A Naval Biographical Dictionary/Belcher, Edward

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BELCHER, Kt., C.B., F.R.A.S., F.G.S. (Capt., 1841. f-p., 28; h-p., 7.)

Sir Edward Belcher, born in 1799, is second son of Andrew Belcher, Esq., formerly of Roehampton; grandson of Wm. Belcher, Esq., Chief Justice, and afterwards Governor, of Halifax; and great-grandson of Jonathan Belcher, Esq., Governor of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New Jersey. This officer entered the Navy, 9 April, 1812, as Fst.-cl. Vol., on board the Abercromby 74, Capt. Wm. Chas. Fahie, on the Home station; attained the rating of Midshipman 2 Dec. 1812; removed for a few weeks, in Feb. 1814, to the Salvador Del Mundo, Capt. Robt. Hall, employed at Plymouth; then became attached to the Bellerophon 74, flag-ship at Newfoundland of Sir Rich. Goodwin Keats; rejoined Capt. Fahie, in Jan. 1815, on board the Malta 84, part of the force subsequently engaged at the defence of Gaeta; was next, in Nov. following, transferred to the Superb 74, Capt. Chas. Ekins, with whom he fought at the battle of Algiers, 27 Aug. 1816; and afterwards, until the receipt of his first commission, bearing date 21 July, 1818, served in the Sybille 44, and Salisbury 50, flag-ships at Jamaica of Rear-Admirals Sir Home Popham and John Erskine Douglas, and Phaeton 46, Capt. Wm. Henry Dillon, at Portsmouth. On 11 March, 1819, Mr. Belcher was appointed to the Myrmidon sloop, Capt. Henry John Leeke, fitting for the African station, whence he invalided in April, 1820. He resumed his active duties, in Sept. 1821, on board the Salisbury, commanded at the time by Capt. Wm. Maude, with whom he served for three years on the Halifax station; and, on 18 April, 1825, he was selected to act as Assistant-Surveyor to Capt. Frederick Wm. Beechey, in the Blossom 24, then about to sail to Bering Strait on a voyage of discovery, the outlines of which have been given under the head of “Capt. Beechey.” His promotion to the rank of Commander took place 16 March, 1829, while serving on board the Southampton 52, flag-ship in the East Indies of Rear-Admiral Edw. W. C. R. Owen; after which we find him commanding, from 27 May, 1830, until 10 Sept. 1833, the Aetna surveying-vessel, on the coast of Africa, also in the River Douro for the protection of British property during the hostilities between Pedro and Miguel, and next in the Mediterranean – and, from 9 Nov. 1836, until 2 Aug. 1842, the Sulphur, another surveying-vessel, chiefly employed in South America and the East Indies. During the latter part of that period Capt. Belcher figured conspicuously in the various scenes connected with the war in China. On 7 Jan. 1841, he united in the vigorous operations put into force against the enemy’s forts at Chuenpee, and in the course of the same day he admirably effected the destruction, with the Nemesis and the boats of the Calliope, of 11 out of 13 war-junks.[1] He next, on 27 Feb., acquired the cordial thanks of Sir Gordon Bremer for the gallantry he displayed (the Sulphur being the leading ship) in an attack made by a squadron under Sir Thos. Herbert on the Chinese camp, fort, and ship Cambridge, mounting in the whole 98 guns, at their position below Whampoa Reach.[2] During the advance of the British on Canton, we find the Sulphur, in company with three of the Wellesley’s boats, destroying, on 2 March, near Whampoa, a masked battery, armed with 25 guns, and manned by about 250 chosen Tartar troops;[3] 11 days after which exploit her Captain again acquired much credit for his zeal at the capture of several rafts, and of the last fort protecting the approaches to Canton.[4]Capt. Belcher also distinguished himself by his great zeal at the ensuing reduction of that city, and indeed he appears to have been altogether indefatigable in the laborious duties of sounding and exploring the various inlets through which the ships were carried in their previous progress up the Canton River.[5] On 23 of the following May, at the onset of the operations which immediately preceded the second capture of the same city, Capt. Belcher, by a most spirited and judicious recoimaissance, established the practicability of effecting a landing of the troops at a point which had been previously selected by Sir Hugh Gough for that purpose. The value of his services on the occasion was warmly attested both by the last-mentioned officer and Sir Humphrey Fleming Senhouse.[6] On the same day he caused the self-destruction of 28 of the enemy’s vessels, and, having landed with a party at a mandarin temple at Tsingpoo, he spiked and threw into the sea 5 small guns.[7] In such high esteem were Capt. Belcher’s services held, that he was awarded a Post-commission 6 May, 1841, the decoration of a C.B. 14 Oct. following, and the honour of Knighthood 21 Jan. 1843. Having been in further command, since 18 Nov. 1842, of the Samarang 26, employed on surveying service in the East Indies, he at length returned home and was paid off in Jan. 1847. Sir Edw. Belcher’s well-known ‘Narrative of a Voyage round the World, performed in H.M.S. Sulphur, during the years 1836-42,’ will fully develop the nature of his very important services during the period the volume embraces. To this officer we have also to ascribe the authorship of a ‘Treatise on Nautical Surveying.’ He married, 11 Sept. 1830, Diana Jolliffe, granddaughter of Colonel Simpson, of Plean House, Falkirk, and stepdaughter of the late gallant Capt. Peter Heywood, R.N., who was in the unfortunate mutiny on board the Bounty. Agents – Messrs. Ommanney.

  1. Vide Gaz. 1841, pp. 1162, 1222.
  2. Vide Gaz. 1841, p. 1501.
  3. Vide Gaz. 1841, p. 1425.
  4. Vide Gaz. 1841, p. 1503.
  5. Vide Gaz. 1841, pp. 1429, 1504.
  6. Vide Gaz. 1841, pp. 2496, 2509.
  7. Vide Gaz. 1841, p. 2504.