Sir Thomas Williams
|Died||8 October 1841|
Burwood House, Weybridge, Surrey
|Years of service||1768 to 1814|
|Commands held|| Nore Command |
|Battles/wars|| American Revolutionary War |
• Battle of Sullivan's Island
• Battle of St. Lucia
• Battle of Grenada
• Battle of Cape Henry
French Revolutionary War
• Action of 8 June 1796
|Awards||Knight Bachelor, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath|
Admiral Sir Thomas Williams GCB (c. 1761/62 – 8 October 1841) was a senior British Royal Navy officer of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, who served in numerous theatres during the American Revolutionary War, French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars. As a young officer he fought at a number of battles in the Caribbean and as a frigate captain he was knighted for his actions at the Action of 8 June 1796 in which two French frigates were captured without a single man killed or wounded on Williams' ship HMS Unicorn. Later in his career, Williams commanded squadrons blockading the European coast and assisting the supply of the British Army during the Peninsula War.
Admiral is a senior rank of the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom, which equates to the NATO rank code OF-9, outranked only by the rank of admiral of the fleet. Royal Navy officers holding the ranks of rear admiral, vice admiral and admiral of the fleet are sometimes considered generically to be admirals. The rank of admiral is currently the highest rank to which a serving officer in the Royal Navy can be promoted, admiral of the fleet being in abeyance except for honorary promotions of retired officers and members of the Royal Family.
The Most Honourable Order of the Bath is a British order of chivalry founded by George I on 18 May 1725. The name derives from the elaborate medieval ceremony for appointing a knight, which involved bathing as one of its elements. The knights so created were known as "Knights of the Bath". George I "erected the Knights of the Bath into a regular Military Order". He did not revive the Order of the Bath, since it had never previously existed as an Order, in the sense of a body of knights who were governed by a set of statutes and whose numbers were replenished when vacancies occurred.
The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by the English kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were fought in the Hundred Years War against the Kingdom of France. The modern Royal Navy traces its origins to the early 16th century; the oldest of the UK's armed services, it is known as the Senior Service.
Williams was born in 1761 or 1762, the son of Naval Captain William Williams. Aged only 7, Thomas Williams was entered as a servant on his father's ship HMS Peggy, although it is likely that he did not spend much time aboard. He is reported to have followed his father through various commands (although many of these commissions were on paper only) until 1776, when he was certainly present at the Battle of Sullivan's Island, aboard the brig HMS Active. The following year he moved to HMS Prince of Wales, flagship of Rear-Admiral Samuel Barrington in the Caribbean. Prince of Wales was subsequently engaged at the Battle of St. Lucia in 1778 and the Battle of Grenada in 1779. Having gained the requisite seniority, Williams was promoted to lieutenant in December 1779 and served on HMS America, part of the fleet that captured a Spanish convoy from Caracas in 1780. Returning briefly to Britain, Williams returned to the Americas the following year with Vice-Admiral Marriott Arbuthnot and fought at the Battle of Cape Henry.
The Battle of Sullivan's Island or the Battle of Fort Sullivan was fought on June 28, 1776, during the American Revolutionary War. It took place near Charleston, South Carolina, during the first British attempt to capture the city from American forces. It is also sometimes referred to as the First Siege of Charleston, owing to a more successful British siege in 1780.
A brig is a sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts. During the Age of Sail, brigs were seen as fast and maneuverable and were used as both naval warships and merchant vessels. They were especially popular in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Brigs fell out of use with the arrival of the steam ship because they required a relatively large crew for their small size and were difficult to sail into the wind. Their rigging differs from that of a brigantine which has a gaff-rigged mainsail, while a brig has a square mainsail with an additional gaff-rigged spanker behind the mainsail.
HMS Prince of Wales was a 74-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 4 June 1765 at Milford Haven. She was part of the Ramillies class of ships of the line designed by Sir Thomas Slade.
The same year, Williams became first lieutenant and temporary commander of the frigate HMS Assurance, becoming a commander in 1783 in charge of HMS Rhinoceros. In reserve from 1784, Williams returned to service in command of HMS Otter in 1789, becoming a post captain in November 1790 and taking command of the frigate HMS Lizard, followed shortly afterwards by HMS Daedalus. Operating in the North Sea, Williams was commended with his service during the winter of 1794 and moved to HMS Unicorn, operating from Cork in Ireland. In June 1796, Unicorn and another frigate encountered two French frigates: the French ships divided and the British ships followed them, Unicorn chasing and engaging the Tribune. After a running fight, Tribune was captured, Williams achieving his victory without a single casualty. For his services in the action, Williams was knighted by King George III. During the winter of 1796, Unicorn formed part the squadron operating against the French Expédition d'Irlande and was present at the capture of the transport Ville de Lorient.
