyday medical life in the country. In contrast, training to become a regular doctor covered the entire spectrum of contemporary medicine. (Quoted from: Marc Föcking - Pathologia literalis )