Open main menu

Royal Naval Biography/Moubray, Richard Hussey

Rear-Admiral of the Blue; and a Companion of the most honorable Military Order of the Bath.

This officer, descended from an ancient family in Fifeshire, is the second and youngest son of Robert Moubray, M.D. proprietor of the lands of Cockairny, in that county, by Arabella, youngest daughter of Thomas Hussey, of Wrexham, in Denbighshire, Esq. He was born at Plymouth, March 16, 1776, and commenced his naval career as a Midshipman, on board the Impregnable, of 98 guns, bearing the flag of his relative the late Sir Richard Bickerton, Bart, in 1789[1]. At the time of the Spanish armament, 1790, that ship formed part of the grand fleet under Earl Howe. During the ensuing three years, he served successively in the Pegasus and Andromeda frigates, and Europa of 50 guns, on the Newfoundland, Channel, and Jamaica stations; and in the latter was present at the capture of Jeremie and Cape Nichola Mole, St. Domingo, by Commodore Ford and Lieutenant-Colonel Whitelocke, Sept. 20 and 23, 1793[2].

By the former officer, with whom he had proceeded to the West Indies in the preceding year, Mr. Moubray was soon after promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, in the Magicienne, of 32 guns. From that frigate he returned to the Europa, still carrying the Commodore’s broad pendant, and was first Lieutenant of her at the capture of Port-au-Prince. He had previously acted as Captain of the Iphigenia, and assisted in landing the troops at Port-au-Prince[3].

On the 9th June, 1794, five days after the surrender of that important place, Mr. Moubray was appointed to command the Fly sloop of war, and ordered to convey Captain Rowley and Lieutenant-Colonel Whitelocke, the bearers of the despatches relative thereto, to England. In the ensuing month of December, we find him escorting H.R.H. the Duke of York from Helveotsluys to Harwich; and subsequently assisting at the capture of two Dutch line-of-battle ships, one frigate, two sloops of war, nine East Indiamen, and about sixty other vessels in Plymouth Sound. He was afterwards employed in convoying the trade to and from Gibraltar, and the different ports in the Channel.

Captain Moubray’s post commission bears date April 10, 1797; from which period he served as a volunteer with the present Sir Richard Bickerton, in the Ramillies and Terrible, 74’s, till that officer’s promotion to a flag, Feb. 14, 1709. In 1801, he obtained the command of the Maidstone frigate; and in the following year was sent to the Mediterranean with despatches relative to the ratification of the treaty of Amiens. Soon after his arrival on that station, he conveyed Chevalier de Statinsky, the Russian Ambassador, from Naples to Constantinople, where he had the honor of being presented with a rich pelisse by the Grand Vizier. The Turks at this time appear to have been very grateful for the support they had received from Great Britain during the late contest with France, as may be inferred from the circumstance of their permitting Captain Moubray, who had determined, in compliance with the wishes of Lord Elgin, to remain a few weeks in that neighbourhood, to pass through the Bosphorus and anchor off Beuykdere, for the purpose of avoiding the plague then raging in the capital. A flattering compliment, when we consider their extreme jealousy respecting the navigation of the Euxine, and that a French squadron, which had arrived about the same time, with Marshal Brune, was then lying off the city. On his return from thence to Malta, three swords of very great value were confided to the care of Captain Moubray, as presents from the Sultaun to our late Sovereign, his present Majesty, and the Duke of York.

Soon after the renewal of hostilities in 1803, our officer captured the French brig of war l’Arab, of 8 guns and 58 men, from Athens, loaded with antiques for the Consular government. On the 1st Aug. following, he was appointed by Lord Nelson to the Active, of 38 guns, employed principally as a frigate of observation off Toulon – a service requiring the utmost vigilance and activity; during his continuance on which he was repeatedly chased away by the enemy’s squadron.

On the 18th Jan. 1805, the Active and Seahorse, the latter commanded by the Hon. Courtenay Boyle, were pursued by the whole French fleet, but fortunately effected their escape, although at one time within gun-shot; and the next day communicated the intelligence to Lord Nelson, who was then lying at anchor between the Madalena Islands, situated to the northward of Sardinia[4]. From that, period till the month of April, when it was at length ascertained that Admiral Villeneuve had proceeded down the Mediterranean[5], Captain Moubray was indefatigable in his endeavours to obtain information respecting their destination. He was then despatched with the intelligence to the fleets stationed off Brest and Ireland.

