Royal Naval Biography/Lillicrap, James
JAMES LILLICRAP, Esq.
[Post-Captain of 1810.]
This officer is a native of Plymouth. He entered the navy at an early age, and his first voyage was to America, as a midshipman on board the Racehorse sloop. Captain Thomas Wilson, in 1784. On her return from thence, that vessel was sent to the coast of Scotland, where she continued, employed in the suppression of smuggling, until ordered to be paid off in Mar. 1787. Whilst belonging to her, Mr. Lillicrap had an extraordinary escape, a pony that he was mounted on, for the purpose of riding from Deal to Sandwich, having taken fright and backed over into the moat surrounding Sandown Castle, a depth of more than 20 feet. Strange to say, although the poor beast was killed, he himself escaped without any material injury.
After leaving the Racehorse, Mr. Lillicrap successively joined the Termagant sloop. Captain Rowley Bulteel; Cumberland 74, Captain John Macbride; Syren frigate. Captain John Manley; and St. George 98, flagship of Rear-Admiral Phillips Cosby, Commander-in-chief at Plymouth.
The Cumberland bore a French Admiral’s flag at the sham fight off Plymouth, June 18, 1789; on which occasion, King George III. and his august consort were present in the Southampton frigate. She also formed part of the squadron sent to the West Indies, under Rear-Admiral Cornish, during the Spanish armament, 1790.
In the spring of 1793, Mr. Lillicrap followed Rear-Admiral Cosby into the Windsor Castle 98, and proceeded with him, as signal midshipman, to the Mediterranean, where he was removed to Lord Hood’s flag-ship, the Victory of 100 guns. We next find him serving as Lieutenant of la Mozelle, a 20-gun ship taken at Toulon, and placed under the command of Captain Richard Henry A. Bennett.
Shortly after the evacuation of that place, Lieutenant Lillicrap was taken prisoner whilst making a reconnoissance of the harbour; a service which he had volunteered to perform in la Mozelle’s jolly-boat, with a midshipman and four men. This misfortune was owing to the sudden clearing up of the weather, and the wind blowing hard from the S.E., with a heavy sea, which rendered it impossible for him to escape after he was once discovered.
On landing at the arsenal. Lieutenant Lillicrap and his companions were surrounded by a guard and conducted before the revolutionary tribunal, where Napoleon Buonaparte was then witnessing the trial of the unhappy Toulonese who had declared in favor of Louis XVII. From thence, after having been denounced as spies, the British captives were marched to a miserable prison, receiving on their way thither the grossest insults from an infuriated mob, some hundreds of whom were busily engaged in erecting guillotines at the corners of the different streets: fortunately for them, however, la Mozelle was likewise captured in the evening of the same day (Jan. 7, 1794), and after some strong remonstrances on the part of Captain Bennett, they were at length allowed to join their shipmates as prisoners of war.
From Toulon, la Mozelle’s late officers, passengers, and crew were marched to Valence in Dauphiné, where Lieutenant Lillicrap remained until exchanged, in 1795: he then embarked at Marseilles, proceeded to Genoa, and returned home overland, via Cuxhaven, bringing with him despatches from Mr. Drake the British minister, by whom he had been treated with much kindness and attention during his short residence in the Genoese capital.
Lieutenant Lillicrap’s next appointment was to the Trusty of 50 guns, Captain John Osborne; which ship, after being engaged in a variety of services, was ordered to convey Lord Macartney to his government, the Cape of Good Hope.
During the mutiny in the squadron on that station, Lieutenant Lillicrap was selected by Rear-Admiral Pringle to command the Rattlesnake sloop; which vessel he succeeded in placing close under the guns of the Amsterdam battery. Table bay, where the ringleaders of her crew were obliged to surrender. After witnessing the punishment of these men and their accomplices, he resumed his station as first of the Trusty, and returned home under the command of Captain Andrew Todd, in 1799.
The Trusty being then paid off, Lieutenant Lillicrap wag immediately appointed to the Venerable 74, Captain Sir W. George Fairfax; under whose gallant successor, the late Sir Samuel Hood, K.B. he bore a part in the battle off Algeziras, July 6, 1801. The Venerable, on that occasion, sustained a loss of 8 killed and 25 wounded.
