Graydon, John (DNB00)

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GRAYDON, JOHN (d. 1726), vice-admiral, in a memorial dated 12 April 1700 described himself as having served in his majesty's navy for twenty years and upwards. In June 1686 he was appointed lieutenant of the Charles galley ; in May 1688 first lieutenant of the Mary, and in October was advanced to the command of the Soldado. In her he took part in the action of Bantry Bay on 1 May 1689, and was shortly afterwards promoted to the Defiance, which he commanded in the battle off Beachy Head, 30 June 1690. In 1692 he commanded the Hampton Court in the battle off Cape Barfleur, and with the grand fleet through 1693. From 1695 to 1697 he commanded the Vanguard, also with the grand fleet. In April 1701 in the Assistance he convoyed the trade to Newfoundland, and seeing the trade thence into the Mediterranean was back in England by the spring of 1702. In June, while in command of the Triumph at Portsmouth, he was promoted to be rear-admiral of the blue, and ordered out to join Sir George Rooke on the coast of Spain. He was with him in the attempt on Cadiz, and in the destruction of the enemy's ships at Vigo; and having his flag in the Lancaster returned home in company with Sir Clowdisley Shovell in charge of the prizes. The following January he was promoted to be vice-admiral of the white, and appointed commander-in-chief of a squadron sent out to the West Indies. He sailed with special orders to make the best of his way out, to collect such force, both of ships and troops, as might be available, and going north to reduce the French settlement of Placentia. A few days after he sailed, on 18 March, he fell in with a squadron of four French ships of force clearly inferior to the five with him. Graydon, however, considered that he was bound by his instructions to avoid all chances of delay; he allowed them to pass him unhindered, and did not pursue. He arrived at Barbadoes on 12 May, and at Jamaica on 4 June but the necessity of refitting, the crazy condition of several of the ships, some of which had been long on the station, the utter want of stores, and the ill feeling which sprang up between Graydon and 'some of the chief persons of Jamaica,' all combined to delay the expedition, so that it did not reach Newfoundland till the beginning of August. From that time for thirty days it was enveloped in a dense fog; it was 3 Sept. before the fleet was again assembled, and then a council of war, considering the lateness of the season, the bad condition of the ships, the sickly state of the men, the want of provisions, and the strength of the enemy at Placentia, decided that the attack ought not to be made. On 24 Sept. the fleet accordingly sailed for England; the weather was very bad, the ships were scattered, and singly and in much distress reached home in the course of October. The expedition had been such an evident failure, and the neglect to engage the French squadron passed on the outward voyage appeared so culpable, that a committee of the House of Lords, with little or no examination, reported that Graydon by his conduct had been a prejudice to the queen's service and a great dishonour to the nation,' and recommended that he should 'be employed no more in her majesty's service,' all which was agreed to. He was not tried, but was condemned on hearsay by an irregular process which might almost be compared to a bill of attainder; but Burchett, who was secretary of the admiralty at the time, is of opinion that, so far as the French squadron off Ushant was concerned, Graydon's conduct was fully warranted by his instructions and the pressing necessities before him; and the very crazy condition in which the ships returned to England seems to warrant the decision of the council of war at Newfoundland. Graydon, however, was virtually cashiered, his pension was stopped, and he was not reinstated. He died on 12 March 1725-6. His portrait, a half-length by Sir Godfrey Kneller, is in the Painted Hall at Greenwich, to which it was presented by George IV.

[Charnock's Biog. Nav. ii. 158; Burchett's Transactions at Sea, p. 600; Lediard's Naval History, p. 763; Campbell's Lives of the Admirals, iii. 52; Official Correspondence in the Public Record Office.]

J. K. L.