After cruising for some time on the Irish station, where he captured les Amis, a French letter of marque, laden with wine and merchandize, from Bourdeaux bound to Cayenne, our officer was again ordered to the Mediterranean. Early in 1807, he accompanied Sir John T. Duckworth to the Dardanelles, where he greatly distinguished himself in the battle off Point Pesquies; the official account of which will be found at p. 801. The Active, on that occasion, after sustaining for some time the fire of several other Turkish vessels, drove on shore and blew up a frigate of the largest class, with which she had been closely engaged[6].

The following extract from the Vice-Admiral’s public letter to Lord Collingwood, dated Feb. 21, should have been inserted in our memoir of Sir W. Sidney Smith; we trust, however, that it will be no less acceptable to our readers in this place;

“It is with peculiar pleasure that I embrace the opportunity, which has been at this time afforded, of bearing testimony to the zeal and distinguished ability of Sir Sidney Smith; the manner in which he executed the service entrusted to him was worthy of the reputation which he has long since so justly and generally established. The terms of approbation in which the Rear-Admiral relates the conduct of Captains Dacres, Talbot, Harvey, and Moubray, which, from my beingunder the necessity of passing the Point of Pesquies before the van could anchor, he had a greater opportunity of observing than I could, cannot but be highly flattering; but I was a more immediate witness to the able and ofiicer-like conduct which Captain Moubray displayed in obedience to my signal, by destroying a frigate with which he had been more particularly engaged, having driven her on shore on the European side, after she had been forced to cut her cables, from under the fire of the Pompde and Thunderer. The 64 having run on shore on Pesquies Point, I ordered the Repulse to work up and destroy her; which Captain Legge, in conjunction with the boats of the Pomp6e, executed with great promptitude and judgment.”

It will be seen by Sir W. Sidney Smith’s letter, already alluded to, that as circumstances rendered it impracticable at the moment to effect the entire destruction of the formidable battery on Point Pesquies, orders were given by that officer to Captain Moubray to remain there for the purpose of completing its demolition. This service was effectually performed by a party commanded by Lieutenants W. F. Carroll and S. Arabin, of the Pompée, and Lieutenant Laurie, R.M., under the protection of the Active.

Returning through the Dardanelles, in company with the fleet, March 3, 1807, the Active received a granite shot weighing 800 pounds, and measuring six feet six inches in circumference, which passed through her side two feet above the water, and lodged on the orlop-deck, close to the magazine scuttle, without injuring a man. The aperture made by it was so wide, that Captain Moubray on looking over the side to ascertain what damage it had done, saw two of his crew thrusting their heads through at the same moment. Had there been a necessity for hauling to the wind on the opposite tack, she must have gone down. The Active, during the whole of these operations, had only 8 men wounded, one of whom, the Boatswain, mortally.

After cruising for some time in the Archipelago where he had been left by Sir John T. Duckworth, on that officer’s departure for Egypt, Captain Moubray proceeded with his former guest, the Russian Ambassador, to Malta, where the Active underwent the necessary repairs. We next find him employed in the Adriatic, and assisting at the capture of the Italian brig of war, Friedland, mounting sixteen long 12-pounders, on board of which was embarked Commodore Don Amilcar Paolucci, Commander-in-Chief of the Italian marine, and a Knight of the Iron Crown. He was subsequently appointed to the Montagu, 74, and served in that ship at the reduction of Santa Maura by the naval and military forces under Captain (now Sir George) Eyre, and Brigadier-General Oswald. The former officer, by whom he had been authorized to treat with the French Governor for the surrender of the island, in writing to the Commander-in-Chief, warmly acknowledged the assistance he had received from Captain Moubray, “and his unremitting attention to every piece of duty that was going forward,” particularly during the time that he was himself on the opposite side of the island. In addition to this public mark of approbation, Captain Moubray had the gratification of receiving the personal thanks of the Brigadier and Captain Eyre; a copy of which we have unfortunately mislaid, but still hope to be able to insert in the addenda. The Montagu on this occasion had 4 men killed and 21 wounded[7].