The subsequent destruction of two Spanish 3-deckers, and the capture of a 74-gun ship, in the Gut of Gibralter, have been correctly related at p. 271 of Supplement Part I. The Venerable’s very gallant action with the ship which had recently borne the flag of Mons. Linois, but who was then on board a Spanish frigate, is thus noticed by Sir James Saumarez, in his public letter of July 13, 1801:
“The Venerable and Spencer having at this time come up, I bore away after the enemy, who were carrying a press of sail, standing out of the Straits, and lost sight of them during the night. It blew excessively hard till day-light, and in the morning, the only ships in company were the Venerable and Thames, a-head of the Caesar, and one of the French ships at some distance from them, standing towards the shoals of Conil, besides the Spencer a-stern coming up. – All the ships immediately made sail with a fresh breeze; but, as we approached, the wind suddenly failing, the erable was alone able to bring her to action, which Captain Hood did in the most gallant manner, and had nearly silenced the French ship, when his main-mast (which had been before wounded), was unfortunately shot away, and it coming nearly calm, the enemy was enabled to get off without any possibility of following her. The highest praise is due to Captain Hood, the officers and men of the Venerable, for their spirit and gallantry in the action, which entitled them to better success. The French ship was an 84, with additional guns on the gangway. This action was so near the shore, that the Venerable struck on one of the shoals, but was soon after got off, and taken in tow by the Thames, but with the loss of all her masts. The enemy’s ships are now in sight to the westward, standing in for Cadiz.”
The following is Captain Hood’s account of his engagement with the Formidable:
“H.M.S. Venerable, at Sea, July 13, 1801.
“Sir,– You must have observed my giving chase to an enemy’s line-of-battle ship, at day-break this morning. At seven, she hoisted French colours, and I could perceive her to be an 80 gun-ship; at half-past, being within point blank shot, the enemy commenced firing his stern-chase guns, which I did not return for fear of retarding our progress, until the light and baffling airs threw the two ships broadside to, within-musket-shot, when a steady and warm conflict was kept up for an hour and a half, and we had closed within pistol-shot, the enemy principally directing his fire to our masts and rigging. I had at this time the misfortune to perceive the main-mast to fall overboard, the fore and mizen-mast nearly in the same state, and since gone: the ship being near the shore, close to the Castle of Sancti Petri, the enemy escaped. It was with much difficulty I was enabled to get the Venerable off, her cables and anchors all disabled; and it was only by the great exertion of the Thames, with the boats you sent me, she was saved, after being on shore some time. I shall have no occasion to comment on the bravery of the officers and ship’s company in this action, who had with much patience and perseverance, suffered great fatigue by their exertions to get the ship to sea, and not five hundred men able to go to quarters; but I beg leave to add, I have been most ably supported by Lieutenant Lillicrap, second of the Venerable (first absent) all the other officers and men, who have my warmest recommendation: and have to lament the loss of Mr. Williams, master, an excellent officer, with many other valuable people killed and wounded, a list of whom I have the honor to enclose. I am, &c.
“To Sir James Saumnrez, Bart.”
On his return to Gibraltar, Sir James Saumarez issued the following General Memorandum:–
“Caesar, Rosia Bay, July 15, 1801.
“Rear-Admiral Sir James Saumarez, Bart, has the happiness to offer his most heartfelt congratulations to the captains, officers, and men, of the ships he has the honor to command, on the signal success with which it has pleased the Almighty God to crown their zealous exertions in the service of their country.
“To the discipline and valour of British seamen, is to be ascribed their great superiority over the enemy, who, although treble the force of the English squadron, in number of guns and weight of metal, have been so singularly defeated.
“The Rear-Admiral has not failed to transmit, in his late despatches, a report of the unparalleled exertions of all the officers and men in refitting his Majesty’s ships after the battle of Algeziras (where their conduct and bravery were equally conspicuous,) which has led to the late glorious success.”
