A Naval Biographical Dictionary/Milne, William

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MILNE. (Retired Commander, 1844. f-p., 16; h-p., 32.)

William Milneentered the Navy, in Jan. 1799, as Midshipman, on board the Swinger gun-brig, Lieut.-Commander John Lucas, part of the force employed in the ensuing expedition to Holland, where he served on shore at a battery in the first engagement fought after the landing of the troops. Joining next, in Feb. 1800, the Elephant 74, Capts. Thos. Foley and Geo. Dundas, he served for some time at Portsmouth and in the Channel under the flags of Sir Rich. Bickerton and Sir Chas. Cotton, and on 2 April, 1801, was present under Lord Nelson in the action off Copenhagen. Proceeding subsequently to the West Indies, he there, in the course of 1803, witnessed the capture of Le Duquesne 74, and of La Créole of 44 guns, with the French General Morgan and 530 troops on board; assisted at the boarding and carrying, by night, of a warschooner under Cape François; and beheld, with the evacuation of the latter place, the surrender of a French squadron with the remains of General Rochambeau’s army. At the commencement of 1805, about which period he passed his examination, he removed to the Ruby 64, Capt. Chas. Rowley, stationed at first in the Channel and then in the North Sea; where, while Master’s Mate of the Majestic 74, flag-ship of Vice-Admiral Thos. Macnamara Russell, he was allowed, from 25 March to 10 April, 1806, to act as Lieutenant of the Aimable frigate, Capt. Clotworthy Upton. Being successively nominated, 28 March and 7 July, 1807, Acting-Sub-Lieutenant and Sub-Lieutenant of the Carrier 4, Lieut.-Commander Robt. Ramsey, he served, in the capacity last mentioned, at the capture of Heligoland, and in the expedition against Copenhagen; after the fall of which place he was promoted, 3 Oct. 1807, to the acting-command of the Carrier, and sent home in charge of despatches from Admiral Gambier, Lord Cathcart, and Mr. Pierrepont, British Minister in Sweden. During the passage, Mr. Milne, on 14 Nov., had the good fortune to fall in with and capture the French privateer cutter L’Actif, pierced for 8 guns, but carrying only 2, with 16 brass musketoons mounted on swivels, and manned with a crew of 32 men, all trained marksmen from the camp at Boulogne.[1] His conduct on the occasion being highly approved by the Admiralty, he was confirmed in the rank of Lieutenant, and in the command of the Carrier, by commission dated 19 Nov. 1807. In the following year we find him present in the same vessel in an attack made on the town of Boulogne. It was his lot, however, on 5 Feb. 1809, after an action with two batteries near Etaples, in which he had been twice wounded, to be wrecked and taken prisoner with the whole of his crew; but so strenuous were his exertions to avoid the catastrophe, that they had the effect of eliciting a strong testimonial from the French General Lorcet, to whom the surrender was made. On his release from captivity at the end of the war, he was fully acquitted by court-martial, and was immediately, 27 July, 1814, appointed First-Lieutenant of the Galatea 36, Capt. Woodley Losack, with an assurance from Sir Joseph Yorke, then a Lord of the Admiralty, of being sent put on promotion to the East Indies. The destination of the ship being unfortunately for him changed to Newfoundland, he was compelled, in Oct. 1814, within a short time of his arrival on that station, to invalid in consequence of an inflammation in the lungs produced by the climate. During the rebellion of 1837-8, in Upper Canada, Lieut. Milne, at the period a resident there, raised about 700 men for its defence, and, as Major of Volunteers under Colonel Sir Allan MacNab, rendered very important and efficient service on the frontier and in the London district. He also distinguished himself by his conduct under the present Capt. Andw. Drew, R.N., at the reduction of Navy Island, in the river Niagara, where he commanded a division of boats; and, besides having for some time charge of the naval brigade at Chippewa, he so signalized himself by his exertions on Lake Erie, especially by his efforts in rescuing the Colborne hired armed steamer from an attempt made by the insurgents to destroy her, that he was appointed a Captain of the Provincial Navy, and placed in command of that vessel. He accepted his present rank 24 July, 1844. Agents – Messrs. Ommanney.


  1. Vide Gaz. 1807, p. 1555.