Darby, George (DNB00)

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DARBY, GEORGE (d. 1790), vice-admiral, was promoted to be lieutenant in the navy on 7 Sept. 1742, and to be captain of the Warwick on 12 Sept. 1747. In 1757 he commanded the Norwich of 50 guns, in the West Indies; and afterwards, in 1759, in the Channel, when she formed part of the squadron which covered the bombardment of Havre by Sir George Rodney. In 1761 he commanded the Devonshire of 66 guns, at the reduction of Martinique by Rodney, who afterwards sent him home with despatches. In January 1778 he was advanced to be rear-admiral, and on 19 March 1779 to be vice-admiral. He then hoisted his flag on board the Britannia as second in command of the Channel fleet, and sat as president of the court-martial on Sir Hugh Palliser [q. v.] On the resignation of the command by Sir Francis Geary in August 1780, Darby was appointed commander-in-chief [see Barrington, Samuel]; and, still holding the command of the Channel fleet, was on 6 Sept. 1780, appointed also one of the lords of the admiralty. In the following April, with a fleet of twenty-nine ships of the line and some two hundred store ships, he relieved Gibraltar for the second time; and in August, when the combined fleets of France and Spain again invaded the Channel, Darby, with the English fleet, took up a position in Torbay, where the allied commanders did not consider it prudent to attack him. In October he was nominated rear-admiral of Great Britain. He was M.P. for Plymouth 1780–4, and an elder brother of Trinity House from 1781 till death. On the change of ministry in March 1782, he resigned the command, and had no further service at sea. He died on 26 Nov. 1790, having been twice married; his second wife died fourteen days before.

Darby's appointment to the high command which he held through the critical years 1779–81, can only be considered as one of the many political jobs perpetrated by Lord Sandwich, and apparently with the primary intention of insuring the acquittal of Palliser. The refusal of Harland to serve led to Darby's hoisting his flag in 1779, and the refusal of Barrington left him commander-in-chief in 1780. It was a period pregnant with danger, and the danger was increased by the command of the Channel fleet falling, at such a time, into the hands of a man of very slender abilities. That it was not a period of disaster was due to the internal weakness of the enemies' armament.

[Charnock's Biog. Nav. vi. 39; Naval Chronicle, xxiii. 89, with an engraved portrait.]

J. K. L.