On this day – 200 years ago

Mountains plunging to turquoise seas, Venetian villages fringing the shoreline – visually, the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro may not have altered much in the last 200 years. But an astonishing chain of events in January 1814 – triggered by one bold Englishman – changed the course of its history.

The Bay of Kotor from the fortress above Kotor.

The Bay of Kotor from the fortress above Kotor.

William Hoste, captain of His Majesty’s Ship Bacchante, was a highly experienced officer in the British Navy. He knew that the French domination of the Adriatic during the Napoleonic Wars had to be undermined by doing the unthinkable.

On sailing into the Bay of Kotor in the Autumn of 1813, he saw that the only way to relieve the besieged city of Kotor, or Cattaro, was by bombarding it from above – and that meant above the fortifications that straddled the mountain rising almost sheer behind the city.

In driving rain, he and his men dragged an 18 pounder cannon up the mountain opposite – to the amazement of the French commander, who had scoffed that it would take them six months to do what they did in six days. With guns and mortars ranged around the mountains, the sailors then bombarded the city until the French admitted defeat.

And so it was, on 5th January 1814, that William Hoste wrote to his commander, Rear-Admiral Freemantle:


I have much satisfaction in acquainting you, after ten days’ cannonade, the fortress of Cattaro surrendered by capitulation this morning, to his Majesty’s ships [Bacchante and Saracen].

The keys of the city were handed over to the Central Commission for the Civil Affairs of the Bocca di Cattaro, an alliance of the Bocchese on the coast and the Montenegrins in the mountains. And Captain Hoste and his men sailed off to Ragusa (now Dubrovnik) to carry out a similarly unexpected relief of that besieged city.

For a fuller account of the actions of Sir William Hoste, see articles in this month’s editions of Norfolk magazine, Suffolk Norfolk Life, and Anglia Afloat.

The yacht Monty B at the entrance to the Bay of Kotor.

The yacht Monty B at the entrance to the Bay of Kotor.

For a view from the water, and guided tour, of Hoste’s activities, contact the crew of the yacht Monty B, who offer sailing trips around the Bay of Kotor. www.montenegro4sail.com/yacht-monty-b

A free factsheet, outlining Hoste’s activities around the Bay of Kotor, is available from stay@montenegroapartment.eu

And for details of accommodation in 4-star apartments overlooking the Bay of Kotor and within minutes of the walled city of Kotor and the fortress high above, take a look at the Montenegro apartment website.


The view from the balcony over the Bay of Kotor has changed little in the two hundred years since Captain Hoste sailed here.