Heath, Leopold George (DNB12)

HEATH, Sir LEOPOLD GEORGE (1817–1907), admiral, a younger son of George Heath (d. 1852), serjeant-at-law, by his wife Anne Raymond Dunbar, was born in London on 18 Nov. 1817. Douglas Denon Heath [q. v. Suppl. I] was his eldest brother. He entered the R.N. College, Portsmouth, in Sept. 1830. He gained the first medal on passing out in 1831, and in Dec. 1840 received a prize commission as lieutenant on passing his final examination. In that rank he served on the Mediterranean and East Indies stations. He was promoted to commander on 3 Aug. 1847, and in July 1850 was appointed to command the steam sloop Niger, and sent to the west coast of Africa. There he had his first war service, being present in the small squadron under Commodore Henry Bruce at the attack on and destruction of Lagos, in which affair the British loss was 16 killed and 75 wounded. At the end of 1852 the Niger was transferred to the Mediterranean, and Heath, remaining in her, was employed at the outbreak of the Russian war in blockade work along the Black Sea coasts. He accompanied the expedition to the Crimea, and from 14 Sept. 1854 was beachmaster at Eupatoria during the landing of troops and stores. At the bombardment of Sevastopol on 17 Oct. 1854 the Niger was lashed alongside the line-of-battle ship London, and towed her into action. On 18 Nov. following. Heath was appointed acting captain of the Sans Pareil, flagship of Sir Edmund (afterwards Lord) Lyons [q. v.], and this appointment was afterwards confirmed by the admiralty. A few days afterwards he was made captain of the port of Balaclava, and it is clear that the adverse criticisms of the state of that port while under his management which were published by some London newspapers were both ill-informed and prejudiced. Sir Edmund Lyons was perfectly satisfied with Heath's work, and in January 1855 recommended him to the admiralty for the important post of principal agent of transports. Heath was appointed, and held the post until the war was practically over. In November 1855 he left for England, and in December was appointed to command the screw-mortar ship Seahorse, which was intended for the bombardment of Kronstadt. This ship was rendered useless by the peace, and Heath returned to the Black Sea to help in bringing back the troops. Though almost the junior captain in the Black Sea fleet, he was among the first to receive the C.B., which was awarded to him on 25 July 1855. He also received the Legion of Honour, the 4th class of the Medjidie, and the Crimean and Turkish medals.

Following the peace Heath for some years commanded the coast-guard ship in Southampton Water, and in April 1862 became captain of the Cambridge, gunnery school ship at Devonport. A year later he was transferred for special service to the Ports- mouth gunnery school, where he remained till appointed, in July 1867, to the Octavia as commodore in command in the East Lidies. He arrived on the station in time to help on the preparations for the expedition from Bombay under Sir Robert Napier [q. v.] against King Theodore of Abyssinia, and afterwards assisted to land the troops, though for this duty Captain (afterwards Sir George) Tryon [q. v.] was sent out from England as transport officer. For his services during his command Heath was awarded the K.C.B. and received the thanks of parliament. On his return to England in 1870 he was appointed vice-president of the ordnance select committee, and I held that post until promoted to be rear-admiral on 20 Dec. 1871. Heath was not actively employed as a flag officer, and retired on 12 Feb. 1873. He rose on the retired list to be vice-admiral on 16 Sept. 1877, and admiral on 8 July 1884. He died on 7 May 1907 at his home, Anstie Grange, Holmwood, near Dorking.

Heath married in 1853 Mary Emma, (d. 1902), daughter of Cuthbert Marsh, of Eastbury, Hertfordshire, and had issue five sons and two daughters. The eldest son, Arthur Raymond Heath, was from 1886 to 1892 M.P. for the Louth division of Lincolnshire. Brigadier-general Gerard Moore Heath, D.S.O., R.E., is the youngest son.

Heath published, in 1897, his 'Letters from the Black Sea,' written during the Crimean war.

[The Times, 9 May 1907; Heath's Letters from the Black Sea (portrait), 1897.]

L. G. C. L.