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Royal Naval Biography/Davie, John


JOHN DAVIE, Esq.
[Post-Captain of 1809.]

Third son of the late John Davie, of Orleigh, near Bideford, Esq.; a gentleman of considerable landed property in Devonshire, and a magistrate for that county.

The subject of this sketch was born at Orleigh, May 8, 1776; and he appears to have entered the naval service as a midshipman on board the Apollo frigate. Captain Charles Powell Hamilton, in 1782.

We subsequently find him serving in various ships, on the Mediterranean, West India, Newfoundland, and Channel stations. His promotion to the rank of Lieutenant took place Aug. 28, 1793; on which occasion he was appointed to command a gun-boat employed at Toulon.

From thence Mr. Davie returned home in command of le Pompée 74; and on his arrival in England he was directed to assist Rear-Admiral Christian in making arrangements for the disposal of her crew, and numerous other French emigrants. He afterwards joined the Diana, a new 38-gun frigate, and continued in that ship for a period of three years, principally as first Lieutenant.

In June 1797, Lieutenant Davie removed into the Royal George, a first rate, bearing the flag of Lord Bridport, under whom he had served as a midshipman during the Spanish armament; and by whose advice he afterwards proceeded to Jamaica, where he was promoted to the command of the Tisiphone sloop, in July, 1800.

Captain Davie’s subsequent appointments were. May, 1801, to the Swallow brig; May, 1803, to the Sea Fencible service at Harwich; May, 1804, to the Hermes 10; and Dec. following, to the Favorite, an 18-gun ship-sloop.

In Sept. 1805, Captain Davie sailed for the coast of Africa, where he captured, after an action of 20 minutes, le General Blanchard French privateer, of 10 guns and 130 men; of whom 11 were killed, and 25 badly wounded: only one person, and he a passenger, was hurt on board the Favorite.

On the 6th Jan. 1806, nine days after the above affair. Captain Davie had the misfortune to be taken by a French squadron under Mons. l’Hermite, consisting of one 80-gun ship, two large frigates, and a brig. Luckily for him, however, the enemy likewise took an English merchant brig in ballast about the same time, and the chef d’escadre determined to establish her as a cartel, in order to get rid of his captives; Captain Davie signing an agreement by which a similar number of Frenchmen, corresponding in rank, were to be exchanged for them immediately after their arrival in England; and in case the British government refused to accede to this arrangement. Captain Davie and his companions in misfortune were bound to go over to France, and surrender themselves as prisoners.

In Oct. 1806, the exchange being effected and his court-martial over. Captain Davie was appointed to the Hyacinth sloop, then on the North Sea station, but subsequently sent with despatches to Rio de Janeiro, where he removed into the Foudroyant 80, bearing the flag of Sir W. Sidney Smith; which ship he commanded from January until May, 1809. His post commission bears date Aug 22, in the same year.

Captain Davie’s next appointments were, April 1812, to the Ardent 64, armed en flute: and on the 7th of the following month, to the Leyden another fourth rate, fitted for the conveyance of troops. In the latter ship he successively visited Lisbon, Alicant, Palermo, Zante, Ponza, Santander, Cronstadt, and Dantzic. The Leyden was paid off in Dec. 1814.

From this period Captain Davie remained on half-pay until Nov. 6, 1816, when he was appointed to the Conqueror 74, fitting for the flag of Rear-Admiral Plamplin, with whom he proceeded to St. Helena, where he contracted an illness which only ended with his life. He died at Heavitree, near Exeter, Feb. 13, 1825, after a continued indisposition of more than six years.

The subject of the foregoing sketch was the author of a popular little work, entitled “Observations and Instructions for the use of the Commissioned, the Junior, and other Officers of the Royal Navy, on all the material points of Professional Duty,” with a complete set of forms for Watch, Station, and Quarter Bills; published by Steel, in 1804, and the merit of it erroneously given to Sir Home Popham.

Captain Davie married, Feb. 6, 1815, Miss J. Tappen, of Charles Street, Haymarket, London; by whom he has left a son and a daughter. His eldest brother, Joseph, assumed the patronymic of Bassett, on succeeding to the estate of his maternal uncle, Francis Bassett, of Heanton Court, near Barnstaple, Esq. and has long been a very active magistrate for the county of Devon[1]. His second brother, Charles, is one of the Prebendaries of Exeter cathedral.



  1. Francis Bassett, Esq. was the elder branch of Lord de Dunstanville’s family.