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Royal Naval Biography/Lake, Willoughby Thomas

Rear-Admiral of the White; and a Companion of the most honorable Military Order of the Bath.

The family of Lake is descended, in the female line, from Hugh de Caley, of Owby,co. Norfolk, who died in the year 1286; the founder of its reputation, however, was Dr. Edward Lake, Advocate-General of the kingdom of Ireland, and Chancellor of the Diocese of Lincoln, whose love for his Sovereign, and full conviction of the justness of the royal cause, induced him to lay aside the gown, and follow his august master, Charles I, to the battle of Edgehill, where he received no less than sixteen wounds. Being deprived of the use of his left arm, he placed the bridle of his horse between his teeth, and continued to take a part in the combat until the armies were separated at the approach of night.

On this heroic man being introduced to the King at Oxford, Oct. 23, 1643, (the first anniversary of the battle of Edgehill) his reception was such as he had a right to expect from a Prince for whom he had not only so nobly fought and profusely bled, but also sacrificed considerable estates both in England and Ireland, together with all the emoluments of a lucrative profession. “For a Lawyer” said his Majesty to those about him, “a professed Lawyer, to throw off his gown, and fight so heartily for me, I must needs think very well of it.The unfortunate monarch soon after granted him the dignity of Baronet, and authority to add a coat of augmentation, of the most honorable description, to the armorial bearings of his family, viz:

In a field gules a right arm, armed; carrying upon a sword a banner argent, charged with a cross between sixteen shields, (in allusion to the number of wounds he had received at Edgehill) in the centre of which is the Lion of England (added by the King himself); and for a crest, to the same coat of augmentation, a Chevalier in a fighting posture, his left arm hanging down useless, and holding a bridle in his teeth; his scarf red; sword and horse cruentated.

Sir Edward Lake died without issue, in 1674, and was buried in the Cathedral of Lincoln. His brother and heir, allowed the title to remain dormant, but Bibye, his nephew, laid his claim before the Earl of Oxford, who pretended that, owing to the hurry of affairs, the grant had been lost; however, her Majesty Queen Anne, being well satisfied of Sir Edward’s eminent services, commanded a new patent to be issued, though with precedency only from the date thereof, Oct. 17, 1711.

The officer of whose services we are now about to present an outline, is the second son of the late Sir James Winter Lake (third Baronet and grandson of Sir Bibye Lake), by Joyce, daughter of John Crowther, of Bow, co. Middlesex, Esq. He was born about the year 1773, and entered the naval service under the auspices of Captain Andrew Snape Hammond[1], with whom, and his gallant nephew the late Sir A. S. Douglas, he served successively, as a Midshipman, in the Irresistible, of 74 guns, Southampton frigate, and Goliath, Aleide, and Vanguard, ships of the line, until his promotion to the rank of Lieutenant, which took place Nov. 21, 1790[2].

On the war breaking out with France, in 1793, Mr. Lake obtained an appointment to the Russel, a third-rate, commanded by Captain J. W. Payne, in -which ship he remained till the ensuing autumn. He afterwards served as Flag-Lieutenant to Rear-Admiral Macbride, removing with him from ship to ship, and occasionally commanding an armed cutter, during the operations against the French at Nieuport, Ostend, &c.[3] In the spring of the following year, he was appointed first Lieutenant of the Minotaur, 74, bearing the flag of the same officer, and chiefly employed in cruizing off the coast of France[4].

On the 25th Nov. 1794, Lieutenant Lake was advanced to the rank of Commander, in the Weazle sloop of war, stationed between Yarmouth and Flamborough Head, for the protection of the fishery. His next appointment was to the Rattler, of 18 guns, a Channel cruizer, under the orders of Admiral Sir Peter Parker. From that vessel he appears to have been posted into the Proserpine frigate, by commission dated Jan 4, 1796; and he was subsequently employed in the Channel, and North Sea, under the respective commands of Lords Bridport and Duncan. Among the captures made by him, we find the Dutch schooner privateer Unity, of 10 guns and 50 men, taken near Shetland.

On the renewal of hostilities against France, in 1803, Captain Lake was commissioned to the Topaze, of 38 guns, and placed under the orders of the late Lord Gardner, on the Irish station, where he captured the following privateers; Napoleon, 14 guns and 180 men; Minerve, 14 guns and 111 men; General Augereau, 14 guns and 88 men; and El Fenix, 14 guns and 85 men.

In the summer of 1806, our officer was removed into the Gibraltar, of 80 guns, and entrusted with the command of a small squadron stationed off l’Orient to watch the enemy’s ships, then ready for sea in that port. He subsequently served with the Channel fleet, under Earl St. Vincent.

