9. Keith to Secretary of Admiralty
Vlictor at the Nore,
June 7, 1803.
Sir, I herewith enclose for the information of their Lordships one of Bean’s Hydrographic Sketches showing the positions which after due consultation with three Elder Brethren of the Trinity House I am of opinion ought to be occupied by the Blockships, Gun Brigs and smaller vessels appointed by their Lordships for the defence of the entrance of the rivers Thames and Medway.
A considerable number of small gun brigs or barges will in case of necessity be extremely useful and should be kept in constant readiness, but in bad weather they could not possibly ride among the Banks. They ought therefore to lie at Harwich, in the Swale, Colne river, Sheerness and other places which may be recommended for convenience or security. The great difficulty with respect to them will be bringing them promptly to act when occasion shall require. Perhaps their Lordships may approve of their crews, except officers and two trusty hands, being left in the blockships on the stations to which they may be attached, and an arrangement being made for the boats being carried to them at the shortest notice by some people of the description of the Sea Fencibles under the direction of active officers when occasion should require.
It would appear necessary that a complete system of Land Communications by signal posts or telegraph should be established along the coast. Due attention will be paid by me to an arrangement by signal in Hoseley [Hollesley] Bay, Goldersmere’s Gate [Goldmer Gat], the King’s Channel and the Wallet from whence the signals might be communicated by land till they reach Sheerness: but I must defer my arrangements on this head until I know whether it be their Lordships’ intention to establish any communication by signal along that shore.
I am of opinion that the possibility of the ships stationed in one or more of the channels being attacked by a superior force should be held in view, and that in such case, as well as in the event of it being discovered that the enemy in a great number of small craft were passing over the sands, out of reach of their fire, that both blockships and gun vessels should retire to the Warp and form a line of defence under the direction of the Flag Officer commanding at Sheerness, who should hold himself in preparation for such an emergency from the Nore light to Shoeburyness, or towards the Blacktail Beacon, a position which I apprehend it would be nearly impossible to force. It would appear advisable that the blockships should be particularly well provided with fire brooms and keep boats in readiness well provided with grapnels to tow off fire vessels, should the enemy make use of such means to force them from their stations.
Such is the general system which I presume to recommend, but greatly distrusting my own capacity for so important an arrangement and fully confiding in the discernment and ability of their Lordships, and in the various and superior sources of information to which they will be able to refer, I shall thankfully receive and punctually attend to the execution of any alterations which they may be pleased to direct. I have &c.
LLoyd, C . (eds.) (1955) The Keith Papers, vol III, 1803-1815. Navy Records Society, pp. 17-18
Web Page: Rickard, J (24 July 2006), Keith to Secretary of Admiralty, http://www.historyofwar.org/sources/acw/napoleonic/nrs1955/1_1_09.html.html