Royal Naval Biography/Douglas, Francis
FRANCIS DOUGLAS, Esq.
[Post-Captain of 1810.]
Eldest son of the late Francis Douglas, Esq., many years a Purser R.N.
This officer was born at Portsmouth, June 9, 1772; and he entered the navy as a midshipman, on board the Trimmer brig. Captain (now Sir Charles) Tyler, in Oct. 1786. We subsequently find him serving in the Adamant 50, and Alcide 74; the latter ship commanded by his father’s first cousin. Sir Andrew Snape Douglas, of whom mention is made at p. 54, of Vol. II, Part I. While belonging to the Adamant, Mr. Douglas was lent, with 20 of her crew, to the Alert schooner, Lieutenant (now Captain) John Crispo; in which vessel he had the misfortune to be wrecked on St. John’s, now Prince Edward’s Island, when returning from Quebec to Halifax, 1791.
Mr. Douglas next joined the Lizard of 28 guns, and afterwards the Inconstant 36; from which latter frigate he removed to the Victory, a first rate, bearing the flag of Lord Hood, by whom he was made a Lieutenant, and appointed to command the St. Croix schooner, on the Mediterranean station, April 5, 1794.
In that vessel, Mr. Douglas assisted at the reduction of Bastia; and the Swallow lugger, to which he was then removed, bore a part in the subsequent operations against Calvi. He afterwards commanded the Sincerity cutter, and served as second Lieutenant of the Bedford 74, Captain (now Sir Davidge) Gould, at the capture of the Ca Ira and Censeur, French line-of-battle ships, near Genoa, March 14, 1795. On this occasion, the Bedford had 7 men killed, and 18, including her first Lieutenant (Thomas Miles) wounded. All her rigging and sails were much cut, and her bowsprit, fore-mast, fore-yard, main-top-sail-yard, and mizen-top-mast, shot away.
Mr. Miles being promoted in consequence of the above action, Lieutenant Douglas became first of the Bedford, previous to Vice-Admiral Hotham’s skirmish with the Toulon fleet, off the Hières islands, July 13, 1795; and he continued as such until her return to England, under the command of Captain Augustus Montgomery, in Oct. 1796. An account of her rencontre with a French squadron off Cape St. Vincent, is given at p. 610 of Vol. I, Part II.
Lieutenant Douglas’s next appointment was to the Repulse of 64 guns. The manner in which that ship effected her escape from the mutinous fleet at the Nore, is thus related by a contemporary:–
“The Leopard of 50 guns, under the command of Lieutenant Robb, (the Captain having, been sent on shore), had the distinguished honor of being the first to abandon the cause, after the infamous proposal of going over to the enemy was made known. This ship had been one of the most violent: * * * * *
“The example of the Leopard was soon followed by the Repulse of 64 guns; but this ship lay too far to the westward, to weather the Nore sand, and gain the river Thames; she was therefore obliged to ran for Sheerness harbour. Unfortunately, the tide at that moment did not serve, – it was about three o’clock, and there was not sufficient water to carry her over the shoal, – this the pilot in vain represented to the seamen, who, in this ship were nearly all in favour of the government; and flying suddenly from one extreme to the other, insisted upon the cables being cut and sail made: this was done; but as the pilot had foretold, the ship grounded very soon after, and lay exposed to the fire of the whole fleet, for the space of an hour and twenty minutes; those ships whose guns could not otherwise be brought to bear, got springs on their cables, with a degree of celerity, that would have gained them immortal honour in a better cause: among these were (was) the Director of sixty-four guns, commanded by Captain William Bligh if he could be said to command her under such circumstances. The officers of the Repulse now saw, that every energy was required on their part to save the ship’s company, who had thus rashly committed themselves; the latter seemed also determined, by their coolness and good conduct, to atone for their past misdeeds.
“The water in the hold was started, the casks stove, and a strong party sent to the pumps. In this manner the ship was lightened; and, as the tide rose, she floated off, and ran into the harbour, having received no other damage than the destruction of her lower and running rigging, some shot in her hull and masts, and only one person wounded. Lieutenant George Augustus Delano, who lost his leg. From this time the cause of mutiny rapidly declined; the ships deserted, one after the other, in quick succession.”
Lieutenant Douglas’s conduct during the mutiny was so very exemplary that Admiral Duncan immediately afterwards took him into his own flag-ship, the Venerable 74. The merchants of London presented him with a sword value 100l.; and the Admiralty ordered a Commander’s commission to be made out for him, but cancelled it in consequence of not knowing how to draw a line, and in order to avoid establishing a precedent!
On the ever memorable 11th Oct. 1707, Venerable sustained a loss of 15 killed and 62 wounded: among the latter was Lieutenant Douglas, severely in the head and hand. From that ship, the subject of this sketch followed Lord Duncan into the Kent 74, Captain (now Sir William) Hope, under whom he continued to serve until his promotion to the rank of Commander, June 2, 1800.
In Jan. 1805, Captain Douglas was appointed to the Cyclops frigate, armed en flûte, and stationed as a guard-ship off Lymington. His post commission bears date Oct. 21, 1810; at which period he commanded the Peruvian brig, of 18 guns.
Since 1815, Captain Douglas has enjoyed a pension of 250l. per annum for the severe wounds he received off Camperdown. His brother, William Henry Douglas, is a Commander of 1813.
Agent.– Sir F. M. Ommanney.
- See Vol. I, Part I, p. 251, et seq.
- See id. note at p. 340.
- Bounty Bligh, see Vol. II, Part II, pp. 747–786.
- Brenton’s Nav. His. Vol, I, p. 436.
- See Nav. Biog. Vol. I. Part I. note at pp. 150–151.