Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Philipps, Baker

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PHILIPPS, BAKER (1718?–1745), lieutenant in the navy, born about 1718, entered the navy in 1733, and having served in the Diamond, in the Greenwich, with Captain James Cornewall [q. v.], and in the Prince of Orange on the home station, with Captain William Davies, passed his examination on 27 Nov. 1740, being then, according to his certificate, upwards of twenty-two. On 5 Feb. 1740–1 he was promoted to be lieutenant of the Royal Sovereign; on 20 April 1744 he was appointed second lieutenant of the Anglesea, a 44-gun ship stationed on the south coast of Ireland to protect the homeward trade. On 28 March she sailed from Kinsale on a cruise, having left her first lieutenant on shore sick. The next day she sighted a large ship to windward, which the captain, Jacob Elton, and the master wrongly supposed to be her consort, the Augusta of 60 guns. The stranger, with a fair wind, came down under a press of sail. A master's mate who was on the forecastle suddenly noticed that her poop-nettings and quarter showed unmistakably French ornamentation, and ran down to tell the captain. It was about two o'clock in the afternoon, and he was at dinner. Thereupon the stranger, which proved to be the French 60-gun ship Apollon, in private employ, ran under the Anglesea's stern, and poured in a heavy fire of great guns and small arms at less than a hundred yards' distance. The Anglesea replied as she best could; but her decks were not cleared and her fire was very feeble. Hoping to fore-reach on the Frenchman, and so gain a little time, Elton set the foresail. The only effect was to prevent her from firing her lower-deck guns. The Apollon's second broadside killed both Elton and the master. Philipps was left in command, and, seeing no possibility of defence, he ordered the colours to be struck.

The court-martial which, on the return of the prisoners, examined into the affair rightly pronounced that the loss of the ship was due to Elton's confidence and neglect; but it further pronounced that after Elton's death Philipps had been guilty of neglect of duty, and sentenced him to be shot, adding, however, a recommendation to mercy. The lords justices, to whom it was referred, saw no reason for advising his majesty to grant it, and the sentence was carried out on the forecastle of the Princess Royal at Spithead, at 11 A.M. on 19 July 1745. It is difficult now to understand the grounds on which Philipps was condemned, for the ship was virtually lost before he succeeded to the command. The probable explanation seems to be that the government was thoroughly alarmed, and suspected Jacobite agency. But this was not mentioned at the court-martial, and there is no reason to suppose that Philipps had meddled with politics. He was married, but left no children. His widow married again, and a miniature of Philipps is still preserved by her descendants.

[Commission and Warrant Books, Minutes of Court-Martial, vol. xxviii., and other documents in the Public Record Office; information from the family.]

J. K. L.