Royal Naval Biography/Bertie, Thomas

(formerly hoar,)
Vice-Admiral of the Red; Knight Batchelor of the United Kingdom; and Knight Commander of the Swedish Order of the Sword.

This officer, the sixth child, and fourth son, of George Hoar, of London, formerly of Middleton Era, co. Durham, Esq., by Frances, daughter of William Sleigh, of Stockton-upon-Tees, Esq. was born July 3, 1758; and in March, 1781, was put upon the books of the William and Mary yacht. He first went to sea at the latter end of 1773, in the Seahorse frigate, commanded by the gallant Captain Farmer, who was afterwards killed in the Quebec, and went with that officer to the East Indies. It was in the Seahorse that Mr. Hoar first met, and became the messmate of the late Lord Nelson and Sir Thomas Troubridge, with whom he had the enviable fortune of enjoying the strictest intimacy, and an unbroken correspondence, till the respective periods when death deprived the country of their inestimable services.

On the 27th June 1777, Mr. Hoar was removed, by the desire of his patron, the late Lord Mulgrave, from the Seahorse to the Salisbury, bearing the broad pendant of Sir Edward Hughes, with whom he returned to England on the 14th May, in the following year. On the 21st of the same month, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, and immediately appointed to the Monarch of 74 guns, Captain (afterwards Sir Joshua) Rowley.

Whilst belonging to this ship, Lieutenant Hoar introduced the life-buoy into the service. An experiment, much to the satisfaction of Captain R., his officers, and people, was first made of its utility, at Spithead; and it soon afterwards became general in the Channel fleet. On the 27th July, in the same year, the Monarch led the van division in the action between Keppel and d’Orvilliers, and had 2 men killed and 9 wounded[1].

In the month of December following, when Captain Rowley hoisted a broad pendant on board the Suffolk, Lieutenant Hoar removed with him into that ship. On the 25th the Commodore sailed from Spithead with a squadron to reinforce Admiral Byron, in the West Indies, and joined that officer at St. Lucia, about the latter end of March, 1779.

In the action off Grenada, July 6, in the same year[2], Mr. Hoar’s friend, who had recently been promoted to the rank of Rear-Admiral, commanded the rear division of the British fleet; and the Suffolk appears to have been very warmly engaged, having sustained considerable damage, and a loss of 32 men killed and wounded. In the month of December following, the boats of that ship, under the orders of our officer, destroyed two of the enemy’s vessels close to the shore of Martinique, in the execution of which service, although twice engaged with the militia of that island, only 1 man was killed on the part of the British.

In March, 1780, Lieutenant Hoar accompanied Admiral Rowley from the Suffolk into the Conqueror; which ship formed part of Sir George B. Rodney’s fleet in the actions with de Guichen, April 17, and May 15 and 19[3]. In these engagements, the conqueror had 18 men killed and 69 wounded.

In the ensuing month of July, Mr. Hoar became Flag-Lieutenant to Admiral Rowley, and continued to hold that appointment until Aug. 10, 1782, on which day he was made a Commander, into the Duc d’Estitac sloop. During the remainder of the war, we find him actively employed on a variety of services both on the coast of America and in the West Indies. He returned to England in the summer of 1783, and was soon after put out of commission.

On the 20th May, 1788, the subject of this memoir married Catherine Dorothy, daughter of Peregrine Bertie, of Low-Layton, Essex, Esq. (of the late Duke of Ancaster’s family) whose name he assumed, and has since borne alone, agreeably to the will of that gentleman.

Captain Bertie was advanced to post rank, Nov. 22, 1790, and, at the same period, appointed to the Leda; that frigate, however, was soon after put out of commission, and he was not again called upon till the autumn of 1795, when he obtained the command of the Hindostan, a 54-gun ship, then at Spithead, under orders for the West Indies, where he arrived, after a long and tempestuous passage, in company with a squadron commanded by the present Admiral George Bowen, and a fleet of transports having on board several thousand troops, under the orders of Major-General White, destined to attack St. Domingo; nearly the whole of whom fell victims to the climate, without having been employed on any service of importance.

Captain Bertie was himself seized with the yellow fever, whilst commanding at Port-au-Prince, and he was obliged to apply to be surveyed. This accordingly took place at Cape Nichola Mole; and being invalided, he left the West Indies in an American ship, in the month of Oct. 1796. On the 29th March, 1797, after he had recovered his health, he was appointed to the Braakel of 54 guns, stationed at Plymouth. In October following, he succeeded to the command of the Ardent, 64, vacant by the death of his old shipmate, Captain Burgess, who fell in the memorable battle off Camperdown.

It may here be proper to mention an improvement which our officer effected on the 42-pounder carronades, belonging to the Ardent’s main-deck; particularly as it was afterwards generally adopted in all his Majesty’s ships having that description of ordnance on board. Observing, when he was first appointed to the Ardent, that the inclined plane of the carriage was in a contrary direction to what he conceived it ought to be – being within-board instead of without – Captain Bertie communicated his ideas on the subject to the Board of Ordnance; and in a correspondence which ensued, he had the satisfaction of convincing the heads of that department of the utility of his proposed alteration. Orders were consequently given, for fitting up the carronades according to his directions. The alteration consisted simply in depressing the chock two inches. This not only imparted to the gun the good property of being worked, and run out, with a smaller number of men, but it also checked the recoil, and necessarily added to the force of the shot.

