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Royal Naval Biography/Monke, George Paris

[Post-Captain of 1810.]

Only son of the late Captain Monke, of the Royal Horse Guards.

This officer entered the navy, in June 1775, as a midshipman on board the Worcester 64, commanded by Captain Mark Robinson, and forming part of a small squadron of observation, then about to proceed on a cruise off Cape Finisterre, under Commodore Sir Peter Parker.

In Mar. 1777, Mr. Monke was transferred to the Fox of 28 guns, Captjun Patrick Fotheringham, in which frigate he proceeded to the Newfoundland station.

On the 8th June following, the Fox fell in with two American frigates; the Hancock 34, commanded hy one Manley, a native of Torbay, in Devonshire; and the Boston 30, under the command of Macreal, another English traitor. Not having heard of any ships so large being fitted out by the rebellious colonists, and therefore imagining that they were British men of war. Captain Fotheringham neglected to get his decks sufficiently clear for action; nor was he convinced of his mistake until Manley hoisted the colours adopted by Congress, and ordered him to “strike instantly.” A running fight then commenced, the Fox endeavouring to gain a little time in order to prepare for closer battle.

Nearly four hours elapsed before Manley could bring his ship fairly alongside of the Fox, when a warm action commenced between them, during which several of the rebel crew shewed strong signs of fear; and her desperate commander, sensible of their dismay, ran contiimally from one end of the ship to the other, without a coat, his ahirt sleeves tucked up to the shoulders, flourishing and swinging a large cutlass round his head, and swearing he would “cut down the first man who should attempt to leave his quarters.” These threats had the desired effect, and the conflict was continued till Captain Fotheringham, seeing that the Fox was very much crippled, thought proper to strike her colours, which he had hardly done before the Boston came under her stern, and gave her a broadside, to the great displeasure of Manley, who inveighed loudly against a proceeding so unfair and unnecessary. Captain Fotheringham and 50 of his crew were then taken on board the “Yankee Commodore,” and Mr. Monke with others removed to the Boston.

On the 4th of the following month, just after they had passed Halifax, on their way to Boston, the Hancock and her consorts were discovered and chased by the Rainbow 44, Captain Sir George Collier, who after a pursuit of 41 hours, and a running fight of 4½, succeeded in obtaining possession of the former. The Fox was likewise secured by Captain John Brisbane, of the Flora frigate, who had hove in sight on the second day of the chase; but unfortunately the Boston effected her escape[1].

After a close confinement of several months at Boston, Mr. Monke and his fellow prisoners were exchanged, and reinstated in their former stations on board the Fox, which ship returned to England in Feb. 1778.

We next find the subject of this memoir serving in the Courageux 74, and acting as aid-de-camp to Captain Lord Mulgrave, in the action off Ushant, between Keppel and d’Orvilliers[2], on which occasion that ship had 6 killed and 13 wounded[3].

The operations of the Channel fleet, to which the Courageux was attached until the autumn of 1780, were unproductive of any striking events, owing partly to the cautious conduct of Keppel’s successors, and partly to the reserve of the enemy.

In Sept. 1780, being strongly recommended by Lord Mulgrave, Mr. Monke was appointed to act as Lieutenant of the Harpy fire-vessel, in which he continued until Nov. 1781, when he received a commission for the Warrior 74, Captain Sir James Wallace, under whom he served as fourth of that ship, in Rodney’s battles with de Grasse, April 9 and 12, 1782; on which days her total loss amounted to 5 killed and 21 wounded. He also assisted at the capture of two French 64-gun ships, one frigate, and a corvette, in the Mona Passage, on the 19th of the same month[4].

On the arrival of the victorious fleet at Jamaica, Lieutenant Monke was appointed first of le Jason 64[5], Captain John Aylmer, with whom he returned home in the month of October following; that ship having miraculously weathered the tremendous hurricane which proved so fatal to the Centaur, Ramillies, Ville de Paris, Glorieux, and Hector, as well as to numerous merchant vessels which had sailed for England under the protection of Rear-Admiral Graves[6].

