A Naval Biographical Dictionary/Whitshed, James Hawkins

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WHITSHED, formerly Hawkins, Bart., G.C.B. (Admiral of the Fleet, 1844.)

Sir James Hawkins Whitshed, born in 1762, is third son of the late Jas. Hawkins, D.D., Lord Bishop of Raphoe. His grandfather and great-grandfather, Wm. and John Hawkins, each filled the appointment of Ulster King-of-Arms. He assumed the surname and arms of Whitshed, by an Act of the Irish Legislature, in 1791.

This officer entered the Navy, in 1773, on board the Ranger sloop, on the Irish station. He removed soon to the Kent 74, Capt. Fielding, guardship at Plymouth; and he was afterwards, until rewarded for the zeal and alacrity he had displayed in the discharge of his duties with a commission dated 4 Sept. 1778, employed chiefly at Newfoundland and on the coast of North America in the Aldborough, Capt. Bennett, Canada schooner, commanded by the late Admiral Sampson Edwards, Romney, flag-ship of Admiral Duff, Diamond frigate, Capt. Fielding, and, as Acting-Lieutenant, in the Rainbow, Capt. Sir Geo. Collier. While he was on board the Kent an explosion took place, which killed and wounded 42 men, and destroyed 8 of the poop and 7 of the quarter-deck beams. He was wrecked in the Canada during a violent gale; and in the Diamond he was engaged, during the war with our revolted colonies, in a variety of hazardous enterprises. After serving for some time as a Lieutenant in the Amazon, in the Channel, he joined the Sandwich 90, flag-ship of Sir Geo. Brydges Rodney, and sailed in Dec. 1779 for the relief of Gibraltar. On his passage he assisted at the capture of a 64-gun ship, 6 armed vessels belonging to the Royal Caraccas Company, and 14 sail of transports from St. Sebastian, bound to Cadiz, laden with naval stores, provisions, &c.; and also at the defeat of the armament under Don Juan de Langara, 16 Jan. 1780. Having reached Gibraltar, he was made Commander into the San Vincente, one of the prizes recently added to the British Navy; and on his subsequent arrival with Sir G. B. Rodney in the West Indies he was Posted, 18 April, 1780, into the Deal Castle. While lying, in the following Oct., with the Camelion sloop, in Gros Islet Bay, Ste. Lucie, as well to complete the fortifications of Pigeon Island as to give timely notice to Commodore Hotham, in the Carenage, of the approach of an enemy, the Deal Castle (the Camelion was driven to sea and not heard of more) was forced in a dreadful hurricane from her anchorage, and in a few days afterwards, despite the utmost exertion made to keep her afloat, wrecked on the island of Puerto Rico, with only her foremast and bowsprit standing. Through the presence of mind, however, of Capt. Hawkins, and his determined and meritorious conduct, all but three of the crew were enabled to reach the shore upon rafts. At the end of two months they were liberated and sent to Tortola. On his recovery from a dangerous fever, produced by the fatigue he had undergone, Capt. Hawkins, whom a court-martial honourably acquitted of all blame on account of the loss of his ship, returned to England in a packet with despatches from the Commander-in-Chief. His next appointment was, 25 July, 1781, to the Ceres 32, in which frigate he conveyed Sir Guy Carleton, the military Commander-in-Chief, to New York. On the evacuation of that place he returned with Sir Guy to England, and in Feb. 1784 was paid off. Shortly after this he assumed command of the Rose 28, and was ordered to the east coast of Scotland, where he remained until 1786. On the renewal of hostilities with France he obtained an appointment to the Arrogant 74. In her, under Rear-Admiral Geo. Montagu, he accompanied, in May, 1794, the outward-bound East India trade, and other convoys, amounting in the whole to about 800 sail, as far to the southward as Cape Finisterre – a service which deprived him of the opportunity of sharing in Lord Howe’s famous action. In the spring of 1795 he removed to the Namur 98; and in 1796, after having cruized with the Channel fleet, he proceeded with Rear-Admiral Wm. Parker to reinforce the fleet under Sir John Jervis, off Lisbon. He was subsequently present in the battle fought off Cape St. Vincent 14 Feb. 1797;[1] and for his conduct on that day. he was presented with a gold medal, and included in the thanks of Parliament. He commanded next the Ajax 74 and Formidable 98, on the Channel station. Attaining the rank of Rear-Admiral 14 Feb. 1799, he was sent in the following April, with his flag in the Queen Charlotte 100, and with four ships-of-the-line and two frigates under his orders, to join Lord St. Vincent in the Mediterranean, whence we find him returning with Lord Keith in quest of the French fleet, which was pursued into Brest, Rear-Admiral Whitshed was afterwards, until 1801, employed, again in the Channel, with his flag in the Téméraire 98. He was then nominated to the chief command at Halifax; but, the peace taking place, he declined it. In 1803 he was appointed Naval Adviser to the Viceroy of Ireland, for the purpose of .superintending the coasts of that country, of organizing the Sea Fencibles, of selecting and establishing signal-stations, and of erecting martello towers at certain distances and at proper points to the northward and southward of Dublin, for the security of the capital. On this service he continued until the spring of 1807. He then (he had been promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral 23 April, 1804) succeeded Lord Gardner in the chief command at Cork, where he remained until the autumn of 1810; on 31 July in which year he was made a full Admiral. He was nominated a K.C.B. 2 Jan. 1815, and a G.C.B. 17 Nov. 1830, and was created a Baronet in May, 1834. He commanded in chief at Portsmouth from 31 Jan. 1821 until 12 April, 1824; and became Admiral of the Fleet 8 Jan. 1844.

Sir Jas. Hawkins Whitshed married, 11 Dec. 1791, Sophia Henrietta, daughter of Capt. John Albert Bentinck, R.N. (the inventor of chain-pumps, who died in command of the Centaur 74 in 1775); sister of Vice-Admiral Wm. Bentinck, who died 21 Feb. 1813; and sister-in-law of the late Admiral Sir Geo. Martin, G.C.B. By that lady, a great-grand-daughter of the first Earl of Portland, he has had issue two sons and four daughters. His eldest son, Jas. Bentinck Hawkins Whitshed, was killed, when a Midshipman of the Berwick 74, Capt. Edw. Brace, in a gallant boat-affair in the Mediterranean 11 Dec. 1813, the particulars of which are recorded in our memoir of Lieut. John Monk. His only surviving son, St. Vincent Keene Whitshed, is married to a daughter of Lord Erskine.


  1. Vide Gaz. 1797, p. 212.