Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Martin, George (1764-1847)

MARTIN, Sir GEORGE (1764–1847), admiral of the fleet, was the youngest son of William Martin (d. 1766), captain in the navy, and of Arabella, daughter of Sir William Rowley [q. v.], admiral of the fleet. His grandfather, Bennet Martin, M.D., was a brother of William Martin [q. v.], admiral of the fleet. Many members or his mother's family attained naval distinction, and by her second marriage to Colonel Gibbs of Horsley Park, Surrey, he was half-brother of Major-general Sir Samuel Gibbs [q. v.] From an early age he was borne on the books of the Mary yacht, but he seems to have first gone afloat in December 1776, when he joined the Monarch as 'captain's servant' with his uncle, Captain Joshua Rowley [q. v.] On 27 July 1778 he was present in the action off Ushant, and following his uncle to the Suffolk, was in the battle of Grenada, 6 July 1779, and in the three actions off Martinique in April and May 1780. On 16 July 1780 he was promoted to be lieutenant of the Russell. He was afterwards with his uncle in the Princess Royal at Jamaica. On 9 March 1782 he was promoted to the command of the Tobago sloon, and on 17 March 1783 was posted into the Preston of 60 guns. He returned to England early in 1784. From 1789 to 1792 he commanded the Porcupine on the coast of Ireland, and in 1793 the Magicienne in the West Indies. In 1796 he was appointed to the Irresistible of 74 guns, and in her took part in the battle of Cape St. Vincent, 14 Feb. 1797. At the close of the battle Nelson, whose own ship, the Captain, had been disabled, hoisted his broad pennant on board the Irresistible for a few days. On 26 April, two Spanish frigates, Ninfa and Santa Elena, coming home from the West Indies, and ignorant of the blockade, were chased by the Irresistible and Emerald frigate into Conil Bay. The Santa Elena went on shore and broke up, but the Ninfa was captured and added to the English navy under the name of Hamadryad (James, ii. 93). The skill and dash with which Martin took the ships past a dangerous reef that blocked the approach to the bay won for him the warm commendations of Lord St. Vincent, who described the action as 'one of the most notable that had ever come under his observation.'

In July 1798 Martin was appointed to the Northumberland, in which, on 18 Feb. 1800, he assisted in the capture of the Genereux (Nicolas, iv. 189). From May 1800 he had charge of the blockade of Malta, and on 5 Sept. received the capitulation of Valetta. In 1801 he was with the fleet on the coast of Egypt under Lord Keith. In 1803 he commanded the Colossus in the Channel, in 1804 the Glory, and in November 1804 was appointed to the Barfleur, in which he took part in the action off Cape Finisterre on 22 July 1806. On 9 Nov. 1805 he was promoted to the rank of rear-admiral. In 1806 he was second in command at Portsmouth, and in 1807 was employed on the blockade of Cadiz. He was afterwards in the Mediterranean under the orders of Lord Collingwood, for the most part on the coast of Italy or Sicily. In June 1809 he took possession of Ischia and Procida. On 23 Oct., being then with the fleet off Cape St. Sebastian, he was detached in pursuit of a small squadron of the enemy under Rear-admiral Baudin. On the 25th two of the pursued ships of the line ran themselves on shore not far from Cette, and on the 26th were abandoned, set fire to and blown up. One other ship of the line got into Cette harbour, so also did a frigate. The other frigate escaped (James, iv. 445; Chevalier, lii. 362; Jurien de la Gravière, L'Amiral Baudin).

On 31 July 1810 Martin was promoted to be vice-admiral, and was again employed on the coast of Sicily, and in co-operation with the army under Sir John Stuart, for which service he received the order of St. Januarius from the king of Naples. From 1812 to 1814 he was commander-in-chief in the Tagus, and in the summer of 1814 was knighted, on the occasion of the prince regent visiting the fleet at Spithead. On 2 Jan. 1815 he was nominated a K.C.B., and a G.C.B. on 20 Feb. 1821. On 19 July 1821 he attained the rank of admiral, and from 1824 to 1827 was commander-in-chief at Portsmouth, with his flag in the Victory. In January 1833 he was appointed rear-admiral of the United Kingdom, and vice-admiral in April 1834. He was nominated a G.C.M.G. in 1836, and was pro- moted to the rank of admiral of the fleet on 9 Nov. 1846. He died in Berkeley Square, London, on 28 July 1847. He was twice married, but died apparently without issue. His portrait, by Charles Landseer, R.A., after Lawrence, is in the Painted Hall at Greenwich.

[O'Byrne's Nav. Biog. Dict.; Marshall's Roy. Nav. Biog. i. 280; James's Naval History (edit. of 1860); Chevaliers Hist, de la Marine française.]

J. K. L.