Master of the Seas of the Two Indies: the Naval Career of Admiral Sir George Pocock

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Early 19th Century oil painting of Sir George Pocock, based on a c. 1761 painting by Thomas Hudson.

The Career of Admiral Sir George Pocock

A distant figure in our time, Sir George Pocock was a consummate naval officer, with victories in both the War of Austrian Succession and the Seven Years War, responsible in the latter for securing command of the Indian Ocean during 1759, and for Britain’s greatest maritime operation of the 18th century – the capture of Havana in 1762. Closely associated with controversial figures such as Lord Clive, John Byng and the Earl of Albemarle, Pocock was marginalized in the historiography during the 19th century in comparison to the towering figures of Anson, Rodney, Hawke and Boscawen. Pocock nevertheless played an integral role in several of Britain’s most important maritime operations and his well deserved reputation for courage, steadfastness and imperturbability encourage modern reappraisal.

The Young Gentleman

George Pocock was born on 6 March 1706 at Thames Ditton, Surrey, the son of the Reverend Thomas Pocock and his wife Joyce Master. Thomas was a Royal Navy chaplain who ministered to the Royal Hospital at Greenwich.[i]

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HMS Superb, captured French Superbe of 1710, flagship of Admiral George Byng, Pocock’s first posting in 1718

Pocock’s naval career began in 1718 at the age of twelve when he joined HMS Superb (64), the captured French warship then the flagship of Admiral George Byng (Viscount Torrington) – himself married to one Margaret, Joyce’s sister. Superb’s flag captain was Streynsham Master, Pocock’s uncle. Pocock was accompanied to sea by his cousin John Byng (of eventual Minorca infamy) who was also beginning his career aboard the flagship of the Admiral, his father.[ii] Pocock’s path was thus smoothed by his close association with senior officers and his extended network of relatives and relations.

Both Byng and Pocock were aboard Superb when it fought at the battle at Cape Passaro, Sicily, 11 August 1718.[iii] From here Pocock spent three years aboard the hospital ship Looe and a further four years aboard the warships Prince Frederick (70) and Argyle (50).

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HMS Namur, 90 gun 2nd rate in which Pocock was made First Lieutenant in August 1732.

The Portrait of a Naval Officer, from Lieutenant to Post Captain

Pocock made Lieutenant on 19 April 1725 (other sources say December 1726), and was stationed aboard HMS Burford (70), followed by Romney (54), and then Canterbury (60).[iv] Pocock was next appointed to HMS Namur (90) the flagship of Admiral Sir Charles Wager, and in August 1732 he was promoted to First Lieutenant. Pocock’s first command was the fireship Bridgewater, to which he was appointed on 26 February 1733.

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1719 establishment frigate similar to the 1727 rebuilt 20 gun 6th rate HMS Aldborough, Pocock’s first command in 1738.

Pocock made Commander in February 1734,[v] and after four years of service was promoted, on 1 August 1738 at the age of 32, to Post Captain with command of the frigate Aldborough (20), first built in Pocock’s birth-year of 1706, then rebuilt in 1727.[vi] Thus, Pocock was stationed in the Mediterranean under Rear Admiral Haddock. The squadron in which Pocock served secured several lucrative Spanish captures following the declaration of war in 1739.[vii] Pocock continued in the Mediterranean until 1741, and then he returned to England.

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HMS Woolwich in 1677 as a 54 gun 4th rate, by Willem van de Velde, rebuilt in 1702 and again in 1736 as a 50 gun ship, to which Captain Pocock was appointed in 1742.

In August 1742, now 36, Pocock was appointed to the Woolwich (50), a heavily rebuilt 4th rate originally completed in 1675.[viii] He was transferred briefly to the Shrewsbury and then in 1744 (or January 1743) he was appointed to the Sutherland (50) a new 4th rate only three years out of the yards, in command of which he was despatched to the East Indies, convoying British East India Company (BEIC) ships. These 4th rates of the 1733 and 1741 establishment were designed by Sir Jacob Acworth, the Surveyor of the Navy between 1715-1749. Although plentifully armed,[ix] they were nevertheless under-gunned due to a shortage in heavier ordnance that prevailed in Britain during the 1730s, and have further been criticized as cramped and overly expensive.[x]

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Lines of the ‘Sutherland’-type 50 gun 4th rates built in 1741, Pocock’s command in 1744.

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Block model of HMS Preston a 1733 establishment 50 gun cruiser built in 1742. The 853 ton 4th rate was crewed by 300 men and equipped with 22 18-pounders, 26 12-pounders, 14 6-pounders on the quarterdeck and four 6-pounders on the forecastle.

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Model of 50-gun cruiser circa 1725, similar to the newer Sutherland commanded by Captain Pocock in 1744.

Pocock was ordered to the African coast in October 1744, but his sailing from Plymouth was delayed due to trouble fitting and manning the Sutherland and the operation was not carried out until April 1745 (Pocock arrived at Madeira on the 27th of that month).[xi]

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The eastern Caribbean during the War of Austrian Succession (1740-1748), the principle convoy assembly points at Antigua (British – red), and Martinique (French – blue) circled.

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Map of Antigua made in 1780 and drawn from late 1740s surveys, base of Britain’s Leeward Island Station during the 18th century

Pocock was eventually assigned to the Barbadoes and Leeward Islands station under Commodore Edward Legge, who had been appointed to the Leeward Island station command on 24 October 1746.[xii] The Sutherland, arrived at Antigua on 28 April 1747. Under Legge’s command, Pocock’s Sutherland was employed on trade defence, convoy protection and shipping interdiction missions, working with the other cruisers on station in pairs. Sutherland worked alongside HMS Captain (70), Suffolk (70), Dragon (60), Sunderland (60), Dreadnought (60), Gosport (44), and assorted frigates and sloops against the French convoys sailing from Martinique.[xiii]

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Second Battle of Cape Finisterre, 14 (25) October 1747, Rear Admiral Hawke’s action scattered a large French convoy that proceeded to the West Indies where it was intercepted by Pocock’s Leeward Island’s squadron in November.

Pocock was thrust into command when Commodore Legge became seriously ill in August and then died on 18 or 19 September 1747 at the age of 37. Pocock, the senior captain, now succeeded Legge as C-in-C.[xiv] Pocock’s singular achievement came in November with the capture of a scattered French convoy, the result of Rear Admiral Hawke’s action off Cape Finisterre, 14 (Julian, 25, Gregorian) October 1747.[xv] Pocock’s small squadron of cruisers, frigates, sloops and privateers captured as many as 40 merchant ships – and 900 prisoners – although a further 66 merchant ships from the original convoy of 252 made it to Martinique.[xvi]

Pocock returned to England, having been relieved in the Caribbean in May 1748 by Rear Admiral Henry Osborne. Shortly afterwards, on 18 October 1748, the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle ended the War of Austrian Succession.

Pocock, now a wealthy – although not yet rich – man as the result of his shipping captures, moved into an apartment on St. James Street, London. In 1749, at the age of 43, Pocock was painted by Thomas Hudson.

Hudson, Thomas, 1701-1779; Admiral Sir George Pocock (1706-1792)

Commodore George Pocock, 43, painted by Thomas Hudson in 1749

Pocock had no command until 1754 when he was appointed to the Cumberland (66) for home duty, before being transferred to the Eagle (60) – although this ship was badly damaged in a storm, and Pocock returned to the Cumberland – to sail on 24 March with Rear Admiral Charles Watson and 400 troops, destined for the East Indies.[xvii]

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Admiral in the Indian Ocean

The Seven Years War with France provided Pocock with the opportunity he needed to resume his naval career. Cumberland arrived in the Indian Ocean in September 1754 and Pocock’s role in the global conflict began at sea on 6 January (or 4 February) 1755 when he was advanced to the rank of Rear Admiral of the White.

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Maps of India, showing European trade stations during the Seven Years War, and prevailing annual weather during.

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Pocock sails for India in early 1755 aboard HMS Cumberland

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The capture of Geriah, 12 – 13 February 1756, by Dominic Serres in 1771. Rear Admiral Watson’s flagship, HMS Kent is in the centre, with Pocock’s Cumberland to its right, facing backwards.

Cumberland reached Bombay on 10 November 1755. Watson and Pocock were soon engaged fighting the pirate Tugalee Angria, who sortied from his base at Geriah near Goa. Rear Admiral Watson in Kent, with Pocock as his second in command in Cumberland, transported a detachment of troops under Lieutenant Colonel Robert Clive to Geriah, arriving on 12 February 1756. Clive’s soldiers were landed in the evening while Watson’s force put Angria’s pirate flotilla to the torch and bombarded his base. Although Angria himself escaped, the pirate’s base and treasure (including £130,000 of spices, jewels, and other valuables) were captured. Watson returned to Madras at the end of April, and Pocock was promoted to Rear Admiral of the Red on 4 June 1756.

Almost two weeks later Suraj-ud-Daula, the nineteen year-old nawab of Bengal, deployed 30,000 men to surround Calcutta, where Britain’s Fort William was garrisoned by a mere 500 soldiers. The fort fell on 20 June, the captured British prisoners suffering their ignominious fate in the notorious Black Hole of Calcutta – more than half dying from suffocation.[xviii]

News of this disaster reached Madras on 16 August, where Watson and Pocock were stationed. A relief expedition was organised but it was unable to sail until October when the prevailing winds made progress tortuously slow. Pocock’s mission, working with C-in-C Watson, was to escort a landing force to Calcutta, but the squadron did not arrive until 8 December,[xix] while Pocock’s Cumberland had became separated from the attacking squadron and was running short on supplies. By the time Pocock reached Calcutta, in January, Calcutta and the surrounding forts had already been recaptured by Watson’s landing force of 700 regulars, 600 sailors and marines, and 1,200 sepoys, commanded once again by Colonel Robert Clive. Nevertheless, Pocock was promoted to Vice Admiral of the White in February 1757 (or possibly earlier on 8 December 1756).

Clive, after defeating Suraj-ud-Daula in open battle and securing his cooperation through a peace treaty on 9 February, was eager to advance on towards the French trade post at Chandernagore. Conveniently, it was now that news arrived from Europe that war had indeed been declared between France and Britain, so Clive and Watson set off upriver.[xx]

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Rear Admiral Watson’s force – KentTiger (under Pocock) and Salisbury – bombarding Chandernagore on 23 March 1757, by Dominic Serres, 1771

Pocock, arriving at Calcutta shortly after this, followed up the Hooghly river in a boat and barge flotilla. He arrived on 22 March 1757 and immediately took command of the warship Tiger (60), which along with Kent (70) and Salisbury (50) had managed to work themselves upriver. The bombardment was opened the following day. In this violent action Pocock himself was wounded when he was hit by flying splinters (Salisbury failed to get into position while Tiger suffered 13 killed and 54 wounded; Kent another 19 killed and 74 wounded).[xxi] Following the surrender of Chandernagore, Clive went on to defeat Suraj-ud-Daula – who had once again turned against the BEIC – in the famous battle at Plassey, 23 June 1757.[xxii]

On 15 or 16 August 1757 Rear Admiral Watson died of fever at Calcutta and Pocock assumed command of the entire East Indies squadron. Also at this time, Pocock learned of the court martial and execution of his cousin, Admiral John Byng, stemming from the latter’s failure to recapture Minorca (20 May 1756).

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Royal Navy reinforcements arrive in 1757 & Pocock becomes C-in-C East Indies. Note the loss of Kent.

The Duel

Early in 1758 Pocock left Bengal for Madras, where he was met by Commodore Charles Steevens with reinforcements: four ships-of-the-line and a frigate,[xxiii] and on 5 February (or 31 January) Pocock was promoted to Vice Admiral of the Red.[xxiv]  The essence of fleet strategy in the Indian Ocean revolved around securing trade from the west coast of the sub-continent between April and September, before the monsoon season began, and no doubt the French would do what they could to interdict this trade.

