Royal Naval Biography/Loring, John Wentworth

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JOHN WENTWORTH LORING, Esq
A Companion of the most honorable Military Order of the Bath; and Lieutenant-Governor of the Royal Naval College.
[Post-Captain of 1802.]

This officer is a son of the late Joshua Loring, Esq., who was permanent High Sheriff of the province of Massachusetts, previous to the American revolution; but having followed the fortunes of his mother country, settled in Berkshire at the peace of 1783[1].

He was born in America, Oct. 13, 1775, entered the naval service of his Sovereign, as a Midshipman on board the Salisbury of 50 guns, bearing the flag of Vice-Admiral Milbank, on the Newfoundland station, in June 1789; and continued in that ship, under the command of Captain, (now Sir William) Domett, and his successor, the present Viscount Exmouth till the conclusion of the Russian armament, when he was removed into the Alcide, a third rate, commanded by Sir Andrew Snape Douglas, and employed as a guard-ship at Portsmouth. We subsequently find him serving under Captains Domett, Lord Augustus Fitzroy, Edward Brown, and John Knight; in the Romney 50, Orestes sloop of war, Conflagration fire-ship, and Victory of 100 guns; the former bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Goodall, the latter that of Lord Hood on the Mediterranean station.

During the occupation of Toulon by the British forces and their allies, Mr. Loring served as a volunteer at Fort Mulgrave; and on the night of Dec. 17, 1793, when that place was stormed and carried by the republican troops[2], he appears to have been severely wounded by a musket-ball just below his knee, which obliged him to proceed in the Dolphin hospital-ship to Gibraltar, for his recovery. From thence, when scarcely convalescent, he took a passage in the Inconstant frigate; and having rejoined the Victory at Corsica, again served as a volunteer at the reduction of Bastia, commanding on that occasion a gun-boat, in which he went every night at dusk to watch at the mole-head, and kept his station till day-light in the ensuing morning.

On the surrender of Bastia, after a siege of thirty-seven days, besides four spent in negociation[3], Mr. Loring was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, in la Fleché, a prize corvette, but soon after removed into the St. George of 90 guns, at the particular request of Sir Hyde Parker, whose flag was then flying on board that ship. On the 14th March, 1705, he assisted at the capture of the Ca Ira and Censeur, French two-deckers; and in July following, witnessed the destruction of l’Alcide 74, by the fleet under Vice-Admiral Hotham[4]. At the commencement of 1796, he accompanied Sir Hyde Parker and the whole of the St. George’s officers, into the Britannia of 110 guns; and at the conclusion of the same year, we find him proceeding to Jamaica, as a passenger in the Comet fire-ship, for the purpose of re-joining his patron, who had recently been appointed to the chief command on that station, and gone thither in the Queen, a second rate.

Lieutenant Loring was advanced to the rank of Commander in the Rattler sloop of war, about June 1798, and shortly after ordered to superintend the evacuation of the Caymites Islands, near St. Domingo, in conjunction with Brigadier (now Lieutenant-General) Sir Brett Spencer, G.C.B. The manner in which this service was executed being reported as very creditable to Captain Loring, he was, in September following, gratified with an appointment to the Lark, a vessel superior to any other of her class on that station.

Captain Loring continued in the Lark, cruizing with considerable success against the enemy (capturing eight of their privateers, and twentyseven merchant vessels), till May, 1801; when in consequence of the expedition with which he had re-equipped her at Port Royal, after being dismasted in a hurricane, Lord Hugh Seymour, who had succeeded Sir Hyde Parker in the chief command, was pleased to remove him into the Abergavenny of 54 guns, and he was subsequently appointed to the Syren, an active frigate, from which he was paid off at Plymouth in October, 1802. His post commission bears date April 28th of the same year.

In 1803 and 1804, he commanded the Utrecht of 64 guns, bearing the flags successively of Rear-Admirals Robert Montagu, Philip Patton, and John Holloway, on the Downs station. In 1805 he was appointed in succession to the Aurora, Thames, and Santa Margaritta frigates; but did not join the two latter, there being an unexpected delay in launching the Thames, and the generosity of his disposition preventing him from using his commission for the other, when he found that it would be unpleasant to the feelings of the gallant officer then in command of her, were he obliged to remove into a ship of the line, as at that time intended by the Admiralty[5].

Captain Loring appears not to have been a loser by his forbearance on this occasion, as he was soon after appointed to the Niobe of 40 guns; in which fine frigate he was despatched to reconnoitre the enemy’s ports. On his arrival off l’Orient, March 28, 1806, he observed three large French frigates and a corvette, standing out to sea; and, notwithstanding their great superiorlty,he immediately made sail in pursuit, succeeded in coining up with the sternmost during the night, which fortunately was very dark with drizzling rain, and silently took possession of her by running close alongside and dropping two boats from the quarters full of men. The success of this undertaking depended upon the promptitude of the boarding officer, Lieutenant Barrington Reynolds, who in the most skilful and resolute manner secured her without being observed by the remainder of the squadron. The prize proved to be le Nearque of 16 guns and 97 men, victualled and stored for five months. This transaction was thus noticed by Earl St. Vincent, in a letter to the Secretary of the Admiralty, dated on the 5th of the following month:

“Sir,– I have great pleasure in forwarding to you for the information of the Admiralty, the very modest relation of a neat action performed by Captain Loring of the Niobe, who has just joined with the corvette his prize, and as the Crescent has many defects, which require looking into, I have directed Captain Carthew to receive the prisoners on board that ship, and to proceed with the prise to Plymouth Sound. I am, &c. &c.

