Royal Naval Biography/Bowles, William

Comptroller-General of the Coast Guard of England and Ireland.
[Post-Captain of 1807.]

Eldest son of William Bowles, of Heale House, co. Wilts, Esq. by Dinah, fifth daughter of the late Admiral Sir Thomas Frankland, Bart.

This officer was born in 1780; and he appears to have entered the navy in the spring of 1796, as a midshipman on board the Theseus 74, commanded by Captain Augustus Montgomery. We subsequently find him serving in the Captain 74, Daphne 20, Acasta frigate, and Driver sloop of war; on the Channel, Leeward Islands, Jamaica, and North Sea stations. In July 1803, he was appointed a Lieutenant of the Cambrian frigate, employed on the coast of North America; and his commission was confirmed by the Admiralty, Aug. 30, in the same year.

From that ship. Lieutenant Bowles removed into the Leander 50, bearing the flag of Sir Andrew Mitchell, K.B. with whom he continued until advanced to the rank of Commander, Jan. 22, 1806.

In Mar. 1807, Captain Bowles obtained the command of the Zebra bomb-vessel, and in her he was several times warmly engaged with the Danish batteries and flotilla, during the siege of Copenhagen[1]. His promotion to post rank took place, Oct. 13, 1807.

In Dec. 1808, the subject of this sketch was appointed acting Captain of the Medusa frigate; and in the following year he held the temporary command of the Warspite 74. In May, 1810, we again find him acting in the Medusa, and serving on the North coast of Spain, where he assisted at the destruction of various French batteries containing about 100 heavy guns, the details of which important service have been given in our memoirs of Sir Robert Mends and the Hon. Captain Aylmer[2]; both of whom acknowledged themselves much indebted to Captain Bowles far his “zeal, ability, and indefatigable activity,” as second in command of the naval brigade employed on shore, in conjunction with the patriotic troops under Brigadier-General Porlier.

In 1811, Captain Bowles was appointed to the Aquilon 32; which frigate was successively employed on the Channel, North Sea, and Baltic stations; under the orders of Lord Gambier, Admiral William Young, and Sir James Saumarez, Bart.

During the summer of 1812, Captain Bowles, assisted by Captain David Latimer St. Clair, of the Sheldrake sloop, succeeded in effecting the complete destruction of seven large English merchant ships, laden with hemp, which had run on shore in a thick fog, near Stralsund. This service was performed in the face of 1500 French soldiers, posted on high cliffs, from whence they could fire right down upon the decks of the merchantmen, thereby rendering it totally impracticable to get them off, and by no means an easy task to destroy them, which was, however, accomplished, and that fortunately without loss, by scuttling each ship on the off side, and then setting her on fire.

In 1813, Captain Bowles proceeded to the South American station, and was detached by his commander-in-chief to protect our trade in the Rio de la Plata, where he remained nearly a year. On being relieved from that delicate service, he received a letter from the British merchants residing at Buenos Ayres, of which the following is a copy:

Buenos Ayres, 24th March, 1814.

“Sir,– Your approaching departure from this station, where we have now for so many months enjoyed the pleasure of your society, and the advantage of that influence which your personal merits as well as your public rank have given you with persons in authority both here and at Monte Video, calls for our expression of the acknowledgments due for your fKendly and obliging attention to the interests of the British residents; an attention which we believe has been effectual in every instance wherein it has been solicited.

“Whilst we regret that we are now to be deprived of the benefit of your continuance with us, we avail ourselves with pleasure of the occasion it affords us to express to you the very high esteem with which your conduct has impressed us, and to offer you our most grateful thanks for the constant and efficacious protection you have afforded to the British interests.

“We beg leave to offer you our most cordial wishes for your favorable and speedy passage to England; and ever feeling the most sincere interest in your future happiness and success, we remain with the highest regard and respect. Sir, your obliged and obedient servants,

(Signed)John Nightingale, George Dyson, R. Montgomery, Robert Orr, G. T. Dickson, John M‘Neill, James Brittain, James Barton, H. Chorley, J. Thwaites, Joshua Rawdon, J. Boyle, W. Wanklyn, W. Stroud.

On his return to Rio Janeiro, Captain Bowles was transferred with his officers and crew to le Ceres, a fine French frigate recently captured by two of Rear-Admiral Dixon’s cruisers[3]; and in that ship he returned to England, in June 1814.

Captain Bowles subsequently accepted the chief command on the South American station, and proceeded thither with a broad pendant in the Amphion frigate, accompanied by the Hyacinth of 26 guns, in May 1816. The force under his orders was afterwards increased by the arrival of the Andromache frigate, three other post ships, and two sloops of war[4].

Whilst on that station. Commodore Bowles removed into the Creole 42, which frigate had been sent from England to replace the worn-out Amphion.

The able manner in which he protected British commerce during a period of more than three years, will be seen by the following copy of an address which he received from the merchants, &c. when succeeded by Sir Thomas M. Hardy, at the commencement of 1820:

Buenos Ayres, 10th Jan. 1820.

“Sir,– We are commissioned by the subscribers to the British Commercial Room, and on the part of other British residents in this city, to request your acceptance of some memorial of the high esteem and respect with which your conduct during the long period you have commanded on this station has impressed us; for the ready and obliging attention you have so uniformly shewn to our representations; the promptitude with which you have on all occasions asserted our rights, and protected our interests, in a foreign country, under a newly established government and the zeal and judgment with which you have invariably acted to promote the trade of Great Britain, in every part of this continent within the limits of your station. If acceptable to you, it is proposed that this testimony should be in the form of a piece of plate, with a suitable inscription, to record our acknowledgment of the obligations your countrymen in these parts of the world hold themselves under to you, which will be presented as soon as possible after your arrival in England. With much respect, we subscribe ourselves. Sir, your very obedient and humble servants,

(Signed)On behalf of the meeting,

Rich. Carlisle, G. T. Dickson, Will. Cartwright.

Captain Bowles was appointed Comptroller-General of the Coast Guard, in July, 1822. He married, Aug. 9, 1820, the Hon. Frances Temple, sister to Viscount Palmerston.

Agents.– Messrs. Goode and Clarke.