Royal Naval Biography/Maunsell, Robert

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[Post-Captain of 1812.]

This officer, a son of the Reverend Archdeacon Maunsell, was born at Limerick, in 1785. He entered the navy, as a midshipman on board the Mermaid 32, commanded by his relative, Captain (now Rear-Admiral) Robert Dudley Oliver, in 1709; and subsequently served under Captains Richard Hussey Moubray, and the Hon. George Elliot, in the Maidstone 32, on the Mediterranean station. On the 11th July, 1804, he received a very severe wound in the hip, while assisting at the destruction of about a dozen French settees, at la Vandour, near Toulon, by the boats of the latter frigate and her consorts, under the orders of Lieutenant John Thompson; and for his gallant conduct on that occasion, he was rewarded with a commission, dated Mar. 7, 1805, the day on which he completed his time[1]. From that period, he served on board the Princess Royal 98, in the Channel fleet, till his promotion to the rank of Commander, Mar. 8, 1808.

We next find Captain Maunsell commanding the Procris brig, on the East India station, where he destroyed the Dutch Company’s vessel Wagster, of 8 guns, 4 swivels, and 86 men, about July, 1810. At the commencement of the operations against Java, he performed a very gallant exploit, of which the following are the official details:–

H.M. sloop Procris, off the mouth of Indramayo river, July 31, 1811.

“Sir,– I have the honor to inform you, that, in obedience to your orders, I proceeded in shore, and, at day-light this morning, discovered six gun-boats, with a convoy of forty or fifty proas, close in with the mouth of Indramayo river, upon which we immediately weighed, and ran into a quarter-less-three fathoms water, and were then scarcely within gun-shot of the enemy: finding our fire made very little impression on them, and conceiving the destruction of this force to bo an object of considerable importance, I proceeded to the attack of them with the boats of H.M. sloop under my command, together with two flat boats, an officer, and 20 men of H.M. 14th regiment, and an officer and the same number of men from H.M. 89th regiment, and succeeded in boarding and carrying five of them successively, under a heavy fire of grape and musketry, their crews jumping overboard, after having thrown their spears into the boats; the sixth blew up before we got alongside of her. The whole of the convoy, on their first seeing us, hauled through the mud up the river, or they must also have fallen into our hands. The gun-boats carry each of them one brass 32-pounder carronade forward, and one 18-pounder aft, with (as appears by the papers found on board) upwards of 60 men each; they are excellent vessels, and, in my opinion, might be found of considerable service to the expedition.

“In performing this service, I am happy to observe, that our loss has been comparatively small, when it is considered that the boats, during the whole time of their advancing, were exposed, in the open day, to the fire of 12 guns of the calibre I have mentioned, and a constant fire of musketry; the gun-boat which blew up being of equal force with the rest[2].

“I cannot conclude without performing the pleasing duty of noticing the very steady and determined bravery of every officer and man employed on this service. From Mr. George Majoribanks, my first lieutenant, I received that able support I had reason to expect, from his general good conduct whilst under my command; and I cannot too strongly mark the high sense I entertain of the gallantry of Lieutenants H. J. Heyland and Oliver Brush, of H.M. 14th and 89th regiments; their keeping up a steady well-directed fire of musketry from the men under their respective commands, must have proved considerably destructive to the enemy. I have also to express the satisfaction I felt in the steady behaviour of Messrs. George Cunningham, William Randall, and Charles Davies, masters-mates, super-numeraries on board the Procris, for a passage to join the commander-in-chief, and the other petty officers, non-commissioned officers, seamen, and soldiers; in short the conduct of the whole was such as to make me feel confident, that had the force opposed been considerably greater, it would have met the same fate. Enclosed I transmit a list of the wounded on this occasion[3]. I have the honor to be, &c.

(Signed)R. Maunsell.”

To Captain George Sayer, H.M.S. Leda.

On the same day, Captain Maunsell received a letter from Commodore Broughton, then the senior officer off Java, of which the following is a transcript:–

“Sir,– T have to acknowledge the receipt of a copy of your letter of this date, addressed to Captain Sayer, giving an account of the capture of five, and destruction of one, of the enemy’s gun-boats, off the mouth of Indramayo river, in the boats of H.M. sloop Procris, under your command.

“I cannot too highly applaud the meritorious conduct of yourself, the officers, petty officers, seamen, and soldiers, employed in this gallant attack; and I beg you will express to them the sense I entertain of their zeal and meritorious conduct, so well displayed on this occasion. I shall have great pleasure in laying the same before the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, by the earliest opportunity; and I request you will accept my best thanks for the skill and ability you have so fully evinced, in leading your boats to the attack in person. I am, &c.

(Signed)W. R. Broughton.”

In addition to this letter of thanks, Captain Maunsell’s gallantry was immediately rewarded by an appointment to command the Illustrious 74, bearing the broad pendant of Commodore Broughton; and during the subsequent operations against Batavia, &c. we find him bearing a very distinguished part on shore, under the orders of Captain Sayer; particularly at the assault of Meester Cornelis, Aug. 26, 1811[4]. The high estimation in which his conduct was held by the military and naval commanders-in-chief, will be seen by reference to the official documents inserted at p. 356 of Vol. II. Part I.

On the 10th of the following month, Commodore Broughton joined Rear-Admiral Stopford, off Samarang; and in the course of the ensuing night, several of the enemy’s gun vessels, lying in-shore, were attacked and destroyed by the boats of the squadron, under the directions of Captain Maunsell; whose post commission was confirmed by the Admiralty, Feb. 7, 1812. His next appointment was, Aug. 25, in the same year, to the Chatham 74, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral M. H. Scott, on the North Sea station; the command of which ship he retained till July, 1814.

Captain Maunsell has one brother in the church, and another in the army.

Agents.– Messrs. Chard.

  1. See Vol. I. Part II. p. 665*. N.B. Lieutenant Thompson was killed in the barge of the Melpomene frigate, Captain Sir Peter Parker, at the capture of a French armed settee, near Leghorn, July 4, 1806.
  2. The enemy’s guns were mounted in such a way as to enable them to fire in every direction.
  3. 1 dangerously, 2 severely, and 8, including Mr. William Randall, slightly.
  4. See Vol. II. Part I. pp. 354 and 355.