Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Allin, Thomas
ALLIN, Sir THOMAS (1612–1685), naval commander, whose name has been commonly misspelt Allen, a native of Lowestoft, appears to have been in early life a merchant and shipowner in that town, which, on the outoreak of the civil war, adhered to the king, mainly, perhaps, on account of its commercial rivalry with Yarmouth, which sided with the parliament. So far as these two towns were concerned, the war resolved itself into petty privateering, in which, on the side of Lowestoft, Allin took a prominent part, and, for greater security, transferred his base of operations across the sea to the coast of Holland. At a later period he followed the fortunes of Prince Rupert (Prince Rupert's Further Instructions for Captain Thomas Allen, 8 Jan. 1648–9); and immediately after the Restoration, was (24 June 1660) appointed captain of the Dover, one of the first ships commissioned by the Duke of York. In 1663 he acted as commander-in-chief in the Downs; and in August of the following year was sent to command in the Mediterranean, in succession to Sir John Lawson, and with special instructions to seize Dutch men-of-war or their Smyrna fleet. These instructions were shortly after made more general (Calendar of State Papers, 15 Nov., 16 Dec. 1664), in consequence of which he posted himself in the Straits, and on 19 Dec, having then with him seven ships, attacked a Dutch convoy of fourteen, including three men-of-war, of which he sank two and captured two, including a rich prize from Smyrna (ibid. 25 Dec.) This affair has been grossly exaggerated by all our historians, who have blindly followed Colliber's ‘Columna Rostrata’ (p. 157).
In the spring of 1665 he returned to England, and had part in the victory of 3 June, off Lowestoft, in acknowledgment of which he was knighted on 24 June, and appointed admiral of the blue squadron in the fleet under Lord Sandwich during the following months. In the spring of the next year he was admiral of the white squadron, with his flag on board the Royal James; but when Prince Rupert was ordered round towards the Isle of Wight to look for an imaginary French fleet, and chose the Royal James as his flagship, Allin remained as his first captain, or what would now be called captain of the fleet. In the absence of this division the Duke of Albemarle, with the rest of the fleet, went out to meet De Ruyter, and, with great odds against him, began the four days' fight, 1–4 June, the fortunes of which were barely restored by the return of the prince. In the second action, on 25 July, the white squadron, commanded by Allin, had the honours of the day. It began the fight with the Dutch van, under Evertsen, who was killed, and was closely engaged through the whole day and the next, chasing the retreating foe behind the sandbanks of their own coast. During the rest of the season Allin continued with the fleet, and on 18 Sept. was left in command of a division off Dungeness, just in time to secure the one distinct advantage gained in that war over the very cautious French; for falling in with a small French squadron, one of their ships, the Ruby, of 54 guns, mistook Allin's ships for friends, and did not find out her mistake till she was so surrounded that, after a short resistance, she was obliged to surrender.
During the inglorious year of 1667 no English fleet was equipped for the sea; but after the peace with Holland, in 1668, Allin was again sent to the Mediterranean as commander-in-chief, his principal duty being to overawe the Barbary cruisers. An agreement which he made with the government of Algiers did not prove more binding than others of the same nature, and in 1669 he was again sent out to punish them for violating the treaty and plundering English commerce. After capturing and destroying great numbers of their vessels, he returned to England, and in November 1670 was appointed comptroller of the navy. He continued in this office, taking no active part in the third Dutch war till 1678, when, on the prospect of war with France, he was appointed commander-in-chief of the fleet in the Narrow Seas, with his flag again in the Royal James. When the threats of war were stilled, Sir Thomas Allin gave up the command, and retired to the country seat which, some time before, he had purchased, at Somerleyton, in the immediate neighbourhood of his native town. There, seven years later, he died. He was buried on 5 Oct. 1785, in the parish church, where a marble bust has been placed to his memory. His portrait, by Sir Peter Lely, is in the Painted Hall at Greenwich. It is one of those mentioned by Pepys (18 April, 1666), and with which he professed himself very well satisfied. Of Allin himself Pepys's estimate was not less variable than that which he has given of others. On one occasion he thinks him ‘a good man, but one that professes he loves to get and to save;’ and on another he has been told ‘how Sir Thomas Allin, whom I took for a man of known courage and service on the king's side, was tried for his life in Prince Rupert's fleet, in the late times, for cowardice and condemned to be hanged.’ Such a story of the man whom Rupert afterwards singled out for his especial favour, carries with it its own refutation.[Gillingwater's Historical Account of the Ancient Town of Lowestoft, p. 111; Calendars of State Papers (Domestic), 1660–66; Pepys's Diary, passim; Brit. Mus. Add. MSS. 19098, pp, 268 b, 277.]