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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Sir Thomas Boulden Thompson 1st Baronet
28 February 1766 – 3 March 1828

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Thomas Boulden Thompson

Sir Thomas Boulden Thompson 1st Baronet was born in Barham, Kent on 28 February 1766. His uncle, through his mother, was Commodore Edward Thompson, and it was through this relative’s influence that Thomas joined the navy in June 1778, when Edward was appointed to command the sloop HMS Hyaena. He served on the Hyaena with his uncle, spending most of the time in the waters off the British Isles, before accompanying Rodney’s fleet to the Relief of Gibraltar in January 1780. The Hyaena was later entrusted with carrying copies of Rodney’s despatches.

Thompson later moved to the West Indies, being promoted to lieutenant on 14 January 1782. He was given command of a small schooner, with which he captured a larger French privateer. After the end of the American Revolutionary War, Thompson was moved onto his uncle’s flagship, the 50-gun HMS Grampus. He served off the coast of Africa until his uncle’s death in 1786, after which he was given command of the sloop HMS Nautilus. He remained in command for the next twelve months, before returning to Britain where she was paid off. He was promoted to post-captain on 22 November 1790.

He spent a number of years on land without command of a ship until the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars provided employment. By late 1796 he had secured command of the fourth rate HMS Leander. He then joined the Mediterranean Fleet under John Jervis, and was assigned to the squadron under Horatio Nelson. Thompson took part in Nelson’s attack on Santa Cruz in July 1797. Thompson was among those leading the landing parties, under the overall direction of Nelson and Thomas Troubridge. The initial attempts to force a landing were hampered by the wind, and when the parties made a successful landing in the evening of 22 July, they came under heavy fire from the Spanish defenders. Thompson’s party were able to advance and spike several of the enemy’s cannon, but the British forces had become dispersed throughout the town, and were forced to negotiate a truce to allow them to withdraw. Thompson himself was wounded in the battle.

Thompson was later given command of a squadron, and carried out cruises in the Mediterranean, intercepting French and Spanish ships. He returned to Gibraltar, but was ordered to sea again in June 1798 to reinforce Nelson’s squadron in their hunt for the French fleet that had earlier escaped from Toulon. He was with Nelson when they located the French fleet, under the command of Vice-Admiral Brueys, moored in Aboukir Bay. In the ensuing engagement Thompson came to the assistance of HMS Culloden, which had run aground on shoals in the entrance to the bay. Finding that there was nothing he could do, Thompson took Leander into the battle, despite his ship being considerably smaller than the French ships of the line. He anchored between the Franklin and Brueys’ flagship the Orient, firing on them in company with HMS Defence and HMS Swiftsure until the Franklin surrendered. Thompson then took the Leander to assist the British attack on the French rear.

After the battle Thompson was joined aboard the Leander by Captain Edward Berry, and sent with Nelson’s despatches to Gibraltar. Whilst sailing there, they were spotted on 18 August by the Généreux, which had escaped the Battle of the Nile. The French pursued the Leander. Being a 60 gun ship to the Généreux′s 78, and still having battle damage and men wounded from the Nile, Thompson attempted to escape, but was eventually forced to come to battle. The two eventually clashed in a long running engagement, which eventually resulted in Leander being disabled and unmanageable. After conferring with Berry, Thompson agreed to surrender. The Généreux had suffered 100 killed and 188 wounded, to the Leander′s 35 killed and 57 wounded. Arriving on board the French ship, Berry and Thompson were almost immediately stripped of their possessions. The French went on to plunder their prize, even going so far as to steal the surgeon’s equipment as he tried to attend to the wounded. When Thompson protested, and reminded the French captain of how French prisoners were treated under Nelson, he received the reply ‘I am sorry for it; but the fact is, that the French are expert at plunder.’

Thompson was later repatriated and brought to court-martial aboard HMS Alexander at Sheerness. He was honourably acquitted for the loss of his ship, the court deciding:

that his gallant and almost unprecedented defence of the Leander, against so superior a force as that of le Généreux, was deserving of every praise his country and the assembled court could give; and that his conduct, with that of the officers and men under his command, reflected not only the highest honour on himself and them, but on their country at large.