Soon after this event, our officer, in company with General Oswald, visited Ali Pacha at his palace at Prevesa, and was presented by that celebrated chieftain with a superb pair of Albanian pistols. Early in 1811, he exchanged into the Repulse, of 74 guns; and from that period, till towards the conclusion of the war, was chiefly employed with the in-shore squadron off Toulon. At the latter end of May, 1812, when an attempt was about to be made by a detachment from Sir Edward Pellew’s fleet to take the town of Ciotat by a coup-de-main, and thereby obtain possession of the shipping lying in the mole of that place; the Repulse was attached to the squadron under the orders of Rear-Admiral Hallowell, and selected to conduct the boats to the coast, cover the landing of the marines intended for that service, and then attack the sea defences. The boats reached the point of debarkation by day-break on the 1st June; but the wind unfortunately failed before the whole of the squadron could enter the bay, and the enemy being alarmed, the enterprise was necessarily abandoned. A party of seamen and marines, however, sent from the Kent, 74, and other ships of the detachment, after some skirmishing with a body of French troops, succeeded in destroying a fortification on the island of Veske. The Kent, in the mean time, being engaged with the enemy’s batteries, had 2 men killed and 8 wounded. One of the former, Lieutenant Robert Watson, a young officer of great professional merit, fell when in the act of pointing a gun, to which he had affixed a sight of his own contrivance, and died regretted by all who had the honor of his acquaintance.

On the 2d May, 1813, Captain Moubray being off the port of Morjean, in company with the Volontaire and Undaunted frigates, and Redwing sloop of war, observed the enemy actively employed in preparation for remounting cannon on two batteries which had some time previous thereto been taken and dismantled by a detachment landed from the latter vessels[8]. Viewing the importance of this situation as a place of protection to the coasting trade, he caused 100 marines of the Repulse, under the command of Captain Innis, to proceed, in conjunction with those of the frigates, for the purpose of destroying the works, whilst the boats should bring out some vessels that were in the harbour. The whole, under the direction of Lieutenant Isaac Shaw, of the Volontaire, whose local knowledge rendered him peculiarly qualified to conduct the enterprise, covered by the fire of the Redwing, and launches with carronades, were landed, and drove the enemy to the heights in the rear, where he was kept in check until the vessels were secured, and the batteries, on which were found nine gun carriages, and a 13-inch mortar, blown up, and completely destroyed. This service was performed with the loss of 2 men killed, and 4, including Lieutenant Shaw, wounded. The enemy had 12 men killed, and several taken prisoners.

In the month of August following, the Repulse, in company with l’Aigle frigate, fell in with some small trading vessels near Vernazza, in the Gulf of Genoa; one laden with iron ore, and another with sulphur were taken; but the remainder having sought refuge in the harbour, it was necessary, in order to get at them, to take possession of that town; this was accomplished by anchoring the ships close to it, and landing the marines, who, driving the enemy’s troops out, occupied it, whilst a considerable body, hastening from the neighbourhood to its relief, were kept back by the fire of the ships, until the French vessels were burnt, their crews having previously scuttled them. The enemy lost several men in this little affair, which was admirably conducted by Lieutenant Harris, of the Repulse, and fortunately without a casualty on the part of the British. The royal marines, led by Captain Innis and Lieutenant Dixie, behaved in their customary gallant manner.

Early in 1814, Captain Moubray escorted a fleet of merchantmen from Malta to England; and in the month of June following, paid the Repulse off at Plymouth. He was nominated a C.B. June 4, 1815; and advanced to the rank of Rear-Admiral, July 19, 1821.

Our officer married, Jan. 5, 1815, Emma, daughter of William Hobson, of Markfield, co. Middlesex, Esq., by whom he has three children. His brother, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Moubray, is the present proprietor of the estate of Cockairny, which has been in this family, descending in regular succession from father to son, for several centuries.

Residence.– Otterston, near Aberdour, Fifeshire.


REAR-ADMIRAL MOUBRAY. The following is a copy of the letter of thanks alluded to at p. 810:–

Magnificent, at St. Maura, April 19, 1810.

“Sir,– The siege of St. Maura having ended by the surrender of the fortress, and the garrison becoming prisoners of war, I feel it incumbent upon me to enclose for your information the order issued upon that occasion, by Brigadier-General Oswald, expressing his sentiments upon the conduct of the seamen and marines employed on shore, and immediately under his own observation; and it is a great pleasure to mc at the same time to testify the sense I have of that zealous alacrity which was so conspicuously displayed by the Captains, Officers, and ships’ companies, in carrying forward the various duties of the siege, and on every occasion where an opportunity presented itself. For the active and unremitting support and assistance which I personally received, I request you to accept my warmest thanks.

&c. &c. &c.

(Signed)“Geo. Eyre.

Captain Moubray,
H.M.S. Montagu.

