Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Walton, George

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WALTON, Sir GEORGE (1665–1739), admiral, born in 1665, was in 1690 a lieutenant of the Ossory, and in 1692 of the Devonshire, but apparently not till after the battle of Barfleur. He afterwards served in the Yarmouth, Kent, and Restoration; and on 19 Jan. 1696–7 was promoted to command the Seaford. In December he was moved into the Seahorse, which he commanded, for the most part in the North Sea and on the coast of Holland, till the end of 1699. In 1701 he commanded the Carcass bomb, and apparently went in her to the West Indies, with the squadron under Vice-admiral John Benbow [q. v.], by whom, in March 1701–2, he was appointed to the 48-gun ship Ruby, one of the squadron with Benbow in the disgraceful actions with Ducasse in August 1702. Of all the captains engaged [see Kirkby, Richard], Walton was the only one whose conduct was above reproach; the Ruby closely supported the flag until disabled and ordered to make the best of her way to Jamaica. In June 1703 Walton was moved to the Canterbury by Vice-admiral John Graydon [q. v.], with whom he returned to England in the following October. Continuing in the Canterbury, he was employed in the Mediterranean during 1705 and 1706 [see Shovell, Sir Clowdisley; Leake, Sir John], and in 1707 was with Sir Thomas Hardy [q. v.] in the voyage to Lisbon, and at the subsequent court-martial gave evidence strongly in favour of Hardy, whose conduct was called in question. In 1711 he commanded the Montagu, one of the fleet sent to North America and the St. Lawrence under Sir Hovenden Walker [q. v.], and in December 1712 was ordered to act as commander-in-chief at Portsmouth.

Early in January 1717–18 he was appointed to the Defiance, from which he was shortly afterwards moved to the Canterbury; in her he went out to the Mediterranean with Sir George Byng (afterwards Viscount Torrington) [q. v.], and had a rather singular share in the action off Cape Passaro on 31 July 1718, being sent in command of a detached squadron in pursuit of a division of the Spanish fleet which separated from their admiral and sought safety inshore. Walton took or destroyed the whole of them, as he wrote to Byng from off Syracuse on 5 Aug. in a letter which, in a garbled form, has given his name a peculiar celebrity. His report was stated to be comprised in a score of words: ‘Sir, we have taken and destroyed all the Spanish ships which were upon the coast: the number as per margin’ (see Gent. Mag. 1739, p. 606; Mahon, Hist. of England, 1839, i. 473). Thomas Corbett [q. v.], who either invented the story, or, by repeating what he knew to be false, gave it currency, says truly enough that Walton's ‘natural talents were fitter for achieving a gallant action than describing one;’ but the sentence which he quotes as the whole of the letter was in reality only the conclusion of it. As Corbett was Byng's secretary at the time, and was afterwards secretary of the admiralty, he knew perfectly well that the quotation was incorrect (a certified copy of the letter is in Home Office Records, Admiralty, vol. xlviii.)

In April 1721 Walton was appointed to the Nassau; in the following year he was knighted; and on 16 Feb. 1722–3 was promoted to be rear-admiral of the blue squadron. In 1726 he was second in command of the fleet in the Baltic under Sir Charles Wager [q. v.], and in 1727 was again with Wager in the fleet off Cadiz and Gibraltar. In January 1727–8 he was promoted to be vice-admiral of the blue, and in 1729 was with Wager in the fleet in the Channel; in 1731 he commanded in chief at Spithead; on 26 Feb. 1733–4 he was promoted to be admiral of the blue; in the summer of 1734 he was commander-in-chief at the Nore; and in 1736 retired on a pension of 600l. a year. He died on 21 Nov. 1739, aged 74 (Gent. Mag. 1739, p. 605).

[Charnock's Biogr. Nav. iii. 117; Campbell's Admirals, iv. 428; Commission and Warrant books, List-books, Captains' Letters, and other official docs. in Publ. Rec. Office.]

J. K. L.