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Royal Naval Biography/Pellew, Fleetwood Broughton Reynolds

A Companion of the Most Honorable Military Order of the Bath.
[Post-Captain of 1808.]

Second son of Admiral Viscount Exmouth, G.C.B., under whom he distinguished himself at the capture and destruction of the Dutch shipping in Batavia roads, Nov. 27, 1806[1] .

Although then acting Captain of a frigate, his commission as a Commander was not confirmed until Oct. 12, 1807, at which period he was still extremely young. The following is a copy of his official letter reporting the capture of a Dutch corvette and Indiaman, and several other vessels, &c. near Samarang, Aug. 31, in the latter year:

H.M.S. Psyche, off Java, Sept. 3, 1807.

“Sir,– I have the honor to acquaint you, that proceeding in the execution of your orders of the 18th June last, H.M. ships Psyche and Caroline reconnoitred the port of Souraybaya, on the 29th Aug.; and by a ship from Batavia (captured the following day) ascertained the situation of the enemy’s line-of-battle ships, which are still inactive there, and represented as being in too bad a state to admit of repair.

“As our success in a great measure depended on the intelligence the enemy might receive of our appearance on the coast, not a moment was lost in proceeding to Samarang, off which port the Psyche was enabled to anchor at midnight, the Caroline having previously parted company in chase by signal. At day-light I weighed and stood into the road, when the boats were despatched, under the direction of Lieutenant Kersteman, assisted by Mr. Charles Sullivan, to attack and bring out the enemy’s vessels there: this service was completely effected, in a manner highly creditable to the officers and men employed on it; the boats having taken possession of, and towed out from under a heavy fire from the batteries, an armed schooner of 8 guns, and a large merchant brig. The early part of the morning had discovered to us two ships and a brig at anchor outside; and from one of them having the appearance of a ship of war, not a doubt was to be entertained of their being enemies. To be ready to take advantage of the first setting in of the sea breeze, the captured vessels were destroyed; and before noon H.M. ship was clear of the harbour in chase of the enemy, whose vessels had weighed and stood to sea.

“I soon had the satisfaction of finding that the good sailing of H.M. ship afforded me a fair prospect of closing with the ship of war; and at 3-30 P.M., finding us fast coming up with them, they all bore up, and ran on shore about 9 miles to the westward of Samarang, opening, at the same time, a well-directed fire on us, which, on our anchoring in 3 fathoms, was very smartly returned, though apparently without much success; as the shoal water prevented my closing as near as I wished. In a few minutes, however, the largest ship struck; and at 4-30, as I was preparing to hoist the boats out, with an intention to attempt taking possession by boarding, the ship of war surrendered; the brig shortly afterwards fired a broadside, and hauled down her colours. They proved to be the Resolutie armed merchant ship, of 700 tons, with a valuable cargo, having on board the colours and staff of the 23d European battalion in the Dutch service; and the Ceres, a remarkably fine brig, in the Dutch Company’s service, of 12 guns and 70 men, a month from Batavia, under the convoy of the Scipio corvette, of 24 guns and 150 men: the latter sustained very considerable damage, many shot having passed through the hull; her rigging was much cut, and her commander mortally wounded. I am happy to add, that they were all got afloat the same night without injury, by the persevering activity of my officers and men.

(Signed)Fleetwood B. R. Pellew.”

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

The annihilation of the Dutch naval force in the Indian seas is thus described by Sir Edward Pellew, in a letter to the Madras government, dated Dec. 15, 1807:

“Having sailed from Malacca on the 20th ult., we arrived with the squadron named in the margin[2] off Point Panka, at the eastern extremity of Java, on the 6th instant, with the troops embarked on board them. The Fox reconnoitred Batavia on the passage, where a brig only was lying in the roads. The shoal water prevented the line-of-battle ships from proceeding beyond Sedaye, about 10 miles up the harbour on the right, from whence, in conjunction with Lieutenant-Colonel Lockhart, commanding the troops, I sent a commission under a flag of truce, consisting of Captain Fleetwood Pellew, Captain Sir Charles Burdett, of H.M. 30th regiment, and Mr. Locker, my secretary, to treat with the commandant of the Dutch naval force for the surrender of the men of war, lying at Griessee in a dismantled state. On their arrival at that place, Mr. Cowell, the Dutch Commodore, thought fit to detain the boat, and place them in arrest, contrary to the established law of nations, sending information to that purport by one of his own officers, and absolutely refusing to accept of any conditions for the surrender of the ships. The following morning, having lightened the Culloden and Powerful, the whole squadron proceeded up to Griessee, cannonading a battery of twelve 9 and 18-pounders, at Sambelangan, on the island of Madura, the hot shot from which hulled several of the ships, but providentially struck no person on board them, and was soon silenced. The battery of Griessee fired but a few shot, also without effect. On the approach of our squadron, the gentlemen of the commission were removed to Souraybaya, about 15 miles distant; but having represented to the governor and council of that settlement, to which Griessee is subordinate, the unjustifiable conduct of the Dutch commodore, they were released the following day, and accompanied by a deputation on their return, to express the concern of that government (disclaiming all concurrence in this violent measure), and to receive the terms upon which a final arrangement should be made.