A frigate is a type of warship, having various sizes and roles over the last few centuries.
HMS Lizard was a 28-gun Coventry-class sixth-rate frigate of the Royal Navy, in service from 1757 to 1828. Named after the Lizard, a peninsula in southern Cornwall, she was a broad-beamed and sturdy vessel designed for lengthy periods at sea. Her crewing complement was 200 and, when fully equipped, she was armed with 24 nine-pounder cannons, supported by four three-pounders and twelve 1⁄2-pounder swivel guns. Despite her sturdy build, she was plagued with maintenance problems and had to be repeatedly removed from service for repair.
HMS Daedalus was a 32-gun fifth rate frigate of the Royal Navy, launched in 1780 from the yards of John Fisher, of Liverpool. She went on to serve in the American War of Independence, as well as the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.
In March 1797, Williams became commander of the new frigate HMS Endymion and in October joined the North Sea fleet with orders to pursue the scattered Dutch ships in the aftermath of the Battle of Camperdown. With hours, Endymion encountered the ship of the line Brutus close inshore, but the protected anchorage prevented Williams from successfully attacking the Dutch ship and she was able to escape. For the next three years, Williams was employed off Ireland and on convoy to the island of St Helena. In 1801, Williams took command of the 74-gun third-rate ship of the line HMS Vanguard) and operated in the Baltic Sea and off Cadiz. In 1804 he moved to HMS Neptune and in 1805 commanded a unit of Sea Fencibles at Gosport, returning to Neptune in 1807. In 1809, Williams was promoted to rear-admiral and sailed in HMS Venerable and HMS Hannibal in the Channel Fleet and then at Lisbon. In 1811 he returned to Britain and took command of HMS Royal George and became Commander-in-Chief, The Nore. He remained in that position until 1814, retiring as a vice-admiral and establishing the Naval Female School as his final act, donating £1,000 to the school's endowment (the equivalent of £68,700 as of 2019).
HMS Endymion was a 40-gun fifth rate that served in the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars, the War of 1812 and during the First Opium War. She was built to the lines of the French prize Pomone captured in 1794. Due to her exceptional handling and sailing properties, the Severn class frigates were built to her lines, although the gunports were rearranged to mount an extra pair of guns per side, the ships were made of softwood and were not built until nearly the end of the Napoleonic Wars.
The Battle of Camperdown was a major naval action fought on 11 October 1797, between the British North Sea Fleet under Admiral Adam Duncan and a Batavian Navy (Dutch) fleet under Vice-Admiral Jan de Winter. The battle was the most significant action between British and Dutch forces during the French Revolutionary Wars and resulted in a complete victory for the British, who captured eleven Dutch ships without losing any of their own. In 1795, the Dutch Republic had been overrun by the army of the French Republic and had been reorganised into the Batavian Republic, a French client state. In early 1797, after the French Atlantic Fleet had suffered heavy losses in a disastrous winter campaign, the Dutch fleet was ordered to reinforce the French at Brest. The rendezvous never occurred; the continental allies failed to capitalise on the Spithead and Nore mutinies that paralysed the British Channel forces and North Sea fleets during the spring of 1797.
In the rating system of the British Royal Navy, a third rate was a ship of the line which from the 1720s mounted between 64 and 80 guns, typically built with two gun decks. Years of experience proved that the third rate ships embodied the best compromise between sailing ability, firepower, and cost. So, while first rates and second rates were both larger and more powerful, the third-rate ships were in a real sense the optimal configuration.
In his personal life, Williams was married three times. First he married in 1792 Jane Cooper, who died in a carriage accident in 1798 on the Isle of Wight. (Jane Cooper was a cousin of the novelist Jane Austen). In 1800 he married secondly a Miss Whapshare, who died in 1824. He married thirdly in April 1825 Mary Anne Mallory. It is said he re-married as he had had such a happy first marriage.
The Isle of Wight is a county and the largest and second-most populous island in England. It is in the English Channel, between 2 and 5 miles off the coast of Hampshire, separated by the Solent. The island has resorts that have been holiday destinations since Victorian times, and is known for its mild climate, coastal scenery, and verdant landscape of fields, downland and chines.
Jane Austen was an English novelist known primarily for her six major novels, which interpret, critique and comment upon the British landed gentry at the end of the 18th century. Austen's plots often explore the dependence of women on marriage in the pursuit of favourable social standing and economic security. Her works critique the novels of sensibility of the second half of the 18th century and are part of the transition to 19th-century literary realism. Her use of biting irony, along with her realism, humour, and social commentary, have long earned her acclaim among critics, scholars, and popular audiences alike.
