Holmes, Charles (DNB00)

HOLMES, CHARLES (1711–1761), rear-admiral, fourth son of Henry Holmes, governor of the Isle of Wight, by his wife Mary, the illegitimate daughter of Sir Robert Holmes [q. v.], was baptised at Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, on 19 Sept. 1711. He was made lieutenant on 18 June 1734. In 1738 he was serving in the Sunderland; in 1740 in the Pembroke, one of the Mediterranean fleet, under Haddock. He then went out to the West Indies as a lieutenant of the Tilbury; was there moved into the Princess Caroline, Vernon's flagship, and on 24 Feb. 1740–1 was promoted to the command of the Stromboli fireship, serving with the fleet in the expedition to Cartagena, March–April 1741. On 9 June 1741 he was moved into the Success, and returning in her to England was, on 20 Feb. 1741–2, posted to the Sapphire, and employed during the next two years in cruising against the enemy's privateers. In December 1743 he was moved into the Cornwall, and in the following June into the Enterprise, which he commanded for the next three years in the West Indies. In May 1747 he was transferred to the Lennox, a 70-gun ship, which, in September 1748, sailed from Jamaica in charge of the homeward trade, being herself so crazy that some twenty of her guns were taken out as a measure of precaution. In the Gulf of Florida, on 29 Sept., they fell in with the Spanish squadron under Reggio, on which Holmes directed the convoy to make the best of their way while he went himself in the Lennox to give the news to Rear-admiral Knowles, whom he believed to be off Havana, and to reinforce him, in case of an action. On the following evening he fell in with Knowles, and at daylight on 1 Oct. the Spanish squadron came in sight. In the action that ensued [see Knowles, Sir Charles] the Lennox, by reason of her reduced armament, was stationed to windward of the line as a frigate. Knowles afterwards complained that several captains had been backward, and that Holmes especially had been guilty of disobedience and neglect of signals. Hence sprang a series of courts-martial, from which Holmes alone came out clear, the court not only acquitting him of the charges laid against him, but also passing a warm eulogium on his conduct and zeal in joining Knowles before the action.

In January 1753 Holmes was appointed to the Anson, guardship at Portsmouth, and in 1755 to the Grafton, one of the squadron sent out with Rear-admiral Holburne as a reinforcement to Boscawen in North America. In the following year he was again on the coast of North America, and on 26 July, cruising off Louisbourg, with a broad pennant in the Grafton, and having under his orders the Nottingham, a 60-gun ship, and two small sloops, he met a French squadron of three 74-gun ships and three 32-gun frigates. The French ships, having been carrying troops to Quebec, had not all their guns on board, and did not venture to press an engagement, while Holmes desired to keep them in sight till he was reinforced. After a partial and distant interchange of shot the squadrons separated (Charnock, v. 197; Troude, Batailles Navales de la France, i. 337; Martin, Histoire de France, xviii. 96). Returning to England for the winter, Holmes sat as a member of the court-martial on Admiral Byng, but in the summer of 1757 he was again in the Grafton on the North American station, and was with Holburne off Louisbourg when the fleet was shattered by the storm of 24 Sept. [see Holburne, Francis]. In addition to the loss of her masts the Grafton lost her rudder, and being obliged to bear away for England she fitted a jury rudder made of a spare topmast (Beatson, ii. 56; Payne, Naval History, v. 85, where there is a sketch of the arrangement). Early in the following year Holmes in the Sea-horse, a small frigate, and having with him the Stromboli, was sent over to the coast of Friesland, where the French and Austrians had taken possession of Emden with a force of some three thousand men. On 18 March these two little vessels took up a position in the Ems that cut the enemy's communications. They at once decided that the place was no longer tenable, and evacuated it the next day, some of their heavy baggage, which they attempted to send up the river, falling into Holmes's hands (Beatson, ii. 160, iii. 190). On his return to England he was appointed to the Warspite for a few months, and on 6 July was promoted to be rear-admiral of the blue. The following year, with his flag in the Dublin, he was third in command of the fleet in the St. Lawrence, under Sir Charles Saunders [q. v.], and in the operations which resulted in the capture of Quebec. In March 1760 he was appointed commander-in-chief at Jamaica. He arrived there in May, and during the next eighteen months waged a very successful war against the French commerce, several rich prizes falling to his cruisers. He died at Jamaica on 21 Nov. 1761. There is a monument to his memory in Westminster Abbey.

[Charnock's Biog Nav. v. 193; Beatson's Nav. and Mil. Memoirs, vols. i. and ii.; Yarmouth Register, through the Rev. G. Quirk; official documents in the Public Record Office.]

J. K. L.