Royal Naval Biography/Cochrane, Archibald

[Post-Captain of 1806.]

Youngest surviving son of the Earl of Dundonald, and nephew to Admiral Sir Alexander J. Cochrane, G.C.B.

A short time previous to the peace of Amiens, we find this officer serving as a Midshipman on board the Speedy brig, commanded by his gallant brother, Lord Cochrane, and bearing a conspicuous part in one of the most brilliant actions that has ever been recorded. The achievement to which we allude was the capture of El Gamo, a Spanish polacre, frigate-built, mounting 22 long 12-pounders, 8 nines, and 2 heavy carronades, with a complement of 319 officers, men, and boys, by a British vessel carrying 14 four-pounders, and having no more than 54 persons, of every description, on board.

This formidable enemy was warmly engaged by the Speedy, at close quarters, for upwards of half an hour, during which time the Spaniards made several attempts to board their opponent, but were prevented by her skilful manoeuvres. The great disparity of force, however, rendered it necessary to adopt some measure that might prove more decisive than cannonading, and Lord Cochrane therefore resolved to run his little brig alongside the polacre, which was no sooner effected than he sprang on board sword in hand, and, being bravely seconded by the whole of his officers and crew, compelled the enemy instantly to strike their colours. The total loss sustained by the Speedy on this occasion was 3 killed and 8 wounded; E1 Gamo had 15, including her commander, slain, and no less than 41 wounded. The following is an extract from Lord Cochrane’s official letter, written on the day of the action. May 6, 1801:–

“I must be permitted to say there could not be greater regularity nor more cool determined courage shewn by men, than by the crew of the Speedy. Lieutenant Parker, whom I beg leave to recommend to their Lordships’ notice, as well as the Hon. Mr. Cochrane, deserve all the approbation that can be bestowed[1].”

After conducting El Gamo in triumph to Port Mahon, the Speedy returned to her station off Barcelona, where she joined company with the Kangaroo, an 18-gun brig, commanded by the late Captain George Christopher Pulling, who thus describes the next service of importance in which Mr. Archibald Cochrane was engaged:–

“On the 1st instant (June 1801) we spoke a Minorquin privateer, who gave information that a Spanish convoy, consisting of five armed vessels and twelve sail of merchantmen, had passed to the westward three days before: Lord Cochrane agreeing with me as to the practicability of our overtaking them, we went in pursuit, and yesterday morning (the 9th) got sight of them, at anchor under the battery of Oropesa. Having so able and gallant an officer as his lordship to lead into the bay, I hesitated not a moment to make the attack: we approached within half gun shot of the enemy by noon, and came to an anchor, though opposed by the battery, which is a large square tower, and appears to have 12 guns, a xebec of 20 guns, and three gun-boats, all of which kept up a brisk fire until two o’clock, when it considerably decreased, but again recommenced, encouraged by a felucca of 12 guns, and two gun-boats, that came to their assistance: by half-past three, the xebec and one of the gun-boats sunk, and shortly after another gun-boat shared the same fate. The tower, with the remaining gun-boats, assisted by the felucca, continued to annoy us on both sides till about half-past six, when the fire of the whole slackened, and on the Kangaroo cutting her cables, and running nearer to the tower, the gun-boats in the offing fled, and by seven the tower was silenced. We were annoyed by a heavy fire of musketry in different directions till midnight, during which time the boats of both brigs were employed in cutting out the vessels that were found afloat, under the direction of Mr. Thomas Foulerton, the first Lieutenant of the Kangaroo, assisted by Lieutenant (Benjamin) Warburton, of the Speedy, the Hon. Archibald Cochrane, and Messrs. Dean and Taylor, Midshipmen: they succeeded in bringing out three brigs, laden with wine, rice, and bread; the remainder were either sunk or driven on shore. I have here to lament the loss of Mr. Thomas Taylor, Midshipman, a valuable young man, who was killed by a musketball while on this service. I cannot express myself sufficiently grateful to Lord Cochrane for his assistance during this long contest, as well as on the day before, when we found it necessary, for the honor of his Britannic Majesty’s arms, to blow up the tower of Almanara, mounting 2 brass 4-pounders, which would not surrender, though repeatedly summoned. Enclosed is a list of the killed and wounded on board the Kangaroo[2]: Lord Cochrane was a little singed, and received a bruise at the demolition of the tower of Almanara, as did two of his men; but I am rejoiced to add, neither of them were materially hurt: and with the utmost surprise I have the pleasure to find that the Speedy had not a man killed or wounded in the destruction of this convoy, though, from situation and distance, equally exposed to the enemy’s fire.”

On the 3d July, 1801, the Speedy was chased and captured, in the gut of Gibraltar, by a French squadron under the command of Mons. Linois; and from that period we find no further mention of Mr. Cochrane untU his promotion to the rank of Lieutenant, Mar. 12, 1804.

The subject of this sketch subsequently commanded the Victor sloop and Fox frigate, on the East India station, where he assisted at the destruction of several Dutch men of war, in Dec. 1807[3]. His post commission bears date Jan, 31, 1806.

Agents.– Messrs. Maude.

  1. Lieutenant Richard William Parker was wounded severely, both by musketry and the sword; but he did not obtain promotion to the rank of Commander until Aug. 15, 1800.
  2. Killed, 1 Midshipman; wounded, 5 seamen, severely; 2 lieutenants, !2 seamen, and 1 marine, slightly.
  3. See Captain the Hon. F. B. R. Pellew, C.B.