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Royal Naval Biography/Marshall, Henry Masterman


Is a son of the late Rev. Marshall, of Saltash, co. Cornwall; and nephew to the late superannuated Rear-Admiral Thomas Gaberion. His grandfather, Mr. Masterman, was many years a purser and secretary in the navy.

This officer was born at St. Stephen’s, near Saltash. He first went to sea about the close of 1794; and was a midshipman on board the Swiftsure 74, Captain Benjamin Hallowell, (now Sir B. H. Carew) at the memorable battle of the Nile; previous to which he had distinguished himself on various occasions of boat-service, before Cadiz, and thereby attracted the attention of Earl St. Vincent, by whom he was led to expect a commission as soon as qualified for promotion. He was afterwards very actively employed in boats on the coasts of Egypt and Italy; and had the honor of serving as aid-de-camp to his gallant captain at the sieges of St. Elmo and[errata 1] Gaieta, in June and July, 1799.[1] He also assisted at the capture of two Spanish frigates, laden with quicksilver, and twelve valuable merchant vessels, by a small squadron under Rear-Admiral Duckworth, in April, 1800.[2]

We next find Mr. Marshall in the Kent 74, bearing the flag of Sir Richard Bickerton. He appears to have been present at the landing of the British army under Sir Ralph Abercromby, in Aboukir bay, March 8th, 1801; and likewise in the actions of the 13th and 21st of the same month. He afterwards piloted a number of frigates, brigs, and smaller vessels into the western harbour of Alexandria; and for his services during that celebrated campaign was presented with the superior Turkish gold medal. On the removal of Sir Richard Bickerton’s flag into the Madras 54, he was appointed acting lieutenant of that ship, but did not succeed in getting confirmed until Aug. 30th, 1803, He subsequently served in the Gibraltar 80, Captain William Hancock Kelly; the Dreadnought 98, to which ship he was appointed at the particular request of Admiral Sir John Colpoys; and the Hind 28, Captain Francis William Fane; the latter ship employed in almost every European part of the Mediterranean, from Gibraltar to the Dardanelles; and also on the coast of Egypt, during the occupation of Alexandria, by the military and naval forces under Major-General Fraser and Captain Hallowell.[3] On one occasion, when returning from Majorca, to which island he had been sent in a small felucca, for the purpose of effecting an exchange of prisoners, he, with only four foreigners as a boat’s crew, pursued and captured a large Spanish xebec, full of refugees, proceeding from Tarragona to Palma. On another occasion, while cruising in the Archipelago, the Hind’s jolly-boat unarmed, under his command, boarded and made prize of a Turkish brig, of four guns, having on board the governor of Candia and his body guard, armed as usual with sabres, pistols, muskets, and dirks.

Lieutenant Marshall was the senior officer of his rank employed at the evacuation of Scylla, where he again displayed great coolness and bravery. After the retreat of the British forces from Egypt, he was despatched to Cyprus, in order to prevent further supplies being forwarded from thence to Alexandria; and, notwithstanding the vigilance of the Turkish authorities, he fully accomplished the object of his mission.

In 1809, Lieutenant Marshall, being afflicted with ophthalmia, and in ill health, was obliged to return to England, and induced to accept the command of the Veteran prison-ship, stationed in Portchester Lake. From thence he was removed, at the request of Sir Richard Bickerton, about Dec. 1811, into the Royal William, bearing that officer’s flag, at Spithead. On the 27th July, 1813, he was appointed first lieutenant of the Prince, which ship had been selected to take the place of the “Old Billy;” and on the 27th June, 1814, the Lords of the Admiralty, then in attendance upon the allied sovereigns at Portsmouth, were pleased to sign a commission promoting him to the rank of commander.

The subject of this sketch married, in 1805, Ann, niece of Captain James Ferguson, who died lieutenant-governor of the Royal Hospital, Greenwich, Feb. 14th, 1793; and by that lady has had a very numerous family. One of his brothers quitted the naval service, after obtaining a lieutenant’s commission.

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