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Royal Naval Biography/Montagu, John William


JOHN WILLIAM MONTAGU, Esq.
[Post-Captain of 1820.]

Is the second son of Admiral Sir George Montagu, G.C.B, and was born, Jan. 18, 1790.

On the 20th March, 1810, in the House of Commons, Sir Charles Morice Pole, Bart, moved for the production of certain papers, respecting the case of this gentleman; which from the explanation of Robert Ward, Esq. one of the Lords of the Admiralty, appeared to be as follows:– By the constitution of the Naval Academy at Portsmouth, every youngster who had been three years there, and three years afloat, was entitled to pass an examination for lieutenant. In 1806, the plan of a Naval College was adopted in its stead, by which lads were to go through a particular course of education, without any specific time being fixed, and having been four years afloat, they were then entitled to pass. The Naval College was not, however, actually in existence, till 1808, and the Naval Academy, at which young Montagu was educated, subsisted till that time. But when the above regulations were established by an Order in Council with regard to the Naval College, by an inadvertence, no provision was .made for those who had been at the Naval Academy between 1806 and 1808. In consequence of this, it happened that Mr. John W. Montagu, when with the Mediterranean fleet, in 1809, did present himself to the examining captains to pass, and they conceived it their duty to take this exception, that he had not served four years afloat, as was required by the new regulations. Admiral Montagu, on hearing this, took a very natural interest in the case of his son, and wrote up to the Admiralty for redress. The case was twice, in different shapes, laid before the Admiralty counsellor, who stated it as his opinion, that, however unfortunate the circumstance might be, the law was still in the teeth of any redress being obtained, it was at last submitted to the crown lawyers; and a very few days before Sir Charles made his motion the Admiralty had received an opinion from them, that Mr. Montagu was entitled to pass. In consequence of this, the First Lord had decided that he should be allowed to take rank from the time when he presented himself to be examined in the Mediterranean, Oct. 9, 1809.

We first find Mr. J. W. Montagu serving as lieutenant of the Cerberus frigate. Captain Thomas Garth, employed in the blockade of Corfu. On the 29th Jan. 1813, he commanded one of her boats at the capture of a trabacolo, armed with two guns, and deeply laden with corn and flour, for the garrison of that island. In May following, he assisted in bringing out from under a martello tower, to the southward of Brindisi, a vessel mounting one 6-pounder, from Otranto bound to Ancona. He also witnessed the capture of two gun-boats, and assisted in securing nine merchant vessels, a service thus officially reported:

“Sir,– Having reconnoitred the port of Otranto on the 27th instant, and observed a convoy collected, which I thought would make a push for Corfu the first N.W. wind, I took a station off the island of Fano on the following morning to endeavour to intercept them, and sent the barge and gig you were good enough to leave with me, under Lieutenant William Henry Nares, of the Apollo, and the barge and pinnace of this ship, under Lieutenant John William Montagu, close in shore, when, as was expected, about one a.m. they came over, protected by eight gun-boats. Notwithstanding this strong force, aided by three more gun-boats from Fano, and the cliffs covered with French troops, they were attacked in the most determined and gallant manner. Lieutenant Nares, in the Apollo’s barge, boarded and carried one gun-boat, and Mr. Hutchison, in your gig, actually boarded and carried another before our barge could get alongside.

“It is with the deepest regret I am now to inform you, that Mr. Suett[1], master’s-mate of the Cerberus, was shot through the heart in boarding another gun-boat; in him the service has to lament the loss of a most gallant young man; one seaman also killed, and a marine dangerously wounded, belonging to this ship, is the amount of our loss.

“The gun-boats taken had each a 9-pounder in their bow, and two 4-pounders abaft, going with troops to Corfu; four of the convoy were also taken.

(Signed)Thos. Garth.”

To Captain B. W. Taylor, H.M.S. Apollo,
Senior Officer off Corfu.

“Mr. Hutchison, master’s-mate, had but seven men on board the gig he was in, with which he not only captured a gun-boat, but also took three other vessels. The Apollo returning from the southward, where she had been watering, captured five more of the convoy, with grain, under Ottoman colours, which the Cerberus was chasing, and the boats had prevented getting into Corfu.

(Signed)B. W. Taylor.”

To Rear-Admiral Freemantle.

This officer was made commander, May 31, 1814; appointed to the Brisk, of 10 guns, Mar. 31, 1819 ; and posted, Nov. 30, 1820.

Agent.– Sir F. M. Ommanney.



  1. Son of the comedian of that name.