Royal Naval Biography/Baker, Thomas
THOMAS BAKER, Esq
Rear-Admiral of the Blue; a Companion of the most honorable Military Order of the Bath; and a Knight of the Order of Wilhelm of the Netherlands.
This officer was a Lieutenant at the commencement of the French revolutionary war (previous to which he had been in the East India Company’s service); commanded the Fairy sloop, in 1797; and obtained post rank in the Princess Royal, a second rate, forming part of the Channel fleet, on the 13th June in the same year.
Early in 1799, Captain Baker was appointed to the Nemesis, of 28 guns; and in the summer of 1800, he was entrusted with the command of a small squadron, stationed in the North Sea. On the 25th July, he fell in with the Freya, a Danish frigate, convoying several merchant vessels near Ostend. Captain Baker hailed her, and intimated his intention of sending a boat to examine them. The Danish commander replied, that if such an attempt was made, he would fire into the boat. Captain Baker, however, persisted, and the Freya immediately fired several shot, which missing the boat, struck the Nemesis, and killed 1 man. A most spirited action ensued, and lasted for about twenty-five minutes, when the Danish frigate being much crippled, and having 8 men killed and wounded, struck her colors. The whole of the vessels were then conducted into the Downs.
A question immediately arose between the British and Danish courts, on the right of searching neutral vessels under convoy; the former maintaining that armed vessels escorting fleets, afforded no security against their carrying illegal cargoes; and the latter asserting that such inspection was not warranted by precedent, the best assurance for such fleet containing no warlike stores being its sailing under the flag of the neutral country. A temporary adjustment of the affair was effected by Lord Whitworth, who had proceeded to Denmark, supported by a strong squadron under Vice-Admiral Dickson; notwithstanding which, a confederacy was formed by the northern powers against Great Britain, and the respective parties prepared for that state of warfare which was terminated by the battle off Copenhagen, on the glorious 2d April, 1801.
Captain Baker’s next appointment was to the Phoebe, of 36 guns, on the Irish station; and on the renewal of hostilities against France, in 1803, he obtained the command of the Phoenix, of the same force, in which ship he had the good fortune, Aug. 10, 1805, to capture la Didon, a remarkably fine French frigate, of 44 guns and 330 men. The action commenced at 9h 15' A.M., and lasted three hours, within pistol-shot. The superiority of la Didon’s sailing, added to the adroit manoeuvres of her commander, convinced Captain Baker of the skill and gallantry he should have to contend with, which was fully evinced by the stubborn defence of the ship, until she became a perfect wreck. The loss sustained by the Phoenix in this conflict was 12 killed and 28 wounded. That of the enemy, 27 killed and 44 wounded.
On the 4th Nov. in the same year, the Phoenix formed part of the squadron under Sir Richard John Strachan, at the capture of the four French line-of-battle ships that had escaped from the battle of Trafalgar; and to Captain Baker’s skill and perseverance in keeping sight of the enemy, and leading into action, may, in some measure, be attributed the success of that day. The Phoenix on this occasion had 2 men killed and 4 wounded. During the remainder of the war, our officer was actively employed in different ships, and on various stations. He was nominated a C.B. June 4, 1815, and a Colonel of Royal Marines, Aug. 12, 1819. His promotion to the rank of Rear-Admiral took place July 19, 1821.
Residence.– Walmer, Kent.