The Venerable’s captain, officers, and crew, had afterwards the satisfaction of receiving the particular thanks of the Admiralty, in addition to the general vote of thanks from Parliament, for their great and extraordinary exertions, by which, in conjunction with those of the other ships, Sir James Saumarez was enabled to make an attempt, the splendour and astonishing success of which are not exceeded by any of those heroic achievements which formed and fixed the character of the British navy in the late glorious wars. Posterity will scarcely credit, that the squadron under that gallant and most worthy officer, disabled as it had been in action only six days before, could be in a condition to follow, and determined to fight, the combined squadrons, amounting to two first rates, one other 3-decker, three 80-gun-ships, and three 74’s, exclusive of the Hannibal their prize. Not all the familiarity of the British navy with brilliant success – not the memory of the battles of a Duncan or a Nelson – not the knowledge of the victory of July 13th itself, can make one contemplate without emotion, the disparity of the English, whoso enterprising chief had resolved, with five 2-deckers, four of which were already crippled, and only one an 80-gun ship, to pursue the enemies’ united force, and, if possible, prevent a part of them from reaching Cadiz.
In consequence of this glorious success, and the high terms in which Captain Hood spoke of him, Lieutenant Lillicrap, upon whom the greater part of the active duty of refitting the Venerable must necessarily have devolved, was immediately made a Commander; but his commission did not reach him until after he returned to England, as will be seen by the following letter:–
“London, 22d Jan. 1802.
“My dear Lillicrap,– Sir James Saumarez not having sent home your commission, I have obtained from the Admiralty this day a duplicate one, which, that it may he the more gratifying, as your name is not in the new list, I have taken up and enclosed. I have the more satisfaction in doing this, by knowing it was never more deservedly merited than in your conduct under my command; and it will he ever the greatest happiness of my life in hearing of your future welfare. I remain with much esteem, dear Lillicrap, yours very sincerely,
“To Captain J. Lillicrap, Plymouth.”
About this period. Captain Hood expressed an earnest desire to introduce his late first Lieutenant to Earl St. Vincent; and after doing so, he presented him at court, using the most handsome terms of commendation on each occasion.
On the 12th of April, 1804, Captain Lillicrap was appointed to the Vesuvius bomb, employed on the Boulogne station, under the orders of Sir W. Sidney Smith.
In Nov. 1805, that heroic officer meditated an attack upon the flotilla in Boulogne roads:– every thing was prepared, the bomb-vessels had taken their appointed stations, and Sir Sidney removed from his flag-ship to a sloop of war, in which, as she drew but little water, he meant to conduct the business in person; – the signal was made for the gun-brigs to lead in, and a volley of rockets already discharged, when, on a sudden, the wind shifted round to the N.W., and in a few minutes increased to a gale, which rendered his design abortive. On this occasion, the Vesuvius had one of her crew killed, and several very badly wounded.
Captain Lillicrap’s next appointment was to the Despatch, a fine 18-gun brig; in which, after performing a variety of services on different foreign stations, he sailed from the Downs in command of a light squadron, and with a large fleet of transports under his protection, embarked in which were two divisions of the King’s German Legion. These troops were safely landed in the island of Rugen, at the time when a French army was besieging Stralsund, the capital of Swedish Pomerania: and Captain Lillicrap continued to carry on the duties as senior officer in Pert Bay, until the arrival of l’Africaine frigate, having on board Lord Cathcart, commander-in-chief of the land forces, to be employed against Copenhagen.
After the departure of l’Africaine, Captain Lillicrap resumed the command of the small squadron stationed off Rugen, to protect the British troops, and, if necessary, to cover the retreat of King Gustavus, who ultimately embarked on board a Swedish frigate, and sailed from thence accompanied by the Rosamond sloop of war.
During her continuance on that station, the Despatch stood over to the main land, with the Mutine and Censor in company, reconnoitred the coast, and fired several broadsides at the French out-posts near Griefswald.
At length. Captain Lillicrap received orders to escort the last division of troops under Lord Rosslyn, from Rugen to Zealand; and to superintend their debarkation in Kioge Bay. This latter service was accomplished on the 21st Aug. 1807; five days after the first landing of the army had been effected at Wibeck.
On joining Admiral Gambier, off Copenhagen, Captain Lillicrap was directed to receive and mount 4 long 18-pounders, for the purpose of rendering his brig more effective against the Danish flotilla; and from that period we find him, as the senior commander of the inshore squadron under Captain Puget, almost daily engaged with the enemy; particularly on the 31st Aug., when the Charles armed transport was blown up close to the Despatch, by a shell from the Three Crowns buttery; and the British sustained a loss of 10 killed and 21 wounded. Strange as it may appear, although 17 commanders, many of them junior to himself, were included in the general promotion that followed the surrender of the Danish navy, Captain Lillicrap did not obtain superior rank until more than three years afterwards. The subjoined correspondence will enable our readers to judge whether he was entitled to claim advancement.
