Pellew, Fleetwood Broughton Reynolds (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 44
Pellew, Fleetwood Broughton Reynolds

by John Knox Laughton

PELLEW, Sir FLEETWOOD BROUGHTON REYNOLDS (1789–1861), admiral, second son of Edward Pellew, first viscount Exmouth [q. v.], was born on 13 Dec. 1789, and in March 1799 was entered on board the Impétueux, then commanded by his father, with whom he was afterwards in the Tonnant, and in 1805 in the Culloden on the East India station. On 8 Sept. 1805 he was promoted to be lieutenant of the Sceptre, but, returning shortly afterwards to the Culloden, was successively appointed by his father to the command of the Rattlesnake sloop, the Terpsichore, and Psyche frigates, in which he was repeatedly engaged with Dutch vessels and Malay pirates. On 12 Oct. 1807 he was confirmed in the rank of commander, but was meanwhile appointed by his father acting-captain of the Powerful of 74-guns, and, in the following year, of the Cornwallis of 50 guns, and the Phaeton of 38 successively. His commission as captain was confirmed on 14 Oct. 1808, and, continuing in the Phaeton, he took part in the reduction of Mauritius in 1810 and of Java in 1811. In August 1812 the Phaeton returned to England with a large convoy of Indiamen. Pellew received for his care the thanks of the East India Company and a present of five hundred guineas. He then went out to the Mediterranean in the Iphigenia of 36 guns, and from her was moved, in January 1813, to the Resistance of 46. That vessel in the following October was part of a strong squadron which silenced the batteries at Port d'Anzo and brought out a convoy of twenty-nine vessels that had taken refuge there. In February 1814 the Resistance was ordered home and paid off, in consequence, as it seemed, of a mutiny on board, for which several men were condemned to death, and several to be flogged. The sentence was, however, quashed on account of a technical error in the proceedings; and, though it did not appear officially, it was freely said that the men had been goaded to mutiny by Pellew's harshness. In June 1815 he was nominated a C.B.; and from August 1818 to June 1822 he had command of the Révolutionnaire of 46 guns, after which he was on half-pay for thirty years.

In January 1836 the king conferred on him the K.C.H., and at the same time knighted him. On 9 Nov. 1846 he was promoted to the rank of rear-admiral; and in December 1852 he was appointed commander-in-chief on the East India and China station, not without a strong expression of public opinion on the impolicy of sending out a man so old to conduct what might be a troublesome war in the pestilent climate of Burma. In April 1853 he hoisted his flag on board the Winchester, which returned to Hongkong in the following September, when the men applied for leave. The question of leave at Hongkong was then, and for some years afterwards, an extremely difficult one, on account of the great heat, the poisonous nature of the spirits sold in the low grog-shops, and the filthy condition of the Chinese. Pellew determined that the men should not have leave, at any rate till the weather was cooler; but he neglected to make any explanation to the men. The consequence was a mutinous expression of feeling. The admiral ordered the drum to beat to quarters, and as the men did not obey, the officers, with drawn swords, were sent on to the lower deck, to force the men up. Some three or four were wounded, and the mutiny was quelled; but on the news reaching England, the ‘Times,’ in a succession of strong leading articles, pointed out the coincidence of a mutiny occurring on board the Winchester and the Resistance within a short time of Pellew's assuming the command, and demanded his immediate recall. Even without this pressure the admiralty would seem to have decided that he had shown a lamentable want of judgment, and summarily recalled him. He had attained the rank of vice-admiral on 22 April 1853, and became admiral on 13 Feb. 1858, but had no further service, and died at Marseilles on 28 July 1861. He married, in 1816, Harriet, only daughter of Sir Godfrey Webster, bart., and by her (who died in 1849) had issue one daughter. He married again, in 1851, Cécile, daughter of Count Edouard de Melfort, but was divorced from her in 1859.

[Marshall's Royal Naval Biogr. v. (suppl. pt. i.) 402; O'Byrne's Naval Biogr. Dict.; Times, 21 Dec. 1852, 5, 14, 16 Jan. 1854; Minutes of Courts Martial, vol. 168, in the Public Record Office.]

J. K. L.