Open main menu

LAMBERT, HENRY (d. 1813), naval captain, younger son of Captain Robert Lambert (d 1810), entered the navy in 1795 on board the Cumberland in the Mediterranean, and in her was present in the action off Toulon, 13 July 1795, when the Alcide struck to the Cumberland. He afterwards served in the Virginie and Suffolk on the East India station, and having passed his examination on 15 April 1801 was promoted the same day to be lieutenant of the Suffolk, from which he was moved in October to the Victorious, and in October 1802 to the Centurion. Continuing on the East India station, he was promoted, 24 March 1803, to be commander of the Wilhelmina, and on 9 Dec. 1804 to be captain of the San Fiorenzo. in which he was confirmed with seniority 10 April 1805. In June 1800 be returned to England; and in May 1806 was appointed to the Iphgenia, which he took out, in the first instance to Quebec, and afterwords to India. In 1810 the Iphigenia was employed in the blockade of Mauritius; and was one of the squadron under Captain Samuel Pym [q. v.; see also Willoughby, Sir Nisbet Josiah] in the disastrous attack on the French squadron in Grand Port on 22 Aug. and subsequent days, resulting in the loss or destruction of three out of the four frigates. On the afternoon of the 27th, the fourth, the Iphigenia, with the men of two of the others on board, and with little or no ammunition remaining, was attempting to warp out of the bay, against a contrary wind, when three other French frigates appeared off the entrance. Disabled and unarmed as she was, and crowded with men, resistance was impossible; and after twenty-four hours' negotiation Lambert surrendered, on an agreement that he, the officers and crew should be sent on parole to the Cape of Good Hope or to England within a month (James, v. 167; Chevalier, Histoire de la Marine française, iii. 378-9). Notwithstanding this capitulation, which does not seem to have been reduced to writing, the prisoners were detained in Mauritius, and were released only when the island was captured by the English on 3 Dec., and the Iphigenia, which had been taken into the French service [see Corbet, Robert], was recovered. Lambert was then tried by court-martial for the loss of his ship, and was honourably acquitted.

In August 1812 he commissioned the Java, a fine 38-gun frigate, formerly the French Renommée, captured off Tamatave on 31 May 1811. She was, however, very indifferently manned; and being crowded with passengers and lumbered up with stores, her men were still absolutely untrained when, on the voyage out to the East Indies, she fell in with the United Status frigate Constitution, off the coast of Brazil, on 29 Dec., and was brought to action. Labouring under almost every possible disadvantage, the ship was gallantly fought. After about an hour Lambert fell mortally wounded by a musket-shot in the breast, and the defence was continued by Chads, the first lieutenant, till the Java, in a sinking condition, was forced to haul down her colours [see Chads, Sir Henry Ducie]. On the second day she was cleared out and set on fire. On 3 Jan. 1813 the Constitution anchored at San Salvador, where the prisoners were landed, and where, on the 4th, Lambert died. On the 5th he was buried with military honours, rendered by the Portuguese governor, the American commodore and officers taking, it is said, no port in the ceremony (James, v. 421).

[Commission lists in the Public Record Office: Roosevelt's Naval War of 1812; James's Naval History, edit. 1860.]

J. K. L.