Indeed, intelligence soon arrived that the French were sending reinforcements to counter-attack. A small force led by the skilled Anne Antoine Comte d’Ache de Serquigny had been despatched from Brest on 3 May 1757 (although three of d’Ache’s four ships-of-the-line had to be diverted to Louisburg).[xxv]

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Build up of forces in the Indian Ocean during 1758, Pocock battles the Comte d’Ache for control of the East Indies.

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Pocock’s East Indies squadron after being reinforced by Commodore Stevens in early 1758. Note Captain Richard Kempenfelt’s presence as Commodore Stevens’ flag-captain aboard HMS Elizabeth.

Pocock flew his flag from HMS Yarmouth (70) and put to sea on 17 April, passing Negapatam and Fort St. David, and on 28 April Pocock’s squadron of seven intercepted the Comte d’Ache’s squadron of nine (eight total owned by the French East India Company, some acquired enroute at Mauritius) near Cuddalore.[xxvi] D’Ache had previously arrived at Fort St. David where he forced two of Pocock’s detached frigates to run aground, whence the British crews torched the ships to prevent capture.[xxvii]

D’Ache was escorting 1,200 French reinforcements (four battalions) under the command of the Comte de Lally (Lieutenant General Thomas Arthur Lally, baron de Tollendal, descendent of an Irish émigré; a solider of fortune) destined for Pondicherry. While Pocock was preparing to close with d’Ache, the Comte despatched Lally-Tollendal in the Comte de Provence (74) to make for Pondicherry, leaving d’Ache with only eight ships to fight Pocock’s seven.

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HMS Yarmouth (70), Pocock’s command in 1758-9

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View of Pocock’s first action with d’Ache, 29 April 1758

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Order of battle for Cuddalore/Gondelour

Between 2:15 and 3 pm on 29 April Pocock steered directly for d’Ache’s flagship, the Zodiaque, and although he was receiving incoming fire from the French line, did not return fire until within pistol-shot.[xxviii] At the decisive moment he signaled for close action. In the ensuing battle (known as the battle of Gondelour in French and Cuddalore or Sadras in English), only four of Pocock’s ships engaged (leaving Cumberland, Newcastle, and Weymouth behind, and generating court martials for the three hesitant captains), and by the time the three laggard ships had caught up the British had been badly damanged, allowing d’Ache to make good his escape, limping into Pondicherry, where the Comte de Lally had already arrived.[xxix] Although Pocock flew the signal for general chase it was clear the British, with many sails and masts shot away, could not pursue and thus only the frigate Queenborough was sent ahead to try to locate the French squadron during the night, but to no avail.[xxx] D’Ache later lost the East Indiaman Bien-Aime (58) when it crashed ashore.[xxxi]

Nevertheless, Pocock’s force had inflicted numerous casualties: 162 killed and 360 wounded (or near 600 killed and wounded), in particular aboard d’Ache’s flagship. D’Ache, however, had done well himself, having achieved his objective of getting through to Pondicherry and had inflicted casualties of his own, primarily on the Yarmouth. Total British losses were 29 killed and 85 (or 89) wounded.[xxxii]

Pocock refitted at Madras and was prepared to sail on 10 May. Lally-Tollendal was on the move, however, and with 3,500 Europeans and another 3,000 Indian troops first captured Cuddalore and then laid siege to Fort St. David.[xxxiii] Pocock intended to relieve the siege of Fort St. David, but was unable to reach the outpost before it surrendered on 2 or 6 June, along with its garrison of 1,000.[xxxiv] Pocock’s normally cool temper was by now enflamed and upon return to Madras for victuals and water he ordered the court martials of Captains Vincent, Legge and Brereton, whom he held responsible for failing to engage on 29 April. Captain Vincent was relieved of his command, Legge was cashiered and Brereton reduced a year in seniority.[xxxv] The incident had stung Pocock – a man not easily shaken from his serene demeanour – and in later years he acknowledged this fact, coming to believe that he had been overly harsh in handing out these sentences.[xxxvi]

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British and French order of battle off Negapatam, 3 August 1758. Notice the change of British captains following the court martials held in July.

Pocock put to sea again on 25 July and made a half dozen merchant ship captures before scouting the harbour at Pondicherry on the 27th. D’Ache, realizing he was about to be trapped, and with few provisions remaining, took his force of seven and a frigate and fled to sea, once again alluding Pocock’s general pursuit.[xxxvii] Pocock was, however, able to capture and burn a French ammunition ship that had been approaching Pondicherry.

Pocock sighted d’Ache on 1 August, and, although d’Ache skillfully delayed with a series of maneuvers all of August 2nd, Pocock was finally able to bring the Comte to action on the morning of the 3rd near Negapatam.[xxxviii] At 1:20 pm d’Ache decided it was time; his fleet drawn up in a crescent, and signaled to engage. Pocock followed suit, but was temporarily frustrated as d’Ache pulled his squadron away, firing chain shot at the English line, carrying away signals and masts.[xxxix] Pocock was determined to fight, however, and at 2:25 flew the signal for close action.

Captain Kempenfelt in the Elizabeth furiously attacked the Comte de Provence, temporarily setting it ablaze, then moving on to attack the Duc de Bourgoyne. Meanwhile, Pocock, in the Yarmourth, once again made for d’Ache’s flagship, the Zodiaque, and engaged it with a heavy fire, destroying the ship’s wheel. A gun exploded aboard the French flagship and in the confusion the Zodiaque collided with the Duc d’Orleans.[xl] With Yarmouth and Tiger closing in, d’Ache could see that the battle was turning against him – once again the daring French commander effected his escape, making for Pondicherry at 2:08 pm. Pocock signaled for general chase but, again, it was too late and d’Ache, although shaken, limped back into harbour. Pocock’s squadron suffered 200 casualties (31 killed and 116 – 166 wounded, including a slightly injured Pocock and Commodore Steevens – who had been shot by musket ball in the shoulder)[xli] to d’Ache’s 800 (250 killed and 600 wounded, amongst the latter including d’Ache himself as well as his flag captain).[xlii]

The strategic situation was liable to worsen as the French, on 9 March, had despatched additional reinforcements from Brest: Minotaure (74), Actif (64), and Illustre  (64), as well as Fortune (54) from Lorient on 7 March. The Royal Navy was able to spare only Grafton (70) and Sunderland (60) sailing from England on 8 March.[xliii]

In the meantime, with the monsoon season set to arrive, Pocock made for Bombay to effect his repairs while d’Ache sailed for Mauritius (where he combined with Captain Froger de L’Eguille’s force of three-of-the-line). On 14 December Lally-Tollendal sieged Madras, but the siege was broken when Captain Kempenfelt, despatched by Pocock, arrived with frigates and several small craft loaded with stores and reinforcements, forcing Lally-Tollendal to raise the siege on 17 February 1759.[xliv]

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Order of battle for Pondicherry

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Battle of Pondicherry, 10 September 1759, the culminating battle between Pocock (top) and d’Ache (bottom), concluding with d’Ache’s flight from the Indian Ocean, securing India for Britain, much as Admiral Saunders and General Wolfe had done for Canada at Quebec (13 September), Commodore Moore had done for Guadeloupe in the West Indies (1 May), while Hawke destroyed the Brest fleet at Quiberon Bay (20 November) and Boscawen destroyed the Toulon fleet at Lagos (18 August): the string of victories that made 1759 Britain’s annus mirabilis.

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Royal Navy casualties at Pondicherry

The situation remained a stalemate until 17 April 1759, when Pocock, with the weather once again favourable, sailed for Ceylon, hoping to intercept d’Ache at sea. For the following four months Pocock cruised, hunting for the French squadron.[xlv] Nevertheless, d’Ache was nowhere to be found and with provisions running low, Pocock set course for Trincomale on 1 September. However, within 24 hours of this decision, the frigate Revenge located d’Ache’s squadron at sea and hastened to inform Pocock. Hearing of this break of good fortune Pocock put about and signaled for a general chase. D’Ache, once again faced with his old nemesis, knew exactly what to do and proceeded to amuse Pocock at sea for three days, until the French commander disappeared into a bank of haze.

Pocock immediately made to blockade Pondicherry, hoping to intercept d’Ache should he try for that port – which was in fact d’Ache’s intention as he carried supplies for that critical base.[xlvi] Pocock arrived off Pondicherry on 8 September early in the morning; exactly eight hours before d’Ache. The French squadron was sighted at 1 pm and two hours later had been identified as 13 sail.[xlvii] Pocock continued ahead of d’Ache to prevent his escape and hounded the French squadron for 48 hours, finally closing on d’Ache’s line at 2:10 pm on 10 September. On this occasion (known as the battle of Pondicherry) Pocock had nine of the line against d’Ache’s eleven. D’Ache, with Yarmouth nearly within musket shot, saw that battle was now unavoidable and signaled for action, Pocock immediately following. An intense cannonade commenced until d’Ache pulled away not long after 4 pm. Once again Pocock’s ships were too badly damaged in their masts and yards to pursue. In the pitched battle d’Ache himself was again wounded (and his flag-captain killed), one amongst a total of 1,500 French casualties. Pocock’s forces had sustained 569 casualties (118 killed and another 66 dying afterwards, with another 385 variously wounded).[xlviii] Furthermore, Captain Michie of the Newcastle had been killed.[xlix]

Pocock ordered the frigate Revenge to follow d’Ache while the English made quick repairs at sea. The next morning the English sighted the French squadron but d’Ache again made sail, disappearing over the horizon. With Tiger and Cumberland under tow, Pocock made for Negapatam to repair, where he sent to Madras for reinforcements. At sea again on the 20th, Pocock set course for Pondicherry, where he found d’Ache at anchor beneath the fortress guns on the 27th – the French admiral had achieved his purpose and had landed his supplies. To Pocock’s frustration d’Ache proceeded to slip away, avoiding the still damaged English ships. Pocock returned to Madras. D’Ache, meanwhile, made for Mauritius, leaving the Royal Navy in control of the Indian Ocean, and clearing the way for the capture of Pondicherry itself, accomplished on 15 January 1761.

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The East Indiaman “Pitt” engages St. Louis on 28 September 1758/9, by Dunn Lawson. St. Louis was a veteran of all three of d’Ache’s battles with Pocock. An artistic representation of the grand naval duel for India – if the exact particulars are perhaps imaginary.