The Ardent was employed under Lord Duncan, in the blockade of the Texel fleet, until the expedition to Holland took place in August, 1799. Captain Bertie then received orders to place himself under the command of Vice-Admiral Mitchell; who, on the 30th of that month (a landing having been made good on the 27th, and the Helder obtained possession of ) passed, with his squadron, through the Nieuve Diep, up to the Vlieter, near to which the Dutch fleet, consisting of eight sail of the line and four frigates, commanded by Admiral Storey, were lying at anchor. The enemy were allowed one hour’s deliberation, to fight or to surrender; and the latter having been agreed to, in consequence of the disaffection reigning amongst the Dutch seamen, Captain Bertie was ordered to take possession of the Admiral de Ruyter, of 68 guns, and afterwards to escort the whole of the prizes to the Nore, where he arrived on the 10th September.

In the following month, Captain Bertie assisted at the evacuation of the Texel. He afterwards, in common with the other officers of the fleet, received the thanks of Parliament, for his services in the above mentioned expedition.

In the autumn of 1800, the Ardent formed one of the squadron sent to the Sound under Vice-Admiral Dickson, for the purpose of giving weight to the mission of Lord Whitworth[4]. It was during this expedition, that the first trial was made of the late Sir Home Popham’s telegraphic signals.

The Ardent soon after formed one of the squadron under the orders of Lord Nelson at the battle off Copenhagen, in which her commander particularly distinguished himself; compelling four of the Danish flotilla, one of which was the Jutland of 60 guns, to surrender. An account of this tremendous conflict will be found in our memoir of Sir Thomas Foley[5]. The Ardent received considerable damage, and sustained a loss of 29 men killed and 64 wounded, independent of about 40 others who, being able to continue at their duty, were not included in the report. For his services on this occasion, Captain Bertie again had the satisfaction of receiving the thanks of Parliament, and what was equally pleasing, the personal commendation of his heroic chief[6].

On the 9th of the same month, the subject of this memoir was appointed by the Commander-in-Chief, Sir Hyde Parker, to the Bellona of 74 guns, in the room of Sir Thomas B. Thompson, who had lost a leg in the battle; and he continued in the Baltic under the orders of Lord Nelson, and his worthy successor Sir Charles M. Pole, until the 7th July following, when he left that station in company with the squadron sent home under Sir Thomas Graves, part of which were ordered north aboAit to Cork, and from thence proceeded off Cadiz, where Captain Bertie remained, employed in the blockade of the Spanish fleet, till the termination of the war. The Bellona afterwards formed part of a squadron sent under the command of Captain (now Sir Charles) Tyler, to the West Indies, from whence our officer returned to England, June 24, 1802, and on the 6th of the following month his ship was put out of commission.

Hostilities again commenced in the spring of 1803; and on the 3d November, Captain Bertie was appointed to the Courageux of 74 guns, in which ship Rear-Admiral Dacres soon after hoisted his flag, and on the 4th Jan. 1804, sailed from St. Helen’s accompanied by 170 sail of merchantmen bound to the West Indies. Four days after their departure, the wind which had hitherto been fair, shifted to the S.W. and between the 15th and 28th it blew one of the most tremendous gales ever experienced, dispersing the convoy, and reducing the Courageux to a mere wreck, thereby compelling her to bear up for Plymouth, where she arrived with the remnant of her scattered charge on the 1st of February.

From some family distress, Captain Bertie was suddenly obliged, after the Courageux had been docked and nearly prepared for sea, to resign the command of her, and he remained without any other appointment until the latter end of Dec. 1805. He then obtained the command of the St. George, a second rate, attached to the Channel fleet, and continued in that ship until the general promotion of flag-officers, April 28, 1808, which included, and stopped with him.

Rear-Admiral Bertie was soon after appointed to a command in the Baltic, under Sir James Saumarez. He accordingly proceeded thither in the Rosamond sloop, and on his arrival off Helsinburgh, hoisted his flag in the Orion of 74 guns, from which ship it was afterwards shifted, first into the Vanguard, 74, and then into the Dictator, 64; he returned to Yarmouth roads, Jan. 6th, 1809, having been driven from his station in the Sound, by the sudden appearance of the ice, and its great solidity, on the last day of the preceding year. On the 20th March, the Rear-Admiral again sailed for the Baltic, in the Stately, another 64-gun ship; and immediately on his arrival resumed his former occupation, namely, that of blockading the island of Zealand, and affording protection to the coast of Scania, and to the British and Swedish convoys passing through the Malmoe Channel, in doing which he had repeated skirmishes with the Danish batteries and armed vessels.

From the heavy gales of wind which began to set in about the 12th Dec. 1809, Rear-Admiral Bertie found it advisable to quit his anchorage off Hoganis, nearly at the entrance of the Sound, and proceed with the ships under his command to Gottenburgh, where he received orders from Admiral Dickson to return to England express.

On the 19th Feb. 1810, finding his health to be in a very impaired state, our officer was obliged to strike his flag, and come on shore. Since that period, we believe, he has not been employed.

In the month of June, 1813, Rear-Admiral Bertie received the honor of knighthood, and the royal license and permission to accept and wear the insignia of a Knight Commander of the Order of the Sword, which the late King of Sweden had been pleased to confer upon him, in testimony of his merits and services. He was advanced to the rank of Vice-Admiral, Dec. 4th, in the same year.

  1. See note †, at p. 195.
  2. See Retired Captain Fanshawe.
  3. See note †, at p. 103, et seq.
  4. See p. 348.
  5. See p. 365.
  6. Early on the morning after the action, Lord Nelson went on board the Ardent, to thank her commander, officers, and people, for their conduct and exertions on the preceding day; a compliment which was returned with six cheers, on his Lordship leaving the ship.