Pechell, Samuel John Brooke (DNB00)

PECHELL, Sir SAMUEL JOHN BROOKE (1785–1849), rear-admiral, born 1 Sept. 1785, belonged to a French family which settled in Ireland after the revocation of the edict of Nantes. He was eldest son of Major-general Sir Thomas Brooke Pechell, bart., was brother of Sir George Richard Brooke Pechell [q. v.], and nephew of Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren [q. v.] Under Warren's care he entered the navy on board the Pomone in July 1796. In August 1797 he was moved into the Phœbe, with Captain (afterwards Sir Robert) Barlow, and was present at the capture of the Nereide on 21 Dec. 1797, and of the Africaine on 5 March 1800, in two of the most brilliant frigate actions of the war. After the latter, Barlow, who had been knighted, was moved into the Triumph of 74 guns, and Pechell followed him, till, in February 1803, he was appointed acting-lieutenant of the Active, a promotion confirmed by the admiralty on 1 April. In January 1806 he joined his uncle's flagship, the Foudroyant, and in her was present at the capture of the Marengo and Belle Poule on 13 March. On 23 March 1807 he was promoted to the command of the Ferret sloop on the Jamaica station, and on 16 June 1808 was posted to the Cleopatra, a 38-gun frigate, in which, on 22 Jan. 1809, he engaged the 40-gun French frigate Topaze, at anchor under a battery at Point Noire in Guadeloupe. The battery, however, had only one effective gun, and the Topaze, having sustained great loss, struck her colours when, after forty minutes, the Jason frigate and Hazard sloop joined the Cleopatra (James, v. 3; Chevalier, p. 350). The disparity of force at the close of the action necessarily dimmed its brilliance, but Pechell's judgment in so placing the Cleopatra as to render the enemy's fine ineffective was deservedly commended. He afterwards took part in the reduction of Martinique. In October 1810 he was moved into the Guerrière, but returned to the Cleopatra in July 1811, and commanded her in the North Sea, on the coast of France and at Gibraltar.

In December 1812 he was appointed to the San Domingo, the flagship of his uncle, as commander-in-chief on the coast of North America, and in her returned to England in June 1814. He was nominated a C.B. in June 1815, and in July 1823 commissioned the Sybille frigate for service in the Mediterranean, where, in 1824, she formed part of the squadron off Algiers, under Sir Harry Burrard Neale [q. v.], and was afterwards employed in preventing piracy, or the semi-piratical attempts of the Greek provisional government, near the Morea. The Sybille was paid off in November 1826, and Pechell, having, by the death of his father, succeeded to the baronetcy on 17 June 1826, took the additional surname of Brooke, in conformity with the will of his grandmother, the only daughter and heiress of Thomas Brooke of Paglesham in Essex. He had no further service afloat, but from 1830 to 1834, and again from 1839 to 1841, was a lord of the admiralty. He was in parliament as member for Hallestone in 1830, and for Windsor in 1833. He attained the rank of rear-admiral on 9 Nov. 1846, and died on 3 Nov. 1849. He married, in 1833, Julia Maria, daughter of the ninth lord Petre, but, dying without issue, the title passed to his brother, George Richard Brooke Pechell.

Pechell was one of the few officers of his time to recognise the immense importance of practice and precision in the working and firing great guns. Following the plan of Captain Broke in the Shannon [see Broke, Sir Philip Bowes Vere], he carried out, when in command of the San Domingo, systematic exercise and target practice, by which he obtained results then considered remarkable. In the Sybille he followed a similar method, again with results far superior to anything before known. As the Excellent gunnery school at Portsmouth was first instituted in 1832, while Pechell was one of the lords of the admiralty, it may be fairly presumed that the establishment of it was mainly due to him. He was also the author of a valuable pamphlet entitled ‘Observations upon the defective Equipment of Ships' Guns,’ first published in 1812 (2nd edit. 1824; 3rd, 1828).

[Marshall's Royal Naval Biogr. v. (suppl. pt. i.) p. 361; O'Byrne's Naval Biogr. Dict.; James's Naval History; Chevalier's Histoire de la Marine française sous le Consulat et l'Empire.]

J. K. L.