“London, 18th Nov. 1807.
“Sir.– Having, to our great disappointment, not found your name among the promotions of the officers of the royal navy who were on the late expedition to Rugen and Copenhagen, we have great reason to fear, that the essential service you rendered by your indefatigable exertions and active measures, when superintending the disembarkation of the 1st and 2nd divisions of the King’s German Legion at Rugen, are not sufficiently known; and we therefore now consider it a particular duty (as the respective Generals then in command of the said divisions) to assure you in this public manner, that the reports we received during the aforementioned disembarkation from the different commanding officers of regiments and battalions, as also from the Assistant-Quarter-Master-General, Lieutenant Colonel Offeney, are so highly to your credit that we shall feel happy in bringing it to the knowledge of the Right Honorable the Lords of the Admiralty, should this letter not sufficiently answer that purpose. We have the honor to be, with the most perfect esteem, Sir, your most obedient humble servants,
(Signed)“Charles Baron Linsingen, . Major-General.
“Frederick Baron Dreckfel, Major-General.
“To Captain Lillicrap, R.N.”
“Portsmouth, 22nd Nov. 1807.
“Sir,– We beg leave to address you expressive of our sincere thanks for the able manner in which you conducted the fleet under your convoy from the Downs to the islands of Rugen and Zealand; and we should conceive ourselves wanting in justice if we omitted to notice your great exertions in the disembarkation of the troops under our command, which from the judicious manner of your arrangements greatly facilitated the service We further add, that it will give us great pleasure in our recommendations of you to the Lords of the Admiralty, if at any future period we should be permitted an opportunity. We have the honor to be, Sir, your much obliged and obedient servants,
|“P. du Plat||Colonel,|
“To Captain Lillicrap, R.N.”
“East Sheen, 26th Nov. 1807.
“Dear Sir,– Mr Tyrwhitt hath promised to send me the result of his communication with the Secretary of the Admiralty; meaning, I believe, to abide by his advice. Your letter doth not say whether you have seen the First Lord. Depend on it, more may be done by your enforcing your claim in strong but respectful terms, than by any other channel. No one is better able to do so than yourself, and few have justice more unequivocally on their side. I told Mr. T., that I was ready to attend his summons, and I conclude I shall hear from him. In the mean time, do not omit seeing the First Lord, and urging the claim you have, and the injustice you and the service will suffer, if you are so neglected. You may rely on it, such representation comes with double force from the person injured than it doth from any second person who hath not a commanding influence.
(Signed)“C. M. Pole.”
“To Captain Lillicrap, R.N.”
“Edinburgh, Dec. 23, 1807.
“My dear Sir,– I can assure you, that it has neither proceeded from neglect nor from any indifference to the object of your wishes, that I have not written directly to yourself before this.
“The moment I learnt from Captain Bouverie, that you thought my application to Lord Cathcart, and his Lordship’s recommendation, could be of any use to you, I did not fail to state in writing to his Lordship how much the service was indebted to your care and exertions in the re-embarkation of the troops from Rugen, and the landing in Kioge bay. I referred his Lordship to my former letter, written at the time; and I took the liberty to impress very strongly the great advantage to the army and to the public interest in general upon conjunct expeditions, that those officers of the navy who had shewn great and marked attention to the other branch of the service should feel that we were grateful, and that the Generals were disposed to exert any little interest they might possess in assisting their promotion.
“I stated my own sentiments, as they applied to you, as I had before done: and I am sorry to add, that if Lord Cathcart’s interest carmot prevail, I have very little hope from my own; indeed, I should be almost afraid that any recommendation that could be supposed to infer political friendship, or personal connexion, would be prejudicial.
“I saw Lord Cathcart yesterday, who has promised me to state the case upon the grounds upon which I put it; and from his manner, I flatter myself he will give it all the effect he can. He has assured me that he will let me have the answer.