In 1807, Captain Lake’s ill health obliged him to retire for a time from the active duties of his profession. He consequently came on shore, and was appointed to superintend the Sussex district of Sea Fencibles. Immediately on his recovery, he solicited to be again employed afloat; but it was not until the spring of 1812 that his wishes were gratified. He was at that period appointed to the Magnificent, of 74 guns, then refitting at Plymouth, and soon after sent to join the squadron under Sir Home Popham, acting in conjunction with the patriots on the north coast of Spain.

Captain Lake assisted at the reduction of Castro, and in the attacks made upon Puerta Galletta, Guetaria, &c.[5] He also commanded a detachment of seamen and marines, to which was added the Guerilla regiment of Campillo, landed to co-operate in an attack upon the castle of St. Ano. The French being driven thence by the fire of the shipping, were pursued towards the town of Santander[6] by Captain Lake and the combined forces under his orders. The country between the castle and the town was very favorable to the enemy in their retreat; numerous small houses, walls, and hedges, affording them shelter, and enabling them to keep up a galling and incessant fire on their assailants, many of whom were killed and wounded. Among the latter were Captains Lake and Collier, the former of whom received a musket-ball in his right arm. The British, however, succeeded in gaining the height immediately above the town, from which a large body of troops was seen to issue and form a junction with the garrison of the castle. The Guerillas of Campillo being at this time much dispersed, and no appearance of Porlier’s division, which, according to the original plan, was to have attacked Santander on the land side, Captain Lake was compelled to order a retrograde movement, which he had no sooner done, than a second wound (in the head) deprived him for a time of his senses; and in that state he was conveyed towards the beach, the men under his orders retiring to the castle, where the British colours had previously been hoisted.

Notwithstanding this failure, the enemy’s troops were soon after compelled to evacuate Santander, and otherwise considerably annoyed, as appears by an intercepted letter from their commander, Caffarelli, in answer to an order he had received to join Marshal Marmont, wherein he stated, that a British armament being on the coast, he could not detach a single man; indeed, some troops, whom he had already sent, were recalled on the appearance of the squadron, the operations of which were acknowledged by Lord Wellington to have greatly assisted the movements of his army[7].

The severe wounds received by Captain Lake, deprived the country of his services for a period of four months, during which the Magnificent was commanded pro tempore by Captain John Hayes. On his return to that ship, he joined the Channel fleet, and continued under the orders of Lord Keith until the termination of the war in Europe, some time previous to which he captured an American letter of marque, pierced for 18 guns, from Concarneau bound to Charlestown.

At the general promotion, June 4, 1814, Captain Lake was appointed to one of the Colonelcies of Royal Marines, He soon after convoyed a fleet of merchantmen to the West Indies, where he arrived at the period when Sir Alexander Cochrane was proceeding on the expedition to New Orleans, and was left by him to carry on the duty, as senior officer on the Jamaica station, from whence he returned to England with the May convoy in the ensuing year. The Magnificent was paid off at Portsmouth soon after her arrival.

Our officer was nominated a C.B. Jan. 2, 1815; and advanced to the rank of Rear-Admiral, Aug. 12, 1819. He married, in 1795, Charlotte, daughter of the late Admiral Macbride; by whom he has issue, first, Charlotte, married to John Offley Crewe, of Muxton, co. Stafford, Esq.; second, Willoughby, a Lieutenant R.N.; third, Edward, an officer in the Madras Engineers, who served with distinguished bravery and was twice wounded during the late war in India; fourth, Noel, a Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery; and fifth, Emily, unmarried.

Residence.– 1, Baker Street, Portman Square.

  1. The present Sir A. S. Hamond, of whom a memoir will appear, under the head of Retired Captains, in our next volume.
  2. The Southampton, of 32 guns, Captain Andrew Snape Douglas, was sent to the Mediterranean about the autumn of 1786, and returned from thence at the period of the Dutch armament, with an account of the state of the French and Spanish fleets in that quarter. The disturbances in Holland having ceased, she was again ordered to the same station, and remained there some time. We subsequently find her attending on the Royal Family at Weymouth; and it is worthy of remark, that she was the ship in which our late Sovereign commenced those marine excursions for which he ever afterwards evinced so decided a predilection. She had also the honor of carrying the Royal Standard on the occasion of his Majesty reviewing the squadron under Commodore Goodall, off Plymouth, Aug. 18, 1789. See Retired Captain Sir Francis J. Hartwell, in vol. II.
  3. See note ‡ at p. 569.
  4. See p. 502.
  5. Some interesting particulars of the operations of the squadron will be found under the head of Captain Sir George R. Collier, in vol. 2 of this work
  6. The castle of St. Ano commands the harbour of Santander [St. AnderoJ and is about two miles distant from the town of that name.
  7. At the period alluded to above (Aug. 1812,) Lord Wellington’s headquarters were at Cuellar, and M. Marmont retreating from the neighbourhood of Valladolid, which place he had been compelled to abandon, leaving behind him 4,000 sick and wounded, together with a large quantity of stores, ammunition, &c.