Royal Naval Biography/Watson, Charles Hope

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[Post-Captain of 1814.]

Third son of the late Charles Watson, of Saugkton, co. Mid-Lothain, Esq. by Lady Margaret Carnegie, sister to Admiral the Earl of Northesk, G.C.B., &c.

This officer was a midshipman of the Defence 74, Captain (afterwards Sir George) Hope, at the glorious battle of Trafalgar, on which memorable occasion that ship had her mainmast shot through and wounded in several places, her gaff cut in two, her lower and top-mast rigging much injured, several hanging knees and chain-plates carried away, one shot through the knee of the head, and five between wind and water. Her loss amounted to 7 men killed and 29 wounded[1].

Mr. Watson was promoted to the rank of lieutenant June 10, 1807; and we next find him serving under Captain Patrick Campbell, in l’Unité frigate, on the Mediterranean station. On the 2d May, 1808, he assisted at the capture of El Ronco, Italian brig of war, of 16 thirty-two-pounder brass carronades (pierced for 18) and 100 men. The capture of two other vessels of the same description is thus described by Captain Campbell, in an official letter to Lord Collingwood, dated off Premuda, in the Adriatic, June 1, 1808:–

“Having taken shelter under Lusin, in a heavy N.E. gale, on the 28th ult., which continued until the afternoon of the 31st, when I weighed, getting from under the land about 5 p.m., three sail were seen close under Premuda, on the starboard tack, with the wind at east, and were soon made out to be brigs of war; chase was instantly given. On seeing us, they wore, and stood with the apparent intention of gaining the channel of Zara. As the night was likely to be clear, and the wind moderate, I determined following them, although the navigation is extremely intricate, and we were not acquainted with it; but trusting entirely to the lead, and a good look-out. Fortunately we kept sight of them until 11-30, and by carrying a press of sail, we again got sight of two a little after 3 a.m., about two miles on our lee beam: the helm was immediately put up; but the sails were hardly trimmed, when the third was observed, on the starboard tack, on our larboard bow; we hauled to the wind, passed her within musket-shot to leeward, and gave her our larboard broadside, with such effect, as to completely knock her up, so that she struck without firing a gun, the people having run from their quarters. Boats were immediately despatched to bring the officers on board, and secure her, and sail made after the other two, who were making off through one of the passages, to get to sea; it falling little wind, and they making use of their sweeps, it was not until nearly 7 that we got within shot of the sternmost, who, after receiving a few from us, and seeing no chance of escaping, fired her broadside, struck her colours, and ran on shore. It continuing to fall less wind, the other brig, being much mailer, by the help of her sweeps, was leaving us fast; as there was no appearance of its freshening, and she having got amongst a cluster of small islands, I thought it most prudent to secure what we had got, and endeavour to get the one which had run on shore, off; which we soon effected without her receiving the least damage. They proved to be the Nettuno and Teulié, of 16 32-pounders, brass carronades, and 115 men each, sent from Zara the day before for the purpose of attacking us, having heard that we had so many men absent and sick that we must fall an easy prey. They are exactly the size of El Ronco[2], and but a few months old. I subjoin a return of the killed and wounded, and it affords me the greatest possible satisfaction that we had not a man hurt[3].

(Signed)Pat. Campbell.”

At this period, Lieutenant Watson was the only officer of that rank on board l’Unité. Lord Collingwood, in a letter to the Admiralty, dated July 23, 1808, says:–

“Of the zeal, activity, and skill of Captain Campbell, I have had frequent occasion to write in terms of praise; he has the King’s service warmly at heart, and his enterprises never fail of producing good; of his officers he speaks in high commendation, particularly of the first lieutenant, Watson; and I beg their lordships will allow me to second the recommendation of his captain, and offer his merits to his regard.”

During the time that Lieutenant Watson belonged to l’Unité, he had the direction of several boat attacks, and captured and destroyed a number of the enemy’s vessels, one of which was a French privateer, of 5 guns and 36 men: some of the other prizes also were armed, and made resistance; but his total loss on these occasions did not exceed 1 killed and 4 wounded. His commission as commander bears date Aug. 13, 1812.

Captain Watson subsequently commanded the Arachne 18, and Talbot frigate, on the Leeward Islands and Jamaica stations. He obtained post rank June 6, 1814.

This officer married, in July 1824, Mary, youngest daughter of the late William Ramsay, of Barnton, co. Mid-Lothian, Esq.

Agents.– Messrs. Maude and Co.

  1. Rear-Admiral Sir George Hope, K.C.B. died May 2, 1813, aged 52 years.
  2. El Ronco, 344 tons; Nettuno, 344 tons; Teulié, 333 tons: they were afterwards commissioned as British sloops of war, under the names of Tuscan, Cretan, and Roman.
  3. Nettuno 7 killed, 2 drowned, 13 wounded. Teulié; 5 slain 16 wounded.