Berry was also commended, and whilst being rowed back to shore after his acquittal, Thompson was given three cheers by the crews of the ships moored at Sheerness. He was subsequently knighted and awarded a pension of £200 per annum.

Thompson was appointed to command HMS Bellona in spring 1799, joining the fleet under Lord Bridport, off Brest. He then went to the Mediterranean, sailing with the flying squadron. He was involved in the capture of three frigates and two brigs. He returned to England in autumn, and participated in the blockade of Brest, until being assigned to Sir Hyde Parker’s Baltic expedition in early 1801. He was present at the Battle of Copenhagen, but ran aground on shoals whilst trying to enter the bay. He continued to fire on the enemy’s shore batteries, but being a stationary target was heavily damaged, having 11 killed and 63 wounded. Thompson was amongst the wounded, losing a leg. He shared in the thanks of Parliament after the battle and had his pension increased to £500. He was then appointed to command the yacht HMS Mary.

Thompson was appointed Comptroller of the Navy in November 1806, an office he held until November 1816. He was created a baronet on 11 December 1806. On relinquishing the post of Comptroller he became Treasurer of the Royal Hospital at Greenwich, succeeding the late Sir John Colpoys, and also became Director of the Chest. He became Member of Parliament for Rochester in 1807, relinquishing the position in June 1818. He became a Rear-Admiral on 25 October 1809 and a Vice-Admiral on 4 June 1814. He was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in the reorganisation of that order on 2 January 1815, and a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath on 14 September 1822, and was formally invested on 21 April 1823. On his death three years later he was buried at the Greenwich Hospital, where his tomb monument is still visible.

Thomas married Anne Raikes on 25 February 1799. They had a total of five children, three boys and two girls. The two girls were named Anne and Mary. Their first son, Thomas Boulden, died young. Their second, Thomas Raikes-Trigge inherited the baronetcy. He followed his father and had a career in the navy. Their third son, Thomas John, died in 1807. Sir Thomas died at the family seat of Hartsbourne, Manor-Place, Hertfordshire on 3 March 1828.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood 1st Baron Collingwood
26 September 1748 – 7 March 1810

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Cuthbert Collingwood

Collingwood was born in Newcastle upon Tyne. His early education was at the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle. At the age of twelve, he went to sea as a volunteer on board the frigate HMS Shannon under the command of his cousin Captain (later Admiral) Richard Brathwaite (or Braithwaite), who took charge of his nautical education. After several years of service under Captain Brathwaite and a short period attached to HMS Lenox, a guardship at Portsmouth commanded by Captain (later Admiral) Robert Roddam, Collingwood sailed to Boston in 1774 with Admiral Samuel Graves on board HMS Preston, where he fought in the British naval brigade at the battle of Bunker Hill, and was afterwards commissioned as a Lieutenant.

In 1777, Collingwood first met Nelson when both served in HMS Lowestoffe. Two years later, Collingwood succeeded Nelson as Commander (20 June 1779) of HMS Badger, and the next year he again succeeded Nelson as Post-Captain (22 March 1780) of HMS Hinchinbrook, a small frigate. Nelson had been the captain of a failed expedition to cross Central America from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean by navigating boats along the San Juan River, Lake Nicaragua and Lake Leon. Nelson was debilitated by disease and had to recover before being promoted to a larger vessel, and Collingwood succeeded him in command of the Hinchinbrook and brought the remainder of the expedition back to Jamaica.

After commanding in another small frigate, HMS Pelican, in which he was shipwrecked by a hurricane in 1781, Collingwood was promoted to 64 gun ship of the line HMS Sampson, and in 1783 he was appointed to HMS Mediator and posted to the West Indies, where he remained until the end of 1786, again, together with Nelson and this time his brother, Captain Wilfred Collingwood, preventing American ships from trading with the West Indies.

In 1786 Collingwood returned to England, where, with the exception of a voyage to the West Indies, he remained until 1793. In that year, he was appointed captain of HMS Prince, the flagship of Rear Admiral George Bowyer in the Channel Fleet. On 16 June 1791, Collingwood married Sarah Blackett, daughter of the Newcastle merchant and politician John Erasmus Blackett and granddaughter of Robert Roddam of Hethpoole and Caldburne (not to be confused with his former commander, later Admiral, Robert Roddam).

