Shadwell, Charles Frederick Alexander (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 51
Shadwell, Charles Frederick Alexander

by John Knox Laughton

SHADWELL, Sir CHARLES FREDERICK ALEXANDER (1814–1886), admiral, born in 1814, fourth son of Sir Lancelot Shadwell [q. v.], was in 1827 entered as a scholar at the Royal Naval College at Portsmouth, and from it passed into the navy in 1829. In 1833 he passed his examination, and was made lieutenant on 28 June 1838. He was then appointed to the 36-gun frigate Castor, going out to the Mediterranean, where in 1840 he was present at the operations on the coast of Syria, including the capture of St. Jean d'Acre. In December 1841 he was appointed first lieutenant of the Fly, employed for more than four years in surveying in Torres Straits and on the northern coast of Australia [see Jukes, Joseph Beete]. On the Fly being paid out of commission, he was promoted to the rank of commander, 27 June 1846. He then studied for some time at the Royal Naval College, taking a certificate in ‘steam,’ and devoting himself more especially to nautical astronomy. In February 1850 he was appointed to the Sphinx, which he took out to the East Indies, and in her had an active share in the Burma war of 1852, for which he twice received the thanks of the governor-general in council; on 7 Feb. 1853 was advanced to the rank of captain, and on 5 Dec. 1853 was nominated a C.B.

In August 1856 he commissioned the Highflyer for the China station, where in 1857 he took part in the operations in the Canton river, leading up to the capture of Canton in December [see Seymour, Sir Michael, (1802–1887)], and in the disastrous attack on the Taku forts on 25 June 1859 [see Hope, Sir James, (1808–1881)], when, in leading the landing party across the mud flat, he received a severe wound in the ankle, which rendered him permanently lame. In January 1860 he was relieved from the command of the Highflyer, and returned to England.

From February 1861 to August 1862 he commanded the Aboukir of 90 guns in the Mediterranean and West Indies; from October 1862 to June 1864, the Hastings flagship of Sir Lewis Jones at Queenstown; and from June 1864 till his promotion to the rank of rear-admiral on 15 Jan. 1869 was captain-superintendent of the Gosport victualling-yard and of Haslar Hospital. From August 1871 to May 1875 he was commander-in-chief in China, and was made K.C.B. on 24 May 1873. From 1878 to 1881 he was president of the Royal Naval College at Greenwich, after which he lived in retirement at Melksham in Wiltshire, where he died, unmarried, on 1 March 1886.

Despite his long, and in some instances brilliant, service, Shadwell had rather the temperament of a student than of a warrior. He was deeply attached to the study of nautical astronomy, on different details of which he published a large number of pamphlets. For many years he was engaged on a work on the subject, which gradually assumed almost encyclopædic proportions without ever reaching his high ideal of completeness; and it was still unfinished at his death. He was elected F.R.S. on 6 June 1861, and was a fellow of the Royal Astronomical and Royal Geographical societies.

[O'Byrne's Nav. Biogr. Dict.; Times, 4 March 1886; Navy Lists; personal knowledge.]

J. K. L.