Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Milne, Alexander

MILNE, Sir ALEXANDER, first baronet (1806–1896), admiral of the fleet, second son of Sir David Milne [q. v.], was born on 10 Nov. 1806. In February 1817 he entered the Royal Naval College, and in 1819 first went afloat in the Leander, his father's flagship on the North American station. He afterwards served in the Conway with Captain Basil Hall [q. v.], in the Albion with Sir William Hoste [q. v.], and in the Ganges, flagship of Sir Robert Waller Otway [q. v.], on the South American station. In June 1827 he was appointed acting-lieutenant of the Cadmus brig on the Brazilian station, his commission being confirmed on 8 Sept. In 1830 the brig returned to England, and Milne was promoted to the rank of commander, 25 Nov. In December 1836 he commissioned the Snake sloop for service in the West Indies, where, in November and December 1837, he captured two slavers, having on board an aggregate of 665 slaves. He was promoted, 30 Jan. 1839, to be captain of the Crocodile, in which, and later on in the Cleopatra, he continued in the West Indies or on the coast of North America, and in charge of the Newfoundland fisheries, till November) 1841. From April 1842 to April 1845 he was his father's flag captain at Devonport; and from October 1846 to December 1847 flag captain to Sir Charles Ogle at Portsmouth. For the next twelve years to June 1859 he was a junior lord of the admiralty, and in acknowledgment of his long administrative service during a time of war and reorganisation he was made a civil K.C.B. on 20 Dec. 1858 ; he had previously been made a rear-admiral, 2 Jan. 1858.

In 1860 Milne was appointed to the command of the West Indies and North American station, which, during the American civil war, he exercised with great judgment and tact, at a time when the tension of public feeling on both sides of the Atlantic especially called for the exercise of these qualities. The duration of his command was extended by a year, and on 25 Feb. 1864 he was nominated a military K.C.B., with authority to wear both orders. From June 1866 to December 1868 he was senior naval lord of the admiralty, and from April 1869 to September 1870 was commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean. During the last two months of the time the Channel fleet joined the Mediterranean on the coast of Portugal, and the two were exercised together under the command of Milne, who was also desired to report on the behaviour of the Captain [see Burgoyne, Hugh Talbot; Coles, Cowper Phipps]. On 6 Sept. he inspected the ship, and commented on the very unusual state of things—the water washing freely over the lee side of the deck. In the very exceptional circumstances he did not think it necessary to do more than express his dislike of this to Coles; and indeed, in view of the strong feeling that had been excited in favour of the invention, it is almost certain that the outcry would have been very great if Milne had ordered the ship's sails to be furled, and the ship had in consequence weathered the gale in safety. It would have been said that he was prejudiced against the ship, and had refused to give her a fair trial. On the early morning of 7 Sept. the Captain turned over bodily and went to the bottom.

On 24 May 1871 Milne was made a G.C.B., and from 1872 to 1876 was again first naval lord of the admiralty. On 1 Nov. 1876 he was created a baronet. During his long career he was a member of many commissions and committees. He was a commissioner for the exhibition of 1851 in London, and again for that of 1867 in Paris; in 1879 he was chairman of Lord Carnarvon's committee to inquire into the state of defences of our colonies, and in 1881 of a commission on the defence of British possessions and commerce. In 1887 he was chairman of a committee of officers of the navy and marines for the presentation of a ‘jubilee offering’ to the queen. The presentation, of silver models of the Britannia, a first-rate ship of war in 1837, and of the Victoria, a first-class battleship of 1887, was actually made at Windsor on 22 Nov. 1888. During his later years he resided principally at Inveresk House, Musselburgh, and there he died, in consequence of a chill followed by pneumonia, on 29 Dec. 1896. He married in 1850, Euphemia, daughter of Archibald Cochran of Ashkirk, Roxburghshire, and by her (who died on 1 Oct. 1889) left issue, besides two daughters, one son, Archibald Berkeley Milne, a captain in the navy, who succeeded to the baronetcy.

[O'Byrne's Nav. Biogr. Dict.; Men and Women of the Time, (1895); Times, 30 Dec. 1896 ; Burke's Peerage and Baronetage ; Navy Lists.]

J. K. L.