As captain of Barfleur, Collingwood was present at the Glorious First of June. On board the Excellent he participated in the victory of the Battle of Cape St Vincent in 1797, establishing a good reputation in the fleet for his conduct during the battle. After blockading Cadiz, he returned for a few weeks to Portsmouth to repair. At the beginning of 1799 Collingwood was raised to the rank of Rear-Admiral (of the White 14 February 1799; of the Red 1 January 1801) and, hoisting his flag in the Triumph, joined the Channel Fleet and sailed to the Mediterranean where the principal naval forces of France and Spain were assembled. Collingwood continued to be actively employed in blockading the enemy until the peace of Amiens allowed him to return to England.

With the resumption of hostilities with France in the spring of 1803 he left home, never to return. First he blockaded the French fleet off Brest. In 1804 he was promoted to Vice-Admiral (of the Blue 23 April 1804; of the Red 9 November 1805). Nearly two years were spent here but with Napoleon planning and equipping his armed forces for an invasion of Britain, the campaign which was to decide the fate of Europe and the command of the sea was starting. The French fleet having sailed from Toulon, Admiral Collingwood was appointed to command a squadron, with orders to pursue them. The combined fleets of France and Spain, after sailing to the West Indies, returned to Cadiz. On their way they encountered Collingwood’s small squadron off Cadiz. He only had three ships with him; but he succeeded in avoiding the pursuit, although chased by sixteen ships of the line. Before half of the enemy’s force had entered the harbour he resumed the blockade, using false signals to disguise the small size of his squadron. He was shortly joined by Nelson who hoped to lure the combined fleet into a major engagement.

The combined fleet sailed from Cadiz in October 1805. The Battle of Trafalgar immediately followed. Villeneuve, the French admiral, drew up his fleet in the form of a crescent. The British fleet bore down in two separate lines, the one led by Nelson in the Victory, and the other by Collingwood in the Royal Sovereign. The Royal Sovereign was the swifter sailer, mainly because its hull had been given a new layer of copper which lacked the friction of old, well used copper and thus was much faster. Having drawn considerably ahead of the rest of the fleet, it was the first engaged. “See”, said Nelson, pointing to the Royal Sovereign as she penetrated the centre of the enemy’s line, “see how that noble fellow Collingwood carries his ship into action!” Probably it was at the same moment that Collingwood, as if in response to the observation of his great commander, remarked to his captain, “What would Nelson give to be here?”

The Royal Sovereign closed with the Spanish admiral’s ship and fired her broadsides with such rapidity and precision at the Santa Ana that the Spanish ship was on the verge of sinking almost before another British ship had fired a gun. Several other vessels came to Santa Ana’s assistance and hemmed in the Royal Sovereign on all sides; the latter, after being severely damaged, was relieved by the arrival of the rest of the British squadron, but was left unable to manoeuvre. Not long afterwards the Santa Ana struck her colours. On the death of Nelson, Collingwood assumed the command-in-chief, transferring his flag to the frigate Euryalus. Knowing that a severe storm was in the offing, Nelson had intended that the fleet should anchor after the battle, but Collingwood chose not to issue such an order: many of the British ships and prizes were so damaged that they were unable to anchor, and Collingwood concentrated efforts on taking damaged vessels in tow. In the ensuing gale, many of the prizes were wrecked on the rocky shore and others were destroyed to prevent their recapture, though no British ship was lost.

On 9 November 1805 Collingwood was promoted Vice-Admiral of the Red and raised to the peerage as Baron Collingwood, of Caldburne and Hethpool in the County of Northumberland. He also received the thanks of both Houses of Parliament and was awarded a pension of £2000 per annum. Together with all the other captains and admirals, he also received a gold medal, his third, after those for the Glorious First of June and the Cape St Vincent; only Nelson and Sir Edward Berry share the distinction of three gold medals for service during the wars against France.

When not at sea he resided at Collingwood House in the town of Morpeth which lies some 15 miles north of Newcastle upon Tyne and Chirton Hall in Chirton, now a western suburb of North Shields. He is known to have remarked, “whenever I think how I am to be happy again, my thoughts carry me back to Morpeth.”

