Prowse, William (1752?-1826) (DNB00)

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PROWSE, WILLIAM (1752?–1826), rear-admiral, born in Devonshire, the son of parents in a humble station, was probably bred from boyhood on board a trading vessel. From November 1771 to February 1776 he was an able seaman on board the Dublin, guardship in Hamoaze; and from November 1776 to August 1778, on board the Albion, one of the ships which sailed for North America in June 1778, under the command of Vice-admiral John Byron [q. v.] Early in 1778 Captain George Bowyer [q. v.] was appointed to the Albion, and on 31 Aug. he rated Prowse as a midshipman, in which capacity, or later as master's mate, he was present at the actions off Grenada on 6 July 1779, and near Martinique on 17 April, 15 and 19 May 1781 [see Rodney, George Brydges, Lord]. He was paid off from the Albion on 21 Dec. 1781; on 17 Jan. 1782 he passed his examination, being described in his certificate as 'more than twenty-seven;' he was quite three years more. He afterwards served in the Atlas and Cyclops, and on 6 Dec. 1782 was promoted to the rank of lieutenant. He continued in the Cyclops on the coast of North America till March 1784, after which, for several years, his service was intermittent, much of the time being probably spent in command of merchant ships. During the armament of 1787 he was for a couple of months in the Bellona with Bowyer, and in 1790 in the Barfleur and Stately with Captain (afterwards Sir Robert) Calder [q. v.] From August 1791 to January 1793 he was in the Duke, carrying the flag of Lord Hood at Portsmouth; in March 1793 he joined the Prince with Bowyer, now a vice-admiral, and Captain Cuthbert (afterwards Lord) Collingwood [q. v.], whom in December he followed to the Barfleur, and with them took part in the action of 1 June 1794. From July 1794 to October 1795 he was with Calder in the Theseus, and went out to the Mediterranean with him in the Lively. From her he joined the Victory, carrying the flag of Sir John Jervis (afterwards Earl of St. Vincent) [q. v.], with whom Calder was captain of the fleet. On 20 Oct. 1796 Prowse was promoted to the command of the Raven, in which he was present in the action off Cape St. Vincent on 14 Feb. 1797. On 6 March he was posted by Jervis to the command of the Salvador del Mundo, one of the prizes, which he paid off in the following November.

From August 1800 to April 1802 he was flag-captain to Calder in the Prince of Wales, and in August 1802 commissioned the Sirius frigate, for the next three years attached to the fleet off Brest and in the Bay of Biscay, and especially during 1804 and 1805 with Calder off Rochefort and Ferrol. In the action off Cape Finisterre on 22 July 1805, the Sirius had more than a frigate's share, with the loss of two killed and three wounded. She afterwards, with Calder, joined the fleet off Cadiz, and, remaining there on Calder's return to England, was present at the battle of Trafalgar. The Sirius continued in the Mediterranean under Collingwood's command, and on 17 April 1806 attacked a flotilla of French armed vessels near Civita Vecchia, capturing the corvette Bergère, after a resistance which enabled the smaller vessels to escape and inflicted on the Sirius a loss of nine killed and twenty wounded (James, Naval History, iv. 142). For his conduct on this occasion the Patriotic Fund voted Prowse a sword of the value of 100l. The Sirius was paid off in May 1808; and from March 1810 to December 1813 Prowse commanded the Theseus in the North Sea. He had no further service afloat; but on 4 June 1815 was nominated a C.B.; was made colonel of marines on 12 Aug. 1819; rear-admiral on 19 July 1821, and died on 23 March 1826, aged 74 (Gent. Mag. 1826, i. 46).

[Ralfe's Nav. Biogr. iv. 112; Marshall's Roy. Nav. Biogr. ii. (vol. i. pt. ii.) 779; Service-book in the Public Record Office.]

J. K. L.