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Royal Naval Biography/Hollis, Aiskew Paffard

A Colonel of the Royal Marines[1].
[Post-Captain of 1798.]

This officer entered the naval service at an early age under the protection of Captain (afterward Vice-Admiral} Parry, with whom he served as a Midshipman, on board the Lynx, Lizard, and Actaeon, in the West Indies and British Channel. He subsequently joined the Vigilant of 64 guns, commanded by the late Admiral Sir Robert Kingsmill, Bart, which ship formed part of Admiral Keppel’s fleet, and was warmly engaged in the action with M. d’Orvilliers off Ushant, July 27, 1778.

Mr. Hollis’s promotion to a Lieutenancy took place Jan. 22, 1781; and from that period until July 27, 1793, we find him serving successively in the Seaford of 24 guns, Pégase 74, Narcissus 24, and Andromeda frigate, under the Captains Christian, Roberts, Marshall, Bligh, and Salisbury. At the latter period he was removed by Rear-Admiral Alan Gardner into his flag ship, the Queen, a second rate, then on the West India station, but soon afterwards attached to the Channel fleet under the orders of Earl Howe.

Early in 1794, the French fitted out a powerful fleet, manned with the flower of their marine, and commanded by an officer of acknowledged bravery and long experience. On board the Admiral’s ship were two Commissioners, delegated by the National Convention to animate by their presence the operations of the armament, and inspire the seamen with a more than ordinary portion of hostility against the British nation; but the intentions of the enemy, in spite of all their measures, and the bravery, bordering on desperation, with which they fought, were, happily for the safety of England, averted by the splendid victory gained by Earl Howe on the memorable 1st of June. The conduct of the Queen on that never to be forgotten occasion, and in the preceding battle of May 29, is thus described by a contemporary writer:

“Of the twelve or fourteen ships that had the good fortune to be engaged (May 29), the Queen, Royal George, and Royal Sovereign, were those only whose casualties were of serious consequence[2]. Such were the exertions on board the first-named ship of the three, that, before dark, new sails were bent fore and aft; a main-top-sail-yard had been got up for a fore-yard, a fore-top-gallant-mast for a mizen-top-mast, and a fore-top-gallant-yard for a mizen-top-sail-yard; and the Queen was reported again ready for service.” See James’s Nav. Hist. Part I. Vol. I. p. 201.

“The Queen, in bearing down to engage, (June 1,) having suffered considerably in her sails and rigging, was unable to get abreast of her proper opponent, the Northumberland; who, with her fore and main tacks down, was running fast a-head. She therefore closed with the seventh French ship, the Scipion. This ship also made sail a-head, and then ran to leeward; but the Queen kept close upon her starboard quarter, and annoyed her much. The Scipion, having had her colours twice shot away, re-hoisted them at the mizen-top-gallant-mast-head. At three quarters past ten, her mizen-mast came by the board. At eleven, the Queen’s mainmast went over the lee-side, springing, in its fall, the mizen-mast, and carrying away the fore part of the poop, and the barricade of the quarterdeck. In another quarter of an hour, the main-mast of the Scipion came down; and, almost immediately afterwards, her fore-mast. By this time the Queen had fallen round off; and the Scipion’s crew, having been driven from their quarters with great slaughter, came upon deck, and waved submission with their hats. But the Queen was in too disabled a state to take possession Her mizen-top mast had been shot away since the fall of her main-mast; her fore-mast and bowsprit had beeu shot through in several places; and her mizen-mast, from its wounds, was expected every instant to fall. Her rigging had been cut to pieces, and her sails all rendered useless.

“After about an hour’s exertions in repairing some of the principal damages, the Queen had got her head towards her own fleet, and was stemming along to leeward of it; when, at about half-past twelve, she discovered through the smoke, twelve sail of French ships standing towards her. The leading ship, the Montagne, passed without firing, and so did her second astern; but the third ship opened her fire, as did also every one of the remainder; the last of which was the Terrible, with only her foremast standing. The latter was towed into the line by three frigates; two of which cast off and hauled to windward, to engage the Queen. The latter, however, soon convinced them that her guns were not so disabled as her masts: and the two frigates put up their helms and ran to leeward, without returning a shot. The appearance of the Charlotte and the line a-stern of her, had caused the Montagne and her line to keep more away than was at first intended; and hence the Queen suffered but little from the distant cannonade she had been exposed to. The French line, on coming abreast of the Queen’s late antagonist, the Scipion, towed her off, as well as two other dismasted 2-deckers, lying close to her. The damages which the Queen had sustained have already appeared: her loss amounted this day, to 14 seamen and marines or soldiers, killed; her second, sixth, and an acting Lieutenant, one midshipman, and 36 seamen and marines or soldiers, wounded.” See id. p. 237, et seq.

