Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Thompson, Thomas Boulden
THOMPSON, Sir THOMAS BOULDEN (1766?–1828), bart., vice-admiral, son of Mr. Boulden, by his wife Sarah, sister of Captain Edward Thompson [q. v.], was born at Barham in Kent 28 Feb. probably in 1766. Borne on the books of different ships, he first went to sea in 1778 in the Hyæna with his uncle. He served in the Hyæna throughout her commission, on the home station, in the West Indies, and on the coast of South America, and was promoted to be lieutenant on 14 Jan. 1782. In 1783 he was appointed, again with his uncle, to the Grampus on the west coast of Africa; and, on his uncle's death, was promoted by the senior officer to be commander of the Nautilus, a promotion afterwards confirmed though dated 27 March 1786, two months later than the original commission. In 1787 he brought the Nautilus home and went on half-pay. He was advanced to post rank on 22 Nov. 1790, but had no employment till the autumn of 1796. He was then appointed to the 50-gun ship Leander, in which in the spring of 1797 he joined Lord St. Vincent off Cadiz. He was shortly afterwards detached with the squadron under Sir Horatio (afterwards Viscount) Nelson [q. v.], against Teneriffe, being specially included on account of his ‘local knowledge,’ gained, presumably, while in the Grampus or Nautilus. In the unfortunate attempt on Santa Cruz Thompson received a wound, not so severe, however, as to necessitate his going home. He remained with the fleet, and in the following summer was again detached with the squadron sent into the Mediterranean to reinforce Sir Horatio Nelson, and eventually to fight the battle of the Nile on 1–2 Aug. The Leander could not be counted as a ship of the line; but by taking up a position between two of the French ships, she—while herself in comparative safety—raked the two French ships and the ships beyond them with terrible effect, and had a disproportionate share in the success attained. He was afterwards ordered by Nelson to carry home Captain Edward Berry [q. v.] with his despatches; but falling in with the French 74-gun ship Généreux, near the west-end of Crete, on 18 Aug., the Leander, after a brilliant defence, in which both Thompson and Berry were severely wounded, was captured and taken to Corfu. Thence they were allowed to return overland to England; when Thompson, being tried by court-martial for the loss of his ship, was specially complimented as deserving of every praise his country and the court could give, for ‘his gallant and almost unprecedented defence of the Leander against so superior a force as that of the Généreux.’ On his acquittal, Thompson was knighted and awarded a pension of 200l. per annum.
In the spring of 1799 he was appointed to the 74-gun ship Bellona, one of the fleet off Brest under Lord Bridport. He was shortly afterwards sent into the Mediterranean; but a few months later he returned to the Channel and took part in the blockade of Brest, till in March 1801 the Bellona was attached to the fleet for the Baltic under Sir Hyde Parker [q. v.] When it was determined that Nelson should attack the Danish fleet and the defences of Copenhagen, the Bellona was one of the ships selected for the work. But in entering the channel on the morning of 2 April she unfortunately took the ground on the edge of the shoal and stuck fast, helpless, but within long range of the Danish guns. She thus suffered severely, had eleven killed and sixty-three wounded; and among these latter was Thompson, who lost a leg. His pension was raised to 500l., and some years later to 700l. He was also appointed to the command of the Mary yacht. On 11 Dec. 1806 he was created a baronet. In 1806 he was appointed comptroller of the navy, an office which he held until 1816, when he was appointed treasurer of Greenwich Hospital and director of the chest. He became a rear-admiral on 25 Oct. 1809, vice-admiral on 4 June 1814, was nominated a K.C.B. on 2 Jan. 1815, and a G.C.B. on 14 Sept. 1822. He was member of parliament for Rochester from May 1807 to June 1818. He died at his house at Hartsbourne in Hertfordshire on 3 March 1828. He married, in February 1799, Anne, eldest daughter of Robert Raikes [q. v.] of Gloucester, and left issue.
A miniature portrait by G. Engleheart, exhibited at the Royal Academy, belonged to Gertrude, lady Thompson.
[Marshall's Roy. Nav. Biography, i. 390; Ralfe's Nav. Biogr. iii. 344; Gent. Mag. 1828, i. 563; Navy Lists.]