Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Biddlecombe, George

BIDDLECOMBE, Sir GEORGE (1807–1878), captain and author, born at Portsea on 5 Nov. 1807, was the son of Thomas Biddlecombe of Sheerness Dockyard, who died on 12 Sept. 1844. He was educated at a school kept by Dr. Neave at Portsea, and joined the ship Ocean of Whitby as a midshipman in 1823. After some years he left the mercantile marine, and, passing as a second master in the royal navy in May 1828, was soon after employed in surveying in the Ætna and the Blonde until 1833. He was in active service in various ships from this date until 1854, being specially noted for the great skill which he displayed in conducting naval surveys in many parts of the world. Whilst in the Actæon, in 1836, he surveyed a group of islands discovered by her in the Pacific. When attached to the Talbot, 1838–42, he surveyed numerous anchorages on the Ionian station, in the Archipelago, and up the Dardanelles and Bosphorus; examined the south shore of the Black Sea as far as Trebizond, as well as the port of Varna, and prepared a survey, published by the admiralty, of the bays and banks of Acre. He also displayed much skill and perseverance in surveying the Sherki shoals, where he discovered many unknown patches. A plan which he proposed for a ‘hauling-up slip’ was approved of by the authorities, and money was voted for its construction. For his survey of Port Royal and Kingston he received the thanks of the common council of Kingston, and on 20 Aug. 1843, on the occurrence of a destructive fire in that town, the services rendered by Biddlecombe at imminent risk to himself obtained for him a letter of acknowledgment from the merchants and other inhabitants. Few officers saw more active service. As master of the Baltic fleet, 14 March 1854, he reconnoitered the southern parts of the Aland islands, Hango Bay, Baro Sund, and the anchorage of Sweaborg, preparatory to taking the fleet to those places. He conducted the allied fleets to Cronstadt, and taking charge in Led Sund of the Prince steamer, with upwards of 2,000 French troops on board, he carried that ship to Bomarsund, and was afterwards present at the fall of that fortress. He was employed as assistant master attendant at Keyham Yard, Devonport, 1855–64, and from the latter date to January 1868 as master attendant of Woolwich Yard. He was made a C.B. 13 March 1867, but the highest rank he obtained in the navy was that of staff captain, 1 July in the same year. He was knighted by the queen at Windsor, 26 June 1873, and received a Greenwich Hospital pension soon afterwards. His death took place at Lewisham, 22 July 1878. He had been twice married, first in 1842 to Emma Louisa, third daughter of Thomas Kent, who died 13 Aug. 1865, and secondly, in the following year, to Emma Sarah, daughter of William Middleton, who died 6 May 1878, aged 49.

Sir George Biddlecombe published the following works: 1. ‘A Treatise on the Art of Rigging,’ 1848. 2. ‘Remarks on the English Channel,’ 1850; sixth edition, 1863. 3. ‘Naval Tactics and Trials of Sailing,’ 1850. 4. ‘Steam Fleet Tactics,’ 1857. This list does not include the accounts of the surveys made by him in various parts of the world, and which were published by order of the admiralty.

[The Autobiography of Sir George Biddlecombe (1878); O'Byrne's Naval Biographical Dictionary (1861 edition), pp. 80–2.]

G. C. B.