Open main menu

HARDY, Sir THOMAS MASTERMAN (1769–1839), vice-admiral, second son of Joseph Hardy of Portishain in Dorsetshire, and his wife, Nanny, the daughter of Thomas Masterman of Kingston in Dorsetshire, was born on 5 April 1769. In 1781 he entered the navy on board the Helena brig with Captain Francis Roberts, but left her in April 1782, and for the next three years was at school, though borne on the books of the Seaford and Carnatic guardships. He was afterwards for some few years in the merchant service, but in February 1790 was appointed to the Hebe with Captain Alexander Hood. From her he was moved to the Tisiphone sloop with Captain Anthony Hunt, whom he followed to the Amphitrite frigate in May 1793, and in her went out to the Mediterranean. On 10 Nov. 1793 he was promoted to be lieutenant of the Meleager frigate with Captain Charles Tyler [q. v.], attached during the following years to the squadron off Genoa under the immediate orders of Captain Nelson, whose acquaintance, it has been suggested, Hardy then first made. In June 1794 Captain Cockburn succeeded to the command of the Meleager, and in August 1796, on being transferred to the Minerve, took Hardy with him [see Cockburn, Sir George, 1772-1853]. Hardy was still in the Minerve in December 1796, when Nelson hoisted his broad pennant on board her, and in her encounter with the Sabina. When the Sabina struck her colours, Lieutenants Culverhouse and Hardy were sent to her with the prize crew ; and the gallant way in which they afterwards drew the Spanish squadron away from the Minerve, defending the prize till her masts went by the board, elicited from Nelson a warm eulogium (Nicolas, ii. 315). Culverhouse and Hardy became prisoners of war, but were at once exchanged for Don Jacobo Stuart, the captain of the Sabina, and rejoined the Minerve at Gibraltar on her return from Elba. On 10 Feb. 1797, as the frigate was passing through the Straits with the Spanish fleet in chase, Hardy jumped into the jolly-boat to save a drowning man. The boat was carried by the current towards the leading Spanish ship. 'By God,' said Nelson, 'I'll not lose Hardy ! Back the mizen top-sail !' The bold measure caused the Spaniard to hesitate and to shorten sail, and enabled the boat to reach the frigate in safety (Drinkwater-Bethune, Narrative of the Battle of St. Vincent, p. 14). The Minerve rejoined the fleet three days afterwards, and had a frigate's share in the battle of St. Vincent on the 14th. In the folio wing May the Lively and Minerve, looking into the bay of Santa Cruz, discovered there a French brig of war, the Mutine, which it was determined to cut out. This was done on the 29th by the boats of the frigates under the command of Hardy, who was at once promoted by Lord St. Vincent to the command of the prize (James, ii. 62). In 1798 Hardy, in the Mutine, joined Nelson near Elba on 5 June, announcing the near approach of the reinforcement under Captain Troubridge [see Troubridge, Sir Thomas], and continuing with the squadron was present at the battle of the Nile ; immediately after which he was promoted to the Vanguard, Nelson's flagship, in the room of Captain Berry [see Berry, Sir Edward], sent home with despatches. In the Vanguard, and afterwards in the Foudroyant, Hardy continued with Nelson at Naples and Palermo till October 1799, when he was relieved by Berry and appointed to the Princess Charlotte frigate, in which he returned to England. In 1801 he was again with Nelson as flag-captain in the San Josef, and afterwards up the Baltic in the St. George ; and though the ship's size and draught of water prevented her taking part in the battle of Copenhagen, Hardy was personally employed the night before the battle in sounding close up to and round the enemy's ships. It is said that the soundings as he reported them to Nelson proved to be correct, and that it was in consequence of deviating from the channel traced by him, in deference to the advice of the pilots, that some of the ships took the ground. On Nelson being relieved by Vice-admiral Pole [see Pole, Sir Charles Morice], Hardy remained in the St. George, and returned in her to England. He was then appointed to the Isis, and in the following spring to the Amphion, in which, in May 1803, he took Nelson out to the Mediterranean, t urned over with him to the Victory in July, and continued as flag-captain during the long blockade of Toulon and the pursuit of the combined