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Royal Naval Biography/Luckraft, Alfred

Knight of the French Legion of Honour.

We first find this officer serving as midshipman on board the Mars 74, Captain George Duff, at the battle of Trafalgar, on which memorable occasion he was wounded. He was afterwards sub-lieutenant of the Steady gun-brig, and promoted from that vessel into the Hyacinth sloop, Sept. 3d, 1810. During the latter part of the war with France, he served under the flag of HearAdmiral John Ferrier, in the Scarborough 74, on the North Sea station; and subsequently under Captains John Parish and Thomas Warrand, in the Foxhound sloop.

In Jan. 1828, Lieutenant Luckraft was appointed first of the Blonde frigate. Captain Edmund Lyons, under whom he greatly distinguished himself at the reduction of the “Château de Morée,” in Oct. 1828, as will be seen by the following extracts and copies of official letters relative to that service:–

H.M.S. Blonde, off Patras, Oct. 14th, 1828.

“Sir,– Captain Spencer’s letter, by the Echo, will have informed you of the capitulation of Patras. I have now the honor of sending you the terms; in defiance of which five agas, with from 1200 to 1600 troops, have thrown themselves into the Morea Castle, and refuse to surrender, unless a written order to do so be produced from Ibrahim Pacha of Egypt, or Ibrahim Pacha of Lepanto.

“Under these circumstances. General Schneider has resolved on commencing offensive operations against the castle, and intends, on the night of the 19th instant, to open his batteries near the walls, hoping that this operation, accompanied by a demonstration on the part of the allied naval forces here, may induce the agas to surrender. If this should fail, the General will prepare for battering in breach. * * * * * * * * I have promised to approach the fort on the 19th instant, as near as the wind and other circumstances will admit, under the hope that the dread of a naval attack may have the same effect that it undoubtedly had in the surrender of Patras. * * * * * * I have the honor to be, &c.

(Signed)Edmund Lyons, Captain.”

To Vice-Admiral Sir Pulteney Malcolm, K.C.B., &c. &c. &c.”

H.M.S. Blonde, 30th Oct. 1828.

“Sir,– In obeying your orders to act in concert with the senior officer of His Most Christian Majesty’s ships, I have had the good fortune of finding myself associated with those distinguished officers. Captains Mauduit Duplessis, of la Duchesse de Berri; Hugon, of l’Armide; and Villeneuve, of la Didon; and in detailing the proceedings of the Blonde, I at the same time describe those of the French frigates: for I assure you, that throughout an arduous service of twelve days and nights, in very unfavourable weather, the most perfect concert and hearty co-operation have been invariably manifested.

“On the 18th inst., General Schneider expressed a wish that four 18-pounders should be landed from each ship; and in less than four hours they were on shore, with all their appointments; the difficulties occasioned by the surf on the beach being overcome by the fine spirit which animated all – French and English being in the water, mutually assisting each other. In this operation, the zeal and intelligence of Lieutenant Thomas Saumarez Brock, were very conspicuous.

“On the 20th, Lieutenants Alfred Luckraft and Sidney Colpoys Dacres; Messrs. Mockler, Hay, Blair, and Austen, mates; and Messrs. De Sausmarez, Kennedy, Hawkins, and Dor, midshipmen; landed with a party of seamen and commenced making the batteries, under the direction of the French officers of engineers and artillery.

“At nine o’clock on the 22d, the Marine battery opened its fire on Morea Castle, and in a few hours silenced the guns opposed to it; but as the army advanced in their approaches to the breaching batteries, the castle opened fresh guns, which rendered it necessary for the Marine battery to fire at intervals, for eight days and nights.

“Last evening, the guns of the frigates, with two 24-pounders which Admiral De Rigny landed from the Conquerant on his arrival, and such of the battering train as the weather enabled us to disembark, were fairly established in the two breaching batteries, named by Lieut.-Gen. Maison, Charles X. and George IV., the French and English guns being promiscuously placed in each; and at day-light this morning, together with the mortar battery and the AEtna bomb, opened such a tremendous fire on the castle as to produce, in four hours, an unconditional surrender.

“I am sure you will be glad to find, that the zeal and professional talent exhibited by Captain Stephen Lushington, his officers, and ship’s company, have excited the admiration of all. The AEtna was worked up in the night, under reefed courses and close-reefed topsails, anchored, and sprung with such precision, within eight hundred yards of the castle, as to enable that intelligent officer. Lieutenant George Logan, of the royal marine artillery, to throw 102 shells into the castle, only the first four going too far. Captain Lushington assures me that he received the most valuable assistance from Lieutenant Baldwin Wake Walker.

