Royal Naval Biography/Eyles, Thomas

Rear-Admiral of the Red.

This officer obtained the rank of Post-Captain, July 13, 1795, and was soon after appointed to the Pomone, of 44 guns. In 1796, through the ignorance of a French pilot, that fine frigate ran ashore near Nantz, and was with difficulty got off again. Her leaky state caused her to be sent home; nor could Sir John B. Warren, under whose orders she had been cruizing, spare a ship to accompany her. At one time the leak, which was under the step of the fore-mast, had brought her so much by the head, that no water could be got to the pumps; but, finally, by great exertions on the part of her officers and crew, she reached Plymouth, and was run into the harbour without asking the usual leave. For his promptitude on this occasion, Captain Eyles received the thanks of the Admiralty. He subsequently commanded the Canada, of 74 guns, bearing the broad pendant of Sir John B. Warren; and after the action with M. Bompard, off the coast of Ireland, Oct. 12, 1798[1], removed with him into the Temeraire, of 98 guns; and from that ship to the Renown, 74, in which he continued until the month of Nov. 1800.

In the autumn of 1801, Captain Eyles was again appointed to the Temeraire, then bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral (afterwards Sir George) Campbell. Towards the latter end of the same year, the main body of the Channel fleet rendezvoused at Bantry Bay, in Ireland, and a detachment consisting of six sail of the line was ordered from thence to the West Indies, to watch the motions of an armament which had recently sailed from France, for the ostensible purpose of reducing the blacks in St. Domingo to obedience.

On the receipt of these orders, the crew of the Temeraire broke out into the most violent and daring acts of insubordination; but by the spirited firmness and exertions of Captain Eyles and his officers, the mutiny was suppressed, and the ringleaders, to the number of twenty, were secured, and taken round to Portsmouth to be tried for their offence.

On the 6th Jan. 1802, fourteen of the mutineers were put on their trial, which continued till the 10th; when the whole of the evidence having been heard, as well as what the prisoners had to offer in their defence, the court, after the most mature deliberation, pronounced sentence of death on thirteen, the other to receive 200 lashes round the fleet. On the 15th, six of these unhappy men were executed at Spithead; the following paper, which one of them presented when they came upon the platform, was read aloud to the ship’s company of the Temeraire:

“Remember your duty to God, and for his sake to your King and Country; you must be sensible what was the chief cause that brought on the fatal consequences which now end so unhappily for us, and with so much remorse to you, if you rightly consider how much you have contributed, by your support and countenance, to bring us to this untimely end.

“We refused to put that trust and confidence in the wisdom of our rulers, which is due to them from all good subjects; they watch for the welfare of us all; and how dare we then prefer our own selfish pleasures and interests to what they saw necessary to the public good? How could we find it in our hearts to forfeit all the praises and the honors which our country had so gratefully bestowed upon her naval heroes, who have so bravely fought for her?

“How could we so foolishly surfer our impatience to get the better of us, as for the sake of a few months longer service, to sacrifice all the blessings of peace we had been toiling for these nine long years?

“Oh! that we had made these reflections sooner ourselves! But our lot is cast – our course in this world is finished. Make good use of what remains of yours. It cannot be long before we must all meet again before the judgment-seat of that God whom we have offended; but who, we trust, has seen and accepted our unfeigned repentance, and will forgive us, as we do truly and freely forgive all those who have many wise offended or injured us. Prepare yourselves also, dear countrymen, for this forgiveness, that when we meet in the world to come, we may not meet in everlasting misery.

“Pray for us – we heartily pray for you. – Amen!”

On the 14th, six more of the mutineers were tried; and on the 16th sentence of death pronounced on five, the other to receive 200 lashes from ship to ship.

On the 19th they were executed; three on board l’Achille, and two on board the Centaur.

Taylor, one of the mutineers, addressed the ship’s company of l’Achille as follows:

“I hope the ship’s company of the Achille, as well as the spectators present, will take warning hy my example. It is impossible for seamen to succeed in any attempt to mutiny. Sailors never did stick to each other on such an occasion. Those who attempt to violate the laws of the land, or naval discipline, must inevitably expect to meet with the same disgraceful end I am going to suffer. I acknowledge the justness of my sentence, and forgive all parties concerned against me. I have made my peace with God, and am ready to die.”

On the 7th of the following month, Rear-Admiral Campbell, with six ships of the line, one frigate, and a sloop, sailed for his original destination; and returned from thence June 1st, in the same year.

From this period we find no mention of Captain Eyles until the spring of 1809, when he was appointed to the Plantagenet, of 74 guns. Early in 1813, he obtained the command of the Royal Charlotte yacht; and on the 4th June, in the following year, was advanced to the rank of Rear-Admiral.