(Signed)“St. Vincent.”

To William Marsden, Esq.

On the 20th Oct. 1810, Captain Loring captured l’Hirondelle French privateer, of 4 guns and 30 men; and in the course of the following month, he received the approbation of the Admiralty, for the zeal and gallantry displayed by him in an action with two frigates under the batteries of la Hogue, the particulars of which have already been given under the head of Captain Charles Grant, C.B.[6]

The Niobe was subsequently employed watching the port of Havre, and on the 4th March, 1811, captured le Loup Marin privateer of 16 guns and 64 men. On the 24th of the same month, she assisted at the destruction of one of her above mentioned antagonists, near Cape Barfleur, by a squadron under the orders of Captain (now Rear-Admiral) Macnamara[7], of whose official letter the following is a copy.

H.M.S. Berwick, off Cherbourgh, March 25, 1811.

“Sir,– Having sailed from St. Helen’s in H.M.S. under my command, in the afternoon of the 23d inst., I stood over to the French coast under easy sail all night; and at day-light the next morning, Barfleur light bearing S.E. distant about twelve or thirteen miles, I observed a large sail S. by E. running along the shore. I immediately gave chase, and obliged her to haul in for a small rocky bay, about one mile to the westward of Barfleur light-house, where she anchored with the loss of her rudder; at eight, the lee tide making strong, I was under the necessity, to avoid the rocks and shoals which surrounded us, to anchor H.M.S. about two miles to the northward of the enemy, which proved a frigate of the largest class. I had previously called in the Amelia frigate, the Goshawk and Hawke sloops, and ordered them to anchor, thinking an attack by boats practicable when the weather tide should make.

“At noon, the Niobe joined from the eastward: the flood making at four P.M. the squadron weighed, and having relinquished the plan of attack by boats, on account of the rapidity of the tides, I ordered the Niobe, by signal, to lead as close to the enemy as the safety of the ships would admit; which was performed with great judgment, the Amelia and Berwick following in succession.

“Surrounded by rocks and shoals, our fire could only be partial in the act of wearing; at six P.M. I hauled off; and on standing in this morning with the intention of renewing the attack, the enemy set fire to the frigate, and I had the satisfaction of seeing her burnt to the water’s edge * * * *

“I am, &c. &c.

(Signed)J. Macnamara.”

Sir Roger Curtis, Bart., Admiral of the
“Red, &c. &c. Portsmouth.


Soon after this event, Captain Loring was obliged to come on shore for the recovery of his health; and it was not until September following, that he found himself able to resume the command of the Niobe, which ship had been kept vacant for him by the appointment of a Captain to act in her during his absence. During the latter part of the war, he commanded the Impregnable, a second rate, bearing the flag of Admiral William Young, commander-in-chief on the North Sea station.

Captain Loring was nominated a C.B. in 1815. He succeeded the late Captain Wainwright as Lieutenant-Governor of the Royal Naval College, Nov. 4, 1819; and has since received a diamond ring, value one hundred guineas, from the Empress of Russia, for his attention to a young protege of her Imperial Majesty, who completed his education at that excellent school, and afterwards embarked as a Midshipman in the British service on board the Active frigate.

The subject of this memoir married, July 18, 1804, Anna, second daughter of Vice-Admiral Patton, who then held a seat at the Board of Admiralty[8]; and by that lady has three sons and three daughters.

The Lieutenant-Governor’s eldest brother, Dr. Henry Lloyd Loring, died Archdeacon of Calcutta, in 1822. The character of this excellent clergyman is correctly drawn in the Gentleman’s Magazine for April 1323. Another brother, Captain William Loring, of the Horse Artillery, served under Sir John Moore during his celebrated retreat, from the fatigues of which he never recovered, and died at Madeira in 1809. A third brother, Major R. R. Loring, still living, was Military Secretary to Lieutenant-General Sir Gordon Drummond, G.C.B., Governor of the Canadas, during the late war with America.



  1. Mr. Joshua Loring’s father was a Commodore in the British navy, and commanded on the Lakes during the war with the colonies. His brother, Captain John Loring, R.N., distinguished himself as a brave, intelligent, and active officer, in the late wars with France, and died at Fareham, Hants, Nov. 9, 1808.
  2. See Vol. I. pp. 46, 60, and 293.
  3. See Vol. I. p. 251.
  4. See Vol. I. p. 364.
  5. See Captain Wilson Rathborne, C.B.
  6. See Vol. II. Part. I. p. 300 et seq.
  7. See Vol. I. p. 691.
  8. See Vol. II Part I., note *, at p. 93.