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Royal Naval Biography/Knight, George William Henry


GEORGE WILLIAM HENRY KNIGHT, Esq.
[Post-Captain of 1814.]

Is the eldest son of Admiral Sir John Knight, K.C.B. by his first wife, who died in Nov. 1798[1].

This officer entered the navy at an early age, and served for some time under the command of his father, with whom he sailed for the Mediterranean, May 22, 1793, as midshipman on board Lord Hood’s flag-ship, the Victory of 100 guns. He was consequently present at the occupation and evacuation of Toulon; likewise at the reduction of St. Fiorenzo, Bastia, and Calvi, in 1794[2].

On the 13th July, 1795, Mr. Knight witnessed the capture and destruction of l’Alcide French 74[3]. In Dec. following, he was removed to the Princess Royal 98, bearing the flag of Vice-Admiral Robert Linzee, which ship returned home in Sept. 1796. He then joined the Montagu 74, commanded by his father, on the North Sea station.

The Montagu formed part of Admiral Duncan’s fleet at the battle of Camperdown, on which memorable occasion Mr. Knight appears to have received a severe contusion. She was subsequently employed off Cadiz, under Lords St. Vincent and Keith.

On the 5th Mar. 1799, Mr. Knight was appointed a lieutenant of the Montagu; and we soon afterwards find him conducting a prize to Gibraltar, where he volunteered his services in a gun-boat, sent with three others to repel an attack made by 17 of the Algeziras flotilla upon a valuable fleet of merchantmen. After a severe action of nearly two hours, his boat was carried by boarding, and one of her companions sunk; but he had the satisfaction to see all the convoy, except 3 sail, escape. When exchanged, he was tried by a court-martial, honorably acquitted, and highly complimented on his gallantry and perseverance in maintaining so unequal a conflict.

The Montagu subsequently followed the enemies’ combined fleets up the Mediterranean, and from thence to Brest, off which port Captain Knight remained for some time in command of the inshore squadron.

On the 12th April, 1800, the Montagu brought 7 French frigates to action in Bertheaume bay; but from their being protected by numerous batteries, was unable to capture either. “A. very meritorious piece of service performed by the boats of that ship, and of the Magnificent 74,” is thus detailed by Captain Knight, in a letter to Earl St. Vincent:–

Montagu, Oct. 13, 1800.

“On returning westward yesterday, before l’Orient, I saw, at noon, a small convoy of brigs, sloops, &c. taking refuge in Port Danenne, which I approached, and prepared the armed boats of the two ships to attack. While placing the Montagu to cover them, I despatched her boats, under the direction of Lieutenants Bissell and Knight, who were followed and ably supported by those of the Magnificent, in which were Lieutenants Dunlop and Griffiths: notwithstanding the fire kept up from two armed vessels, and a battery firing round and grape, under which the convoy lay, touching the ground, they boarded, took possession of, and brought out eleven vessels, after burning one; another had been sunk by the enemy’s shot; leaving only one, whose situation in the creek would not admit of getting her out.

“This service, completely and expeditiously performed, with the loss of only one seaman killed and three wounded, has won my approbation, and, I trust, will merit your lordship’s. On this duty Lieutenants Alexander, Montgomerie, Mitchell, and Jordan, of the marines, were employed, as was Lieutenant Samarin, of the Russian navy, who volunteered his services.”

A few days after this affair, the Montagu received two shot in her hull while covering some boats sent by Captain Knight to bring out a large brig from under the walls of Port Louis. On the 26th of the same month, a brig and two sloops were boarded and captured “with great intrepidity and alacrity,” close to the batteries at the entrance of the Loire; on which occasion 5 of her crew were killed and wounded. On the 28th her boats destroyed three other vessels lying within Isle Noirmoutier.

Early in 1801, the Montagu, then commanded, pro tempore, by Captain Robert Cuthbert, was detached from the Channel fleet, with other ships under Sir Robert Calder, in quest of a French squadron; but being dismasted off Cape Ortegal, she was obliged to put into the Tagus. After being refitted there, we find her proceeding to Martinique, from whence she soon returned home in company with a convoy. Lieutenant Knight’s next appointment was, about July 1801, to be first of the Surprise frigate, on the North Sea station, where he continued until the conclusion of the war.

From this period we lose sight of Lieutenant Knight until April, 1805, when he was appointed to the Guerriere 74, armée en flûte, bearing his father’s flag at Gibraltar. In the following month, he received an order to act as commander of the Childers brig, and was despatched on a particular mission to the Russian Admiral at Corfu. His subsequent appointments were, Feb. 1806, to the Sea Fencible service in Ireland; April 1810, to be flag-lieutenant to the Prince of Bouillon, at Jersey; and in Sept. same year, to be first of the Dragon 74. He obtained the rank of Commander, Oct. 21, 1810.

On the 21st Mar. 1812, Captain Knight was nominated to the command of the Romulus 36, armée en flûte, which ship appears to have been successively employed in conveying troops to Lisbon, Catalonia, and North America. In July, 1813, she assisted at the capture of Portsmouth and Ocracoke islands, on which occasion a beautiful brig mounting 18 long 9-pounders, and a schooner of 10 guns, were taken by the boats of the squadron under Rear-Admiral Cockburn[4].

The Romulus being put out of commission at Bermuda about Dec. 1813, Captain Knight was then appointed by Sir John B. Warren to command the Surprize 38, in which frigate he visited the Azores, the coast of Africa, the Cape Verd Isles, and the West Indies; and assisted at the capture of the Yankee Lass, American privateer schooner, of 9 guns and 80 men. May 1, 1814. His post commission was confirmed by the Admiralty, on the 7th of the following month.

In July 1815, Captain Knight, then commanding the Falmouth 20, accompanied the Pactolus and Hebrus frigates in an expedition up the Gironde, for the purpose of furnishing the French royalists with arms, &c. and opening a communication with Bourdeaux[5]. After conveying the senior officer’s despatches to England, he returned to that river, and remained there for some time in attendance upon the Duke and Duchess of Angouleme.

Captain Knight resigned the command of the Falmouth in Sept. 1815; received an appointment from the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury to the Preventive Water Guard on the Sussex coast, in Dec. 1817; and was placed as Inspector-General of the Coast Guard in North Britain, in 1821. This officer married, in Aug, 1804, the daughter of John Thomson, of Green Hill, co. Waterford, Ireland, Esq. by whom he has had issue four sons and three daughters. One of his brothers, Samuel, was first lieutenant of the Martin sloop when that vessel foundered, with all her crew, in 1805; another, Hood, obtained the rank of commander June 15, 1814, and died in 1823.

Agent.– J. Copland, Esq.



  1. Sir John Knight married, secondly, in 1799, a widow lady, the daughter of Colonel Peter Fry (mis-spelt Foy in our first volume), by whom he has no issue.
  2. See Vol. I. pp. 46, 60, 251, &c. &c.
  3. See id. pp. 159 and 251.
  4. See Captain Sir George Augustus Westphal.
  5. See Vol. II. Part II. pp. 950-952, and Suppl. Part I. p. 217, et seq.