Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Dilkes, Thomas

DILKES, Sir THOMAS (1667?–1707), rear-admiral, a lieutenant and commander under James II, was advanced to post rank in 1692 and appointed to the Adventure of 50 guns, in which he shared in the glories of Barfleur and La Hogue. In different ships he continued actively employed in the Channel, on the coast of Ireland, in the Bay of Biscay, or on the coast of Portugal, till in 1696, being then in the Rupert of 60 guns, he went to the West Indies, in the squadron under Vice-admiral John Nevell. Nevell and Meese, the rear-admiral, and almost all the other captains having died, Dilkes succeeded to the command, and brought the squadron home in October 1697. In 1702 he commanded the Somerset of 70 guns, in the fleet under Sir George Rooke, who, in the attack on the combined fleets in Vigo harbour, leaving his flagship the Royal Sovereign outside, as too large, hoisted his flag in the Somerset. In March next year Dilkes was promoted to be rear-admiral of the white, and during the summer of 1703, with his flag in the Kent, he had command of a squadron on the coast of France. On 26–7 July he drove on shore near Granville and Avranches, and captured or destroyed almost the whole of a fleet of forty-five merchant ships and three frigates which formed their escort—a service for which the queen ordered gold medals to be struck and presented to the admirals and captains. During the rest of the year Dilkes was employed cruising in the chops of the Channel, returning to Spithead just in time to escape the fury of the great storm on 26 Nov. The following year, with his flag still in the Kent, he sailed with Sir Clowdisley Shovell to join Sir George Rooke at Lisbon, and afterwards took a prominent part in the battle of Malaga as rear-admiral of the white squadron, in acknowledgment of which he was knighted by the queen, 22 Oct., shortly after his return to England. In February 1704–5 he sailed again for the Straits, with his flag in the Revenge; and having joined Sir John Leake [q. v.] in the Tagus, had, on 10 March, a principal share in capturing and destroying the French squadron that was blockading Gibraltar (Burchett, p. 683). He remained through the summer with the grand fleet under the Earl of Peterborough and Sir Clowdisley Shovell, and with the latter returned to England in November. During 1706 he appears to have been employed chiefly in the blockade of Dunkirk, but in January 1706–7 sailed in company with Sir Clowdisley Shovell [q. v.] for the Mediterranean, and took part in the operations there, including the siege of Toulon, which, though commonly spoken of as a failure, effected at least the temporary ruin of the French navy. Immediately after the siege was raised, Shovell left for England. Dilkes remained as commander-in-chief, and after conferring with King Charles at Barcelona sailed for Leghorn, where he anchored on 19 Nov. On this occasion there arose a curious question as to priority of saluting, Dilkes claiming to be saluted first by the castle; but the answer was that the castle never saluted any flag first, except admirals or vice-admirals. With this precedent Dilkes was compelled to be content. To show that there was nothing personal in this refusal, he was invited to a public dinner on shore, 1 Dec. In going to his ship from the heated room he got a chill, followed by a fever, of which he died 12 Dec. 1707; his death, so soon after his dispute with the grand-ducal court, led to a groundless rumour that he had been poisoned. He was M.P. for Castle Martyr in the Irish House of Commons 1703–7. He married Mary, daughter of the first Earl of Inchiquin, widow of Mr. Henry Boyle of Castle Martyr, and, after Dilkes's death, wife of Colonel John Irwin. By her he had two sons, Michael O'Brien Dilkes who died a lieutenant-general in 1774; and William Dilke (Charnock, Biog. Nav. ii. 252), a captain in the navy, who was, 5 Dec. 1745, cashiered for misconduct, as captain of the Chichester, in the battle of Toulon, 11 Feb. 1743–4. The blame, according to a statement made by Admiral Mathews, lay not on Dilke, but on the Chichester, an 80-gun ship, so crank that she could not open her lower deck ports. Possibly this consideration had weight with the government, for Dilke was restored to half-pay. He died 30 May 1756.

It may, however, be doubted whether Charnock is right in assigning this relationship to Captain William Dilke. Sir Thomas Dilkes always wrote his name with the final s; and the names of his eldest son and of that son's son, both generals in the army, are so printed in the official lists. William Dilke, on the other hand, very certainly wrote it without the s; and the question whether or in what degree Sir Thomas Dilkes and Captain William Dilke were related to each other, or to the family of Maxstocke in Warwickshire, does not admit of any positive answer (Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. x. 449, xi. 52).

[Charnock's Biog. Nav. ii. 242, v. 87; Burchett's Nav. Hist.; Lediard's Nav. Hist.]

J. K. L.