From Trafalgar until his death no great naval action was fought though several small French fleets would attempt to run the blockade, and one successfully landed troops in the Caribbean two months after Trafalgar, the majority were hunted down and overwhelmed in battle. Collingwood was occupied in important political and diplomatic transactions in the Mediterranean, in which he displayed tact and judgement. In 1805 he was appointed to the Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet. He requested to be relieved of his command that he might return home, however the government urgently required an admiral with the experience and skill of Collingwood to remain, on the grounds that his country could not dispense with his services in the face on the still potent threat that the French and their allies could pose. His health began to decline alarmingly in 1809, and he was forced to again request the Admiralty to allow him to return home, which was finally granted. Collingwood died on board the Ville de Paris, off Port Mahon as he sailed for England, on 7 March 1810. He was laid to rest besides Nelson in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Sir Edward Berry
1768 – 13 February 1831

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Sir Edward Berry

Berry was born in 1768, the son of a London merchant who died at an early age leaving the family in perilous financial circumstances. His early education was provided by his uncle, the Rev. Titus Berry, in Norwich. It was under the patronage of one of Titus Berry’s former pupils Lord Mulgrave, that in 1779 Berry entered the Navy as a volunteer aboard the Burford, at the age of 10.

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Captain Edward Berry, 1799

As a reward for his gallantry in boarding a French ship, Berry was promoted to Lieutenant on in 1794 and in 1796 was appointed to the HMS Agamemnon with Captain Nelson, whom he followed upon his move to HMS Captain in June.

Berry won his commander’s esteem, and in a letter to Admiral Sir John Jervis, Nelson wrote, ‘I have as far as I have seen every reason to be satisfied with him [Berry], both as a gentleman and an officer’. On sending Nelson’s report to the Admiralty, Jervis added ‘Lieutenant Edward Berry, of whom the Commodore writes so highly, is a protégé of mine and I know him to be an officer of talents, great courage and laudable ambition’.

Indeed, whilst Nelson was ashore during the siege of Porto Ferrajo, Berry commanded the ship in such a way as to make him the subject of his captain’s ‘fullest approbation’, and he received the rank of Commander on 12 November 1796.

Whilst awaiting a posting he remained aboard HMS Captain during the Battle of Cape St Vincent in February 1797. Berry displayed his courage when Nelson came alongside the Spanish ship San Nicholas and gave orders to board her.

Wrote Nelson, ‘The first man who jumped into the enemy’s mizzen-chains was Captain Berry, late my first lieutenant; he was supported from our spritsail-yard, which hooked in the mizzen-rigging… Having pushed on to the quarter-deck, I found Captain Berry in possession of the poop, and the Spanish Ensign hauling down’.

In October of the same year Nelson was invested as a Knight of the Bath, accompanied on the occasion by Berry. When the King remarked upon the loss of Nelson’s right arm, he wittily replied, indicating Berry, “But not my right hand, your majesty”. It was agreed between them that when Nelson next hoisted his flag, Berry would be his Flag Captain.

With word of French plans to occupy Egypt, Nelson wrote to Berry in late 1797, ‘If you mean to marry, I would recommend your doing it speedily, or the to-be Mrs. Berry will have very little of your company, for I am well, and you may expect to be called for every hour’. On 12 December Berry was indeed married to his cousin, Louisa Forster, and a week later appointed as Flag Captain of the HMS Vanguard.

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Captain Edward Berry catching Nelson as he falls wounded at the Battle of the Nile.

On 1 August 1798, the campaign culminated in the explosive Battle of the Nile, at Aboukir Bay. During this, Nelson was struck on the head by a piece of flying language and fell, bleeding heavily, only to be caught by Captain Berry, to whom he uttered the words “I am killed. Remember me to my wife”.

After the battle, Berry embarked for Britain in HMS Leander, carrying Nelson’s despatches. During the voyage, however, the Leander was accosted and captured by one of the surviving French ships, the 74-gun Généreux, and Berry was severely wounded by a flying fragment of another man’s skull, which was “driven through his arm”.

