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Royal Naval Biography/Mainwaring, Rowland


ROWLAND MAINWARING, Esq.
[Captain of 1830.]

Is descended from an ancient Staffordshire family (of which he is an elder branch), settled for many centuries at Whitmore Hall, near Newcastle-under-Lyne. He entered the royal navy in 1795, under the patronage of Sir John Laforey, and continued to serve in the flag-ship of that officer until his demise, which took place when returning from the West Indies to England, June 14th, 1796. He was also on board the Majestic 74, at the celebrated battle of the Nile, after which, in consequence of his captain having been killed, he was removed into the Thalia frigate, commanded by Lord Henry Paulet, under whom he completed his time as midshipman.

In Dec. 1801, Mr. Mainwaring was appointed lieutenant of the Harpy sloop. Captain Charles William Boys; an officer who had lost a leg on the memorable 1st of June, 1794, and who was cut off in the prime of life, while commanding the Statira frigate, on the Halifax station, Nov. 17th, 1809.

Mr. Mainwaring’s subsequent appointments were, to the Leda frigate. Captain Robert Honyman; the Terrible 74, Captain Lord H. Paulet; and, as first lieutenant, to the Narcissus and Menelaus frigates, in which latter ships he was most actively employed, off Brest, in the Bay of Biscay, on the coast of Portugal, in the West Indies, and on the southern coasts of France and Spain, under the successive commands of Captains Charles Malcolm, the Hon. Frederick W. Aylmer, and Sir Peter Parker, Bart., until some time after his promotion to the rank of commander, by commission dated Aug. 13th, 1812. On the 18th Aug. 1807, he assisted in capturing the Spanish national schooner Cantela, pierced for twelve guns; and in April, 1809, we find him present at the reduction of the Saintes, near Guadaloupe[1]. The services in which he participated between July 1809 and Dec. 1810 have been stated in our memoir of Captain Aylmer[2]. The following is the copy of an official letter written by Sir Peter Parker, who was formerly his messmate in the Leda:–

H.M.S. Menelaus, off Villa Francha, Mar. 1st, 1812.

“Sir,– I feel great pleasure in acquainting you of the capture of a beautiful French brig, on her first voyage, named the St. Joseph, from Genoa, laden with naval stores for the arsenal at Toulon. This service was performed last night, by Lieutenant Rowland Mainwaring, first of the Menelaus, in a masterly manner, near the Bay of Frejus, where the St. Joseph was moored within pistol-shot of a battery flanked by another; also by musketry from the shore. The judgment and ability shewn by Lieutenant Mainwaring, an old and meritorious officer, added to the enthusiastic spirit displayed by the officers and men, who gallantly seconded him in this affair, was such as to call forth my admiration and respect, and no doubt will be duly appreciated by you, more particularly as from the style in which the enterprise was conducted, I am afforded the gratification of forwarding this report, without subjoining a list either of killed or wounded. I have the honor to be, &c.

(Signed)Peter Parker.”

To Captain John Tower,
H.M.S. Curaçoa.

The St. Joseph was pierced for sixteen guns, but had none mounted. One of the batteries on shore suffered severely from the fire of the launch of the Menelaus. On the 27th of April following, while off Toulon, the Menelaus was approached by two French frigates, one of them of the largest class, and both under a press of sail. The British ship lay-to and cleared for action; but to the great surprise of all on board, the enemy[errata 1] hauled their wind when nearly within gun-shot, and ignominiously declined giving battle. In the ensuing month, Sir Peter Parker reported as follows:

H.M.S Menalaus, 18th May, 1812.

“Sir,– I have the honor to enclose the reports of the in-shore squadron, since my last return, by the Imperieuse. The enemy, you will observe, have been reinforced by a frigate from the westward, hut arc otherwise in the same state; one three-decker, with fore and main-top-masts struck, in the outer harbour, being the only difference; and one two-decker, apparently new, I conclude has come from the inner road.

“While writing this, the enemy came out, twelve sail of the line and seven frigates. A line-of-battle ship and two frigates were sent in chase of H.M. squadron[3]; the rest of their fleet edging down towards the chasing ships. My object was to lead them to leeward; but the Pelorus sailing badly, her fate now became doubtful; when the ships under my orders shortened sail, and hoisted their colours. The enemy, seeing our determination not to part with H.M. brig, relinquished the chase.

“I trust this little affair will appear as creditable to H.M. arms, as disgraceful to the enemy. Suffice it to say, nothing could exceed the exemplary conduct of all ranks and classes in the squadron.

“My acknowledgments are particularly due to the Hon. Captain Cadogan, and Captains Monusey and Rowley; and I trust I may be permitted once more to mention the attention and assistance which are over afforded me by Lieutenant Rowland Mainwaring. I have the honor to be, &c.

(Signed)Peter Parker.”

To Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Pellew.

May 30th, 1812.

