Williams, Thomas (1762?-1841) (DNB00)

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WILLIAMS, Sir THOMAS (1762?–1841), admiral, son of Captain William Williams (d. 1778) of the navy, was in 1768 entered on the books of the Peggy sloop, commanded by his father, with whom he continued serving, nominally or really, in different ships on the Newfoundland and North America stations. In June 1776 he was with his father in the Active in the disastrous attack on Sullivan's Island [see Parker, Sir Peter, 1721–1811]. In 1777 he was moved into the Prince of Wales, flagship of Rear-admiral Samuel Barrington [q. v.], with whom he was in the engagements at St. Lucia (15 Dec. 1778) and Grenada (6 July 1779). On 8 Dec. 1779 he was promoted to be lieutenant of the America, one of the ships with Sir George Brydges (Lord) Rodney [q. v.], when he captured the Caraccas convoy on 8 Jan. 1780; and, being sent home with the prizes, went out to North America with Vice-admiral Marriot Arbuthnot [q. v.], and took part in the action of 16 March 1781. In May Williams was appointed first lieutenant of the Assurance, which he commanded with some success for several months during the absence of her captain at sick quarters. On 15 April 1783 he was promoted to be commander of the Rhinoceros, which he took to England and paid off in March 1784. In June 1789 Williams was appointed to the Otter, employed in the North Sea; and on 22 Nov. 1790 he was advanced to post rank. In December 1792 he was appointed to the Lizard, and in August 1794 to the Dædalus, both in the North Sea for the protection of trade, and to co-operate with the army in the Low Countries. For his good service in forcing a number of transports through the ice in the Ems in the winter of 1794–5, and so relieving the forces at Emden, he was specially thanked by the admiralty, and appointed, in July 1795, to the 32-gun frigate Unicorn on the Irish station. On 8 June 1796, while cruising on the Soundings, having under his orders the Santa Margarita, he fell in with two French frigates of nominally equal force. They separated and were severally followed by the two English ships; and while the Santa Margarita took one [see Martin, Sir Thomas Byam], the Unicorn captured the other, the Tribune, which, under that name, was added to the English navy (James, i. 367–8). The most extraordinary feature of the action was that though the Tribune was commanded by a capable seaman, and admirably manœuvred, she did not succeed, ‘in a running fight of several hours and a close combat of more than half an hour,’ in shedding one drop of blood on board the Unicorn. She herself lost thirty-seven men killed and fourteen wounded. The reward of the double victory fell mainly to the senior officer, and Williams was knighted.

In March 1797 he was transferred to the Endymion, a 40-gun frigate carrying 24-pounders on her maindeck. On 12 Oct., the day after the battle of Camperdown, she joined the North Sea fleet, and was immediately sent by the admiral [see Duncan, Adam, Viscount] to follow up the Dutch ships which had escaped. A few hours later she found the Dutch 74-gun ship Brutus anchored inshore, and at once attacked her. The difficulty of the position, however, rendered it impossible for the inferior force to do anything effective; and when on the morning of the 13th the Endymion and the Beaulieu in company stood in to renew the attack, they were mortified by seeing the Brutus slip her cable and get into Goree. For the next three years the Endymion was employed on the Irish station and on convoy service to St. Helena. In February 1801 Williams was appointed to the Vanguard, which in the summer was sent up the Baltic, and on her return was employed in the blockade of Cadiz. In 1804–5 Williams commanded the Neptune in the Channel; in 1806–7 he had charge of the sea-fencibles of the Gosport division; and in 1807–8 was again in the Neptune.

On 25 Oct. 1809 Williams was promoted to be rear-admiral, and from May to August 1810 had his flag in the Venerable, under the command of Sir Richard John Strachan [q. v.] In August he hoisted his flag in the Hannibal, as second in command of the Channel fleet, and in October was sent with a strong squadron to Lisbon to co-operate with the army then occupying the lines of Torres Vedras. On the retreat of the French he returned to England, and in May 1811 hoisted his flag in the Royal George. In October he was appointed commander-in-chief at the Nore, where he remained for three years. On 4 June 1814 he was made vice-admiral; was nominated a K.C.B. on 2 Jan. 1815, an admiral on 22 July 1830, and a G.C.B. on 13 Sept. 1831. He died at Burwood House, Surrey, ‘in his 80th year,’ on 8 Oct. 1841. He married, in 1800, Miss Whapshare of Salisbury; she died at Brighton on 17 Dec. 1824 (Gent. Mag;;. 1825, i. 93).

[Marshall's Roy. Nav. Biogr. i. 387; Ralfe's Nav. Biogr. iv. 477; James's Naval History; Ann. Reg. 1841, ii. 226; Passing certificate and Service-book in the Public Record Office.]

J. K. L.