It was a bloody and courageous battle, as described by one of the main-deck gunners, Tim Stewart, “We fired everything at [the French] we could get hold of – crow-bars, nails, and all sorts… We killed nearly three hundred of them before we surrendered, and our brave captain ordered our colors to be hauled down.”

As a result of his capture, Berry did not reach England until December, at which point the news of the Nile had already been received. However, he wrote in a letter that upon his return to Norwich, “the people received me with mad joy. In short, I’m so great a man that I’m very in and out everywhere to the great annoyance of my pocket and distress of my feelings.”

Berry’s account of the Battle, titled Authentic Narrative of the proceedings of his Majesty’s squadron under the command of the Rear-Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson… drawn up from the minutes of an officer of rank in the squadron was subsequently published in The Sun and The True Briton newspapers, and became a bestseller in pamphlet form.

Britain revelled in Nile memorabilia, including ceramic jugs embossed with reliefs of Nelson and Berry – ‘Heroes of the Nile’. On 12 December Berry was knighted and given the Freedom of the City of London. The ornate gold and enamel presentation box is part of the collection of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

In the spring of 1799 he was appointed to the HMS Foudroyant and sent to assist in the blockade of Malta. Here he assisted in the capture of the Guillaume Tell and Généreux, the two French ships that escaped the Battle of the Nile, the latter being his own former captor.

On 30 March, Berry wrote to Nelson from the Foudroyant, “My very dear Lord, had you been a partaker with me of the glory, every wish would have been gratified. How very often I went into your cabin, last night, to ask if we were doing right; for, I had nothing to act upon!…”

At this point in his career it became evident that Berry needed Nelson for his advancement and did not rely on his own skills. It was Thomas Hardy and not Berry who would become Nelson’s indispensable right-hand man.

The following June, the Foudroyant carried the Queen of Naples from Palermo to Livorno, but a short time later Berry returned to England.

It was five years before Berry again took significant command. His failure to obtain a posting had left him feeling restless and somewhat slighted by the Admiralty, “A man’s standing in the Service and his reputation all goes for nought,” he wrote bitterly.

It fell to Nelson to placate him, “It is vexing to be unemployed at such a moment, but it is useless to fret oneself to death when the folks aloft don’t care a pin about it.” It took a change of leadership in the Admiralty to present Berry with the chance of another commission.

Nelson: “I sincerely hope, now that a change has taken place, that you will get a ship. I attribute none of the tyrannical conduct of the late Board to Lord St Vincent… he was dreadfully ill-advised.”

The end to Berry’s yearnings came on his arrival at Trafalgar in 1805, captain of HMS Agamemnon. “Here comes that fool Berry! Now we shall have a battle,” exclaimed Nelson. Berry had rather a reputation as a fighter, though perhaps not as a master tactician.”

It was typical of Berry’s luck that, having long and restlessly awaited a new ship, he should have been given the Agamemnon, before having the infinite happiness of joining Nelson on the eve of his greatest battle.” After a close escape from capture on her outward voyage, the Agamemnon had no particular opportunities for distinction at Trafalgar, and escaped the mêlée without heavy losses, engaging with the Santissima Trinidad and Admiral Dumanoir’s division in the closing stages of the fight. At the battle’s close, Berry took to his ship’s boat in order to speak to Nelson on the Victory but by the time he arrived Nelson had just died, an unfortunate piece of timing which Berry would regret for the rest of his life.

In 1806 Captain Berry fought in the Agamemnon at the battle of San Domingo, being highly praised for his actions. That same year he became a baronet and he remained in sea service throughout the war, subsequently commanding the Sceptre during 1811, the Barfleur the following year and one of the Royal Yachts.

He bough a house in Norwich in 1814. In 1815 he was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath and in 1821 he became a Rear Admiral. During these years, despite constant entreaties to the Admiralty, he never took up further important postings. However, his record is exceptional. He was the only officer in the Royal Navy at the time, except Collingwood, to have had three medals, having commanded a line-of-battle ship in the Battle of the Nile, Trafalgar and San Domingo. Following several years of severe illness and extreme debility, he died on 13 February 1831 at his residence in Bath and was buried in a nearby churchyard where his grave can still be seen. Since he left no children, his baronetcy became extinct with his death.

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