Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gambier, James (1723-1789)

GAMBIER, JAMES (1723–1789), vice-admiral, was the grandson of a Norman Huguenot who left France on the revocation of the edict of Nantes, brother of John Gambier, lieutenant-governor of the Bahamas, and uncle of James, lord Gambier [q. v.] He was made a lieutenant by Admiral Mathews in the Mediterranean in 1743, and, after serving in the Buckingham and Marlborough, was in April 1746 promoted to the command of the Speedwell sloop, employed in the North Sea. In December 1747 he was posted to the Flamborough, and after commanding many different ships was in February 1758 appointed to the Burford, in which he assisted at the reduction of Louisbourg, and in the following year at the capture of Guadeloupe and the unsuccessful attack on Martinique, coming home in time to take part in the battle of Quiberon Bay. While at Halifax in 1758, acting under orders from Boscawen, he destroyed a number of pestilent liquor sheds, and pressed the sutlers—a piece of good service which afterwards caused him much annoyance, some of the sutlers prosecuting him at common law, against which he was still, two years later, claiming the protection of the admiralty. After the battle of Quiberon Bay, the Burford continued attached to the grand fleet till the peace. From 1766 to 1770 he commanded the Yarmouth guardship at Chatham, and from 1770 to 1773 was commander-in-chief on the North American station, with his broad pennant in the Salisbury. In July 1773 he was appointed comptroller of victualling, but was almost immediately afterwards advanced to be resident commissioner of the navy at Portsmouth, a post which he held till his promotion to be rear-admiral on 23 Jan. 1778. He was then sent out to New York as second in command under Lord Howe, and was left for short intervals as commander-in-chief, first, on Howe's departure from the station, and, secondly, on Byron's leaving for the West Indies. On 26 Sept. 1780 he was advanced to the rank of vice-admiral, and in 1783-4 was commanderin-chief at Jamaica, with his flag on board the Europa. His failing health compelled his early return to England, and he died at Bath on 8 Jan. 1789. He was twice married, and left issue by his first wife.

[Charnock's Biog. Nav. vi. 42; Gent. Mag. lix. pt. i. 182; Official Correspondence in the Public Record Office.]

J. K. L.