At the end of the seventeenth century, in the reign of William and Mary, French privateers were the scourge of the English Channel. In his book, ‘The history of the town and county of Poole’, published in 1839, John Sydenham describes the actions of two local seamen against them,
In 1694, capt. Peter Jolliife, of Poole, who was cruising in a small hoy, called the ” Sea Adventure,” perceiving a French privateer off the isle of Purbeck, make a prize of a fishing boat belonging to Weymouth, boldly attacked the privateer, though of three times his strength, and having first obliged him to quit his prize, afterwards forced him on shore, near the village of Lulworth, the people of which made themselves masters of the vessel, and took the crew prisoners. For this brave exploit, captain Jollitfe was honoured with a magnificent gold chain and medal, presented to him by the king*. The medal is now in the possession of the Rev. Peter William Jollifife, incumbent of the parish, who is the great grandson of the gallant captain; it weighs 2oz. 17dwts., and has on the obverse the heads of the king and queen in high relief, with the titular legend
“GVL: ET. MAR: D: G: M: B: F: ET. H: REX. ET. REGINA.”
And on the reverse is the following inscription:—
“His Maties Gift as a Reward to PETER JOLLIF, of Poole, for his good Service agt the Enemy in retaking a Ketch of Weymouth from a French Privateer, and chaceing the said Privateer on Shoar near Lulworth in ye Isle of Purbeck, where shee was broken in peeces. 1694.”
The honourable reward bestowed in this instance appears to have acted as a wholesome stimulus, for a still more daring action was undertaken on the 30th of May, 1695, by William Thompson, master of a fishing boat, belonging to Poole, who, when fishing near the isle of Purbeck accompanied by only one man and a boy, perceived a privateer of Cherbourg bearing down upon him. He was so far from avoiding the enemy that he made ready to defend himself the best way he could, with two little guns which he had mounted and some small arms ; and with so inconsiderable a force he behaved himself with such success that in a little time he wounded the captain, the lieutenant, and six more of the French, which so discouraged the rest that they bore away. But then, in his turn, Thompson, encouraged by the success of his valour, gave chase to the privateer, fired upon her incessantly for two hours, and at length made the enemy strike, beg for quarter, and surrender; so that Thompson, thus victorious, brought away the sloop with fourteen prisoners, of whom the captain was one, having left two more at Corfe castle, and brought her into Poole harbour. This privateer had two pateraroes, several small arms and grenadoes, and sixteen men. For this gallant proceeding the lords of the admiralty gave Thompson not only the vessel he had taken, but a gold chain and medal, similar to that presented to captain Jolliffe.