fleet to the West Indies. He was still in command of the Victory when Nelson again embarked on board her on 14 Sept. 1805, and in the absence of a captain of the fleet acted virtually in that capacity during the remaining weeks of Nelson's command and in the battle of Trafalgar. With Captain Blackwood [see Blackwood, Sir Henry] he was a witness to Nelson's last will, was walking with Nelson on the Victory's quarter-deck when the admiral received his mortal wound, and was frequently in attendance on him during his dying hours till within a few minutes of his death. The body was sent home in the Victory, and at the funeral on 9 Jan. 1806 Hardy bore the 'banner of emblems.' On 4 Feb. he was created a baronet, and in the spring was appointed to the Triumph, which he commanded for three years on the North American station under the command of Sir George Cranfield Berkeley [q.v.], whose daughter, Anne Louisa Emily he married at Halifax in December 1807. In May 1809 he was appointed to the Barfleur, in which Berkeley hoisted his flag as com-mander-in-chief at Lisbon, and, continuing in that post till September 1812, in 1811 the rank of commodore in the Portuguese navy was conferred on him. In August 1812 he was appointed to the Ramillies, in which he was again sent to the North American station. On 25 June 1813, while in command of a squadron off New London, he captured a schooner, reported by the boarding officer to be laden with provisions. Her crew had escaped in their boat, expecting the vessel to be taken alongside the Ramillies. Hardy, possibly in recollection of an attempt made thirty-seven years before [see Vanderput, George], ordered her to be secured alongside another prize, and while this was being done she blew up, killing the lieutenant in charge and ten seamen. It was known afterward that she was really laden with powder, and fitted with a clockwork mechanism to ignite it. In January 1815 Hardy was nominated a K.C.B. ; he returned to England in June, and in July 1816 was appointed to the command of the Princess Augusta yacht, which he held for three years. On 12 Aug. 1819 he was appointed commodore and commander-in-chief on the South American station, with his broad pennant in the Superb. The war of independence then raging and the different interests at stake made the command one of considerable difficulty and delicacy, and the tact which Hardy displayed won him the approval not only of the admiralty, but of the public. He did not return to England till the beginning of 1824. On 27 May 1825 he became a rear-admiral, and in December 1826, with his flag in the Wellesley, escorted the expeditionary force to Lisbon. On his return he took command of an experimental squadron, with his flag on board the Sibylle, and afterwards on board the Pyramus. By a curious coincidence, on 21 Oct. 1827 he struck his flag, nor was he employed again at sea. In November 1830 he joined the board of admiralty as first sea lord under Sir James Graham, and on 13 Sept. 1831 was nominated to the dignity of a G.C.B. In April 1834 he was appointed governor of Greenwich Hospital, the king sanctioning the appointment on the express understanding that in the event of a war he should return to active service. The rest of his life, spent in this peaceful retirement, was devoted to the interests of the pensioners under his care, and many improvements were made in the regulations respecting them, one of the most characteristic of which was the abolishing the yellow coat with red sleeves, which was worn as a punishment for being drunk on a Sunday, and which Hardy considered degrading to an old sailor, and out of all proportion to the offence. He became a vice-admiral on 10 Jan. 1837, and died 20 Sept. 1839. His remains were buried in the mausoleum of the hospital old cemetery, where, notwithstanding recent alterations, they still remain. His widow, with three daughters, survived him; but having no male issue the baronetcy became extinct. His portrait, the gift of Lady Hardy, is in the Painted Hall at Greenwich, and there is also a monument to his memory in the hospital chapel. A memorial pillar has been erected on the crest of the Black Down, above Portisham, visible from the sea.

[Marshall's Roy. Nav. Biog. iii. (vol. ii. pt. i.) 153; Gent. Mag. 1839, pt.ii. p. 650; United Service Journal, 1839, pt. iii. p. 383; James's Naval History; Nicolas's Despatches of Lord Nelson (see index at end of vol. vii.)]

J. K. L.