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Royal Naval Biography/Corbyn, Joseph


JOSEPH CORBYN, Esq.
[Commander.]

We first find this officer acting as lieutenant of la Sybille frigate. Captain Charles Adam; and distinguishing himself in the command of her boats, during the blockade of Batavia, in 1800[1]. He afterwards assisted at the capture of la Chiffoné French frigate, in Mahé Road, island of Seychelles[2]; and subsequently served under the same officer, in the Resistance 38, on the Channel and Mediterranean stations. On the 8th Mar. 1809, the boats of that ship, under his direction, captured a 4-gun battery, and destroyed a French armed schooner and a chasse-marée, in the port of Auchové, near Cape Machicaco.

From the Resistance, Lieutenant Corbyn followed Captain Adam into the Invincible 74, which ship was most actively employed in co-operation with the Spanish patriots, during the siege of Tarragona, by the French army under Marshal Suchet, in May 1811[3]. On the 4th April 1813, an official letter, of which the following is a copy, was addressed by Captain Adam to Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Pellew:

“Sir,– The Baron D’Eroles having requested I would co-operate in an attack upon the enemy’s posts at AmpoUa and Perello, near the Ebro, two boats of H.M. ship Invincible, armed with carronades, under the directions of Mr. Corbyn (the first lieutenant), and a Spanish felucca, in which a party of troops were embarked, left Salo bay on the afternoon of the 1st inst., with orders to attack the post at Ampolla. The troops were landed within two miles of it, about one o’clock in the morning, and the battery of two 18-pounders was completely surprised, the sentry having been shot. The guns were then turned on the fortified house in which the greater part of the guard were posted, who evacuated it immediately, and most of them escaped, but some of them were afterwards taken at Perello.

“That place, which is two leagues inland from AmpoUa, was immediately invested by a detachment of the Baron’s troops; and upon the enemy refusing to receive a flag of truce, the walls of the town, which were filled with loop-holes, were scaled, and a large square tower in the middle of the town, into which the French retreated, was instantly surrounded.

“Owing to light winds and calms, I was not able to anchor the Invincible in Ampolla bay until the afternoon of the 2d. Two field-pieces were then landed, and sent to Perello, under the direction of Lieutenant Corbyn, assisted by Lieutenant Pidgley and the midshipmen attached to the guns. They were placed in a house near the tower, and at daylight the next morning opened upon it.

“After a very resolute defence, two breaches having been made in the tower, it surrendered, and a lieutenant and 33 soldiers were made prisoners. The enemy had one killed and three wounded; but I have the satisfaction to say, that only one man belonging to this ship was wounded. The Spaniards had two killed.

“At Ampolla, two small privateers fell into our hands, which had been employed in communicating with Tarragona, and intercepting the trade passing the mouth of the Ebro. The post appears to have been established chiefly for the protection of this description of vessels and their prizes. By the taking of Perello, the enemy’s communication with the Col de Balageur is very much straitened, as it is on the high road from that place to Tortosa.

“The Baron D’Eroles speaks in the highest terms of the assistance afforded him by Lieutenant Corbyn, and the officers and men under his directions; and I have great satisfaction in reporting it to you. I have the honor to be, &c.

(Signed)C. Adam.”

Lieutenant Corbyn was next employed on shore at the siege of the fort of Col de Balageur, situated in a most difficult pass, through which the high road from Tortosa to Tarragona winds, and the key of the only road by which cannon could be brought into Catalonia from the westward, without going round by Lerida. This fort had twelve pieces of ordnance mounted, including two 10-inch mortars and two howitzers; and the surrounding heights were found so difficult of access, that it was a work of the greatest labour to establish the necessary batteries before it. One of these, mounting two 12-pounders, two field-pieces, and a howitzer, was placed under the command of Lieutenant Corbyn, who kept up an admirable fire, diverting the attention of the enemy from another party of the besiegers employed in the construction of a breaching battery. In his official letter to Rear-Admiral Hallowell, reporting the surrender of the fort, June 7th, 1813, Captain Adam says:

“I cannot conclude without calling to your notice the indefatigable exertions of Lieutenant Corbyn, both in getting the guns up to the battery he commanded, and the excellent fire he kept from them afterwards; and I feel highly gratified in noticing the conduct of so old and excellent an officer, with whose value I am well acquainted, from a service of many years together[4]."