The total number of killed and wounded on board the Queen, in the two actions, as stated in the London Gazette, agrees with the foregoing statements, but in the list of wounded presents us with the name of Captain Hutt, who lost a leg, and died a few days after his arrival at Portsmouth[3].

Among those who were seriously hurt in the conflict of June 1, but whose names were not reported as such, was Lieutenant Hollis, who received a severe contusion in the head by a splinter. The other officers of his rank wounded were Messrs. Dawes, Lawrie,and Crimes, the former mortally, On the 23d June in the ensuing year, the Queen formed part of Lord Bridport’s fleet in the affair off l’Orient, on which occasion three French ships of the line were captured, as already stated under the head of Sir William Domett, in our first volume.

Some time after this event Lieutenant Hollis accompanied Vice-Admiral Sir Alan Gardner into the Royal Sovereign, a first rate; and he continued to serve with that highly distinguished officer till Nov. 1, 1796, on which day he was promoted to the rank of Commander in the Chichester, a 44-gun ship, armed en flute, intended to form part of a squadron about to be placed under the orders of Lord Hugh, Seymour, for the reduction of the Manillas.

On the 10th Nov. 1797, Captain Hollis, being at the Cape of Good Hope, received an order from Rear-Admiral Pringle, commander-in-chief on that station, to assume the temporary command of the Jupiter, (her Captain, the present Vice-Admiral Losack, being absent on a court-martial,) and proceed with that ship to the advanced anchorage of Robin island, Where the Crescent frigate was then lying in a state of mutiny, and whose crew he was directed to reduce to immediate obedience. The Crescent was met by the Jupiter coming into Table Bay, towed under the batteries, her ringleaders secured, brought to trial, and punished. On the 16th of the same month Captain Hollis was posted into the Tremendous 74, bearing the Rear-Admiral’s flag; and a few weeks after appointed to the Vindictive, a small frigate, in which he was ordered home as convoy to a large fleet of East Indiamen.

On his arrival in England, the Hon. Court of Directors of the East India Company presented Captain Hollis with a valuable piece of plate. His advancement to post rank was confirmed by the Admiralty Feb. 5, 1798; and the Vindictive, owing to her bad condition, was paid off May 4th following. From this latter date We find no mention of our officer until June 8th, 1801, when he obtained the command of the Thames, a 32-gun frigate, in which he performed a most essential service on the 13th of the following month, by heaving off from the shoals of Conil, and with great exertions towing into Gibraltar the Venerable 74, commanded by the late gallant Sir Samuel Hood, who, when eagerly pursuing the French ship Formidable, forming part of the combined squadrons attacked by Sir James Saumarez in the Gut on the preceding night, had unfortunately grounded, and lost all his masts[4].

Sir James Saumarez, in his official despatch relative to the above action, makes particular mention of Captain Hollis; and the commander of the Venerable, when writing to the Rear-Admiral, three days after the action says, “it was only by the great exertion of the Thames, with the boats you sent me, the Venerable was saved, after being on shore some time.

Shortly after this event, Captain Hollis, in company with the Hon. Captain Dundas of the Calpe sloop of war, destroyed a number of the enemy’s coasters in the bay of Estapona; and on the 21st Sept. following, the boats of the Thames boarded and carried a Spanish privateer, carrying 2 four-pounders, 2 brass swivels, and 31 men. From this period Captain Hollis was employed on the coast of Egypt, and various other services in the Mediterranean, until the peace of Amiens, when he returned to England. The Thames was paid off Jan. 15, 1803.