“I shall be very sorry if the promotion your merit and services entitle you to expect does not take place; but I can assure you, that I shall regret it also very much upon public grounds.
“If, however, you wish me to do any thing else, and you should desire me to speak or write to Lord Mulgrave, I will do it; but I think that had better be deferred till I come to town, or at least till I know the result of Lord Cathcart’s applicatiou. Yours faithfully,
“To Captain Lillicrap, R.N.”
“East Sheen, Jan. 3, 1808.
“Dear Sir,– Lord Rosslyn’s letter is indeed a very handsome and satisfactory testimony of your services, at least as far as your friends and you are concerned, and I really do not see how you can be excluded from promotion, without the greatest injustice to the service, as well as injury to you. Your claim is so good, that with the assistance of Lord Cathcart, added to the letters from those commanding corps, which you have in your possession, I should advise you to renew your application to Lord Mulgrave, and the Board, enclosing to each another memorial. I am not, by this recommendation, endeavouring to avoid the awkwardness of attending your petition to the first Lord; but I am stating what I think the best plan for you. I can have no other objection to the attending Mr. Tyrwhitt, than a conviction that the doing so will not serve you; but sure I am that you ought to be protected. Faithfully yours,
(Signed)“C. M. Pole.”
Notwithstanding all the exertions made in his favor by Lord Cathcart, the Earl of Rosslyn, Sir Charles M. Pole, and the commanding officers of the German Legion, Captain Lillicrap did not obtain a post commission until Oct. 21, 1810; at which period he had been serving upwards of two years on the Jamaica station, generally in command of a detached squadron. When proceeding thither with a fleet of merchantmen under his convoy, he captured la Dorade French privateer, and retook a British merchantman.
During his continuance in the West Indies, Captain Lillicrap had frequent conferences with the two contending Haytian chiefs, Christophe and Petion; with the former of whom he travelled into the interior of St. Domingo, and visited Fort Ferrier, an extensive fortification on the top of a very high mountain, scarcely accessible to any but the natives, very few Europeans being able to sustain the fatigue of such a journey. This fortress was intended by Christophe as a place of refuge for himself and his adherents, should Petion prevail against him, or the French ever attempt, during his reign, to regain the island. It had upwards of 170 guns mounted, a magnificent palace within the walls, and a subterraneous space of sufficient extent to contain 6000 men, with a repository of provisions for the support of that number for eighteen months.
In March 1811, Captain Lillicrap received the official notification of his promotion; and finding that he was not appointed to any post ship, he returned home as a passenger on board the Naiad frigate. Some time after his arrival, he received another friendly letter from Sir Samuel Hood, of which the following is a copy:–
“London, 12th Aug. 1811.
“My dear Sir,– I congratulate you on your promotion, and am truly sorry you have been laid by. It is hard after the long and trying services you have experienced. I should at any time be most happy to have you under my command; but I have so many applications to make, that I cannot say a word about it to the Admiralty. I am just appointed to the Ease India command; if you can get a ship and come there, I shall be rejoiced to do all I can for you. Very many thanks for your obliging congratulations, and believe me, in great haste, yours very truly,
Captain Lillicrap’s next appointment was, Jan. 25, 1815, to the Hyperion 42, in which frigate he visited Lisbon, and escorted home a large fleet of merchantmen from Oporto. On his return from thence, he was superseded by her proper commander. Captain W. Pryce Cumby; and at the same time appointed to the Eurotas 46, on the Irish station.
The Eurotas was lying in Plymouth sound when Napoleon Buonaparte arrived at that anchorage in the Bellerophon, and Captain Lillicrap received orders to take a station as near to the 74 as possible, in order to prevent the numerous vessels and boats, crowded with curious spectators, from approaching too near. On the 29th July, all the boats of the fleet were placed under his directions by Lord Keith, and ordered to assemble alongside his frigate every evening during the General’s stay there, for the purpose of being distributed as guard-boats.
After witnessing the removal of Napoleon to the Northumberland, off Berry Head, Aug. 7, 1815, Captain Lillicrap returned to Plymouth, in company with Lord Keith; and on the 17th of the same month, he received Generals Savary and Lallemand, three Colonels, and several other officers, late belonging to Buonaparte’s suite, as passengers to Malta, where he delivered them into the charge of Sir Thomas Maitland, on the 19th Sept. The Eurotas was paid off on her return from that service.