  1. Sir Richard Bickerton married the sister of Mr. R. H. Moubray’s mother.
  2. See p. 505.
  3. In 1794, the campaign on the Jamaica station opened by the reduction of the different districts on the north and south sides of the Bight of Leogane. On the 3d Feb., the strong post at Cape Tiberon was taken after a sharp conflict, in which the British had 3 men killed and 10 wounded. About fifty of the French Republicans were slain; the remainder, amounting to 600, retired to Aux Cayes, leaving behind them a considerable quantity of stores, artillery, and ammunition. Shortly afterwards, the post of l’Arul, six miles from Leogane, garrisoned by 600 men, was stormed by the troops under Lieutenant-Colonel Whitelocke.

    On the 30th May, Commodore Ford having collected a squadron in the road of l’Archaye, consisting of one 74, two 64’s, one 50, three frigates, two sloops of war, and one smaller vessel; and embarked a large body of troops, with stores, artillery, &c. under Brigadier-General Whyte, sailed to the attack of Port-au-Prince. On the same evening, the ships of war and transports anchored in their respective stations; and the operations being ready to commence, a flag of truce was sent the next morning to demand the surrender of the place; but as the boat approached the harbour, the officer charged with the despatch was informed that no communication would be allowed; he consequently returned to the Europa.

    The naval and military commanders agreeing in opinion, that the possession of Fort Bizotten was an object of the first consideration, the necessary preparations were immediately made for attacking it. Accordingly, at 7h 30’ A.M. on the 1st June, the Belliqueux and Sceptre, 64’s, got under weigh with the sea breeze, and were placed by their Captains (James Brine and J. R. Dacres) with great precision, against that fortress, and instantly commenced a brisk and well-directed fire upon it. The Penelope frigate, Captain B. S. Rowley, at the same time anchored close to the shore, to flank a ravine at the back of the fort; whilst the Irresistible, 74, Captain J. Henry, and the Europa, 50, Captain G. Gregory, kept under sail to throw in a broadside when opportunity offered, as well as to keep off a body of the enemy’s horse, and some brigands, who appeared disposed to annoy the landing of the troops, which was completely effected by five o’clock in the evening, under the direction of Captain T. Affleck, of the Fly sloop. Although the fort returned the fire of the ships but slowly after they were placed, and sometimes appeared quite silenced; yet the enemy kept the colours still flying, and fired a shot now and then till six o’clock in the evening, when a most tremendous thunder storm and deluge of rain put an end to all firing. At half past eight, Captain Daniel, of the 41st regiment, with 60 men, stormed and carried the fort, with the loss of Captain Wallis, of the 22d regiment, and six men killed, Captain Daniel and three men wounded.

    Arrangements were now made for landing the whole of the troops, and to make a general attack upon the sea batteries and heights which defended the town. But on the evening of the 3d, some deserters came off to the Europa, and informed the Commodore, that the commissaries, with the principal part of their force, had made their escape towards Aux Cayes, to avoid being surrounded by the British troops; by which means the town and shipping were saved, as they had prepared several merchant-ships with combustibles, and moored them in such a situation as to set fire to the whole.

    On the morning of the 4th, the ships of war got under sail, and hoisted the British colours on the sea batteries; while the Brigadier-General landed with the troops, and took possession of the town on the land side.

    The loss sustained by the navy at the attack of Port-au-Prince, amounted to 5 seamen killed and 16 wounded. On this occasion, no less than 13,790 tons of shipping, with an immense quantity of sugar, coffee, cotton, and indigo, fell into the hands of the captors.

  4. For an account of Lord Nelson’s proceedings from Jan. 19 to Aug. 15, 1805, see note at p. 589, et seq.
  5. Villeneuve started from Toulon on his West India excursion, March 31, and was discovered at 8 A.M. on that day by the Active and Phoebe. The latter frigate, commanded by the Hon. T. B. Capel, conveyed the intelligence to Nelson. Captain Moubray stood to the S.W., on a parallel with the enemy, but lost sight of them during the ensuing night.
  6. The frigate alluded to above was boarded through the stern-windows by Lieutenants George Wickens Willes and Walter Croker, who laid a train to her magazine, which caused her immediate destruction. Mr. Arbuthnot, the British Ambassador, then on board the Royal George, witnessed the Active’s conduct, and afterwards paid her commander some very flattering compliments on the occasion.
  7. Santa Maura is one of the Seven Islands, lying contiguous to the coasts of Albania and the Morea, They extend from north to south, to the distance of about 300 miles, and are of great political importance, serving as so many outposts to watch the fluctuating proceedings of the Turkish government. Corfu, which is the principal, commands the commerce of the Levant. They were formed into a republic in March 1800, by virtue of a treaty between the Russians and Turks, who had wrested them from the French in the preceding year.
  8. See Hon. George G. Waldegrave, in our next volume.