Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Trollope, Henry

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TROLLOPE, Sir HENRY (1756–1839), admiral, son of the Rev. John Trollope of Bucklebury in Berkshire, was born at Bucklebury on 20 April 1756. His grandfather, Henry Trollope of London, merchant, was a younger brother of Sir Thomas Trollope, fourth baronet, of Casewick, ancestor of the present Baron Kesteven, and grandfather of Thomas Anthony Trollope [see under Trollope, Frances]. Henry Trollope entered the navy in April 1771 on board the Captain of 64 guns, going out to North America with the flag of Rear-admiral John Montagu [q. v.], and on her return in 1774 was again sent out to the same station in the Asia, with Captain George Vandeput [q. v.] He is said, apparently on his own authority, to have been present in the so-called battle of Lexington and at Bunker Hill (Ralfe; cf. Beatson, iv. 61, 65, 75), presumably in the boats of the Asia, sent to cover the retreat from Lexington, or the landing of the troops for the attack on Bunker Hill. He was afterwards lent to the Kingfisher sloop for service on the coast of Virginia and in Hampton Roads, and, later on, at the siege of Boston. In 1777 he rejoined the Asia, and in her returned to England. On 25 April 1777 he was promoted to be lieutenant of the Bristol, in which he again went out to North America, and immediately after arrival at New York was detached, in command of her boats, to assist the army in its passage up the North River, in the attempt to join hands with Burgoyne. This it did not succeed in doing, and on its return to New York, Trollope rejoined the Bristol. In the spring of 1778 he returned to England in the Chatham, and was then, at his own request, appointed to command the Kite, a small cutter carrying ten four-pounders and fifty men, stationed in the Downs. His success during the following months was commensurate with his activity, which was very great. He kept constantly at sea, let no vessel pass without examination, made many captures of French ships, and ‘the neutrals that he detained, which were condemned for having French or Spanish property on board, were still more numerous.’ Admiral Buckle, who commanded in the Downs, is said to have told Trollope's old patron, Montagu, that ‘the Kite had brought in more than three times the number of prizes that had been made by all the other ships under his command.’ In March 1779 the Kite was sent to Portsmouth, and was then ordered to cruise off Portland, where, on the 30th, she engaged and drove off a large French privateer, so saving ‘a considerable body of defenceless British merchant ships which were in imminent danger of capture’ (Memorial). The number of merchant ships thus rescued is given as thirty (Ralfe). On the following day the Kite engaged and beat off a French brig of 18 guns, which, having lost heavily in killed and wounded, escaped to Havre, while the cutter, whose rigging was cut to pieces, went to Portsmouth. On the report of Sir Thomas Pye, then port-admiral, Trollope was promoted to the rank of commander on 16 April 1779. He remained, however, in the Kite, sometimes attached to the Channel fleet, as a despatch-boat, sometimes cruising alone on the coast of Ireland, or to the southward as far as Cadiz, and in the April of 1781 accompanying the fleet under vice-admiral Darby for the relief of Gibraltar.

The remarkable activity Trollope displayed in carrying despatches between the admiral and the admiralty was rewarded by his promotion to post rank on 4 June 1781, and his appointment to the Myrmidon of 20 guns, in which he was employed in the North Sea till March 1782. He was then appointed to the Rainbow, an old 44-gun ship, experimentally armed with carronades—light guns of large calibre, throwing large shot, but with a very short effective range. It was a disputed point whether such guns could be properly used as the main armament of a ship; and as Trollope was known to have paid great attention to the training of his men at the guns, he was specially selected to conduct this trial. The stress of the war rendered it difficult to get the ship manned, and it was not till the end of August that she sailed from the Nore. Meeting with bad weather in her passage down Channel, the great weight of her shot broke away the shot lockers and caused some delay at Plymouth; and thus she sailed by herself to join the squadron under Commodore Elliot, which had been sent to look out for a French convoy reported as ready to sail from St. Malo under the escort of the Hebe, a large new 38-gun frigate. Elliot had, however, missed this, and the Rainbow fell in with it off the Isle de Bas at daylight on 4 Sept. The Hebe endeavoured to escape, but a lucky shot from the Rainbow smashed her wheel, and the French captain, astounded, it was said, by the monstrous size of the shot, surrendered almost without resistance. He was deservedly broke by court-martial and sentenced to a long term of imprisonment but the Rainbow had not been able to prove the value of her armament. Trollope was very anxious to try it against a 74-gun ship, but no opportunity offered, and the Rainbow was paid off at the peace.

