Royal Naval Biography/King, William

[Post-Captain of 1807.]

Commenced his naval career at a very early age, under the patronage of the Earl of Sandwich, then First Lord of the Admiralty. When only sixteen years of age, we find him acting as Lieutenant of the Defence 74, commanded by Captain Thomas Newnham, under whom he bore a part in the action between Sir Edward Hughes and Mon. de Suffrein, off Cuddalore, June 20, 1783[1]. The Defence, on that occasion, had 7 killed and 38 wounded.

On his return to England, Mr. King quitted the service, and continued at home for a considerable period, in consequence of which he did not obtain a commission until 1790. In 1794, he again sailed for the East Indies, as first Lieutenant to Commodore Rainier. Returning from India, as an invalid; in one of the Hon. Company’s ships, he was captured by an enemy’s cruiser, the commander of which accepted his parole, and furnished him with the means of reaching Scilly, from whence he was conveyed to the Cornish shore in one of H.M. schooners, under the orders of Captain Byng, now Viscount Torrington. During the remainder of the French revolutionary war, he served as first Lieutenant to Captain (now Sir Philip) Durham.

We next find Mr. King commanding the Cuvarra merchant ship; and at the renewal of hostilities he was appointed to a gun-brig, which vessel he gave up in order to become Sir Home Popham’s first Lieutenant, in the Diadem 64. By that officer he was successively appointed Commander of l’Espoir brig, and Captain of the Diadem; but these and other unauthorised acts of the Commodore during and subsequent to the expedition against the Cape of Good Hope, in 1805 and 1806, were highly disapproved of by the Admiralty, and consequently never confirmed.

The subject of this sketch commanded l’Espoir at the reduction of the Cape, and afterwards proceeded in the Diadem to the Rio de la Plata. His services there are thus noticed by Sir Home Popham, in an official letter announcing the capture of Buenos Ayres:–

“The squadron anchored on the afternoon of the 25th (June) off Point Quelmey à Pouchin, about 12 miles from Buenos Ayres. * * * * The Encounter was run in so close as to take the ground, the more effectually to cover the debarkation of the army in case of necessity: the whole, however, was landed in the course of the evening without the least opposition; consisting of the detachment of H.M. troops from the Cape, and that from St. Helena, with the marine battalion, under the orders of Captain King, of H.M.S. Diadem, which was composed of the marines of the squadron, augmented by the incorporation of some seamen, and three companies of Royal Blues, from the same source of enterprise, which had been regularly trained for that duty, and dressed in an appropriate uniform.

“I consider Captain King, with the officers of the marine battalion, so completely under the report of General Beresford, that I shall only state to their Lordships my extreme satisfaction on hearing personally from the General how highly he appreciated every part of their conduct, particularly the celerity with which they transported the artillery and troops across the Rio Chuelo ” (on rafts, &c., prepared by Captain King) “after the bridge was burnt by the enemy.”

We have reason to believe, that Captain King’s actual promotion to the rank of Commander took place at the close of Lord Barham’s naval administration; and that he was posted ia consequence of having served as a volunteer on the expedition against Copenhagen. His latter commission bears date Oct. 13, 1807.

Captain King subsequently commanded the flag-ship of Rear-Admiral Durham, on the North Sea station. Since the peace, 1814, we find him successively appointed to the Leonidas and Eridanus frigates, to the preventive service in the Isle of Sheppy, and to superintend the packet establishment at Falmouth, which last appointment he obtained April 7, 1823.

Whilst residing in the above island. Captain King suggested the propriety of placing the hawse-holes of two-decked ships on the main-decks, and of three-deckers on the middle-decks; in order that the grand battery might always be unincumbered; that the cables might be bent or lashed, and a foul anchor cleared, with greater facility and less danger; and that many other advantages might be obtained, the whole of which are pointed out and explained by him in a long letter to Sir George Cockburn, G.C.B., dated April 21, 1822.

Captain King’s youngest son, a midshipman on board H.M.S. Pyramus, died at Antigua, of the yellow fever, Feb. 7, 1822. His daughter is married to the Rev. Mr. Heath, late one of the Masters of Eton College.

Agents.– Messrs. Maude.