Royal Naval Biography/Davies, Henry Thomas

[Post-Captain of 1814.]

Was first lieutenant of the Blanche frigate, mounting 46 guns, at the capture of le Guerriere, July 19, 1806. The following is a copy of the official letter published on that occasion:–

H.M.S. Blanche, July 26, 1806.

“My Lord,– I have the honor to acquaint you of my return to Yarmouth roads, having in company le Guerriere French frigate, commanded by Mons. Hubert, member of the legion of honor, whom I captured on the 19th instant, in lat. 62° N. off the Ferroe islands, after a sharp contest of 45 minutes.

“Le Guerriere is of the largest class of frigates, mounting 50 guns, with a complement of 317 men; but these were soon sadly reduced by our destructive fire; and the ship has also suffered very severely, while the damages of the Blanche; are confined to the top-masts, rigging, and sails.

“It now becomes a pleasing duty to beg you to recommend Lieutenant Henry Thomas Davies to their lordships’ notice, and to speak in terms of respect of his general good conduct, as also of Lieutenants Bastin and Allan; of Mr. Robertson, the master; and Lieutenant John Campbell, R.M. The warrant officers, midshipmen, and ship’s company, are likewise entitled to my warmest praise. I have the honor to be, &c.

(Signed)Thomas Lavie.”

Right Hon. Lord Keith, K.B.
&c. &c. &c.

Le Guerriere formed part of a squadron that had been sent from l’Orient to cruise on the coasts of Iceland, Greenland, and Spitzbergen, for the purpose of destroying the British and Russian whalers. She had on board 52 men more than the Blanche, but many of her crew were sickly, and in broadside weight of metal she was rather inferior to her opponent. The British frigate had not a man slain, and only 4 persons wounded, one of whom was Lieutenant Robert Bastin: the enemy sustained a loss of 20 killed and 30 wounded.

In 1809, Captain Davies commanded the Tyrian, a 10-gun brig, on the Guernsey station; and, in Aug. 1811, we find him appointed to the Albacore sloop, mounting 16 32-pounder carronades, 8 twelves, and 2 long sixes, with a complement of 121 officers, men, and boys. His commission as a commander bears date July 28, 1806.

“On the 16th Dec. 1812,” says Mr. James, ”the French 40-gun frigate Gloire, Captain Rousin, sailed from Havre, with a very strong S.E. wind, which carried her as far as the Lizard, and there left her, on the afternoon of the 17th, entirely becalmed. On the 18th, at day-light, the Gloire found herself nearly in the midst of nine vessels, the greater part of them evidently merchantmen. Two of the number, however, were vessels of war: the nearest was the British ship-sloop Albacore, Captain Henry Thomas Davies; and, about 4 miles to the westward of her, was the 14-gun schooner Pickle, Lieutenant William Figg. At 8 a.m. the Gloire, who had been standing on the starboard tack, wore with a light air of wind, and edged away for the Albacore, then bearing from her N.E. by N. Each ship soon ascertained that the other was an enemy; and at 9 a.m. the Gloire sailed to the wind on the larboard tack, and made all sail to escape. Judging by this, probably, that the apparent French 40-gun frigate was an armée en flûte, or large store-ship. Captain Davies crowded sail in chase, followed, at some distance, by the Pickle; the latter and the Albacore making repeated signals, to apprize the vessels in sight of the presence of an enemy.

“At 10-12 a.m. having by carrying down the breeze arrived within carronade range on the frigate’s weather quarter, the Albacore opened her fire; whereupon the Gloire hoisted French colours, and fired in return, hauling up a little, to bestow a raking broad«idc upon her unequal antagonist. To avoid this the Albacore tacked. The breeze soon afterwards fell nearly to a calm; and at 11 a.m. finding her antagonist much too strong for her, the Albacore discontinued the action, with her fore-spring-stay shot away, her rigging a good deal damaged, and the loss of one Lieutenant (William Harman) killed, and 6 or 7 men wounded. Strange to say, the French frigate herself did not seem disposed to renew the action, but wore and made all sail to the westward.

“At 1 p.m., the Pickle having closed, and a light breeze sprung up from the southward, the Albacore again made sail, and at 3 p.m. was joined in the chase by the 12-gun brig Borer, Captain Richard Coote, and 4-gun cutter Landrail, Lieutenant John Hill. At 5 p.m. the Albacore began firing her bow-chasers; as, on coming up, did two out of her three formidable consorts. For the Landrail to have fired her 12-pounder carronades would have been a farce. To this alarming cannonade, the Gloire replied with her stern chasers, and continued running from the ‘escadre,’ as if each of her four pursuers had been a frigate like herself. Thus the chase continued, but without any firing after 7 p.m., until midnight on the 19th; when this dastardly French frigate, who, it appears, did not have a man hurt on the occasion, had run herself completely out of sight. Captain Davies merited great praise for his gallantry and perseverance; and there cannot be a doubt, that by the boldness of the Albacore in chasing and attacking the Gloire, several merchant vessels were saved from capture[1].”

Captain Davies was advanced to post rank, Feb. 19, 1814; and subsequently employed on the Canadian Lakes, under Sir James Lucas Yeo.

Agent.– Wm. Holmes, Esq.

  1. Nav. Hist. VI. 227 et seq.