Royal Naval Biography/Smith, Thomas

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[Post-Captain of 1825.]

Commenced his naval career towards the close of the French revolutionary war, as midshipman on board the Nemesis 28, Captain (now Rear-Admiral) Thomas Baker; and subsequently served under the same officer in the Phoebe and Phoenix frigates. On the 10th of Aug. 1805, he assisted in capturing la Didon, of 44 guns; and on the 4th of Nov. following, we find him bearing a part in the action between Sir Richard J. Strachan and Mons. Dumanoir le Pelley, the result of which was the surrender of the whole French squadron, consisting of one 80-gun ship and three 74’s[1].

Mr. Smith next joined the Ajax 80, Captain the Hon. Henry Blackwood, and continued in that ship until she was destroyed by fire, near the island of Tenedos, Feb. 14th, 1807[2]. He was then received on board the Pompée 74, bearing the flag of Sir W. Sidney Smith; and he appears to have been one of the petty officers employed in completing the destruction of the Turkish squadron, and a formidable redoubt on Point Pesquies, five days after the above disaster[3]. His first commission bears date Sept. 1st, 1807.

During the last five years of the war, Lieutenant Smith was a prisoner in France; having been captured by two national luggers, while commanding a boat belonging to the Lyra sloop, Captain William Bevians, and employed in burning the enemy’s ships in Aix roads, April 12th, 1809[4]. He was made a commander, June 15th, 1814; appointed, May 6th, 1815, and Jan. 1st, 1817, to the Pincher and Cherokee, sloops; and advanced to the rank of captain, Aug. 16th, 1825.

Agent.– John Chippendale, Esq.

[Post-Captain of 1825.]

We omitted to state in Vol. III. Part I., that this officer, while serving as midshipman under Captain (now Sir Thomas) Baker, was in the action between the Nemesis 28, and the Danish frigate Freya, near Ostend, July 25th, 1800[5].

After the capture, by Sir R. J. Strachan, of the four French line-of-battle ships which had escaped from Nelson’s victorious fleet off Trafalgar, he was sent to assist the present Captain Alexander Cunningham, then first lieutenant of the Hero 74, in conducting into port the Duguay-Trouin 74[6]. He was subsequently turned over from the Phoenix to la Didon, which frigate, as we have before stated, he had assisted in capturing; but as Captain Baker’s expected appointment to the latter ship did not immediately take place, he was in a short time after this transfer placed under Captain the Hon. Henry Blackwood, in the Ajax 80; and he appears to have been mate of the watch when that ship took fire, near the Island of Tenedos, in the night of Feb. 14th, 1807. On that terrific occasion, he displayed great activity in endeavouring to subdue the flames; and when all hopes of arresting their progress were at an end, he, not being able to swim, retreated to the bowsprit, on which he remained till it took fire, obliging him, at all risks, to jump overboard. Rescued from a watery grave by a boat belonging to the Thunderer 74, he was received on board the flag-ship of Sir W. Sidney Smith; and after the retreat of the British squadron from the sea of Marmora, we find him with Captain Blackwood, in the Warspite 74. He was taken prisoner by the two French national luggers mentioned in Vol. III. Part I. p. 273, while commanding a boat sent from the Lyra sloop to row guard off Quiberon; on which occasion he maintained a running fight with the enemy until all his ammunition was expended, and a midshipman and two of his men wounded. When in command of the Cherokee sloop, in Nov. 1818, he conveyed the Archduke Maximilian of Austria to Ireland; and that august personage was so pleased with his attention that he presented him with a gold snuff box. In addition to the services thus briefly noticed, Captain Smith has been very actively employed at various other times and borne a part in several severe boat actions.