Royal Naval Biography/Turner, William

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WILLIAM TURNER, Esq.
[Commander.]

Son of Mr. William Turner, wine-merchant, of Portsmouth, was made a lieutenant on the 30th May, 1823; and appointed to the Sybille frigate. Commodore (now Sir Francis A.) Collier, fitting out for the African station, in 1827. The following account of the action for which he was advanced to his present rank, is taken from the Hampshire Telegraph;–

Portsmouth, July 12th, 1828.

“The Black Joke, Lieut. W. Turner, tender to the Sybille, on the 1st of May fell in with a Spanish privateer brig. The Black Joke had on board forty-three men, with one long gun on a swivel; the Spaniard mounted fourteen carriage guns, 12 and 24-pounders, on Gover’s principle, with a crew of eighty-seven men of all nations. Two days previously she had been boarded by the Sybille, and had exhibited a regular commission from the King of Spain, to cruise as a privateer against the vessels of the South American States. These two vessels fell in together in the night, and at day-light the Spaniard was observed with a red ensign (English); on approaching within hail, he promised to send a boat on board the Black Joke, but immediately afterwards said he had no boat that could swim, and requested one to be sent to him. Lieutenant Turner consequently sent a boat with two men and a master’s-mate[1], who were compelled to go on board the pirate, who immediately sent an officer and five men, in the same boat, to the Black Joke, with a demand to look at her papers. Lieut. Turner, not wishing to compromise the safety of his people on board the Spaniard, shewed his commission, and Commodore Collier’s order to cruise; which, after a parley, were desired to be sent to the privateer to be compared with the signature of the commodore, who had previously put his name to the back of the Spanish commission. Lieutenant Turner, however, prudently detained the officer and two men, as hostages for his own people. A demand was then made that the Black Joke should send fifteen of her crew on board the privateer, who would send the like number of men to the former, and that both vessels should go to Prince’s Island; this having been of course refused, the privateer immediately fired into the tender a broadside, when the Black Joke, taking a position on the Spaniard’s bow, engaged him for two hours, principally with grape-shot, and nearly unrigged him. The Spaniard then hoisted a flag of truce, and sent our people on board, whose lives had been several times attempted during the action, but who were saved solely by the intervention of the captain. The Spaniards would not confess what their loss had been; several wounded men, however, were seen. Fortunately, the Black Joke had none of her people hurt, though her sails and rigging were much cut up. Too much encomium cannot be given to Lieut. Turner, for his intrepidity and judgment on the occasion.”

For the gallantry he evinced in this action. Lieutenant Turner was made a commander by the Lord High Admiral, July 14th, 1828. He has since served on the African station, under Commodore John Hayes, in the Dryad frigate.



  1. Mr. Edward Lyne Harvey.