It was a real scoop for the newspapers – the Royal Navy’s favourite ship was stranded in plain sight. The press followed every twist and turn of the story, even when it was just rumour and gossip. The stories jumped from one paper to another, feeding Britain’s thirst for drawing room chatter.

Keeping the readers’ attention was more important than accuracy. Had the ship been saved or had she not? Had three (inevitably three) drunken crewmen drowned in the hold? Had the Master been critically injured in his panic to abandon ship?

The public interest

Britain was a sea-minded nation. Almost every family had a cousin, son, brother or father in the mercantile marine or Royal Navy. Readers could keenly feel the desperate hope of the gangs working to lighten the ship’s load.

Imagine following the drama as it unfolded. Was your nephew desperately trying to swing a gun weighing couple of tons onto a ‘lighter’ barge in a gale without getting crushed? Was Captain Bentley working to the point of exhaustion, the terror of the inevitable court-martial playing on his mind? Imagine being this close to the story as you read these press reports.

The Invincible Man of War … is still upon the Sands, and, as the Wind blows hard at South, it is feared she will soon be bilged. TRUE

Caledonian Mercury, 25/2/1758

…the Invincible of 74 guns of the above Fleet, miffing her Stays, ran afhore on a Flat between the Dane and the Horfe off Langftone Harbour to the Eaft of St. Helen’s. She fired feveral Guns as fignals of Diftrefs; on which Admiral Broderick ordered all the Cutters out to her Afffiftence. She is faft upon the Sand, and has again made a Signal of Diftrefs; but ‘tis hoped that fhe will be got off when her Guns are taken out. TRUE

…and three Sailors that were drunk were drowned in the Hold. FALSE

Ipswich Journal, 25/2/1758

The Master in the Hurry, when the Ship struck, jumped from a considerable Height upon the Head of a Cask, which broke in with him, and he fell astride upon the Edge of the Cask, which wounded him so terribly in his Fork, that his Life is despaired of. FALSE

Sussex Advertiser, 27/2/1758

The Master in the Hurry, when the Ship struck, jumped from a considerable Portsmouth, Feb. 27. … The Report of the Mafter of the Invincible having received fome Damage by falling, or any other Accident, is entirely groundlefs, he being as well in Health as the melancholy Situation will admit of. He is now a Prifoner on board the Royal Ann, in order to be tried by a Court-Martial. TRUE

Sussex Advertiser, 6/3/1758

The Invincible, that ran ashore when admiral Boscawen sail’d, is we hear got off again without damage. FALSE

Aberdeen Press and Journal, 28/2/1758

Portfmouth, March 8. On Monday the Court of Enquiry began and ended on board the Royal George, concerning his Majefty’s Ship Invincible. The Principals examined were the Pilots, who made it appear that there was no Mifconduct in the Mafter, for had the Ship been their own they should have behaved juft as he had done, whereupon the Mafter was set at Liberty. TRUE

Newcastle Courant, 18/3/1758