Pocock, his health weakened by five years of relentless warfare in the East Indies, was ordered to hand-over his command to Commodore Steevens and return to London at the end of 1759. Pocock, however, felt his presence was still required and thus did not relinquish his command until April 1760. Back in London, he was rewarded with a marble bust commissioned by a grateful East India Company. Later that year, at the age of 54, Pocock was elected MP for Plymouth, and was subsequently knighted in March 1761. Pocock used his influence and his close relationship with Lord Anson to advance the interests of his commanders, being able to get James Hawker promoted, although not William Owen.[l] Pocock believed in rewarding those who had supported him, telling a follower that, “…if not too open and glaring an impropriety, I might rely on him.”[li]

Of Pocock’s actions in Indian waters Sir Julian Corbett wrote in 1907, “It is the fashion now merely to deride his battle tactics, which after three actions in eighteen months had failed to secure a real decision, though the tactics which would have secured a decision against a superior force determined to avoid one are never very clearly indicated. More just it would be to praise his vehement ‘general chases’, the daring and resolute attacks which in manner yielded nothing to Hawke’s, and above all for the strategical insight and courage which enabled him to dominate a sea which it was practically impossible for his inferior force to command.”[lii]

As for D’Ache, Pocock’s great antagonist in those distant waters, Pitt’s American strategy – culminating in the capture of Quebec while treating India as a holding action – had effectively terminated the threat from Mauritius. Clive now wrote that, “…this time the superiority of our force at sea, I take for granted, is beyond dispute, and of consequence our resources must be more than those of the French… A victory on our side must confine the French within the walls Pondicherry; and when that happens, nothing can save them from destruction, but a superior force at sea…”[liii] On 8 June 1760 news arrived at Mauritius informing D’Ache that the English were now preparing to shift their efforts to the Indies and thus that he should expect an operation with sizable forces against his island base, precluding any chance of further operations in Indian waters.[liv] D’Ache sent two frigates to inform Pondicherry of this unhappy fate and in January 1761 that last, all-important, French base in India capitulated.[lv]

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Return of a fleet into Plymouth Harbour, Dominic Serres, 1766

Triumph: The Havana Operation of 1762

War was declared against Spain on 4 January 1762 when the British government learnt of a treaty signed between France and Spain in August the previous year. The Cabinet, once again under the Duke of Newcastle, reached the decision to strike Havana on 6 January (a project Pitt had proposed before his resignation in October 1761), and Pocock, promoted to Admiral of the Blue, was selected for overall command, with Lieutenant General the Earl of Albemarle commanding the land forces.[lvi] Lord Anson drew up the plan, part of a two-pronged assault against the Spanish empire’s key colonial outposts: the Philippines and Cuba. On 7 January the Navy Board issued its request for transportation for the project and by the end of January the transports had been prepared and supplied for seven months rations. Pocock’s final orders arrived on 18 February.[lvii]

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Lord Anson by Joshua Reynolds

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Caribbean during the Seven Years War, showing Pocock’s “Old Bahama” route to Havana.

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Lines of HMS Namur, 90 gun second rate built in 1756, Pocock’s flagship for the Havana operation.

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Pocock’s initial force as assembled (minus transports, etc) at Spithead.

By 26 February the entire force was prepared and assembled at Spithead (Albemarle described Pocock’s effort as “indefatigable”).[lviii] Pocock was to proceed with his forces to the Lesser Antilles, rendezvous with Major General Robert Monckton and Rear Admiral George Rodney, then sail to St. Domingue to collect additional forces for the landing before moving onto his objective. Pocock was to collect another four thousand regulars and American militia from New York, as well as a planned regiment of 500 blacks and 2,000 slaves from Jamaica, plus pilots from the Bahamas (who turned out to be inexperienced).[lix] Celerity was imperative as the onset of the hurricane season in August was bound to terminate operations, as was the prevalence of tropical disease, such as yellow fever.[lx]

Pocock, with second in command Commodore Augusts Keppel,[lxi] departed England with five sail, 67 transports, and 4,000 troops (four regiments – the 22nd, 34th, 56th and 72nd) on 5 March and arrived at Barbados on 20 April, before sailing to Martinique on 26 April, the latter island recently captured by Rear Admiral Rodney and Major General Monckton that January (St. Lucia had also been captured on 25 February under Captain Augustus Hervey). Rodney had already been informed by the arrival of the Richmond late in March that he was to prepare to join with Pocock – orders made difficult by an expected French assault on Jamaica, to intercept which Rodney had despatched ten ship-of-the-line under Commodore Sir James Douglas.

In the event, further intelligence confirmed that the French attack was not likely to take place and thus Commodore Douglas, aware of the all important nature of the Havana operation, decided to use his detached squadron to blockade the French base at Cape Francois, Saint Domingue, thus preventing the French and Spanish fleet from combining and possibly threatening the invasion force when it arrived.[lxii] Next Douglas despatched the Richmond to the Old Bahama Channel to prepare soundings and make sketches for the approach.

When Pocock arrived at Martinique he assumed supreme command and immediately requested Rodney (who was then ill) to provide him with all available intelligence. Orders were also sent to Commodore Douglas to join him on 12 May off Cape St. Nicolas (Douglas, however, did not receive these messages until 3 May, and although he quickly despatched orders to collect his squadron this still took a number of days).[lxiii] As Rodney and Monckton were on bad terms at this stage of the occupation of Martinique, Pocock and Albemarle were required to significantly re-organize the landing force, including the purchase of slaves from Martinique and elsewhere (as it was realized that Jamaica was unlikely to provide any) – and about 600 slaves were thus obtained.[lxiv] Pocock further upset Rodney by taking charge of the latter’s flagship, Marlborough, and consigning his staff to a smaller 64, before departing.[lxv] Rodney subsequently penned an agitated series of letters outbound, including one to the Prime Minister.[lxvi]

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The Havana invasion force departing Martinique, 6 May 1762 (not showing frigates, sloops, transports, etc).

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Commodore Augustus Keppel by Joshua Reynolds, 1749. Keppel, aboard HMS Valiant, was Pocock’s second in command.

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Lt. General George Keppel, the Third Earl of Albermarle by Edward Fisher based on Joshua Reynolds, 1762

Pocock departed Martinique on 6 May and collected a trade convoy on its way to Jamaica, building the invasion fleet up to over 200 transports and 13 ships-of-the-line. The fleet arrived at Cape St. Nicolas on 17 May and collected what few of Commodore Douglas’ ships were in the area – the rest being still dispersed on blockade duties or re-victualing. The full squadron did not join Pocock until 25 May.[lxvii] Pocock’s complete force now consisted of 20 ship-of-the-line, a 50-gun cruiser, five frigates, three bomb vessels, a sloop, a cutter and the transports carrying 11,000 troops. Pocock allowed the merchants bound for Jamaica to depart (another indication of the powerful Port Royal merchant lobby’s influence) under the escort of HMS Centurion, with Commodore Douglas aboard.

Pocock, entrusted with a copy of Anson’s Spanish charts,[lxviii] and his own navigational experience from his time in the West Indies station, worked the invasion force around the dangerous north coast of Cuba, utilizing skilled navigators such as Captain Holmes in the sloop Bonetta and Captain Lindsay in the Trent, alongside the Lurcher to prepare the way. These vessels were in the process of scouting a route when they found Captain Elphinston of the Richmond on 29 May, who had completed his survey of the approach. A combination of sounding boats and coastal torch-fires to navigate allowed the fleet to sail through the Old Bahama Passage.[lxix]

Minor success occurred during this phase of the operation, such as on 2 June when Captain Alms in the Alarm captured the Spanish frigate Thetis and the storeship Phoenix.[lxx]

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Havana force passing through the Old Strait of Bahama towards Havana, 2 June 1762

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Map of Havana, showing location of Royal Navy operations: Pocock’s bombardment of the Chorea castle (left), the bombardment of the Morro fortress (centre) and Keppel and Albermarle’s landing (right); 1762.

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Detailed map of the same from David Syrett’s Navy Records Society volume on the capture of Havana

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Views of the harbour of Havana circa 1780, showing the harbour as entrance and exit.

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El Morro Fortress overlooking the entrance to Havana harbour today.

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Keppel covers Albermarle’s landing on 7 June 1762, by Dominic Serres.

Pocock arrived off Havana on 6 June and started the landing the following day, with Commodore Keppel – in fact Albemarle’s brother – in overall command. 3,963 soldiers and grenadiers, artillerymen and so forth were landed by 10:30 am. The light Spanish defences at the Coximar river delta were swept away by Keppel’s naval gunfire.[lxxi] While Keppel was carrying out this phase of the operation with his six of the line, Pocock moved with his 13 of the line past the harbour – where he identified 12 Spanish warships – and farther to the west, conducting a feint landing with the Royal Marines at his disposal. Meanwhile the Earl of Albermarle landed his complete force between the Boca Noa and Coximar rivers, supported by gunfire from Captain Harvey in the Dragon along with the sloops Mercury and Bonetta. On 8 June Pocock despatched frigates to scout for additional landing locations and to conduct soundings along the coast, in the process discovering that the Spanish had now sunk a blockship at the harbour entrance, followed by a second on 9 June.[lxxii]

The total Spanish force garrisoning Havana’s various redoubt and fortress environs was 2,800 – three regiments of infantry and a regiment of dragoons – regulars, marines and sailors (the Spanish Admiral in charge of the fleet in Havana harbour was one Hevia), 5,000 militia, 250 arsenal hands, and 600 freed slaves.[lxxiii]

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Pocock’s diversion bombardment of the Chorrera batteries, 11 June 1762

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The remains of the Terreon de la Chorrera today

After securing his position ashore, Albermarle informed Pocock that he intended to attack the La Cabana heights above the Morro fortress on the 10th, and so Pocock provided a diversion in the form of Captain Knight in the Belleisle, which, along with Cerebus, Mercury, Lurcher and Bonetta bombarded the Chorrera (Terreon de la Chorrera – Cojimar) castle. On the 11th at 1 pm Colonel Carleton, Albermarle’s Quarter-Master General, led the assault on La Cabana and carried the heights successfully. Major General William Keppel, the third Keppel brother, was now appointed to command the El Morro siege operation.

To follow up this success, Pocock ordered three bomb vessels and the sloops Edgar, Stirling Castle and Echo to attack the town of Havana. On 12 June the Spanish sunk yet another blockship, completely blockading the entrance to the harbour.

Battle of Havana by Serres

Havana: landing artillery, 30 June 1762, by Dominic Serres, c. 1770-1775

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Another view of the 30 June landing

On the 15th further landings were made, including 800 marines in two battalions, the first under Major Cambell and second under Major Collins. Another 1,200 troops were landed under Colonel Howe. A few days later mortars were landed from Thunder and Grenado, which began to bombard Morro on 20 June. Cannon were ashore and emplaced, adding their weight of shell to the attack.[lxxiv] In the meantime, Pocock tasked Keppel with deploying Dragon, Cambridge and Marlborough, together led by Captain Hervey, against the Morro, and their cannonade commenced on 1 July. The three ships suffered heavily from the fortress guns (of which there were 70), however, and were called off after six hours of shelling. Captain Goostrey of the Cambridge was killed.

For the remainder of July the Earl of Albermarle sieged the El Morro fortress – despite ever shortening supplies of water and ever increasing sick cases – but it wasn’t until 30 July that the exploding of a mine enabled the taking of the castle by assault, during which as many as 1,000 of the Spanish garrison were made casualties (130 killed, 27 wounded, 326 captured another 213 drowned while fleeing) and the Captain of the Morro fortress, Don Lewis de Velasco, was mortally wounded.[lxxv]

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Dragon, Cambridge and Marlborough bombarding Morro Castle, Havana, 1 July 1762 by Richard Paton

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Losses sustained during the shelling on 1 July.

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Flatboats assault Morro Castle, 30 July 1762, by Dominic Serres. Alcide (64) shown.

Pocock for his part continued to carry out his theatre-level operation, constantly in touch with frigates carrying information about movements around Cuba and Florida, covering the Jamaica convoys, and watching for the approach of expected American reinforcements (who arrived 28 July – although reduced by 500 men who were captured in their transports by the Comte de Blenac’s detached flotilla) and simultaneously managing the supply situation of the siege itself.[lxxvi]

Havana was now surrounded, and the Spanish governor, Don Juan de Prado, asked for terms on 11 August, surrendering two days later. 12 warships were captured, eight line-of-battle ships being fit for sea (the other three being the sunk blockships), as well as £3 million in the process,[lxxvii] with Pocock and Albermarle split to the tune of 1/3 of the total treasure; Pocock’s take amounting to £123,000. Pocock handed out rewards as well, and the flagship’s purser, master and carpenter were respectively made the storekeeper, master attendant and master shipwright of Havana.[lxxviii]

Havana 1762, Plate 11

British flatboats Entering Havana, 14 August 1762.  (note sunken blockship at harbour entrance)

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The British fleet entering Havana, with HMS Namur, Pocock’s flagship, flying his pendent as Admiral of the Blue, 21 August 1762. Commodore Keppel leads his squadron in HMS Valiant at the left. By Dominic Serres, 1775.

