Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Griffith, Walter

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657120Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 23 — Griffith, Walter1890John Knox Laughton

GRIFFITH, WALTER (d. 1779), captain in the navy, of an old family long settled in Merionethshire, was promoted to be a lieutenant in the navy on 7 May 1755, and served in that rank on board the Royal George when she carried Lord Anson's flag in the summer of 1758, and under Hawke in 1759 till 4 June, when he was promoted to the command of the Postilion sloop. On 23 June, writing from Sheerness, he reported his having taken up the command; on 24 June he acknowledged an order to command the Argo during the illness of her captain; and on 16 July wrote that, Captain Tinker being recovered, he had returned to the Postilion. These dates seem to throw great doubt on the accuracy of Charnock's statement that, on 24 June 1759, Griffith married the widow of Lord George Bentinck, who died 1 March 1759 (Collins, Peerage, ii. 138). In September 1759 he was appointed to the temporary command of the Gibraltar frigate, and, being attached to the grand fleet off Brest, was fortunate enough to fall in with the French fleet on 15 Nov. After watching it carefully, he despatched full intelligence to Hawke and to the admiralty, while he himself went to warn Admiral Brodrick, then blockading Cadiz. His conduct on this occasion called forth an unusually warm encomium from the admiralty, as well as a direct intimation that ‘he might very soon expect some mark of their favour’ (Minute on Griffith's official letter of 17 Nov. 1759). He was consequently confirmed to the command of the Gibraltar, his commission as captain bearing date 11 Dec. 1759. He continued in her till 1766, being employed in the Mediterranean till the peace, and afterwards on the home station. During the Spanish armament in 1770 he commanded the Namur for a few weeks, and in 1776 was appointed to the Nonsuch of 64 guns, in which, early in the following year, he joined Lord Howe on the North American station, where he took part in the defence of Sandy Hook against D'Estaing in July and August 1778. He afterwards sailed with Commodore Hotham for the West Indies, where he shared in the brilliant little action in the cul de sac of St. Lucia on 15 Dec. [see Barrington, Hon. Samuel], and in the battle of Grenada in the following July [see Byron, Hon. John]. When Byron resigned the command to Rearadmiral Parker, Griffith was moved into the Conqueror; but a few months later, on 18 Dec. 1779, was killed in a slight rencounter with the French in Fort Royal Bay. ‘The service,’ wrote Parker, ‘cannot lose a better man or a better officer.’

[Charnock's Biog. Nav. vi. 365; Official Letters in the Public Record Office.]

J. K. L.