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Royal Naval Biography/Fanshawe, Henry


HENRY FANSHAWE, Esq.
Knight of the Highest Military Russian Order of St. George.
[Post-Captain of 1814.]

This officer is the eldest son of the late General Fanshawe, who, after attaining the rank of colonel in the British army, entered the service of Russia, during the reign of the Empress Catharine II. by whose successor he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general, and appointed Governor-General of Kieff, in the year 1800. By the Emperor Alexander he was removed to the government of the Crimea, and presented with several decorations. In 1812, he served as volunteer under the Duke of Wirtemberg, at the blockade of Dantzic; and at the termination of the campaign he returned to St. Petersburgh, where he was named a senator, and received an arende in consideration of his long services. His declining health obliged him to solicit, from the late Czar, the permission of visiting some foreign watering places; but every attempt of art to prolong life proved vain, and after a painful and protracted illness, he expired at Warsaw, aged 72, leaving behind him five sons, three of whom are in the Russian service, and one a clergyman in England.

Mr. Henry Fanshawe was born at Shiplake, in Oxfordshire, Dec. 9, 1778. He commenced his professional career in the Russian marine, and did not enter the British navy until 1708, when we find him joining the Kent 74, bearing the flag of Lord Duncan, in the North Sea, from which ship he followed Sir Richard Bickerton into the Royal Sovereign, of 100 guns, on the Mediterranean station. His commission as lieutenant bears date May 25, 1805; at which period, we believe, he was appointed to the Courageux 74. His promotion to the rank of commander took place May 2, 1808; and on that occasion he appears to have received an appointment to the Grasshopper brig, of 18 guns, the fate of which vessel has been briefly noticed in the note at p. 13. We shall here give a more detailed account of her catastrophe.

The Grasshopper sailed from Wingo Sound, Gottenburg, Dec. 18, 1811, in company with the Hero 74, Egeria sloop, Prince William armed ship, fifteen sail of transports, and a fleet of merchantmen. The weather, from the day of her sailing, was dark, cloudy, and extremely boisterous, accompanied with snow storms. The Egeria and Prince William parted company about the 20th or 21st, with the trade for the Humber and Scotland.

On the 23d at noon, the Hero made signal to the Grasshopper to pass within hail, when, after a communication of reckoning, Captain Newman said he should alter the course to S.W. for the afternoon, as he conceived himself to be on the Silver Pits. “We were then,” says Captain Fanshawe, “steering W. by S. The course was accordingly altered to S.W. and continued so until 10 p.m.: the whole of that time blowing a hard gale, and the vessel going at the rate of nine or ten knots, under a close-reefed main-top-sail.

“At 10, the night signal was made to alter the course, two points to port, which was obeyed; and we continued running S.S.W. until three o’clock in the morning of the 24th, at which time we observed the Hero, as we supposed, round-to to sound ; but the fact was she had struck. As soon as her situation was ascertained, no time was lost in taking every measure to save the Grasshopper, by hauling off; but being already in broken water, the thing was impossible; and nothing but keeping right before the wind, could have saved us from total destruction. After about a quarter of an hour, during which she was at times aground fore and aft, we succeeded in forcing her over the sand bank, and fell into rather deeper water. The best bower was let go, and the sloop brought up; but, in five minutes after, she .truck again, and continued so doing occasionally all the time we lay at an anchor. At her first striking, the Hero fired guns and burnt blue lights; but in the space of 15 minutes, she ceased, in consequence, I suppose, of her being totally disabled.

“At day-break, I perceived our situation to be within the Northern Haak, about five or six miles from the Texel island, and about the same distance from the Helder Point. The Hero a complete wreck, lying on her starboard broadside, head to the N.E. and broken a-midships, the sea making a a tremendous breach over her occasionally. By this time, all the small craft from the Helder were under weigh, and turning out of the harbour to our assistance. We, in the meanwhile, hoisted out the boats, and made an attempt at getting near the Hero; but all our efforts were fruitless, owing to the terrible surf around her, and we were obliged to abandon all idea of being able to render her any relief till the arrival of the Dutch schuyts, which were plying to windward. They, however, did not get nearer than about three miles of us, before the ebb tide failed, and they were obliged to anchor.

“At four p.m., finding night fast closing in, and the weather very unpromising, and seeing no prospect of saving our own lives, but by surrendering ourselves to the enemy, we cut our cable, and made sail for the Helder, beating for the space of nearly 3 or 4 miles over the flats, after which we succeeded in getting round the point, where we struck to the Dutch fleet, under the command of Vice-Admiral De Winter. At day-light, on the morning of the 25th, not a vestige of the Hero was to be seen where she lay the previous day, she having gone to pieces during the night.”

Captain Fanshawe’s post commission bears date June 7, 1814. He married, first, in May 1810, Anna Maria, second daughter of Colonel Jenkinson, of the Board of Green Cloth; and, secondly, Jan. 20, 1823, Caroline, third daughter of Francis Fownes Luttrell, Esq. late Chairman of the Board of Customs. One of his brothers is an aide-de-camp to the Grand Duke Constantine.

Agent.– J. Clementson, Esq.