Royal Naval Biography/Griffiths, Anselm John

[Post-Captain of 1802.]

This officer is a son of the late Rev. John Griffiths, of Kingston-upon-Thames. He entered the naval service as a Midshipman on board the Juno frigate, commanded by Captain James Montagu, in Jan. 1781; obtained his first commission Nov. 22, 1790; and after serving for some time as first Lieutenant of the Fly sloop, on the Newfoundland station, was appointed, in Nov. 1792, to the Culloden of 74 guns, in which ship he continued, under the respective commands of Captains Sir Thomas Rich, R. R. Burgess, Isaac Schomberg, and Thomas Troubridge, till his promotion to the rank of Commander, March 8, 1797.

The Culloden formed part of Earl Howe’s fleet in the battle of June 1, 1794; and bore a principal part in Vice-Admiral Hotham’s action, July 13, 1795. Her loss on each of those days was 2 men killed and 5 wounded. The services she performed on the memorable 14th Feb. 1797, have already been alluded to in the course of this work[1], and were thus noticed by Sir John Jervis, in a private letter to Earl Spencer, respecting the conduct of certain officers concerned in the engagement:

My Lord,– The correct conduct of every officer and man in the squadron on the 14th inst., made it improper to distinguish one more than another in my public letter, because I am confident that had those who were least in action been in the situation of the fortunate few, their behaviour would not have been less meritorious. Yet to your Lordship it becomes me to state, that Captain Troubridge, in the Culloden, led the squadron through the enemy in a masterly style, and tacked the instant the signal flew; and was gallantly supported by the Blenheim, Prince George, Orion, Irresistible, and Colossus. The latter had her fore and fore-top-sail yards wounded, and they unfortunately broke in the slings in stays, which threw her out and impeded the tacking of the Victory. Commodore Nelson, who was in the rear on the starboard tack, took the lead on the larboard, and contributed very much to the fortune of the day, as did Captain Collingwood; and, in the close, the San Josef and San Nicholas having fallen foul of each other, the Captain laid them on board, and Captain Berry, who served as a volunteer, entered at the head of the boarders, and Commodore Nelson, who followed immediately, took possession of them both.”

We have inserted the above document from two motives: that of shewing the estimation in which the Culloden’s services were held by the commander-in-chief; and that of endeavouring to do away a misconception which has prevailed,, respecting the veteran Admiral himself, in consequence of his having omitted specifically to notice the exertions of such officers as most effectually contributed to the success of the action[2]. It is now only necessary to add, that the Captain and Culloden alone, turned the whole van of the Spanish fleet, consisting of three first rates, and several two-deckers; and that the latter ship, at the close of the action, was in a worse state than any other of the British squadron, the Captain alone excepted. Her loss consisted of 10 men killed and 47 wounded.

The subject of this memoir was promoted, at the period we have already mentioned, for his conduct as first Lieutenant of the Culloden on the above glorious occasion; and during the ensuing eight months we find him holding an appointment in the Sea Fencible service, in the Isle of Wight. He obtained the command of the Atalante of 16 guns, in Nov. 1798; and was posted from that vessel, after cruising with considerable activity against the enemy’s privateers, in the Channel and North Sea, April 29, 1802[3].

In Sept. following, Captain Griffiths was appointed to the Constance of 24 guns, which ship appears to have been successively employed in the blockade of the Elbe, and as a cruiser on the coast of Portugal, and in the Channel. In July, 1806, he removed into the Topaze frigate, on the Irish station, from whence he proceeded to Davis’s Straits, for the protection of the whale fishery, in company with Captain, now Rear-Admiral, Maitland, of the Boadicea. He was subsequently ordered to the Mediterranean, where he left the Topaze and joined the Leonidas frigate in the month of July, 1809; a short time previous to which his boats, commanded by Lieutenant Charles Hammond, made an attack on nine of the enemy’s vessels lying at anchor in the road of Demata, on the coast of Albania; and, notwithstanding the opposition of a very superior force, five of them being regularly armed for war, and in complete preparation for resistance, succeeded in bringing them all out, with the loss of only one man killed and another wounded[4].

The Leonidas formed part of the squadron under Captain Spranger, at the capture of Cephalonia, Oct. 4, 1809[5], and assisted at the reduction of St. Maura, by the military and naval forces under Brigadier-General Oswald, and Captain George Eyre, in March and April, 1810. The particulars of that service are detailed in the latter officer’s public letter, a copy of which will be found at p. 404, et seq. of Vol. II. part I.

Captain Griffiths left the Leonidas, in 1813, and has not since been afloat. He married, June 7, 1802, Miss Parker, of Arundel.

Agent.– Harry Cook, Esq.

  1. See Vol. I. pp. 24, 25, and 775; also memoir of Captain James Noble, at p. 567 et seq. of this part.
  2. Charnock, in his “Biographical Memoirs of Lord Nelson,” at p. 74, says, “No particular observation is made on the conduct of Lord Nelson [in the official or Gazette account]: and that circumstance, perhaps, paradoxical as it may appear, is in itself a matter of the highest praise; for it is the natural infirmity of the human mind, to be silent as to the promulgation of that worth, which it feels itself shrink as it were from the task of paying sufficient tribute to.”
  3. On the 10th Aug. 1801, a gallant little exploit was performed by Mr. Francis Smith, a Midshipman of the Atalante, who with eight men, in a six-oared cutter, captured a French national lugger mounting two 4-pounders and four swivels; the cool intrepidity with which he rowed up in face of a brisk discharge of cannister and grape from the vessel, and a cross fire from two small land batteries, excited his commander’s admiration. The lugger was lying about mukset shot from the French shore; notwithstanding which she was boarded and brought off without any body being hurt on the part of the British, who jumped on board at the moment her crew were deserting her.
  4. The vessels captured on this occasion were loaded with timber and brandy on government account, and were bound to Corfu, where their cargoes were much needed. They consisted of three armed vessels carrying in the whole 15 guns, 6 swivels, and 93 men; two gun-boats; and four trabaccolas. Lieutenant Hammond had previously received a severe wound, whereby his right hand was rendered nearly useless, when cutting out two vessels on the same coast; he subsequently distinguished himself at the destruction of a French convoy in the bay of Rosas, an account of which will be given in our memoir of Captain John Tailour.
  5. SSee Vol. I, p. 719.