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Capture of the Spanish fleet at Havana by Dominic Serres, 1768

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Spanish ships captured at Havana.

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The central plaza at Havana under British occupation following the successful siege, by Dominic Serres, c. 1765-70

The operation, however successful and profitable, had been costly, in particular in terms of sick cases resulting from the temperate climate and difficulty of the extended siege (560 army killed, 86 Royal Navy; and 4,708 army sick cases and 1,300 sailors).[lxxix] Anson, the architect of the plan, had died in London of a heart attack on 6 June, and thus never learned of the success of the campaign.[lxxx]

Pocock sailed for home but lost two ships and 12 transports as a result of stormy weather during the Atlantic crossing, reaching Spithead finally on 13 January 1763.

Sir George Pocock. PAF3685

Pocock at 56 as Knight of the Bath, Admiral of the Blue, & C-in-C Havana, October (25 March) 1762

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George Pocock as international celebrity: Chevalier de l’ordre du Bain, et Admiral de la flotte Britannique, fameux par les Explois sur les Mers des deux Indes

Legacy: An 18th Century Life

Pocock, now fabulously wealthy and internationally famous, purchased an estate at Mayfair, and, in 1764, bought the resplendent Orleans House at Twickenham. He married the widow Sophia Pitt Dent, together with whom he had a son, George (1765-1840; later the MP for Bridgwater and Baronet Pocock after 1821), and a daughter, Sophia (d. 1811), who married the Earl Powlet. Pocock retired in 1766 at the age of 60, returning to parliament where he notably voted against the repeal of the Stamp Act that February. Pocock, however, soon lost his seat in the 1768 election.[lxxxi] Pocock became master of Trinity House from 1786-1790, and was also vice-president of the Marine Society, his golden years noted for their public charity and serenity.

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The Orleans House at Twickenham, painted by Joseph Nickolls c. 1750

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The interior of the preserved Orleans House Gallery – the Octagon Room – as it stands today.

When Lally-Tollendal was captured – after the fall of Pondicherry – and sent to England, he pleaded that he might be introduced to Pocock, and, this request granted, is alleged to have spoken to the Admiral thus, “Dear Sir George, as the first man in your profession, I cannot but respect and esteem you, though you have been the greatest enemy I ever had. But for you, I should have triumphed in India, instead of being made a captive. When we first sailed out to give you battle, I had provided a number of musicians on board the Zodiaque, intending to give the ladies a ball upon our victory; but you left me only three fiddlers alive, and treated us all so roughly, that you quite spoiled us for dancing.”[lxxxii] Lally-Tollendal was traded back to France, where he was made a scapegoat for the failure in India, and executed at Paris on 9 May 1766.

Pocock outlived his erstwhile opponent of the East Indies, the Comte d’Ache, who died at Brest on 11 February 1780 at the age of 79.

Sir George Pocock, midshipman during the War of the Quadruple Alliance, commodore at the Leeward Islands during the War of Austrian Succession, master of the Indian Ocean and victor of Havana during the Seven Years War, Admiral of the Blue, died at Curzon Street, London, 3 April 1792 at the age of 86.

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Sir George Pocock memorial at Westminster Abbey. Beneath Pocock’s coat of arms (two seahorses abreast a lion, topped by the crest of an antelope issuing from a naval crown, with motto, “Faithful to the King and Kingdom”), sits a majestic Britannia, confidently grasping a thunderbolt, her left arm resting on a profile showing Pocock’s distinctive Mona Lisa smile. Commissioned by George Pocock, esquire, and sculpted by John Bacon in 1796. Sir George is buried at St. Mary’s Church, Twickenham.

Notes

[i] James Stanier Clarke and John McArthur, eds., The Naval Chronicle, Volume VIII, 2010th ed. (Cambridge University Press, 1802)., p. 442

[ii] Tom Pocock, “Pocock, Sir George (1706-1792),” The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004).

[iii] John D. Grainger, Dictionary of British Naval Battles (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2016)., p. 104

[iv] Pocock, “Pocock, Sir George (1706-1792).”

[v] List of Royal Navy Post Captains, 1714-1830, Navy Records Society online.

[vi] J. J. Colledge and Ben Warlow, Ships of the Royal Navy, The Complete Record of All Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy (Philadelphia & Newbury: Casemate, 2010)., p. 10

[vii] Clarke and McArthur, The Naval Chronicle, Volume VIII., p. 442

[viii] Colledge and Warlow, Ships of the Royal Navy, The Complete Record of All Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy., p. 390

[ix] Brian Lavery, The Arming and Fitting of English Ships of War, 1600-1815 (London: Conway Maritime Press, Ltd., 1998)., p. 119

[x] N. A. M. Rodger, The Command of the Ocean (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2006)., p. 412; Robert Gardiner and Brian Lavery, eds., The Line of Battle: The Sailing Warship 1650-1840, Conway’s History of the Ship (London: Conway Maritime Press, 2004)., p. 19

[xi] Richard F. Simpson, “The Naval Career of Admiral Sir George Pocock, K. B., 1743-1763” (Indiana University, 1950)., p.2

[xii] Richard Harding, “Legge, Edward (1710-1747),” The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004).

[xiii] Herbert Richmond, The Navy In The War of 1739-48, vol. 3, 3 vols. (Cambridge University Press, 1920)., p. 70

[xiv] Clarke and McArthur, The Naval Chronicle, Volume VIII., p. 443

[xv] Grainger, Dictionary of British Naval Battles., p. 103; see also Hawke to Corbett, 17 October 1747, in Ruddock Mackay, ed., The Hawke Papers, A Selection: 1743 – 1771, Navy Records Society 129 (Aldershot, Hants: Scolar Press, 1990)., p. 51-55

[xvi] Richmond, The Navy In The War of 1739-48., p. 72

[xvii] Clarke and McArthur, The Naval Chronicle, Volume VIII., p. 443; Martin Robson, A History of the Royal Navy: The Seven Years War (London: I. B. Tauris & Co. Ltd., 2016)., loc. 1272

[xviii] Robson, A History of the Royal Navy: The Seven Years War., loc. 1300

[xix] Robson., loc. 1300

[xx] Robson., loc. 1323

[xxi] Pocock, “Pocock, Sir George (1706-1792).” Robson, A History of the Royal Navy: The Seven Years War., loc. 1341

[xxii] A. T. Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660 – 1783 (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1987)., p. 306

[xxiii] Rodger, The Command of the Ocean., p. 275

[xxiv] William Laird Clowes, The Royal Navy, A History From the Earliest Times to the Present, vol. 3, 5 vols. (London: Sampson Low, Marston and Company, 1898)., p. 565

[xxv] Robson, A History of the Royal Navy: The Seven Years War., loc. 1347

[xxvi] Jonathan R. Dull, The French Navy and the Seven Years’ War (University of Nebraska: Thomson-Shore, Inc., 2005)., loc. 1847

[xxvii] Robson, A History of the Royal Navy: The Seven Years War., loc. 1368

[xxviii] Clarke and McArthur, The Naval Chronicle, Volume VIII., p. 445

[xxix]  Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660 – 1783., p. 307

[xxx] Clarke and McArthur, The Naval Chronicle, Volume VIII., p. 446

[xxxi] Dull, The French Navy and the Seven Years’ War., loc. 1847

[xxxii] Robson, A History of the Royal Navy: The Seven Years War., loc. 1401

[xxxiii] Dull, The French Navy and the Seven Years’ War., loc. 1847

[xxxiv]  Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660 – 1783., p. 308

[xxxv] Clarke and McArthur, The Naval Chronicle, Volume VIII., p. 446

[xxxvi] N. A. M. Rodger, The Wooden World: An Anatomy of the Georgian Navy (London: Fontana Press, 1988)., p. 247

[xxxvii] Clarke and McArthur, The Naval Chronicle, Volume VIII., p. 447

[xxxviii] Clarke and McArthur., p. 448

[xxxix] Clarke and McArthur., p. 449

[xl] Robson, A History of the Royal Navy: The Seven Years War., loc. 1401

[xli] Clowes, The Royal Navy, A History From the Earliest Times to the Present., p. 181

[xlii] Sam Willis, Fighting at Sea in the Eighteenth Century: The Art of Sailing Warfare (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2008)., p. 206

[xliii] Dull, The French Navy and the Seven Years’ War., loc. 1839

[xliv] Clowes, The Royal Navy, A History From the Earliest Times to the Present., p. 181

[xlv] Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660 – 1783., p. 310

[xlvi] Julian Corbett, The Seven Years War, A Study in British Combined Strategy (London: The Folio Society, 2001)., p. 452-3

[xlvii] Clarke and McArthur, The Naval Chronicle, Volume VIII., p. 451

[xlviii] Willis, Fighting at Sea in the Eighteenth Century: The Art of Sailing Warfare., p. 207

[xlix] Clarke and McArthur, The Naval Chronicle, Volume VIII., p. 451-4

[l] Rodger, The Wooden World: An Anatomy of the Georgian Navy., p. 337

[li] Rodger., p. 289

[lii] Corbett, The Seven Years War, A Study in British Combined Strategy., p. 456-7

[liii] John Malcolm, Robert, Lord Clive: Collected from the Family Papers Communicated by the Earl of Powis, Kindle, vol. 1, 3 vols. (London: John Murray, 1836).

[liv] Corbett, The Seven Years War, A Study in British Combined Strategy., p. 461-2

[lv] Lawrence James, Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1997)., p. 43

[lvi]  Rodger, The Command of the Ocean., p. 285

[lvii] Corbett, The Seven Years War, A Study in British Combined Strategy., p. 546

[lviii] David Syrett, The Siege and Capture of Havana, 1762 (London: Spottiswoode, Ballantyne and Co. Ltd., 1970)., p. xv, also #64 Albemarle to Egremont, Portsmouth, 22 February, p. 51

[lix] Syrett., p. xiv

[lx] Syrett., p. xiv

[lxi] Alexander Howlett, “Captain Charles Middleton and the Seven Years’ War,” Canadian War Studies Association (blog), December 31, 2016, https://cawarstudies.wordpress.com/2016/12/31/captain-charles-middleton-and-the-seven-years-war/.

[lxii] Syrett, The Siege and Capture of Havana, 1762., p. xvi-xvii

[lxiii] Syrett., #143, Pocock to Douglas, 26 April, p. 98-9

[lxiv] Syrett., p. xvi-xviii

[lxv] Corbett, The Seven Years War, A Study in British Combined Strategy., p. 553; see also David Syrett, ed., The Rodney Papers, Volume I, 1742 – 1763, vol. 1, Navy Records Society 148 (Aldershot, Hants: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2005)., #876, Rodney to Clevland, 27 May 1762, p. 452-3

[lxvi]  Syrett, The Rodney Papers, Volume I, 1742 – 1763., #879, Rodney to Newcastle, 1 June 1762, p. 456-7

[lxvii] Syrett, The Siege and Capture of Havana, 1762., p. xix

[lxviii] Andrew Lambert, Admirals (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 2009)., p. 153

[lxix] Clarke and McArthur, The Naval Chronicle, Volume VIII., p. 456

[lxx] Clarke and McArthur., p. 456

[lxxi] Syrett, The Siege and Capture of Havana, 1762., p. xxiii

[lxxii] Clarke and McArthur, The Naval Chronicle, Volume VIII., p. 457

[lxxiii] Corbett, The Seven Years War, A Study in British Combined Strategy., p. 562 fn

[lxxiv] Clarke and McArthur, The Naval Chronicle, Volume VIII., p. 458

[lxxv] Pocock, “Pocock, Sir George (1706-1792).”; Clarke and McArthur, The Naval Chronicle, Volume VIII., p. 460

[lxxvi] Corbett, The Seven Years War, A Study in British Combined Strategy., p. 566-9

[lxxvii] Grainger, Dictionary of British Naval Battles., p. 222

[lxxviii] Rodger, The Wooden World: An Anatomy of the Georgian Navy., p. 287

[lxxix] Herbert Richmond, Statesmen and Sea Power (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1946).