“I am persuaded. Sir, that in your well-known wish to appreciate and encourage merit, I shall find an excuse for dwelling so much on the conduct of my officers and ship’s company; and really. Sir, when I reflect on the peculiar situation in which they have been placed, and know that their gallantry in the batteries, their excellent discipline in their tents, (which were in the centre of the French army,) are highly extolled by the French officers, I feel it to be but fair that it should be reported to their admiral.

“Any thing I could say in praise of Lieutenants Luckraft and Dacres would fall far short of the universal feeling in the French army in their favor; but, perhaps, I may be permitted to say, that the former has been nearly twenty years[1] a lieutenant. All the mates are highly deserving, and have passed many years.

“My duties having frequently called me from the ship, the command devolved on the second lieutenant, the Hon. Edward Roper Curzon, whose conduct fully justified all I had expected from an officer of first-rate professional talent.

“The French had many casualties in the batteries, but I am happy to add we have only one man severely wounded. I have the honor to be, &c.

(Signed)Edmund Lyons, Captain.”

To Sir Pulteney Malcolm, K.C.B., &c. &c. &c.

H.M.S. Asia, off Poros, 26th Nov. 1828.

“Sir,– In acknowledging the receipt of your letter of the 30th ult., detailing your proceedings, in conjunction with the French naval force which and a division of the French army, against the Morea Castle at Patras, I have satisfaction in assuring you of my entire approbation of the manner in which you have conducted the service there, and of the exertions and good conduct of the officers and ship’s company of the Blonde. I have not failed to make known the same to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, and to recommend, in particular, to their Lordships’ favorable notice, the merits of Lieutenant Luckraft. I have much pleasure in sending for your perusal a copy of a letter which Vice-Admiral De Rigny has addressed to me on the occasion, expressive of his admiration of the services of the Blonde and AEtna, and of the cordiality of feeling manifested between the forces of the two nations. I am, &c.

(Signed)Pulteney Malcolm, Vice-Admiral.”

To Captain Lyons, H.M.S. Blonde.

Copies of the letters from Sir Pulteney Malcolm to the Admiralty, and from Mons. de Rigny to the British Vice-Admiral, are given in Vol. III. Part II., p. 88, et seq. On the 31st Oct. 1828, the Marquis Maison, commander-in-chief of the French army in the Morea, wrote to the minister-of-war as follows:–

“The delivery of arms, among which were some very beautiful sabres and yatagans, was severely felt by the Turks; but I wished to punish them for their resistance to the capitulation of Patras, and I was therefore inflexible. I have distributed these arms among the general and superior officers of the different corps, the artillery, and superior officers of the French and English squadrons.

“The five batteries had received names. The first was called Charles the Tenth; the second George the Fourth. The other three were those of the Dauphin, the Duke de Bordeaux, and the Marine. The English, who served four cannon (the officers of the frigate Blonde and those of the bomb-vessel AEtna), were extremely pleased with the attention which we had shewn them, and giving the name of their king to one of our batteries. We owed them such a compliment for the zeal and frankness which they have displayed on all occasions. I cannot too highly praise Lieut. Luckraft. He is an old and worthy officer, who directed the battery during the whole siege with great ability.”

The following are extracts of a private letter from an officer of the Blonde:–

“There were no sailors, either English or French, admitted into the breaching batteries, except the Blonde’s and Conquerant’s. Ours was the central battery, and the nearest to the castle. Lieutenant Luckraft held the chief command, and next to him was Lieutenant Dacres. They behaved with so much bravery, and so ably maintained the unshaken character of British seamen, as to merit the public approbation of the French commander-in-chief. * * * * * The exertions of Captain Lyons have seldom been equalled, certainly not excelled, by any British officer; he was almost constantly in the trenches, and exposed to a tremendous fire of great guns and musketry. Lieutenants Luckraft and Dacres were twelve days and nights in the trenches; the three last of which they worked their battering guns with such effect as to expend upwards of 1000 eighteen-pound shot, and 6000 lbs. weight of powder: never were four guns worked with greater dexterity than those of the Blonde’s, which were placed on George the Fourth’s battery. * * * * Vice-Admiral De Rigny ought to have commanded the naval part of the expedition, but this he waived in favor of Captain Lyons.”

The insignia of the French Legion of Honor was immediately afterwards conferred upon Lieutenant Luckraft; but his promotion to the rank of commander did not take place until Oct. 28th, 1829, previous to which the Blonde had conveyed the British ambassador from Tenedos to Constantinople.

This officer’s subsequent appointments were, Nov. 30th, 1829, to the command of the Cameleon sloop, which vessel he paid off on the 22d Mar. 1830; and June 20th, 1831, to the Revenge 78; in which ship he served under Captains James Hillyar and Donald Hugh Mackay, principally on the Lisbon station, until put out of commission, Mar. 13th, 1834.

  1. Upwards of eighteen years.