Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Dundas, James Whitley Deans

DUNDAS, Sir JAMES WHITLEY DEANS (1785–1862), admiral, son of Dr. James Deans of Calcutta, was born on 4 Dec. 1785, and entered the navy on 19 March 1799. After serving six years in the Mediterranean, on the west coast of France, and in the North Sea, he was promoted by Lord Keith to be lieutenant of the Cambrian 25 May 1805, and the following year, after being for a few weeks flag-lieutenant to the Hon. George Cranfield Berkeley [q. v.], he was made commander, 8 Oct. 1806. On 13 Oct. 1807 he was posted, and continued actively employed in the Baltic or the North Sea to the peace. On 2 April 1808 he married his first cousin, Janet, only daughter and heiress of Charles Dundas, lord Amesbury [q. v.], and at the same time took the surname of Dundas. From 1815 to 1819 he commanded the Tagus frigate in the Mediterranean. From 1830 to 1832 he was flag-captain to Sir William Parker on board the Prince Regent of 120 guns, on the coast of Portugal, and from 1836 to 1838 commanded the Britannia at Portsmouth as flag captain to Sir Philip Durham. On 25 Oct. 1839 he was nominated a C.B., and was advanced to the rank of rear-admiral 23 Nov. 1841. He was liberal M.P. for Greenwich 1832–4, for Devizes 1836–8, and for Greenwich again 1841–52. For some months in 1841, and again from 1846 till 1852, he sat on the board of admiralty. In January 1852 he was appointed commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean, was advanced to be vice-admiral on 17 Dec. 1852, and was still in the Mediterranean when the Russian war broke out in 1854. He had thus the chief naval command of the operations during the summer and autumn of that year, including the transport of the army to the Crimea, the support of the allies in the battle of the Alma, and the engagement with the sea-forts of Sebastopol on 17 Oct. Dundas's conduct with reference to this bombardment has been much criticised; and many writers, following the ‘Times’ correspondent, have repeated the current gossip of the camp, circulated in ignorance of the many details which cramp and control a commanding officer (cf. Kinglake, Invasion of the Crimea, iii. 386 et seq. and 411). At the same time, it is difficult not to believe that Dundas, though a most estimable gentleman, brave and chivalrous, was old both in years and constitution, and was wanting in the energy which the occasion demanded. In January 1855, having completed the usual term of command, he was succeeded by his second, Sir Edmund Lyons, afterwards Lord Lyons [q. v.], and returned to England. On 5 July of the same year he was nominated a G.C.B., and his services were acknowledged by our allies with the grand cross of the Legion of Honour and the Medjidie of the first class. He attained the rank of admiral on 8 Dec. 1857, but had no further service, and died 3 Oct. 1862. His first wife died in April 1846, and in August 1847 he married Lady Emily Moreton, daughter of the first Earl of Ducie, and younger sister of Lady Charlotte Moreton, who had married in 1834 Admiral Berkeley, afterwards Lord Fitzhardinge, and for many years a lord of the admiralty. By his first wife he had a life interest in large estates in Flintshire and Berkshire, which at his death passed to his grandson, Mr. Charles Amesbury Deans-Dundas. On the passing of the Reform Bill he was elected member for Greenwich, and represented that borough in several subsequent parliaments.

[O'Byrne's Nav. Biog. Dict.; Marshall's Roy. Nav. Biog. (supplement, pt. i.), p. 265; Gent. Mag. (1862, vol. ii.), new ser. xiii. 782; Annual Register (1862), civ. 348.]

J. K. L.