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Royal Naval Biography/Hanwell, William


WILLIAM HANWELL, Esq
[Post-Captain of 1798.]

This officer obtained his first commission about the year 1793; and in 1798? we find him serving as senior Lieutenant of the Sheerness 44, bearing the broad pendant of Commodore James Cornwallis, on the African station.

There is a privilege existing, from time immemorial, which is not enjoyed on any other station than that of the coast of Africa: it is that of the next officer giving himself the rank of his deceased superior; and which self-appointments have ever been held good by the Admiralty. Commodore Cornwallis died of a fever July 31, 1798; when Lieutenant Hanwell, who succeeded him in the command of the Sheerness, gained two gradations of rank, which, on his arrival in England, was confirmed by a post commission, dated Dec. 29, 1798. We know of no other living instance of such a fortunate advancement in the navy[1].

Early in 1810, Captain Hanwell obtained the command of the Grampus, a 50-gun ship; and on the 26th Oct. in the following year, he was tried by a court-martial upon a charge of repeated drunkenness and unofficer-like conduct, preferred against him by Lieutenant John Chesshire. The Court agreeing that the charge was not proved, acquitted him; observing, that the prosecution appeared to be malicious and vexatious. He subsequently commanded the Dictator 64; and during the latter part of the war superintended the depot for prisoners, of war at Norman Grogs.

Captain Hanwell married, in 1800, Miss Hanwell of Mixbury, near Brackley, Northamptonshire.

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  1. The Naval Instructions, established by an order in council, Jan. 25, 1806, appear to abrogate this regulation, so far as concerns post rank; see sect. iv. chap. 2. art. viii.