A Naval Biographical Dictionary/Fitzjames, James

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FITZJAMES. (Capt., 1845. f-p., 20; h-p., 2.)

James Fitzjames entered the Navy, 25 Aug. 1825, as Fst.-cl. Vol., on board the Pyramus 42, Capt. Robt. Gambier, in which ship, after accompanying Mr. Morier, the British Commissioner, to Mexico, and serving for some time under the flag of Sir Thos. Masterman Hardy, on the Home station, he was employed in conveying troops to Malta, Gibraltar, and also to Lisbon, where we find him present at the period of Don Miguel’s first arrival and usurpation of the throne. Having left the Pyramus in Sept. 1828, he next, in Dec. 1830, joined the St. Vincent, flag-ship successively at Portsmouth and in the Mediterranean of Sir Thos. Foley and Sir Henry Hotham, with the latter of whom he witnessed, as Midshipman, the revolution in Greece, and the occupation of the Palamedi at Nauplia by the Russian, French, and English forces. While on the books of the St. Vincent, Mr. Fitzjames served for six months in her tender, the Hind cutter; and from Aug. 1832, until July, 1833, he was lent to the Madagascar 46, Capt. Edm. Lyons, during which period he escorted King Otho and the Bavarian Regency from Trieste to Greece. He subsequently, on returning to the St. Vincent, passed his examination 16 Nov. 1833; after which he joined, in June, 1834, the Winchester 52, flag-ship at Chatham of the Hon. Sir Thos. Bladen Capel; and from Oct. 1834, until March, 1837, took an active part, as Mate of the Euphrates steamer, in all the operations of the expedition to the celebrated river of that name under Colonel Chesney, including the laborious work of transporting the above-mentioned vessel and the Tigris, another steamer, from Suedia to Bir, a distance of 140 miles, across an almost impervious country. While returning, on one occasion, from an attack on a tribe of Bedouin Arabs who had committed depredations on some of his party, Mr. Fitzjames unfortunately broke his leg; and, on another, he was taken prisoner, but released after a captivity of ten days. For his services he was promoted, 19 Jan. 1838, to a Lieutenancy in the Excellent, Capt. Thos. Hastings, at Portsmouth, and for his proficiency in gunnery and mathematics he obtained a first-class certificate. His next appointment was, 17 Oct. 1838, to the Ganges 84, Capt. Barrington Reynolds, one of the ships employed, in 1840, during the campaign in Syria, where he appears to have been the officer selected to distribute among the Egyptian soldiery at Beyrout the proclamations of Sir Chas. Napier, for which a price was set on his head by Soliman Pacha. He was also present at the bombardment of Beyrout, the operations at D’Journi, and the blockade of Alexandria. On 27 May, 1841, he joined, after a re-attachment of a few weeks to the Excellent, the Cornwallis 72, flag-ship in China of Sir Wm. Parker, whose official praise, as well as that of Sir Hugh Gough, he repeatedly acacquied for his meritorious conduct during the hostilities of 1842, his name occurring in not less than five gazettes. In the course of that year he directed with excellent precision the fire of the rocket-brigade in the attack on the heights of Segoan and Tzekee, 15 ond 16 March; had also charge of the rocket-party at the taking of Chapoo, May; served on shore at the battle of Woosung, June; again commanded the rocket-brigade, and was severely wounded, at the storming and capture of the city of Ching-Kiang-Foo, 21 July; was present at the signing of the treaty at Nanking; and )articipated in all the operations in the Yang-tse-Kiang.[1] On 23 Dec. 1842, Lieut. Fitzjames was rewarded by promotion to the rank of Commander;[2] and, on 30 of the same month, he was appointed to the Clio sloop, of 16 guns. After visiting Bassora and Koram, at the junction of the Tigris and Euphrates, where no man-of-war had ever before been, he was sent to quell the disturbances among the crews of the merchantmen loading guano at Icheboe, on the coast of Africa; and on his ultimate arrival in England he was paid off 10 Oct. 1844. Since 4 March, 1845, Capt. Fitzjames (whose Post-commission bears date 31 Dec. in that year) has been in command of the Erebus discovery-ship, Capt. Sir John Franklin, now engaged in a fresh attempt to explore the north-west passage through Lancaster Sound and Bering Strait, and has had the conduct of the magnetic operations connected with the expedition.

On 1 Feb. 1835, while the Euphrates expedition was fitting out in the river Mersey, Capt. Fitzjames particularly distinguished himself by his heroism in plunging overboard, in face of a strong gale and lee tide, and saving the life, at the imminent hazard of his own, of a custom-house officer. A piece of plate was in consequence presented to him by the merchants, and the freedom of the city by the corporation, of Liverpool; and the Royal Humane Society and London Shipwreck Institution each voted him a silver medal.


  1. Vide Gaz. 1842. pp. 2386, 2390, 3400, 3403, 3694.
  2. Vide Gaz. 1842, p. 3821.