In April, 1821, Captain Lillicrap obtained the command of the Hyperion; and on the 19th Sept. following, he sailed for the Cape of Good Hope, with Lord Charles Somerset and suite passengers. Finding on his arrival there, that Rear-Admiral Lambert had proceeded to England, he hoisted a broad pendant, agreeably to orders received from the Admiralty, and continued in the command on that station until relieved by Commodore Nourse, in 1822. Previous to his departure from thence, he rendered a very important service to the East India Company, the nature of which will be seen by the following handsome acknowledgment of the Hon. Court of Directors:–
“East India House, Nov. 1, 1822.
“Sir,– Representation having been made to the Court of Directors of the East India Company, of the great promptitude and exertion displayed by yourself and the officers and seamen employed under your command, in rescuing the Company’s extra ship Albion, Mr. Charles Weller, Master, homeward bound with treasure and a valuable cargo of merchandise, from the situation of extreme peril in which she was placed on the 10th of June last, off the Cape of Good Hope, when in a strong gale of wind she broke from her anchorage in Simon’s Bay, and drove to within the distance of a few fathoms from the rocks; – I have received the Court’s commands to acquaint you, that they have resolved to present you with the sum of Five Hundred Pounds for the purchase of a piece of plate, as a token of the Court’s appreciation of your meritorious conduct upon this occasion, whereby so many lives and so much valuable property were preserved from imminent danger.
“The Court also adverting to the successful exertions of the officers and seamen of His Majesty’s navy, who were employed in rendering assistance to the ship, under your directions, have further resolved to present them with the undermentioned sums; and the Court request, that you will divide the same proportionately with your estimation of their respective services: namely–
“To the Officers, Two Hundred and Fifty Pounds.
“To the Men, Two Hundred and Fifty Pounds.
“I have the honor to be. Sir, your most obedient, humble Servant,
(Signed)“J. Dart, Secretary.”
“To Commodore Lillicrap, H.M.S. Hyperion.”
On referring to the Minutes of the Hon. Court, we find that the Albion had on board, “treasure to the amount of upwards of 100,000l.” Many females were among her passengers. During the same gale, two Russian men of war were likewise rescued from imminent danger, for which service. Captain Lillicrap received a letter of thanks from their commanders.
Captain Lillicrap subsequently visited St. Helena and Ascension; left stores, &c., at the latter island; and from thence proceeded to join the squadron under Sir Charles Rowley, on the Jamaica station. By that officer, he was sent with a detachment under his orders, to cruise off Cuba for the suppression of piracy; and whilst thus employed, he had many official conferences with the Captain-General of that island, and the Spanish Admiral at Havannah; as well as much correspondence on the same subject, with the principal local authorities along the coast; occasioned by his having sat as one of H.M. Commissioners at Jamaica, for the trial of numerous pirates, many of whom were condemned and executed.
On the 24th Oct. 1823, Captain Lillicrap was appointed to the Gloucester 74, bearing the broad pendant of Sir Edward W. C. R. Owen, with whom he returned to England, March 13, 1824. Since the 27th of that month, he has not been in commission.
Captain Lillicrap married, Dec. 30, 1811, Frances Adams, second daughter of Giles Welsford, of Plymouth, Esq. by whom he has had a numerous family. Two of his nephews died in the naval service – one a midshipman, the other a Lieutenant, R.M.; – their only surviving brother, Mr. J. L. Marchant, is now serving as Purser of the Zebra sloop.
Agent.– Sir F. M. Ommanney.
- Mr. Robert Houlton, made a Lieutenant May 18, 1797.
- See Vol. II, Part I, note at p. 420.
- See Vol. I, Part I, p. 137 et seq.
- The Thames was commanded by Captain Aiskew Paffard Hollis, who is said by Mr. James, to have poured a raking broadside into the Formidable, shortly after the Venerable had been laid alongside of her.
- Lieutenant Thomas Collis, taken prisoner when going to assist the Hannibal in the action of July 6. He is now a Knight of Windsor, and Governor of that establishment.
- 18 killed, 87 wounded.
- See Vol. II, Part I, p. 266.
- See Suppl. Part I, small type at the foot of p. 238.