In the ensuing autumn, our officer commissioned the Mermaid of 32 guns; and after cruising for some time in the Channel, escorted a fleet of merchantmen to the West Indies. In Oct. 1804, he was sent by Sir John T. Duckworth, the commander-in-chief at Jamaica, to reconnoitre the harbour and arsenal of the Havannah; and on the 16th of the following month, whilst lying there and preparing to entertain the Spanish officers at that place, he received information which induced him to believe hostilities with Spain were about to commence in Europe, and that it was most probable the government of Cuba were already in possession of similar information. In this situation, prompt measures only could save the Mermaid from detention, and he immediately determined to cut and run out with the land breeze; but to his mortification the night was perfectly calm. The ship, however, was unmoored without causing any alarm, and at daybreak, whilst the public authorities were deliberating on the propriety of detaining her, she warped out clear of the batteries.

There being at this time some valuable English merchant vessels in the Havannah, Captain Hollis lost no time in apprising them of their situation, and rendering them every assistance in his power to avoid the threatened danger. The Mermaid remained off the port three or four days, and in that time her boats brought out several vessels which she afterwards convoyed through the Gulf; and thus was saved, through the promptitude and exertions of Captain Hollis, property to a considerable amount, which would otherwise have been confiscated[5].

The Mermaid was subsequently employed blockading some French ships in the Chesapeake, and affording protection to the British trade between Nova Scotia and the West Indies; but being at length found defective, was ordered to England with a homeward bound fleet, and on the 20th Aug. 1807, put out of commission.

Captain Hollis’s next appointment was, March 16, 1809, to the Standard 64, forming part of the Baltic fleet under Sir James Saumarez, by whom he was entrusted with the command of a small squadron sent to reduce the Danish island of Anholt; which service was most ably effected by a strong detachment of seamen and marines landed with their respective officers, under the cover of the ships composing the squadron[6]. The garrison, consisting of 170 men, surrendered at discretion. On our side only 1 man was killed and 2 wounded.

This island, although of no. intrinsic value, proved of great importance to the British, as from its situation near the entrances of the Baltic sea, and the refuge it afforded to the enemy’s gun-boats and privateers, the safety of our valuable East country trade could never be relied on whilst it remained in the possession of Denmark. The utility of its capture may be inferred from the circumstance of Captain Hollis having afterwards passed through the Belt, at different times, with upwards of two thousand sail under his protection, going to and returning from the Baltic.

Early in 1811, the Standard was ordered to convoy a fleet of merchantmen to Lisbon and Cadiz, and to join the squadron employed in the defence of the latter place, at that time invested by a division of the French army. On the 16th April, in the same year, he was removed into the Achille of 80 guns, and attached to the fleet blockading Toulon. He subsequently visited Malta, from thence went to the protection of Sicily, and was ultimately ordered to the Adriatic, where he continued about eighteen months, during which time he was employed blockading the French and Venetian squadrons at Venice, consisting of three line-of-battle ships and a frigate ready for sea, and several of each class fitting in the arsenal. The Achille being in want of repair, was obliged to return to England in the summer of 1813, on which occasion Captain Hollis escorted home the Mediterranean trade.

After refitting his ship, and commanding the blockade of Cherbourgh for some time, our officer, in the month of May 1814, was ordered to take charge of some outward bound East India ships, and other vessels bound round Cape Horn, which he saw in safety to a certain latitude; when he detached them to their different destinations, and proceeded himself to reinforce Vice Admiral Dixon at Rio Janeiro. On bis return from South America, in company with the squadron, in the autumn of 1815, the Achille was put out of commission, and he remained on half-pay until Sept. 17, 1816, when he obtained the command of the Rivoli 74, stationed at Portsmouth, in which ship he continued till Feb. 18, 1817, when she was also paid off, in consequence of a further reduction of the naval force taking place at that period. On the llth Sept. 1818, he commissioned the Ramillies, another third rate, which he commanded nearly three years, occasionally hoisting a broad pendant as senior officer at Portsmouth, during the occasional absence, and after the demise, of Sir George Campbell, the commander-in-chief on that station, in 1819 and 1820, when his present Majesty visited Portsmouth, Captain Hollis had the honor of dining with his royal master, on the day of whose coronation he was nominated to one of the vacant Colonelcies of Royal Marines.

Our officer’s youngest sister is married to Captain George M‘Kinley, of the Royal Hospital at Greenwich.

Agent.– John Chippendale, Esq.