“Sir,– I have the honor to inform you, that, on the morning of the 29th instant, an enemy’s frigate and brig were discovered in Hiéres bay, steering with the wind easterly, for the Petite Passe, evidently with the intention of getting into Toulon; but, on seeing H.M. ship under my command make sail to cut them off, and having answered signals from their commander-in-chief in that harbour, they took in their studding-sails, and hauled to the wind, until the French fleet, consisting of eleven sail of the line and six frigates, came out of port, causing the frigate and brig to bear up and join them.

“Although, from the superior force I now had to contend with, I could not flatter myself with much prospect of success, yet I considered it my duty to bring them to action, which was done close under the batteries of Escamberon. The Menelaus was necessarily exposed to a warm and raking fire, going in, and some time elapsed before it was returned. Soon after, however, I had the mortification to sec our fore-top-mast shot almost in two; and thus I was obliged to relinquish the idea of attempting any thing farther, and am indebted to the superior sailing of the ship, and the extraordinary conduct of the enemy, for greater ills not befalling us; for, independent of the inability of carrying sail on the tottering top-mast, we appeared as it were surrounded; the enemy’s ships being to leeward, and the advanced ship of the line, after firing her broad-side, having tacked and stood in; added to which, Rear-Admiral Hallowell’s squadron was so far to leeward as not to afford a hope of any assistance from him; and our fleet only to be seen from the mast-head.

“As this affair took place under the enemy’s batteries, at the mouth of their harbour, I trust that notwithstanding the unfortunate circumstances attending, to foil our endeavours, I may be permitted to speak, in terms of admiration, of the gallantry and good conduct of Lieutenant Mainwaring, which was only equalled by that of my other officers and the ship’s company. Our damage is confined to masts, sails, and rigging. I have the honor to be, &c.

(Signed)Peter Parker.”

To Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Pellew.

In July following we find the Menelaus cruising on the coast of Italy, and Sir Peter Parker reporting the capture of the French xebec la Paix, mounting two long 6-pounders, with a complement of thirty men, “under circumstances peculiarly honorable to Lieutenant Mainwaring, who boarded and brought her out from within pistol-shot of the towers of Terracina, under a galling fire. If any thing from my pen,” continues Sir Peter, “could do justice to his merit, I would write it with pleasure, but that I feel to be impossible. The Menelaus was anchored well within range of the batteries; the distance, however, in consequence of the shoal water, prevented her fire being of that effect, against such strong defences, which was intended. I have to regret one seaman killed by a grape-shot.”

During the night of Sept. 2d, 1812, the French letter of marque St. Esprit, pierced for twelve guns, but with only two six-pounders mounted, was cut out from the river Mignone, near Civita Vecchia, under a heavy fire from the batteries. This service was performed in a calm, without loss, and in a manner “highly creditable to Lieutenant Mainwaring,” by whom the boats were again commanded. Sir Peter Parker’s next official report was to the following effect:–

“The port of Mejan, in the bay of Marseilles, was attacked by the Menelaus yesterday afternoon (Sept. 17th, 1812). The detachment of boats, under Lieutenants Mainwaring and Yates, burnt the vessels in the harbour, while Lieutenant Beynon, R.M., and Mr. James Saunderson, master’s-mate, dislodged the enemy, and destroyed the custom-house and magazines. Never was gallantry more conspicuous than in the officers and men on this service, and I beg to recommend them to your favorable notice. Lieutenant Yates, an active and promising officer[4], I regret to add, was unfortunately killed, with one seaman and five marines wounded. The loss of the enemy was very considerable.”

To Sir Edward Pellew, Bart., &c. &c.

After commanding for some time the Gorgon 44, armed en flûte, at Port Mahon, the subject of this memoir was successively appointed acting captain of the Edinburgh 74, Undaunted and Euryalus frigates, and Caledonia first-rate, the latter ship bearing the flag of Sir Edward Pellew. He was subsequently placed by that officer in the Kite sloop, and sent to the Archipelago, where he destroyed a French privateer, rescued a valuable merchantman which she had captured, and obtained from the Bey of Salonica a promise, that in future no vessels of the same description should be equipped in his harbours. He afterwards commanded the Paulina sloop, in which he obtained restitution of two merchant vessels, taken by an American privateer and carried to Tripoli, where he remained watching the enemy until the final cessation of hostilities, thereby preventing her from giving any further annoyance to the British trade in the Mediterranean. The Paulina was paid off, at Deptford, towards the close of 1815, from which period we find no official mention of her late commander, until his advancement to the rank of captain, July 22d, 1830.

This officer married, first, in Jan. 1811, Sophia Henrietta, only child of the late Major William Duff, of H.M. 20th regiment, and daughter-in-law to Captain George Tobin, R.N., C.B. Secondly, in 1827, Eliza, daughter of the Rev. M. J. Hill, rector of Snailwell, in Cambridgeshire. His son, Rowland Mainwaring, midshipman of the Warspite 76, died at Port Jackson, of dysentery, Oct. 27th, 1826.

Agents.– Messrs. Stilwell.



  1. See Vol. II. Part II. p. 745.
  2. See id. p. 948 et seq.
  3. Menelaus, Havannah, and Furieuse, frigates, and Pelorus brig, of 18 guns.
  4. Son of Purser Thomas L. Yates, R.N.


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