[lxxx] N. A. M. Rodger, “Anson, George, Baron Anson (1697-1762),” The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004).

[lxxxi] Pocock, “Pocock, Sir George (1706-1792).”

[lxxxii] George Godfrey Cunningham, A History of England in the Lives of Englishmen, vol. 5 (London: A. Fullarton and Co., 1853)., p. 412

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Captain Charles Middleton and the Seven Years’ War

Admiral Sir Charles Middleton, the Seven Years’ War, and Naval Administration

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HMS Barham presentation badge in 1914.

The Royal Navy career of Charles Middleton spanned three wars, from the Seven Years’ War, to the American Revolution, through the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. During the first of these, Captain Middleton was engaged in trade protection and anti-privateering duty in the Leeward Islands. The future Comptroller of the Navy, then a lowly frigate commander, sailing in the 28 gun HMS Emerald, spent four years countering French commerce privateers. Middleton was considered somewhat of a disciplinarian and social climber, but also a promising administrator in a far-flung but crucial colonial posting in the Caribbean during the Seven Years’ War. Middleton’s early career has been described as a typical RN officer’s career.[i]

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The Right Honourable Sir Charles Middleton, 1st Baron Barham, Admiral of the Red, engraving by Marie Anne Bourlier, 12 October 1809, from a drawing by John Downman.

This post examines Admiral Charles Middleton’s career and achievements during the early phase, primarily concerning Captain Middleton’s role as a frigate commander during the Seven Years’ War, leading up to his appointment as Comptroller of the Navy in August 1778.

After the Seven Years’ War, Middleton seemed to have fulfilled his duty, and was prepared to retire.[ii] Fate, as it would have it, ensured that Middleton would yet return to the centres of power and play an unexpected, but decisive, role in the Royal Navy’s history. After his service in the Caribbean as a frigate commander and station administrator, Middleton went on to become a reformer and modernizer during the American Revolution, as Comptroller of the Navy. Rear-Admiral Middleton, raised to the peerage as Lord Barham, returned to power as Senior Naval Lord and eventually First Lord of the Admiralty at the time of Trafalgar in 1805.

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London in 1751 by Thomas Bowles 

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Career of Charles Middleton until 1778

The Navy

Charles Middleton was born at Leith, Edinburgh, on 14 October 1726, the second son of Robert Middleton and Helen Dundas. Helen was the great-granddaughter of Robert Dundas, Lord Arniston, while Robert, the father, was a descendant of Alexander Middleton, the brother of John, the Earl Middleton, and made his living as a customs official in Bo’ness, West Lothian, Scotland. Charles Middleton joined the Navy at a young age, credited with service aboard the merchantman Loyal June (1738-41), starting when he was eleven- although this could have been a paper assignment only, as was often the case with young officers. Middleton joined his first warship, prophetically, HMS Sandwich (90), in April 1741 at the age of 14, and shortly afterward he followed its Captain, Mead, to the Duke (90), then joined the 20 gun frigate Flamborough under Captain Joseph Hamar on 21 November 1741, for service in North America and the West Indies.

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Cape Corso fortress, Gold Coast, as it appeared in 1745, not long before Lt. Charles Middleton, while serving aboard HMS Chesterfield, was stranded there by mutineers in October 1748,

Just shy of four years of apprenticeship as a captain’s servant, midshipman and master’s mate aboard HMS Flamborough, and only ten days before his 19th birthday, Middleton passed his Lieutenant’s examination on 4 October 1745, and, the following month, was appointed to the 5th rate HMS Chesterfield (40), patrolling the channel and the coast of Sierra Leone.[iii] Middleton, 22 years old, was there in 1748, when on 15 October, at the notorious slave trading site, the Cape Corso fortress in Ghana, Middleton, along with the Chesterfield’s Captain (O’Brien Dudley), Master, 2nd Lieutenant, purser, surgeon, and 11 other men, were stranded by a mutiny amongst the ship’s crew and remaining officers. The mutineers were led by a buccaneering carpenter’s mate named John Place, with help from the supposedly drunken 1st Lieutenant, Samuel Couchman (neither of whom survived the conclusion of the court martial that was to follow). The loyal boatswain retook the ship and arrested the mutineers. The boatswain was able to bring the Chesterfield to English Harbour, in Antiqua, where it was reunited with the stranded officers on 7 March 1749.[iv] Middleton and company aboard, now under Captain James Campbell, Chesterfield returned to England, and arrived at Spithead on 14 June 1749.

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US President Barack Obama visits the former slave trading outpost at Cape Corso castle, Ghana, 11 July 2009, the site where Lt. Middleton first experienced the disreputable connection between Royal Navy seapower and the slave trade.

Middleton was put on half-pay and sent ashore the following month.[v] There he remained until transferred to a dockside assignment aboard HMS Culloden (74), in June 1752. Back on half-pay in November, he was subsequently transferred to what would become a familiar ship, HMS Anson (Captain Charles Holmes), a 4th rate, 60 gun ship of the line built in 1747; In January 1753, Middleton, 26 years old, was thus acting in the capacity of second lieutenant aboard a large ship of the line. Anson’s first lieutenant at this time was one Richard Kempenfelt, later Rear-Admiral Kempenfelt.[vi]

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Aboard HMS Anson, the first lieutenant in 1755 was Richard Kempenfelt, later Rear-Admiral Kempenfelt as painted by Tilly Kettle in 1782, prior to his drowning aboard HMS Royal George on 29 August of that year, tragically, at least partly the result of the Middleton – Sandwich coppering method which produced electrolytic degradation on warship rivets. Middleton and Kempenfelt exchanged letters on the subject of signalling during 1779 – 1782.

Middleton was briefly transferred to the Monarch (74), but was then back again aboard Anson in July 1754. Middleton succeeded Kempenfelt as 1st Lieutenant aboard Anson in January 1755. In March of that year Lt. Middleton was to be found recruiting sailors in the Bristol Channel, while aboard Princess Augusta.[vii] With Britain’s relations with France deteriorating, Middleton, aboard Anson (Captain Robert Man), was dispatched as part of Vice-Admiral Edward Boscawen’s fleet of 11 of the line to blockade the St. Lawrence, although, it being the spring of 1755, war had not yet been declared.[viii] Boscawen intercepted a detached French squadron of three and captured two 64 gun ships, Alcide and Lys, but missed a third, Dauphin Royal in fog off the Newfoundland Banks, June 8 – 9.[ix]

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Vice-Admiral Edward Boscawen, who commanded the English squadron in which 28 year old Lt. Middleton served as first Lieutenant aboard HMS Anson (60), at the outbreak of the Seven Years War. Joshua Reynolds, 1824.

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Admiral Boscawen’s action against Admiral de le Motte’s separated squadron 8 June 1755. In the foreground, Captain Andrews aboard the Defiance (60), engages Lys (64) while Captain Richard Howe, commanding the Dunkirk (60) attacks Captain de Hocquart’s Alcide (64) in the distance. This is an artistic compression: Defiance, along with Fougueux, were sent to chase Lys which was actaully captured the next day. Lt. Charles Middleton, the XO, under the command of Captain Robert Man, was aboard Anson (60), one of Boscawen’s eleven warships.

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HMS Defiance of 60 guns, 5th rate when built in 1744.

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Admiral Lord Richard Howe, then Captain HMS Dunkirk, who fought together with Lt. Middleton as part of Boscawen’s fleet. Depicted here as C-in-C Channel Fleet, print made by James Whittle and Richard Holmes, 1794

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Royal Navy warships, as of June 1755, showing first Lt. Middleton’s appointment in red. From Jonathan Dull’s The French Navy and the Seven Years’ War.

Anson cruised off Louisbourg and Halifax, then returned to England in October 1755, and was eventually stationed in Portsmouth in March of 1756. Anson, along with Bristol (50) and Harwich (50) were now dispatched to the West Indies as part of the outbound convoy with 17 merchant ships, departing England on 27 April and arriving at St. John’s Road, Antigua on 12 June 1756. That same month, Minorca fell as a result of Admiral Byng’s failed relief attempt resulting from the battle of Port Mahon, 20 May 1756.

Commander RN, & The Seven Years’ War

During 1755-6, relations soured between England’s North American colonists and the French settlers in Canada and their Native American allies. A struggle for control of the Ohio River valley soon revealed the tenuous nature of the status quo peace. The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, which had ended the War of Austrian Succession in 1748, was tested on a number of occasions, such as in 1755 when General Braddock’s force was ambushed. In India, Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Clive and the British East India Company continued their swashbuckling campaign of conquest, capturing Calcutta in January 1757, and winning the decisive battle at Plassey on 23 June 1757, further antagonizing French interests. War in Europe was renewed when Prussia invaded Saxony in 1756, prompting Austria to declare war on Frederick II in 1757. Britain declared war against France on 18 May of that year, pushing Prussia into coalition with Britain, for the Austrians, who counted amongst their allies Russia and Sweden, were also allied with Louis XV’s France.[x]

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The World colonial situation prior to the Treaty of Paris, 1763 <http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/&gt;

europe

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European political situation 1740 – 1757, maps.

Considering that the British monarchy originated from the electorate of Hannover, England joined Prussia and Portugal against the powerful coalition of France, Austria, Russia, Sweden, Poland, and after 1762, Spain. The war began with a series of British reversals, notably at Minorca, where Admiral Byng was unable to win the victory at Port Mahon, 20 May 1756, to the great detriment of his personal fortunes. France’s Louisbourg citadel, in present day Nova Scotia, however, was captured in July 1758. These tremendous events were followed by the capture of Quebec itself, after the victory at the Plains of Abraham on 13 September 1759. These military victories were accompanied by suitable naval victories, at Lagos, 18 – 19 August (Boscawen), and Quiberon Bay, 20 November (Hawke), during the victorious Annus Mirabilis.

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French siege and capture of Fort St. Philip, Minorca, 29 July 1756. Admiral Byng’s defeat, on 20 May 1756, shortly after the outbreak of war, enabled the Marquis de la Galissonniere’s fleet to support the siege of the Mediterranean fortress.

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Global conflict: The Seven Years’ War.

Frederick the Great won his major maneuver victories against overwhelming enemy coalition forces at Rossbach and Leuthen in November and December 1757, followed by the victory against Russia at Zorndorf in August 1758, dealing a serious repulse to the initial Grand Alliance war effort. As a result, Britain’s funding of the Prussian effort increased between 1757 and 1758 by nearly a factor of ten, to 1,860,000 pounds sterling. Frederick’s reversals against the Russians in 1759 at Kunersdorf led to Berlin’s capture, but Frederick maintained his defence against France and Austria, defeating the Austrians at Liegnitz in August, and again at Torgau in November, 1760. Britain, for its part, eventually abandoned the alliance, seeking a separate peace in 1762 to consolidate its colonial gains, a move that Frederick would not forget when Britain came looking for European allies during the American Revolutionary War.

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First Lord of the Admiralty, Admiral of the Fleet, Lord George Anson as painted prior to 1748 by Thomas Hudson. The architect of Britain’s naval strategy during the Seven Years’ War, Anson was First Lord from 1751-56 and 1757-62.