  1. At a period when the commerce of this country bore no proportion to its present extent, the supplies of seamen, under a system of impress, were extremely precarious, and often inadequate to the public emergencies. Experience had also shewn, that raw landsmen were most improper substitutes, as the sudden change of life rendered them subject to immediate disease and sea-sickness, at a time when their active serrices were required.

    These united causes originally suggested the expediency of forming an establishment of marines, who were raised and embodied with the sole view of being a nursery to man our fleets. They were always quartered in the vicinity of our principal sea-ports, where they were regularly trained to the different methods of ship-fighting, and to those various manoeuvres of a vessel, in which numbers were necessary. Being thus locally placed, their value was early felt by their exertions in equipping the squadrons fitted out, when but little confidence could be placed in the sailor, recently impressed into the service.

    The first authentic instance of any regiment of this description appears in the Army List of 1684, and from the return of the general review on Putney Heath, upon the 1st October in that yean It was then styled, “The Lord High Admiral of England, H.R.H. the Duke of York and Albany’s Maritime Regiment of Foot,” commanded by the Hon. Sir Charles Littleton, and called also the Admiral Regiment. It consisted of twelve companies, without any grenadiers, had yellow coats lined with red, and their colours were a red cross, with rays of the sun issuing from each of its angles.

    Many revolving years had witnessed the distinguished gallantry, and unimpaired loyalty of the corps of marines; the records of a British legislature had long teemed with grateful memorials of their merits upon the shores, and the ocean of every clime, but with scarcely one solid mark of recompense for all their brilliant services. It was reserved for the year 1802, and the ministerial auspices of Earl St. Vincent, to draw this body of faithful soldiers into a close alliance with a family and a throne, for whom they had so often bled, and round which they wilt no doubt rally to the latest period of their existence. The title of Royal was not the requirement of influence. No! it was the reward for more than 100 years of undiminished zeal; a monarch’s tributary sacrifice at the altar of honor! The following are the terms in which it was conveyed to Lieutenant-General Souter Johnstone, Commandant in Chief, on the day of a grand promotion in the navy:

    Admiralty-Office, April 29, 1802.

    “Sir– The Earl of St. Vincent having signified to my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, that his Majesty, in order to mark his royal approbation of .the very meritorious .conduct of the corps of Marines, during the late war, has been graciously pleased to direct, that, in future, the corps shall be styled ‘The Royal Marines.’

    “I have great satisfaction in obeying their Lordship’s commands to communicate this intelligence to you; and in offering their Lordships’ congratulations on this testimony of the opinion his Majesty entertains of the very distinguished services of that part of his forces to which you belong. I am, Sir, &c. &c.

    (Signed)Evan Nepean.”

    “Lieut.-Gen. Souter Johnstone,
    Commandant of the Marines.”

    The Royal Marines have lately been clothed in a manner similar to the guards. They are under the immediate control of the Admiralty, and nominally commanded by three general officers, and four colonels belonging to the sea-service these are at present H.R.H. the Duke of Clarence, General; Admiral Sir Richard Bickerton, Lieutenant-General; Vice-Admiral Sir George Cockburn, 'Major-General'; and Captains Hollis, Sir E. W. C. R. Owen, George Scott, and Sir T. M. Hardy, Colonels.

    The Royal Marine officers themselves never rise beyond the rank of colonel commandant in their own corps; but they attain the rank of general officer in the army. No commissions are bought or sold, but each officer rises according to his seniority. For further particulars see Vol. I note † at p. 132.

  2. Queen, mizen-top-mast and fore-yard shot away; main-mast, bowsprit, and foretop-mast shot through, 22 men killed, and 27 wounded.
  3. See Vol. I. note at p. 614.
  4. See Vol. I. p. 191; and at p. 187, line 9 from the bottom, for William Lukin substitute Aiskew Paffard Hollis.
  5. A few days after the performance of the above-important service, certain intelligence was received in the West Indies of a British squadron having attacked four Spanish frigates laden with treasure, of which three were captured and one blown up, on the 5th of the preceding month, just six weeks prior to Captain Hollis’s departure from the Havannah. See Vol. I, p. 536.
  6. Standard 64, Captain Hollis; Owen Glendower frigate, Captain Selby; Ranger, Rose, and Avenger sloops, Captains Acklom, Mansel, and White; and Snipe gun-brig, Lieutenant Champion.