“The affair being thus settled without further difficulty, the men of war named in the margin were burnt on the evening of the 11th instant; they having been scuttled previous to the Dutch commodore’s desertion of Griessee[3]. The two former were very fine ships, but by great neglect were considerably wanting in repair: no other man of war was found in the harbour. The grenadier company of H.M. 30th regiment took possession of Griessee, and with a party of artillery has effectually destroyed the guns, military stores, &c. in the garrison; the naval stores were destroyed by a division of seamen landed from the squadron. The battery of Sambelangan has, agreeable to the terms of the treaty, been destroyed by the Dutch, and since inspected by the commanding officer of artillery. This service has completed the entire destruction of the naval force of Holland in the East Indies, the previous successes of H.M. ships having deprived them of every other man of war in their service on this station. The defenceless state of the ships now destroyed, which lay on shore alongside the hulk, their guns being landed, and the batteries being unequal to oppose the lire of the squadron, did not afford a sufficient opportunity to exercise the united naval and military forces employed on this service; but the difficulties which have been surmounted in bringing up the ships to Griessee, have called forth that active zeal and perseverance which is highly creditable to the exertions of the respective captains and commanders, and every person on board.”

Captain F. Pellew was promoted to post rank Oct. 14, 1808; at which period, we believe, he commanded the Cornwallis frigate, of 50 guns, on the East India station; where he continued until after the final reduction of Java, in 1811. His “able and spirited conduct” at Samanap has already been described, in our memoir of Captain George Harris, C.B.[4]

On the 20th Jan. 1813, Captain Pellew was appointed to the Resistance of 46 guns, then employed in the Mediterranean; where a court-martial was shortly afterwards assembled to try seven of his crew, for a breach of the 19th, 20th, and 21st articles of war, and two of the same culprits for a breach of the 22d article also. After several adjournments, the prisoners were all found more or less guilty, and four of them sentenced to death, the others to be severely flogged; “but a doubt having arisen in the mind of the court on points of law as to the mode of proceeding, though not as to the facts proved against the mutineers,” their judges were of opinion, “that no part of the sentence should be carFied into execution until the minutes of the proceedings should have been submitted to competent law authority for decision.” A copy of the sentence will be found in the Naval Chronicle, from which work we make the following extract[5]:

“The subject of reference was, the right of the court to proceed after an interruption in their meeting from day to day, as required by act of parliament; such interruption (arising from tempestuous weather) having been unavoidable. The act expressly says, that ‘the proceedings of any court-martial shall not be delayed by the absence of any of its members, when a sufficient number doth remain to compose such court.’ Now a sufficient quorum did not remain on board the Hibernia to compose a court, therefore the proceedings were unavoidably delayed. It appears that the only official decision made known on this case has been, a letter from the secretary of the Admiralty, notifying that the culprits having been pardoned, the reference to the crown lawyers became unnecessary. This, in our humble judgment, is an erroneous, not to say slovenly mode of disposing of the case: the specific law remains undefined; the same ‘glorious uncertainty’ is left to puzzle any succeeding court under similar circumstances; and the same variety of opinion is left to prevail among naval men. Perhaps the suggestion implied by this notice of the unsettled case in question may have a due and salutary effect.”

On the 5th Oct. 1813, Captain Pellew assisted at the capture of a French convoy lying in port d’Anzo, the particulars of which service are given at p. 423 et seq. of Vol. II. Part I. The Resistance was paid off at the commencement of 1814. Captain Pellew’s last appointment was, Aug. 25, 1818, to the Revolutionaire 46, fitting for the Mediterranean, from whence he returned home, June 15, 1822. He married, June 5, 1816, Eliza Harriet, daughter of the late Sir Godfrey Webster, Bart.

Agent.– P. Muspratt, Esq.

  1. See Vol. I. p. 223.
  2. Culloden 74 (flag-ship). Captain George Bell; Powerful 74, Captain F. B. R. Pellew; Caroline 36, Captain Henry Hart; Fox 32, Captain the Hon. Archibald Cochrane ; Victor 18, Captain Thomas Groube; Samarang 18, Captain Richard Buck; Seaflower 14, Lieutenant William FitzWilliam Owen; and Jaseur 12, Lieutenant Thomas Laugharne.
  3. Revolutie, 70-gun ship; Plato, of similar force; Kortenaar, sheer-hulk; Rustoff, Indiaman, of 1000 tons, pierced for 40 guns; and a large transport.
  4. Captain Pellew then commanded the Phaeton frigate. See p. 288 et seq. of this volume; and at p. 290 make the following correction:– last line but one, for * insert a ‡.
  5. See Nav. Chron. vol. xxx, p. 319 et seq.; and vol. xxxii, p.335.