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Cartoon celebrating Captain Howe and Vice-Admiral Boscawen’s victories over the French in Canada, including the capture of Louisbourg in the summer of 1758.

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Admiral of the Fleet Sir Edward Hawke, painted by Francis Cotes in 1768.

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Admiral Sir Edward Hawke’s victory at Quiberon Bay, 20 November 1759, painted by Nicholas Pocock. This decisive battle by the Channel squadron prevented the planned invasion of England and Ireland, thus freeing Royal Navy forces for deployment to other theatres, including the Caribbean.

With the major struggle taking place in Canada and Europe, the Caribbean was at first a sideshow. The Royal Navy’s defence of its Caribbean trade had been arranged as a layered blockade and interdiction operation: the two station commanders, based at Jamaica and Antigua, were provided with small squadrons of 50 or 60 gun ships for blockading the enemy’s naval bases at St. Domingo (Spain) and Martinique (France). Heavy RN frigates of 30 to 40 guns sailed windward of Antigua and Barbados, seeking privateers. Lastly, 20 gun frigates and all lesser sloops, brigs and corvettes covered the inter-island communications, primarily around the Leeward Islands.[xi]

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The Leeward Islands from NASA Terra satellite.

In 1756 the Jamaican station was under the command of Rear-Admiral George Townshend with three of the line and four frigates. The Leeward Island station was commanded by Rear-Admiral Frankland, with an additional three of the line and four or five frigates.[xii] When the Elder Pitt took power during his brief 1756-7 term under the Duke of Devonshire, he re-shuffled the Admiralty, using Boscawen to offset Anson, who at that time was the First Lord of the Admiralty, and doubled the size of the Caribbean fleets while appointing new commanders: Rear-Admiral Thomas Cotes, now with seven of the line and ten or so frigates, to Jamaica; and Commodore John Moore was ordered to the Leeward Islands with three of the line, two 50s, three 40s and five frigates.

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Political situation in the Caribbean, 1756, from Sir Julian Corbett’s The Seven Years War. The islands of St. Lucia, Grenada and Dominica were at this time declared as neutrals under the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, although nominally under French control. The major French naval bases were at Guadeloupe and Martinique.

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British Caribbean commands in June 1756, Lt. Middleton’s position in red.

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Control of territory in Caribbean during 1756.

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English Harbour, Antigua today.

It was with Commodore Moore, that Middleton, still aboard the Anson, was ordered to Antigua. Middleton, now thirty years old, continued aboard Anson until 26 February 1757 when he was promoted Commander, appointed to the sloop Speaker (12), to cruise in the Leeward Islands. There is some confusion regarding his command at this point, as he was simultaneously listed as commander of the Blandford, as acting captain (26 February to 28 March), while also having commanded of the sloop Saltash, briefly.[xiii]

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Model of a 200 ton burden, 14 gun sloop, circa the 1740 pattern, similar to HMS Barbados commanded by Captain Middleton in 1758

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Model of a 12 gun sloop on the 1752 pattern, ketch-rigged (note the mizzen mast and absence of a fore mast)

It is clear from the sources, however, that Commander Middleton’s position would involve dockyard work, and appreciating the administrative aspects of running a trade defence operation. In the event, Middleton was promoted Captain in July 1758, and took command of the newly constructed Barbados (12). Middleton’s role during this time was a small but critical part of the Admiralty’s vast world system: based at English Harbour, Antigua, Captain Middleton was left in charge of anti-privateering operations while Commodore Moore conducted amphibious landings against Martinique and Guadeloupe.

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Plan of English Harbour, Antigua, 1782: base of operations for the Leeward Island station in 1758.

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English Harbour in 1800, by Nicholas Pocock

Middleton, a natural administrator, thus oversaw trade as it massed at Antigua in preparation for its biannual convoy across the Atlantic. These large convoys, sailing at the beginning of June and July, of which the first, in June 1757, totalled 170 ships, were valued at least £2,000,000, and although fairly secure from interception, were generally uninsured. Individual merchant ships, however, not to mention the inter-island and coastal trade, indeed, were potential prey for French privateers sortieing from Guadeloupe and Martinique or crossing the Atlantic from the windward: over 1,400 trade ships were captured by French privateers in the West Indies over the course of the war.[xiv]

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Order of battle for Leeward Islands and Jamaican stations, June 1757. Notice the significant increase in ships of the line attached to these two stations at this point. Middleton had been made Commander and appointed to the sloop HMS Speaker in February, a ship too small to be counted amongst the heavier warships, and thus does not appear on this list.

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John Frazer’s painting of a frigate with full sail.

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“Sloop” signed W. Van der velde, with English colours flying.<>

Captain Middleton thus found himself in a similar position to Captain Horatio Nelson, who, 27 years later, would likewise be appointed to Antigua and the Leeward Islands as a frigate commander.[xv] While captain of Barbados, in October 1758, Middleton wrote to a merchant representing the local chamber of commerce at St. Christopher’s (St. Kitt’s), regarding a proposed scheme for the defence of the islands. The plan involved two warships of 40 guns, two of 20 guns, and eight brigs of 16 guns, supported by two sloops of 10 guns each.[xvi] According to Middleton’s recommendations, these warships would be split between Barbados and Antigua, with two frigates stationed at each, and three brigs at the former, five brigs plus two sloops at the latter.

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Nelson boards a captured ship, showing Nelson leaving HMS Lowestoft (32) to board a captured American privateer, 20 November 1777, by Richard Westall, 1806.

Captain Middleton’s detailed summary of the defence scheme identified what he believed to be the optimum arrangement for trade defence, observing that the area around Barbados could be relatively easily protected, although “…Antigua, St. Christopher’s, Nevis, Montserrat, Jamaica, &c.,” were more difficult to protect considering the numerous sailing routes between the islands.[xvii] In December 1759, writing from his new command, Arundel, Middleton believed the entire station could be covered by two ship of the line, four frigates, three brigs and two sloops, with reserves to relieve these forces as needed.[xviii]

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Leeward Islands and Jamaican commands, 1758, showing only four heavy warships on station at Commodore Moore’s station.

Middleton was keen to use the heavier frigates to cover the routes to and from Martinique, Marie-Galante and Guadeloupe, so as to interrupt French prize captures there. Middleton was executing a portion of Commodore Moore’s scheme, which, based on his predecessor, Rear-Admiral Frankland, involved the main squadron covering Martinique and the passage to Fort Royal and St. Pierre, capital of the French Lesser Antilles, while the various cruisers and frigates covered the islands and searched for privateers, of which, 25 were taken in the first ten months of Moore’s command, at least one of those by Middleton in the Barbados.[xix]

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Leeward Islands and Jamaican commands, June 1759. Note the dramatic expansion in force, from four to 9 ships of the line, with three 60 and three 50 gun cruisers, made possible by the transfer of ships from the Louisbourg operation.

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Rear-Admiral of the Blue, Sir John Moore, who, as Commodore, C-in-C Leeward Islands, oversaw the attack on Guadeloupe in January 1759.

Commodore Moore’s command had now been built up to ten ship of the line and 6,000 troops (under General Hopson) with which he might begin to capture the French island bases and thus solve the privateer problem at source.[xx] An attempt to storm Martinique on 16 January 1759 had been repulsed when it was discovered that the island’s defences were too strong.[xxi] Instead, the combined force mobilized against Guadeloupe, generating a siege that lasted until 1 May. The surrender of the island was accepted by Brigadier John Barrington, who had taken command following General Hopson’s death on 27 February.[xxii] The result of this series of events, which cost the French empire 80,000 hogsheads per anum in Guadeloupe sugar, prompted the dispatch of the Toulon squadron to the West Indies. French Admiral La Clue Sabran’s squadron, however, was intercepted as it left the Mediterranean by Admiral Boscawen (now C-in-C Mediterranean), with the result that five of the French ships were lost (of which, three were captured) at the Battle of Lagos, 18 – 19 August, 1759.[xxiii]

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Battle of Lagos, of the coast of Portugal

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ESA Envisat image of Guadeloupe, Dominica, and Martinique

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View of Guadeloupe, William Wyllie, 1893

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Invasion of Guadeloupe, January & February 1759, carried out by Commodore Moore

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Guadeloupe captured, Peter Benezech’s engraving after Archibald Campbell’s view of Fort Royale, c. 1768

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Detail of the assault on Basseterre, Guadeloupe. The siege lasted until the end of May 1759, the French relief fleet arriving too late to prevent the capitulation of the island.

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Medal commemorating Commodore Moore’s capture of Guadeloupe, May 1759.

Middleton soon made Post-Captain, and in March 1759, while the Guadeloupe operation was under way, he was appointed commander of the 1746 vintage 6th rate frigate, HMS Arundel (24). Middleton, while cruising aboard the Arundel in November 1759, captured the slave transport Swift with more than 100 slaves on board. James Ramsay, Middleton’s assistant surgeon, and Middleton himself, were both appalled by the conditions onboard, confirming Middleton’s faith in abolition as the only just solution to the African slave trade. By December 1759, Captain Middleton had taken another four prizes, two merchants and two privateers, however, Arundel was in poor shape, with a damaged foremast, so Middleton returned to harbour.[xxiv] As Middleton built up the local flotillas, Commodore Moore was critiqued by the Barbados merchant committee for not bothering to intercept the French squadron sent to relieve Guadeloupe during the siege of spring 1759, with the result that “175 or 180 sail” had subsequently been captured and taken to Martinique, to be sold off at Fort Royal or St. Pierre, by the French.[xxv]

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British (1, 5) and French (2, 3, 4) frigates, sloops and corvettes designed and built in the 1740s.

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A heavy frigate, 5th rate

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Captain Nelson’s HMS Boreas (28), built in 1774, with French frigate, by Nicholas Pocock.

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A model of a 24 gun frigate built in 1741, similar to HMS Arundel, of 1746, the ship in which Captain Middleton made Post-Captain, in 1759. Note the hull ports close to the water line- for oars.

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Plan of a 12 gun “Bermudan” pattern brig, the basic Caribbean corvette designed to out-weigh the French schooners and sloops. c. 1762.

Middleton continued to busy himself with flotilla outfitting and defence arrangements, repeatedly emphasizing the need for more “Bermudian” type brigs of 12 guns (such as HMS Speaker, Antigua, and Barbados) which, due to their armament and sailing qualities, he believed especially suited for the Leeward Islands. These heavy brigs were superior to the French sloops and schooners, the English brigs having captured 30 prizes on station by 1759.[xxvi] Middleton built off his predecessor’s layered defence scheme: as was the practice, convoys would handle the major cross-Atlantic trade, while local inter-island routes were best handled by brigs, or convoyed with frigates when available. Middleton argued for a flying detachment of two powerful frigates, or cruisers, stationed off Barbados, for actively hunting enemy privateers. Another group of frigates and sloops would provide a distant blockade of Martinique, thus surrounding the island’s traffic, a critical consideration with the Dutch trade at St. Eustatius effectively circumventing the blockade, if not intercepted.[xxvii]

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In June 1760 there were three 70 gun ships of the line and five 64 gun cruisers on station, with reinforcements en route.

The coronation of George III in 1761 provided an opportunity for a change in strategy, with the Caribbean stations increasing in importance. William Pitt the Elder, who had directed British strategy as Secretary of State for the Southern Department while acting as Leader of the House, under the Duke of Newcastle (between June 1757 – 1761), was now displaced by the Earl of Bute, and resigned in October of that year. In July 1760, Middleton, replacing the gout-stricken Captain Cornwall, was given HMS Emerald (28), a prize taken in 1757, and it was in this ship that he secured his most profitable naval captures.[xxviii]

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View of St. Pierre, Martinique, August 1796, by Cooper Willyams

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Bay of St. Pierre, today.