Trollope's distinguished success in command of cruising vessels during the war had placed him in easy circumstances, and for the next eight years he lived in a pleasant freehanded manner at a country house in Wales. In the Spanish armament of 1790 he was appointed to the Prudente of 38 guns, and, on her being paid off when the dispute with Spain was settled, he was moved to the Hussar, in which he went out to the Mediterranean. He returned to England early in 1792, and again retired into Wales, where he stayed till, in 1795, he was appointed to the Glatton, one of six Indiamen which had been bought into the service and were ordered to be fitted as ships of war, with an armament of carronades. Guided by his former experience of carronades, Trollope proposed a special method of fitting them in the Glatton, and persuaded Lord Spencer to allow it, notwithstanding the objections of the navy board, on the grounds that the new method would take very much longer, and the ships were wanted at once. Trollope pledged his word that, if he were allowed a free hand, he would have the Glatton ready as soon as the others; and, assisted by a capable foreman, lent him by Mr. Wells, who had built the ship, he had her ready and at the Nore nearly a month before any of the others. What was of still more importance, the Glatton proved an effective ship of war; her fellows were quite unserviceable, and were used only as transports.

For the next two years the Glatton formed one of the North Sea fleet, then under the command of Admiral Duncan, and was frequently employed on detached service, watching the enemy's coast. On 14 July 1796 she sailed by herself from Yarmouth to relieve one of the ships then off the Texel, and the following afternoon off Helvoetsluys ‘engaged and drove into port a squadron of six sail of frigates, large brig, and cutter; and thereby, in the estimation of Earl Spencer, then first lord of the admiralty, and of various departments of the commercial interests of London and other corporations, most effectually insured the safety of upwards of three hundred sail of British merchantmen on their passage from the Baltic under convoy of a sloop of war’ (Memorial; cf. James, i. 372–377; Troude, iii. 41–2). The action has often been referred to as a striking proof of the great power of the Glatton's armament; but this can scarcely be admitted in view of our uncertainty as to the force of the French squadron, the fact that Trollope always asserted that the Glatton was equal to any 74-gun ship, and our doubt as to whether an average seventy-four would not have more effectively disposed of the French frigates. Trollope, however, won great credit by his conduct on this occasion; he was presented by the merchants of London with a piece of plate value a hundred guineas, with another by the Russia company, and with the freedom of the boroughs of Huntingdon and Yarmouth.

In May 1797, when the mutiny broke out in the fleet, the men of the Glatton mustered on deck and told Trollope that, though they were perfectly satisfied with him and the other officers, they must do as the other ships did, and were resolved to go to the Nore. Trollope obtained leave to go on board the flagship to see the admiral, and agreed with him that there was no way of preventing the ship sailing, but that he was to do what he could to prevent her going to the Nore. It so happened that she was becalmed off Harwich, and, anchoring there for the night, Trollope succeeded, after arguing with them for four hours, in bringing the men back to their duty. The next day, 2 June, when the anchor was weighed, Trollope took the ship to the Downs, where he found the Overyssel of 64 guns and the Beaulieu of 50 in open mutiny. By a threat of firing into them, he succeeded in persuading these two ships also to return to their duty; and on the following day he sailed to join Duncan off the Texel, where he received a letter from Lord Spencer, expressing his entire approval of his conduct, and appointing him to the command of the Russell.

