Staines, Thomas (DNB00)

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STAINES, Sir THOMAS (1776–1830), captain in the navy, was born near Margate in 1776, and entered the navy in December 1789 on board the Solebay, in which he served on the West India station till May 1792. In December he joined the Speedy brig commanded by Captain Charles Cunningham [q. v.], with whom he went out to the Mediterranean, and whom he followed to the Impérieuse and Lowestoft. When Cunningham was sent home with despatches, Staines was moved into the Victory, the flagship of Lord Hood, and, continuing in her, was present in the engagement of 13 July 1795, and under the flag of Sir John Jervis, in 1796, till on 3 July he was promoted to be lieutenant of the Petrel sloop. In her he had active and exciting service for more than three years, in the course of which, among other adventures, the Petrel was captured near Majorca by four Spanish frigates, on 12 Oct. 1798. She was recaptured the next day, but Staines and the other officers and men had been taken on board the Spanish frigate and were carried to Cartagena as prisoners. By the end of the year they were exchanged at Gibraltar and back to the Petrel, and Staines continued in her till, on 17 Oct. 1799, he was moved by Nelson into his flagship the Foudroyant. In her he was present at the capture, in the following year, of the Généreux and Guillaume Tell [see Berry, Sir Edward], and afterwards, under the flag of Lord Keith, in the operations on the coast of Egypt, during which he acted as the admiral's flag-lieutenant. For his services in this campaign he received the Turkish order of the Crescent, and on 15 May 1802 was promoted by Keith to the command of the Cameleon brig, which during the peace was stationed at Malta. On the renewal of the war in 1803 the Cameleon joined the blockading squadron off Toulon, from which she was detached in successive cruises along the coast to eastward or to westward, to stop or intercept the enemy's trade. In this work Staines had marked success, and captured or destroyed a great many of the French coasting vessels and gunboats. In September 1804 he was sent up the Adriatic, and was afterwards employed in the protection of the Levant trade until, in September 1805, the Cameleon was sent home and paid off.

On 22 Jan. 1806 Staines was advanced to post rank, and in the end of the year was appointed to the Cyane frigate, which in the following summer was attached to the fleet under Admiral James (afterwards Lord Gambier) [q. v.] during the operations at Copenhagen. In February 1808 the Cyane was sent to the Mediterranean, where, on the east coast of Spain, she almost at once captured several merchant ships, and on 22 May, off Majorca, took a Spanish privateer, the last Spanish ship of war taken; a few days later Staines received a letter from the captain-general of the Balearic Islands, saying that they declared in favour of Ferdinand, and requesting him to come to Palma to confer as to the measures to be adopted. For the next year Staines was constantly employed on the south coast of Spain, assisting the patriots and repeatedly engaged with the enemy's batteries and in boat actions. In May 1809 he was sent to the coast of Naples, where, on the 17th, near Cape Circello, he captured two martello towers by a happy combination of good fortune and courage. In June the Cyane was part of the squadron under Rear-admiral (afterwards Sir George) Martin [q. v.] which on the 25th reduced the islands of Ischia and Procida; and on the 26th was detached, with the Espoir brig and several gunboats, to intercept a large flotilla of French gunboats making for Naples bay. After a brisk action eighteen of these were taken and four destroyed. In the afternoon Staines landed and destroyed a battery of 36-pounders on Cape Miseno. On the next day he destroyed another battery at Pozzuoli, and in the evening engaged the French frigate Cérès, which, with a corvette and twenty gunboats in company, was endeavouring to get to Naples, while the Espoir and the Sicilian gunboats were becalmed some distance off. The force of the Cyane was much inferior to that of the Cérès alone, but the action was continued for more than an hour, when the Cyane's ammunition being exhausted, her rigging cut to pieces, and many men killed and wounded, the Cérès succeeded in getting away with her convoy. Staines himself was most severely wounded both in the side and the left arm, which had to be taken out of the socket at the shoulder. In reporting the action of the 26th Martin had written, ‘No language which I am master of can convey to your lordship an adequate idea of the gallantry, judgment, and good conduct displayed by Captain Staines;’ and on the further report of the action of the 27th Collingwood wrote of Staines's gallantry in a ‘succession of battles.’ The Cyane was so much battered that she had to proceed to England to be refitted.

She arrived at Portsmouth in the middle of October, and on 6 Dec. Staines was knighted, and received also permission to wear the order of Ferdinand and Merit conferred on him by the king of Sicily. He was then appointed to the Hamadryad of 42 guns, and for the next two years was employed in convoy duty to Newfoundland and to St. Helena. Early in 1812 he was appointed to the Briton frigate, in which during 1812–13 he cruised, with some success, in the Channel and the Bay of Biscay. On the last day of 1813 he sailed with several ships of war and a large convoy of East Indiamen, from which he parted at Madeira, being sent on to Rio Janeiro. There he had orders to go on to Valparaiso to join Captain James Hillyar [q. v.]; but Hillyar had already captured the U.S. frigate Essex, and the Briton, with the Tagus in company, went on to Callao and thence for a cruise among the islands, looking for a U.S. ship which was rumoured to have come round Cape Horn. On 28 Aug. Staines struck the U.S. colours at Nukahiva and took possession of the island, and sailing thence for Valparaiso, on 17 Sept. accidentally came on Pitcairn's Island, then marked on the chart nearly three degrees to the west of its true position [see Adams, John, (1760?–1829)]. Much to his surprise, he found it inhabited by an English-speaking people, who, as he learned, were the descendants of the mutineers of the Bounty. The island had been previously visited by an American merchant ship, but the news does not seem to have reached England, and the first information of this remarkable colony was sent home by Staines, who rightly judged that the lapse of years and the care which he had successfully given to the education of the young people of the island might be held as condoning Adams's original offence. The Briton remained at Valparaiso and the neighbourhood till April 1815, when she returned to Rio Janeiro and England, and Staines learned that on 2 Jan. preceding he had been nominated a K.C.B.

From 1823 to 1825 he commanded the Superbe in the West Indies and at Lisbon; and from 1827 to 1830 the Isis in the Mediterranean. He had been little more than a fortnight in England when he died at his residence, near Margate, on 13 July 1830. For the loss of his arm he had received a pension of 300l. The statement of his services called for in 1817 is dated at Margate on 10 Jan. 1818, and is accompanied by a medical certificate that ‘he is incapable, from wounds in his arm, of writing his name.’ He married, in May 1819, Sarah, youngest daughter of Robert Tournay Bargrave of Eastry Court, Kent.

[Marshall's Royal Naval Biogr. v. (Suppl. pt. i.) 79; Gent. Mag. 1830, ii. 277; James's Naval Hist. v. 32–5; Service Book in the Public Record Office.]

J. K. L.