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June 1760

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June 1761

Leeward Islands and Jamaican commands, June 1760 & 1761. By June 1761, the Leeward Islands station, where Captain Middleton was located, had four ships of the line, and eight heavy 64 & 50 gun cruisers, plus numerous lesser frigates and flotilla craft. Middleton returned to England in October 1761, at the same time, Admiral Rodney was despatched from England to orchestrate the capture of the French leewards.

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Admiral George Rodney, after 1754. In 1761 he became the C-in-C Leeward Islands, and oversaw the capture of Martinique, St Lucia, Grenada and St Vincent.

As Middleton’s tour of duty at the Leeward Islands was coming to an end, Rear-Admiral George Rodney had been sent, in October 1761, to accelerate the campaign of seizure and capture of the French islands.[xxix] In January 1762, the year Britain declared war on Spain in response to the Spanish alliance with France, Rear-Admiral Rodney took 16,000 soldiers under Major-General Robert Monckton to Martinique, and captured the island by coup de main.[xxx] Rodney next dispatched Captain Augustus John Hervey in the Dragon (3rd rate) to St. Lucia, which Hervey proceeded to capture on 25 February 1762.

With Spain in the war, the next target was Havana. Rear-Admiral Sir George Pocock, and Lieutenant-General George Keppel, were dispatched from England with a fleet and 15,000 troops to break Spain’s Cuban fortress. Lord Anson, who had administered the Navy during much of the war, died in June 1762 and thus was unable to witness the successful capture of Havana in August of that year.

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http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/13315.html

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60 gun two deck ship of the line / cruiser, compared to a 24 gun frigate, at Gravesend, c. 1753-9, by Charles Brooking

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The 66 gun heavy cruiser HMS Buckingham engaging French warships on 3 November 1758.

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Caribbean fleets in June 1762, showing Havana invasion force.

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Commodore Augustus Hervey, 3rd Earl of Bristol, c. 1767 by Thomas Gainsborough. Commodore Hervey captured St. Lucia as part of Rodney’s 1762 offensive.

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Surrender of St. Lucia, February 25 1762, by Dominc Serres, 1772

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Spain joins the coalition against Britain and Prussia. In 1762, Martinique, St. Lucia and Havana fall to the British.

The Capture of Havana:

Admiral Pocock’s fleet and amphibious task force arrived from England, and landed on 7 June 1762 to besiege Havana.

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Rear-Admiral Sir George Pocock, who commanded the naval force at the Havana operation, painted by Thomas Hudson, c. 1761

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Commodore Augustus Keppel, Lt. General George Keppel’s brother, and the second-in-command at Havana. Painted by Joshua Reynolds in 1749

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Lt. General George Keppel, the Earl of Albremarle, who commanded the land forces at the Havana operation

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The landing on 7 June 1762 of Lord Albermarle’s force against the Morro Castle fortress at Havana. Painting by Dominic Serres.

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Capture of Havana, August 1762. This was the largest maritime operation of the war, requiring over 15,000 troops.

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The fleet enters Havana on 21 August 1762, by Dominic Serres. Notice the distinct blue and red colours indicating squadrons and commands.

Middleton, meanwhile, had returned to England. Emerald was paid off in October 1761, to be broken up, its namesake uprated to a new 5th rate completed in 1762.[xxxi] Middleton had captured 16 prizes while captaining HMS Emerald, five of which were enemy privateers. During his four years in the Caribbean, Middleton had demonstrated an aptitude for trade defence, blockade, ship construction and fitting, discipline, and naval administration.

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Full scale replica of the French 32 gun frigateFrench 32 gun frigate, Hermione, a ship similar to the 5th rate HMS Adventure (32), built in 1741 that was captained by Middleton in 1762. Seen here in June 2015 with USS Mitscher, an Arleigh Burke class DDG (guided missile destroyer).

As it turned out, in March of 1762, Middleton was appointed Captain of HMS Adventure (32 – a different ship from the Adventure which became Captain James Cook’s second alongside Resolution in 1771), a fifth rate which had been recut from a fourth rate in 1758. Captain Middleton was sent to patrol along the Channel and Normandy coast.

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Map showing British strategy and territories secured during the Seven Years’ War, from Paul Kennedy’s Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery.

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Map showing major colonial empires after the Treaty of Paris.<http://www.worldmapsonline.com/images/Cram/History/colonialempires1763.jpg&gt;

The Treaty of Paris, which ended the Seven Years’ War, was signed on 10 February 1763, and as part of the negotiations, Guadeloupe, St. Lucia and Martinique, the former captured in 1759 and the latter two in 1762 respectively, were returned to France; Canada, however, was ceded to Great Britain. Havana and Manila, both taken from Spain, were likewise returned, in exchange for Florida and Minorca.[xxxii]

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Deptford dockyard, 1763 by John Cleveley the Elder

Middleton went on half-pay until March 1762. In December 1761, at the age of 35, Charles Middleton married Margaret Gambier, a skilled painter and later an advocate for the abolition of slavery. Margaret was the daughter of Captain James Gambier, to whom Middleton was familiar through the connection of Captain Mead, whose sister, Mary, was Margaret’s mother. Middleton had first served with Mead during their time aboard the Sandwich, twenty years prior. Margaret gave birth to their only child, a daughter, Diana, on 18 September 1762.

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Family of Margaret Gambier, who became Mrs. Middleton in December 1761.

Middleton, for his part, retired from the service, declining a sea-going appointment on 2 April 1763, to retreat to the hospitality of his wife, then living with her friend Elizabeth Bouverie, at Teston, in Kent.[xxxiii] Margaret and Elizabeth were joined there after 1777 by Captain Middleton’s former assistant surgeon from the Arundel, now a staunch abolitionist and priest, James Ramsay, who became a close friend of Mrs. Middleton and her circle, as well as private secretary to Charles, drafting many of his letters.[xxxiv] It was the wealthy Elizabeth Bouverie, proprietor of Barham Court, who, upon her death in 1798, left to Charles Middleton the entire Teston estate, the source of his title as Lord Barham.

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Recent photographs of Barham Court, Teston, Kent.

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The Mall at St. James Park, by Thomas Gainsborough, 1782. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Gainsborough#

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View of the Temple of Comus in Vauxhall Gardens by Canaletto circa 1750s, engraved by Johann Muller

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Warships fitting out at Portsmouth, 1770, by Dominic Serres. 

            Comptroller & the American Revolution

Middleton remained in these pleasant surroundings for twelve years, until, with the American Revolution underway, he joined HMS Ardent (64) in May 1775. Much as his efforts during the Caribbean operations had focused Middleton on administrative duties, he soon found himself running Chatham dockyard as Commodore Mackenzie’s assistant, and by December 1775, was in communication with Lord Sandwich regarding ship fittings, among other dockyard matters.[xxxv] Middleton was writing his own standing orders by this point, his orders for Ardent focusing on proper logistics, discipline, gunnery, and duties.[xxxvi] On 7 November 1776, Middleton was made Captain of HMS Prince George (90), a new but decommissioned second rate built in 1772.

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Prince George, 1772, 90 guns.

Middleton was working this ship up for more than a year- one imagines Middleton regularly visiting the dockyard during 1777- until February 1778 when he was transferred to the 4th rate Jupiter (50), then under construction. Middleton was back on half-pay on 22 July 1778, then, the next month, following the death of Comptroller Captain Maurice Suckling, Middleton was appointed Comptroller of the Navy by his friend, the First Lord of the Admiralty, John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich.[xxxvii] Middleton would be in this position for twelve years, until he resigned in 1790.

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Jupiter, 1778, 50 guns, 4th rate, plans by John Williams, Navy Surveyor

NPG D4160; John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich by Valentine Green, after  Johan Joseph Zoffany

John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich in 1774, by Valentine Green, after Johan Joseph Zoffany.

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View of Leicester Square by Thomas Bowles, circa 1753

The Earl Sandwich was one amongst a powerful circle of Middleton’s friends, including Middleton’s cousin, Henry Dundas, the Lord Melville, then the Lord Advocate of Scotland, and George Germain, Secretary of State for America, who, together with Lord North, would fail to contain the American Revolution in years to come. Middleton kept up a regular correspondence with Admiral Hood and Captains Young and Kempenfelt, who provided the Comptroller with intelligence and a brain-trust to work out signalling tactics or new construction ideas. Middleton’s marriage into the Gambier family further increased the reach of his network, as his brother-in-law was Vice-Admiral James Gambier, C-in-C North America. Lady Middleton herself, highly respected by British society, was friends with Samuel Johnson and James Boswell, amongst other men and women of letters.[xxxviii]

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Admiral Samuel Hood’s victory at St. Kitts, 25 January 1782. Hood kept Middleton informed about developments in the Caribbean via a detailed letter correspondence.

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Admiral Sir Samuel Hood, with whom Middleton kept a regular correspondence during the American Revolutionary War.

The devout and ascendant Middleton, soon Lord Commissioner, then First Lord of the Admiralty, and Baronet Barham after 23 October 1781, was occasionally at odds with his benefactor, Sandwich. As Comptroller, Middleton was responsible for the statistical control of Navy’s dockyards, warships and naval supply, as this information was collected by the Admiralty’s various accountants. Middleton mastered the naval supply accounts and advanced his schemes for improvement, such as roofing all of the dockyards- a difficult task not completed until the following century.[xxxix] Minorca was retaken on his watch on 4 February 1782.[xl] Wartime policy occasionally led to cut corners, however, as demonstrated by Sandwich’s efforts to provide copper sheathing to all the warships of the fleet. It was Middleton’s budget method that produced the electrolytic action that pre-naturally aged the fleet’s warships, which resulted in several significant defects (contributing to the losses of HMS Terrible and Royal George).[xli] The fleet was eventually re-coppered at considerable expense, with specially coated copper nails, effectively the French method of copper construction.[xlii]

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Admiral Rodney’s victory at the Saints, off Dominica, 12 April 1782. George Rodney’s spectacular defeat of the Comte de Grasse was too late to reverse the outcome of the American Revolution, although it evened the naval scales.

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Barham as Comptroller of the Navy in 1788.

As a result of his incessant centralizing drive for reform, Middleton’s later career was not without its antagonists: the Viscount Howe, Admiralty First Lord from 1783 until 1788- who Middleton had worked with under Boscawen in 1755- had opposed Middleton’s reforms. Middleton and Sandwich eventually fell out as well, nevertheless, the Middleton – Sandwich administration, despite its travails and failures, would be remembered as one of those dynamic Admiralty leadership combinations that so infrequently graced the office of state, comparable perhaps only to Sir John Fisher and Winston Churchill in 1914, or Francis Drake and Admiral Sir John Hawkins in 1588.[xliii]

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Portrait of the Earl Richard Howe, commemorating his victory at the Glorious First of June, 1794.

Middleton was elected MP (Tory) for Rochester in 1784 – 1790, and made Rear-Admiral of the Red on 24 September 1787. Together with his old friend James Ramsay, and Lady Middleton’s associate William Wilberforce MP, Middleton advocated for the abolition of slavery and the slave trade, of which he had seen the worst of during his naval career. Middleton, during this time, defeated his erstwhile opponent Lord Howe, who was superseded by the brother Pitt, John, the Earl of Chatham, on 16 July 1788. Middleton was long frustrated in his efforts to get himself onto the Admiralty Board, however, and he resigned in March 1790. Margaret, Lady Middleton, died two years later, on 10 October 1792, and Charles was left with Diana and her husband Gerard. Middleton was made Vice-Admiral in February 1793, then, his wish was granted in 1794, and he joined the Admiralty as First Naval Lord, aside Lord Spencer, until November 1795. He made full Admiral of the Blue in 1795.[xliv] Middleton was out of the loop, however, as the Admiralty was under the control of another of Middleton’s antagonists, Admiral Sir John Jervis (presently, after his victory in February 1797, the Earl St. Vincent), First Lord of the Admiralty in 1801.