During his retirement, Williams lived at Burwood House near Weybridge, Surrey and was promoted to admiral and advanced to a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath. He held the post of Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth from 1833 to 1836and died in October 1841.
Weybridge is a town by the River Wey in the Elmbridge district of Surrey. It is bounded to the north by the River Thames at the mouth of the Wey, from which it gets its name. It is an outlying suburban town within the Greater London Urban Area, situated 7 miles northeast of Woking and 16 miles southwest of central London. Real estate prices are well above the national average: as of 2008, six of the ten most expensive streets in South East England were in Weybridge.
Surrey is a county in South East England which borders Kent to the east, West Sussex to the south, Hampshire to the west, Berkshire to the northwest, and Greater London to the northeast.
The Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth was a senior commander of the Royal Navy for hundreds of years. Portsmouth Command was a name given to the units, establishments, and staff operating under the post. The commanders-in-chief were based at premises in High Street, Portsmouth from the 1790s until the end of Sir Thomas Williams's tenure, his successor, Sir Philip Durham, being the first to move into Admiralty House at the Royal Navy Dockyard, where subsequent holders of the office were based until 1969. Prior to World War One the officer holder was sometimes referred to in official dispatches as the Commander-in-Chief, Spithead.
Admiral of the Fleet Sir George Cockburn, 10th Baronet, was a Royal Navy officer. As a captain he was present at the Battle of Cape St Vincent in February 1797 during the French Revolutionary Wars and commanded the naval support at the reduction of Martinique in February 1809 during the Napoleonic Wars. He also directed the capture and Burning of Washington on 24 August 1814 as an advisor to Major General Robert Ross during the War of 1812. He went on to be First Naval Lord and in that capacity sought to improve the standards of gunnery in the fleet, forming a gunnery school at Portsmouth; later he ensured that the Navy had latest steam and screw technology and put emphasis of the ability to manage seamen without the need to resort to physical punishment.
Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Francis Fremantle, was a British naval officer in the Royal Navy whose accolades include three separate fleet actions, a close friendship with Lord Nelson, and a barony in Austria. He was the father of Sir Admiral Charles Fremantle, after whom the city Fremantle, in Western Australia, is named.
Admiral Sir William Cornwallis, was a Royal Navy officer. He was the brother of Charles Cornwallis, the 1st Marquess Cornwallis, British commander at the siege of Yorktown. Cornwallis took part in a number of decisive battles including the Siege of Louisbourg in 1758 and the Battle of the Saintes but is best known as a friend of Lord Nelson and as the commander-in-chief of the Channel Fleet during the Napoleonic Wars. He is depicted in the Horatio Hornblower novel, Hornblower and the Hotspur.
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Admiral Sir Henry Harvey, KB was a long-serving officer of the British Royal Navy during the second half of the eighteenth century. Harvey participated in numerous naval operations and actions and especially distinguished himself at the Glorious First of June in command of HMS Ramillies. His career took him all over the world, particularly on the North American station and in the West Indies where he commanded numerous ships and, later in his career, squadrons during the course of three different wars. Harvey was a member of a distinguished naval family, his brother was killed in action in 1794, three of his sons entered the navy and one of them was later raised to admiral himself.
Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Harvey, KCB was a senior Royal Navy officer who saw service in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars and died as commander-in-chief on the West Indies Station. The son of a senior Royal Navy officer and from a family with a long military tradition, Harvey distinguished himself under his father at the Glorious First of June and as a post-captain in his own right at Admiral John Thomas Duckworth's attempt to force the Dardanelles in 1807 and commanded numerous ships and stations in the post-war period.
Admiral Sir Herbert Sawyer KCB was an officer of the Royal Navy who saw service during the American Revolution, the French Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Napoleonic Wars. He eventually rose to the rank of Admiral.
Admiral Sir John Colpoys, GCB was an officer of the British Royal Navy who served in three wars but is most notable for being one of the catalysts of the Spithead Mutiny in 1797 after ordering his marines to fire on a deputation of mutinous sailors. Although this event resulted in his removal from active duty, Colpoys was a capable administrator who remained heavily involved in staff duties ashore during the Napoleonic Wars and was later a Lord of the Admiralty, Knight Companion of the Order of the Bath and Governor of Greenwich Naval Hospital.
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Sir Henry Stanhope
| Commander-in-Chief, The Nore |
Sir Charles Rowley
Sir Thomas Foley
| Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth |
Sir Philip Durham