Pasco, John (DNB00)


PASCO, JOHN (1774–1853), rear-admiral, born on 20 Dec. 1774, was entered on the books of the Druid, commanded by Captain George Anson Byron, in June 1784. In 1786 he served in the Pegasus with Prince William Henry in the West Indies. He was afterwards in the Penelope on the Halifax station, and from 1790 to 1795 in many different ships in the Channel. In 1795 he went out to the West Indies with Sir John Laforey [q. v.] and by him was promoted on 15 June to be lieutenant of the Beaulieu under Captain Francis Laforey. From 1796 to 1799 he was in the Raisonnable in the Channel and at the Cape of Good Hope, and from December 1799 to October 1802 in the Immortalité with Captain Henry Hotham [q. v.] on the coast of France. In April 1803 he was appointed to the Victory, going out to the Mediterranean with the flag of Lord Nelson. He remained in the Victory during her whole commission, in the blockade of Toulon, in the chase of the French fleet to the West Indies, and in the battle of Trafalgar. During the latter part of the time, being first on Nelson's list for promotion, he acted as signal officer, and was serving in that capacity at Trafalgar. According to the story which Pasco himself told Nicolas, the signal which Nelson ordered him to make as the battle was about to begin was, ‘England confides that every man will do his duty,’ but that he pointed out to the admiral that as ‘confides’ was not in the vocabulary, time would be saved by substituting ‘expects,’ which was. To this Nelson assented (Nicolas, Nelson Despatches, vii. 150). The story that the original wording of the signal was ‘Nelson expects,’ &c., and was changed to ‘England’ on Pasco's suggestion (James, iii. 392), appears to be mere gossip. Early in the battle Pasco was severely wounded in the right arm, and was carried below. His statement, made many years afterwards, that he was on the poop the whole time of the battle (Journal of the Royal United Service Institution, xxxvii. 1177), and, by inference, that he was an eye-witness of everything that happened, was an old man's slip of memory.

In consequence of his wound, Pasco received a grant from the patriotic fund, and was afterwards allowed a pension of 250l. a year; but his promotion to the rank of commander was not dated till 24 Dec. 1805. Pasco was not posted till 3 April 1811. The loss of time was of course due to the death of Nelson, who would otherwise have seen that his flag-lieutenant was properly rewarded. In a letter to Nicolas, Pasco said that about eleven o'clock in the forenoon, having to make a report to Nelson, he intended also ‘to have represented to him that he considered himself unfortunate, on so glorious an occasion, to be doing duty in an inferior station instead of that to which his seniority entitled him. On entering the cabin he discovered Nelson on his knees. … He waited till he rose and communicated what he had to report, but could not at such a moment disturb his mind with any private grievances’ (Nicolas, vii. 140 n.). For nearly three years after his promotion to commander's rank, Pasco remained unemployed. He was then appointed to the Hindostan store-ship, which he took out to New South Wales. Afterwards he commanded the Tartarus on the North American station, and from 1811 to 1815 was captain of the Rota frigate on the Lisbon station. After the peace (1815–18) he had command of the Lee, a small frigate employed in the Channel for the suppression of smuggling. In 1846 he commanded the Victory at Portsmouth, and was promoted to flag rank on 22 Sept. 1847. He died at Stonehouse on 16 Nov. 1853.

Pasco married twice: (1) on 1 Sept. 1805 Rebecca, daughter of J. L. Penfold of the Dockyard, Plymouth, who bore him six sons, two of whom died in infancy, and three daughters; (2) in 1843 Eliza, widow of Captain John Weaver of the royal marines.

[O'Byrne's Nav. Biogr. Dict.; Marshall's Roy. Nav. Biogr. vi. (supplement, pt. ii.), 348; Service Book in the Public Record Office.]

J. K. L.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.215
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line  
435 i 29-30 Pasco, John: for three sons and two daughters; read six sons (two of whom died in infancy) and three daughters;