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Portrait of Admiral Sir  John Jervis, the Earl St. Vincent, by William Beechey, c. 1787-90

The Rhinebeck Panorama composite image:  c.1806-7

Rhineback panorama of London in 1806

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The Admiralty, February 1795 by Thomas Malton, jr.

It was the intervention, at this point, of Middleton’s friend, the leader of the “new Tories”, William Pitt the Younger, who returned him to power. Middleton was appointed chairman of the Commission for Revising, a naval budgetary control organization established in December 1804, not long after the Earl St. Vincent’s departure the preceding year (“that damned Scotch packhorse” Admiral John Jervis called Middleton).[xlv] Henry Dundas, the Viscount Melville, then the First Lord, was out by May 1805 and Pitt asked Middleton to succeed him.[xlvi]

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William Pitt, the Younger, by John Hoppner, 1805

An important consideration was any successor’s ability to work with Vice-Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson of the Nile. Middleton had first met Nelson in November 1787, and Nelson had found in Middleton a kindred reformer. Although separated by more than two decades, they had served on the same station as frigate commanders, and had corresponded during the American Revolutionary War.[xlvii]

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Vice-Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson of the Nile, 1800, by Friedrich Fuger

Like Nelson, an evangelical man, Middleton was distraught by the heavy-handedness of St. Vincent’s reforms; not to mention his military mistakes. Knowing a sure thing when he saw it, Pitt appointed Middleton as First Lord, his status in the peerage raised to 1st Baron Barham of Barham Court and Teston, Kent, with Admiral James Gambier (Margaret’s nephew), the Baron Gambier, as First Sea Lord.[xlviii]

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Admiral James Gambier, Baron Gambier, sketch by Joseph Slater, 1813

Middleton dispatched Nelson reinforcements, and tightened the Channel blockade in the lead up to Trafalgar,[xlix] and afterward Middleton was made full Admiral of the Red on 9 November 1805. Known for their proficiency with ship design, and defensive mindset, Gambier and Middleton introduced the revised Naval Regulations of 1806.[l] With Nelson deified, and Pitt soon to follow, at eighty years old, Charles Middleton retired for the last time 1806.[li] The Lord Barham, Admiral of the Red Sir Charles Middleton, Comptroller of the Navy during the American Revolutionary War, Senior Naval Lord during the French Revolution, and First Lord of the Admiralty during Trafalgar, frigate commander in the Leeward Islands during the Seven Years War, died on 17 June 1813, at the age of 87.

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Isaac Pocock’s portrait of Admiral Sir Charles Middleton, the Lord Barham.

Middleton’s legacy is as a farsighted reformer and modernizer, at once pragmatic and controversial. As First Lord of the Admiralty, he established the position of First Sea Lord as the chief naval post on the Board, thus setting the pattern for the 19th and 20th centuries.[lii] A relentless modernizer, yet a devout Tory; a disciplinarian who opposed slavery, Middleton’s career certainly possessed its share of conflicts. Details about Middleton’s important administrative career during three wars can be found in a number of sources, although the modern researcher will not find a better one than Sir John Knox Laughton’s three volumes of the Barham papers, published shortly before the First World War, by the Navy Records Society.[liii]

Barham was established as a Royal Navy ship name, starting with the 74 gun 3rd rate in 1811 (modified to 50 guns in 1826).

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HMS Barham (50) at Sheerness, in February 1836, by Francis Byron 

An HMS Barham screw frigate was ordered for 1860, however the order was canceled.

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 The name was next given to an ironclad cruiser in 1889, which was sold off in February 1914, as, on 31 December of that year, the name was recycled into HMS Barham.

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HMS Barham was a 27,500 ton Queen Elizabeth class oil-fuel super-dreadnought built and commissioned between February 1913 and October 1915. Beginning on 1 October 1915, HMS Barham, commanded by Captain Arthur W. Craig, became the flagship of the 5th Battle Squadron, led by Rear-Admiral Evan Thomas, and fought at the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916. 25 years later Barham was at the Battle of Matapan, in March 1941. The warship was finally torpedoed, with the loss of most of the crew, by U-331, commanded by Kptlt. Hans-Diedrich Freiherr von Tiesenhausen, on 25 November 1941.

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HMS Victory is towed into Portsmouth Harbour in preparation for preservation, December 1921. HMS Thunderer and Barham, docked in line-ahead on the left, by William Wyllie.<http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/15173.html&gt;

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Crest of HMS Barham (1915).

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[i] N. A. M. Rodger, The Command of the Ocean (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2006)., p. 373

[ii] N. A. M. Rodger, The Wooden World: An Anatomy of the Georgian Navy (London: Fontana Press, 1988)., p. 212-14

[iii] John Talbott, The Pen & Ink Sailor: Charles Middleton and the King’s Navy 1778 – 1813, Kindle (Frank Cass Publishers, 1998)., chapter 1.

[iv] John Knox Laughton and R. Vesey Hamilton, The Barham Papers, Volume I, digital, vol. 1, 3 vols., Navy Records Society 32, 1906., p. xii-xiii

[v] Roger Morriss, “Middleton, Charles, First Baron Barham (1726-1813),” The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

[vi] Talbott, The Pen & Ink Sailor: Charles Middleton and the King’s Navy 1778 – 1813., chapter 1.

[vii] Clevland to Hawke, 11 March 1755, #88, Ruddock Mackay, ed., The Hawke Papers, A Selection: 1743 – 1771, Navy Records Society 129 (Aldershot, Hants: Scolar Press, 1990). p. 117 fn

[viii] Laughton and Hamilton, The Barham Papers, Volume I., p. xiv

[ix] Julian Corbett, The Seven Years War, A Study in British Combined Strategy (London: The Folio Society, 2001)., p. 41; Rodger, The Command of the Ocean., p. 263; A. T. Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660 – 1783 (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1987)., p. 284

[x] John B. Hattendorf, “The Struggle with France, 1689 – 1815,” in The Oxford Illustrated History of the Royal Navy, ed. J. R. Hill and Bryan Ranft (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 80–119., p. 96-7

[xi] Corbett, The Seven Years War, A Study in British Combined Strategy., p. 268-9

[xii] Ibid., p. 272

[xiii] Laughton and Hamilton, The Barham Papers, Volume I., p. xvi

[xiv] Corbett, The Seven Years War, A Study in British Combined Strategy., p. 267-8; Rodger, The Command of the Ocean., p. 277

[xv] John Sugden, Nelson: A Dream of Glory, vol. 1, 2 vols. (London: Pimlico, 2005)., p. 244

[xvi] Middleton to Mr. Walter Pringle, 21 October 1758, Laughton and Hamilton, The Barham Papers, Volume I., p. 1-2

[xvii] Middleton to Mr. Walter Pringle, 21 October 1758, Ibid., p. 3

[xviii] Middleton to Pringle, 4 December 1759, Laughton and Hamilton, The Barham Papers, Volume I., p. 16

[xix] Corbett, The Seven Years War, A Study in British Combined Strategy., p. 278; Middleton to Mr. Walter Pringle, 21 October 1758, Laughton and Hamilton, The Barham Papers, Volume I., p. 7

[xx] Rodger, The Command of the Ocean., p. 277

[xxi] Ibid., p. 277

[xxii] Ibid., p. 277

[xxiii] Ibid., p. 277-8

[xxiv] Middleton to Pringle, 4 December 1759, Laughton and Hamilton, The Barham Papers, Volume I., p. 17

[xxv] Council and Merchants of Barbados to Joseph Pickering, 1759. Laughton and Hamilton, The Barham Papers, Volume I., p. 21-2

[xxvi] Middleton to Pringle, 1759, Laughton and Hamilton, The Barham Papers, Volume I., p. 18

[xxvii] Middleton to Sir James Douglas, 1760, Laughton and Hamilton, The Barham Papers, Volume I., p. 32

[xxviii] Laughton and Hamilton, The Barham Papers, Volume I., p. x, Rodger, The Wooden World: An Anatomy of the Georgian Navy., p. 103

[xxix] Anson to Rodney, 5 October 1761, #846 in David Syrett, ed., The Rodney Papers, Volume I, 1742 – 1763, Navy Records Society 148 (Aldershot, Hants: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2005)., p. 422

[xxx] Rodger, The Command of the Ocean., p. 284

[xxxi] Lieutenant’s Logs, Navy Board, HMS Emerald, 1758 – 1760, ADM/L/E/96, http://collections.rmg.co.uk/archive/objects/526873.html ; T. D. Manning and C. F. Walker, British Warship Names (London: Putnam, 1959).

[xxxii] Rodger, The Command of the Ocean., p. 287-8

[xxxiii] Morriss, “Middleton, Charles, First Baron Barham (1726-1813).”

[xxxiv] Laughton and Hamilton, The Barham Papers, Volume I., p. 46

[xxxv] Middleton to Lord Sandwich, 1 December 1775, G. R. Barnes and J. H. Owen, eds., The Sandwich Papers, Vol. I., August 1770 – March 1778, vol. 1, Navy Records Society 69 (Navy Records Society, 1932). p. 78

[xxxvi] Captain’s Order Book, 1 August 1775, Laughton and Hamilton, The Barham Papers, Volume I., p. 39

[xxxvii] Laughton and Hamilton, The Barham Papers, Volume I., p. x

[xxxviii] http://www.thepeerage.com/p5349.htm#i53488

[xxxix] Ibid., 376

[xl] Laughton and Hamilton, The Barham Papers, Volume I., p. xxxv

[xli] Rodger, The Command of the Ocean., 375-6

[xlii] Ibid., 374-5

[xliii] Arthur Herman, To Rule the Waves (New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2004)., p. 316

[xliv] Roger Knight, Britain Against Napoleon: The Organization of Victory, 1793 – 1815 (St Ives plc: Penguin Books, 2014)., p. xix-xx

[xlv] Talbott, The Pen & Ink Sailor: Charles Middleton and the King’s Navy 1778 – 1813.

[xlvi] Rodger, The Command of the Ocean., p. 480

[xlvii] Sugden, Nelson: A Dream of Glory., p. 370-1

[xlviii] Andrew Lambert, Admirals (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 2009)., p. 180-1; Herman, To Rule the Waves. p. 336, 369; John Sugden, Nelson: The Sword of Albion, vol. 2, 2 vols. (London: The Bodley Head, 2012)., p. 761-5

[xlix] Sugden, Nelson: The Sword of Albion., p. 785-6

[l] Richard Blake, “James Gambier, Baron Gambier (1723-1789),” The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

[li] http://collections.rmg.co.uk/collections/objects/100697.html

[lii] Rodger, The Command of the Ocean., 480

[liii] Sydney Riddick, “Charles Middleton, Afterward Lord Barham, and Naval Administration, 1778-1805” (MA Thesis, Liverpool University, 1939).; H. C. Fox, “A Discussion of the Problems of Naval Administration Arising from the Period Covered by ‘The Barham Papers.,’” Naval Review, no. 4 (1935): 758. ; Talbott, The Pen & Ink Sailor: Charles Middleton and the King’s Navy 1778 – 1813.; Laughton and Hamilton, The Barham Papers, Volume I.; John Knox Laughton, The Barham Papers, Volume II, digital, vol. 2, 3 vols., Navy Records Society 38, 1910.; John Knox Laughton, The Barham Papers, Volume III, digital, vol. 3, 3 vols., Navy Records Society 39, 1911.