In 1790, Lieutenant Monke was appointed to command the Speedwell cutter, and employed on various services, under the orders of Lord Howe. In 1792, while cruising on the Yorkshire coast, he captured the Hell-afloat, a very fine smuggling cutter of 14 guns, the exact number mounted by his own vessel.

A short time previous to the commencement of the French revolutionary war. Lieutenant Monke proceeded to Hamburgh, for the purpose of bringing over a number of British sailors, who had recently been wrecked in different vessels on the coast of Jutland; and he succeeded in prevailing on a hundred of them to embark with him in the Speedwell. During the passage home, a very stormy one, and prolonged by contrary winds, he found himself obliged to keep the deck, night and day, in order to secure these men for the navy, it being known that they intended, if possible, to seize the cutter, run her ashore, and thus avoid impressment. In consequence of the fatigue he endured on this occasion, his health was so seriously injured as to render it necessary for him to resign his desirable command, in Aug. 1798.

Lieutenant Monke’s subsequent appointments were to the Maidstone frigate, and Ville de Paris of 110 guns, from which latter ship he was promoted to the rank of Commander, in Mar. 1797.

Finding himself now possessed of much unwished-for leisure, Captain Monke compiled and, in 1799, published, “A Vocabulary of Sea Phrases and Terms of Art, used in Seamanship and Naval Architecture,” hoping that the objects which it embraced would be found of real utility to the maritime world in general, and to British naval officers in particular. The work to which we allude consists of two pocket volumes, in English and French, containing all the orders necessary for working a ship, and carrying on the duty, as well at sea as in port; by means of which an English prize-master, however ignorant of the French nautical language, may navigate a ship of that nation with part of her own crew, whenever circumstances, for awhile, prevent a sufficient number of British seamen from being put on board for that purpose.

In July 1808, Captain Monke was appointed to the Centurion 50, armed en flute, and ordered to convey naval stores to Halifax. We subsequently find him commanding the Statira frigate, pro tempore, and assisting at the reduction of Guadaloupe[7]. His post commission bears date Jan. 12, 1810.

We now arrive at the unfortunate conclusion of Captain Monke’s professional career. In Oct. 1810, he assumed the command of the Pallas 32, and proceeded from the Frith of Forth to cruise for a month on the coast of Norway, where his boats, under the directions of Lieutenant M‘Curdy, captured, in the Cove of Siveraag, two Danish cutter privateers of very inconsiderable force. Returning to Leith roads, pursuant to his orders, he had the misfortune to be wrecked near Dunbar, in the night of Dec. 18; his pilots having mistaken the light issuing from a lime-kiln, on the Scotch coast, for the light on the Isle of May, and the latter for that on the Bell Rock. It is not a little singular that, at the very same time, the Nymph 36, Captain Edward Sneyd Clay, though not in company with the Pallas, went ashore, under exactly similar circumstances, and was also totally wrecked within a short distance of her[8]. Captain Monke has not since been employed.

Agent.– J. Dufaur, Esq.

  1. See Nav. Chron. Vol. xxxii, pp. 276–279.
  2. See Royal Nav. Biog. Vol. I, p. 15.
  3. On board the Courageux was a man who worked for the officers as a tailor, and, as he was a civil steady person, he received many murks of their approbation; notwithstanding which he fell into a state of despondency, being firmly persuaded that he should lose his life whenever the fleets engaged. Lord Mulgrave. observing the melancholy dejection of his spirits, endeavoured by argument and ridicule, but in vain, to drive the idea from his mind. On the day of the above action, July 27, 1778, this poor fellow was ordered to assist in the cockpit, as a place of the greatest security; but, impelled by irresistible curiosity to see what was going on, he vanished up the main-hatchway, and in an instant he was mortally wounded.
  4. See Vol. II, Part I, note † at p. 52; and Vol. I, Part I, note at pp. 36–39.
  5. Now the Argonaut hospital-ship, stationed at Chatham.
  6. See Vol. II, Part I, p. 65 et seq., and the notes at p. 69.
  7. See Vol I, Part I. p. 265.
  8. See Nav. Chron. Vol. xxv, pp. 64–56.