In the Russell he continued for the following months, almost without intermission, on the coast of Holland, watching the Dutch fleet. When they put to sea on 7 Oct. he immediately despatched a lugger to the admiral with the news, and on the 11th joined the fleet in time to take an effective part in the battle of Camperdown. When the fleet returned to the Nore the king signified his intention of visiting it there, and Trollope, as the senior captain, was appointed to the Royal Charlotte yacht to bring him from Greenwich. The king accordingly embarked on 30 Oct.; but the wind came dead foul, and after two days the yacht had got no further than Gravesend. He therefore gave up the idea and returned to Greenwich, knighting Trollope on the quarterdeck of the Royal Charlotte before he landed. The accolade conferred ‘under the royal standard’ was spoken of as making Trollope a knight banneret, and was apparently so intended by the king; but it is said to have been afterwards decided, as a question of precedence, that a knight banneret could only be made on the field where a battle had actually been fought; or presumably, in the case of a naval officer, on the quarterdeck of one of the ships actually engaged (Marshall).

During the two following years Trollope continued in command of the Russell as one of the Channel fleet, for the most part off Brest. In 1800 he was appointed to the Juste, still off Brest, and on 1 Jan. 1801 was promoted to the rank of rear-admiral. Shortly before this he had had a difference with Lord St. Vincent, then commander-in-chief, and, as a flag-officer, declined to serve under him. St. Vincent shortly afterwards became first lord of the admiralty, and did not offer Trollope any appointment, which, on his part, Trollope would probably not have accepted. Before St. Vincent left the admiralty Trollope's health had broken down, and a violent attack of gout had deprived him of the use of his limbs. In 1805 he drew up a memorial, setting forth his services, in command of the Kite, of the Rainbow, and of the Glatton, especially in the matter of the mutiny, as also while in command of the Russell and the Royal Charlotte, when he had been knighted ‘under the royal standard.’ As he ‘possessed no means of supporting the honour of the title other than his half-pay,’ he prayed that, in consideration of his circumstances, ‘his Majesty would bestow on him some mark of his royal bounty.’ The memorial was referred to the admiralty, who reported that the exceptional service described was the quelling the mutiny in the Glatton, and that there was no instance of any such service being rewarded otherwise than by promotion. They were therefore unable to recommend the king to grant a pension ‘upon the ordinary estimate of the navy’ (Admiralty, Orders in Council, 30 May, 6 June 1805).

The gout, which so disabled him, continued its violence for upwards of ten years; but in 1816 he appeared to have entirely recovered. He had been promoted to be vice-admiral on 9 Nov. 1805, and admiral on 12 Aug. 1812. But after his recovery in 1816 the peace offered no inducement to him to serve. On 20 May 1820 he was nominated a K.C.B., and a G.C.B. on 19 May 1831. Some time after this the fits of gout returned, and later on affected his head. He was then living at Bath. His prevailing idea was that somebody was going to break in and rob him. He converted his bedroom into an armoury, with a blunderbuss, a big knife, and several brace of pistols. Nobody seems to have supposed that this was anything more than a harmless eccentricity; but one day, 2 Nov. 1839, he retired to his room, locked himself in, and blew his brains out. He was buried in St. James's Church, Bath. He had been for many years a widower, and left no children.

Trollope's half-brother, George Barne Trollope (d. 1850), served under his command in the Prudente and the Hussar. He was afterwards in the Lion and the Triumph with Sir Erasmus Gower [q. v.], was made a lieutenant in 1796, and was one of the Triumph's lieutenants in the battle of Camperdown. He was made commander in 1804, and, after serving actively through the war, principally in the Mediterranean and on the coast of France, was posted in 1814 and made a C.B. in 1815. In 1849 he was promoted to be rear-admiral on the retired list, and died at Bedford on 31 May 1850. He was married and left issue. His eldest son, John Joseph Trollope, prebendary of Hereford, died 8 Jan. 1893.

[The memoir in Ralfe's Naval Biogr. (ii. 311) appears to be based on an autobiographical communication from Trollope; that in Marshall's Roy. Nav. Biogr. (i. 145) is much less full; the memoir in United Service Journal (1840, i. 244) is by Admiral W. H. Smyth. See also Naval Chronicle (with a portrait), xviii. 353; Beatson's Nav. and Mil. Memoirs; James's Naval History; Troude's Batailles navales de la France; Lord Camperdown's Admiral Duncan; O'Byrne's Nav. Biogr. Dict.; Gent. Mag. 1850, ii. 659.]

J. K. L.