Haydn visited to view French ships

The telegram received by William Halls mother  still upsetting to read 78 years on.

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On this day in 1794 Austrian composer and musician Joseph Haydn arrived in Portsmouth. It is not known how long he stayed.

He was drawn to Portsmouth to view the French vessels that Lord Howe had captured and towed back to Portsmouth Harbour and, while in the town, made notes of what he observed.

He wrote: ‘I inspected the fortifications there, which are in good repair, especially the fortress opposite in Gosport.

‘I went aboard the French ship-of-the-line called Le Just. It has 80 cannon. The English, or rather Lord Howe, captured it. The 18 cannon in the harbour fortress are 36-pounders.

‘The ship is terribly shot to pieces. The great mast, which is 10ft 5in in circumference, was cut off at the very bottom and lay stretched on the ground.

‘A single cannonball, which passed through the captain’s room killed 14 sailors.

‘The Dockyard, or the place where ships are built, is of enormous size and has a great many splendid buildings. But I couldn’t go there because I was a foreigner’ – from John Sadden’s The Portsmouth Book of Days.