Royal Naval Biography/Digby, Henry

Senior Rear-Admiral of the Blue; and a Companion of (he most honorable Military Order of the Bath.

This officer is the eldest son of the late Hon. and Rev. William Digby, Dean of Durham, Vicar of Coles Hill, a Chaplain in Ordinary to the King, and Canon of Christ Church, by Charlotte, daughter of Joseph Cox, Esq., and niece of the late Sir Charles Sheffield, Bart.[1]

He went to sea at an early age with the late Admiral Innes; served for some time as a Midshipman on board the Eurepa, of 50 guns, in the West Indies; was made a Lieutenant in 1790; commanded the Incendiary sloop in 1796, and subsequently the Aurora, a small frigate, on the Lisbon station, where he cruised with very great activity; and in addition to forty-eight sail of the enemy’s merchantmen taken, sunk, or destroyed by him, captured the following national vessels and privateers; la Velos Arragonesa Spanish frigate, pierced for 30 guns, with a complement of 100 men; the Egalité French corvette, of 20 guns and 200 men; a privateer of the same force; and seven others carrying in the whole 71 guns and upwards 400 men. His post commission bears date Dec. 19, 1796.

In the autumn of 1798, Captain Digby was appointed to the Leviathan, a third rate, bearing the broad pendant of Commodore Duckworth, with whom he served at the reduction of Minorca, which was effected by a squadron consisting of two 74’s, one 44, and seven smaller vessels, in conjunction with a body of troops commanded by the Hon. Charles Stuart. The Spanish garrison was between 3000 and 4000 strong, and had the means of making a stout resistance; notwithstanding which the British obtained possession of the island without the loss of a man. A great quantity of ordnance and military stores were taken in the forts. At Port Mahon were found an abundance of naval stores, a brig of war on the stocks, 14 gun-boats, and several merchant-vessels.

Our officer’s next appointment was, early in 1799, to the Alcmene frigate, in which he cruised between the coast of Portugal and the Azores, and made many captures; among others the Courageux French privateer, of 28 guns, pierced for 32, and 253 men[errata 1]; la Felicidad, a Spanish ship pierced for 22 guns, laden with hemp, a few lower masts, and ship timber; El Bisarro brig, with ship timber and iron; les Deux Amis, French letter of marque, of 6 guns and 60 men; and le Depit, privateer, of 8 guns and 45 men.

On the 18th Oct., 1799, the Alcmene, in company with the Naiad and Triton frigates, had the good fortune to intercept the Santa Brigida, of 36 guns and 300 men, from Vera Cruz bound to Spain, having on board 1,400,000 dollars, independent of a cargo of immense value. On the preceding day, the Ethalion, belonging to the same squadron, having parted company in chace, took the Thetis, a ship of similar force, and with a cargo of equal estimation[2]. In the running fight kept up by the Santa Brigida, the Alcmene had 1 man killed and 9 wounded.

Captain Digby continued to be employed on the Lisbon and Mediterranean stations until the spring of 1801, when he was removed into the Resistance, a frigate of the largest class, and ordered to North America. On his passage out, he captured the Elizabeth, a French letter of marque from Cayenne bound to Bourdeaux, the last vessel taken during that war. He returned to England Nov. 30, in the same year; and during the remainder of the winter was employed in the Channel, cruising against the smugglers.

We next find Captain Digby commanding the Africa, of 64 guns, in which ship he bore a conspicuous part at the defeat of the combined fleets of France and Spain on the ever memorable 21st of October. For his conduct in that glorious battle, on which occasion 18 of his crew were slain and 44 wounded; he was honored with a gold medal, and, in common with his brother officers, received the thanks of both Houses of Parliament. His advancement to the rank of Rear-Admiral took place Aug. 12, 1819; previous to which he had been nominated a Companion of the most honorable Military Order of the Bath.

Our officer married, March 17, 1806, Jane Elizabeth, relict of Charles Viscount Andover (son of the Earl of Suffolk and Berkshire) and daughter of Thomas William Coke, Esq., M.P. for Norfolk, who in respect to landed property, is one of the most powerful commoners in Great Britain. The Rear-Admiral’s family consists of two sons and one daughter.

Town-residence.– 78, Harley Street.

  1. The Dean was a brother of Henry, first Earl Digby, and uncle to the present peer.
  2. See p 684.

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