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Royal Naval Biography/Halkett, Peter

Vice-Admiral of the Blue; and a Member of the Committee of the Kinloch Bequest to the Scottish Corporation[1].

This officer is the second son of the late Sir John Halkett, Bart.[2], of Pitferran, N.B. by Mary, daughter of the Hon. John Hamilton, grand uncle of the present Earl of Haddington. At the commencement of the war with France in 1793, we find him serving as Lieutenant of the Syren, in which frigate the Duke of York proceeded to Holland for the purpose of taking the command of the British troops sent thither to co-operate with the Dutch against the republican armies; and H.R.H. was so much pleased with the zeal and activity displayed by Mr. Halkettin assisting the garrison of William stadt, at that time besieged by the French, that he soon after obtained for him the rank of Commander; and on his return from the continent, that of Post-Captain. The Prince of Orange also, as a mark of the high sense he entertained of the eminent services performed by him in the gun-boats, ordered him to be presented with a medal, with a suitable inscription, value 500 guilders[3].

Captain Halkett’s post commission bears date Aug. 13, 1794; he was soon after appointed to the Circe, of 28 guns, stationed in the North Sea; where nothing material occurred until the spring of 1797, when an alarming mutiny broke out amongst the crews of the ships under the orders of Admiral Duncan, and at the Nore[4]. Happily the Circe escaped the contagion, and Captain Halkett received the thanks of the Admiralty, and the freedom of the town of Hull, for the conduct of his ship during that alarming period.

Early in Oct. 1797, the Circe formed part of the squadron left off the Texel under Sir Henry Trollope, to watch the Dutch fleet; and at the battle off Camperdown, on the 11th of that month, she was one of Admiral Duncan’s repeaters.

<span id="">Our officer’s next appointment was to the Apollo, a fine frigate, in which he had the misfortune to be wrecked, Jan. 7, 1799, on the Haak Sands, while in chase of a Dutch ship. The crew were saved by a Prussian vessel that went down to their assistance. On the 15th, Captain Halkett was tried by a Court Martial, for the loss of the Apollo; and nothing appearing to criminate him in the least, a verdict of acquittal was pronounced. The pilot, through whose neglect the unfortunate accident arose, was dismissed his Majesty’s service.

In the course of the same year, the subject of this sketch obtained the command of a new frigate of the same name, in which he was sent as convoy to the outward bound West India fleet. On his passage he captured the Aquilla, of 4 guns, pierced for 22, with a valuable cargo from Buenos Ayres, bound to Corunna. During his stay on the Jamaica station, he also took the following vessels; Cantabrian, Spanish corvette, of 18 guns and 100 men, with a cargo, off the Havannah; Resolution, (formerly a British cutter) 18 guns, 149 men; and Vigilante, French privateer, of 14 guns, in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Apollo arrived at Portsmouth, March 12, 1802. Captain Halkett subsequently commanded the Ganges, of 74 guns; and on the 12th Aug. 1812, was advanced to the rank of Rear-Admiral. In 1815, his flag was flying on board the Gladiator, in Portsmouth harbour. He attained his present rank at the last general promotion, July 19, 1821.

Our officer married, Oct. 14, 1802, Elizabeth, daughter of William Tod, of London, Esq. Mrs. Halkett died at Clifton in 1814.

  1. The Scottish Corporation for the relief of Natives of Scotland, who have acquired no parochial settlement in England, was founded by King Charles II, and re-incorporated in 1775. The Kinloch Bequest is a trust to the Hospital, for annuities to 500 seamen and soldiers who have been wounded in the public service.
  2. John Wedderburn, of Gosford, Esq., who, upon failure of issue of his uncle, Sir Peter Halkett, second Baronet of Gosford, and third of the name of Halkett, of Pitferran, succeeded to the estate agreeably to the entail, and also to the dignity of Baronet; he subsequently denuded himself of the estate of Gosford, in favour of his immediate younger brother, and took the name and title of Sir John Halkett, of Pitferran, Bart. He served as a Captain of the army at the reduction of Guadaloupe, in 1758; and died Aug. 7, 1793.
  3. On the night of March 15, 1793, a party from the Syren, then lying in the Maese, embarked on board three gun-boats, under the orders of Lieutenant John Western; who taking advantage of the calm and fog that prevailed, pulled across to the French batteries, five in number, which had been erected to bombard Williamstadt. So animated and destructive a fire was kept up by the British, that their force became trebled in the eyes of the French; and the latter abandoned their works and fled. The governor of Williamstadt having had no intimation of the intended diversion in his behalf, was surprised at the firing; and received Lieutenant Western, on his landing the next morning, with heartfelt thanks. The latter, in the course of the day, was gratified at seeing the Dutch soldiers enter the town, with the cannon which he and his brave followers had compelled the French to abandon. Lieutenant Western was killed in a subsequent attack on the enemy’s entrenched camp at the Noord post on the Moordyke. His remains were attended to the church at Dordrecht by the Duke of York, who ordered a monument, with an appropriate inscription, to be erected to his memory.
  4. See p. 160, et seq.