Broke Of The Shannon

In the east of Ipswich today there is a housing estate named after one of Britain’s naval heroes. A pub only 3 miles from the estate in the village of Bucklesham is named after the 38-gun frigate he commanded in 1813 during his most famous naval action. 

 Image Credit : National Maritime Museum

Image Credit : National Maritime Museum

The man is Sir Philip Broke, the estate Broke Hall and the pub, the Shannon Inn. It was during the War of 1812 between Great Britain and America, that Broke, and his crew on HMS Shannon fought and boarded the larger frigate USS Chesapeake off the coast of Canada. Snatching victory from the hands of the Americans, his triumph raised the morale of the nation following three successive defeats against US Naval frigates in single-ship duels. He acquired the nickname Broke of the Shannon for his bravery, yet he was forced to retire due to a cutlass injury to the head he obtained during the battle. 

It was as he boarded the Chesapeake leading a boarding party that he was attacked by three sailors, armed with a pike, cutlass and a musket being used as a club. He parried the pike, yet as he did he received a cutlass stroke to his head resulting in a deep cut, followed by blows from the musket. He lost consciousness but was luckily saved by the surgeon on HMS Shannon attending his wounds. 

His counterpart on Chesapeake, Captain Lawrence, wasn’t as lucky and suffered two severe injuries, one of which proved to be fatal. Broke’s crew took the USS Chesapeake during the action and both vessels sailed to Halifax in Canada to be welcomed by a jubilant crowd. This engagement was one of the bloodiest naval duels during the Age of Sail and it was down to Broke’s skill, leadership and determination that the Shannon and its crew won. 

In 2013 the IMT celebrated him and his life at an international symposium at the University of Suffolk on the bicentennial of his victory. Ipswich has always been the home of seafarers, explorers, traders, as well as many members of the Merchant and Royal Navy, including the likes of Rear Admiral Broke and Admiral Vernon.