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Royal Naval Biography/Raper, Henry

Rear-Admiral of the White.

This officer was a Lieutenant of the Queen Charlotte, the flag-ship of Earl Howe, in the battle of June 1, 1794; soon after which glorious event, he was promoted to the rank of Commander; and in the following year appointed, at the recommendation of the above-named nobleman, Major of Signals to the Portuguese squadron, acting in conjunction with the British fleet under his Lordship’s orders. In consideration of his services, the Chevalier d’Almeida, by order of his court, presented Captain Raper with an elegant dress sword, the hilt of which is of gold, beautifully ornamented with medallions, and richly set round with diamonds.

His next appointment was to the Racoon sloop; and on the 1st Feb. 1796, he obtained post rank in the Champion, of 20 guns, which ship formed part of the squadron employed under the orders of the late Sir Home Popham, in the unfortunate expedition against Ostend[1]. She also assisted at the capture of a Swedish convoy, laden with warlike stores, intended to replenish the French arsenals; an account of which we have already given, at p. 497, et seq.

Early in 1799, Captain Raper was appointed to l’Aimable Frigate; and towards the latter end of that year, sailed from Cork, in company with the Glenmore, of 44 guns, and a fleet of merchantmen, bound to the West Indies. On the 17th Dec, they fell in with la Syrene, a heavy French frigate, and la Bergere corvette, from Cayenne, having the celebrated Victor Hugues on board. These vessels had just before captured the Calcutta, an extra East Indiaman, and were removing her crew, when, on the clearing up of a fog, they were discovered to leeward, by Captain Duff of the Glenmore, who retook the Calcutta. Captain Raper, in the mean time, pursued the French men ofwar, and in a spirited manner brought them to action, which continued for 35 minutes, when they made off, though so much superior to l’Aimable. The Glenmore, taking care of her recapture and her valuable charge, could not render any assistance to her consort.

Captain Raper continued on the Leeward Island station until the suspension of hostilities, in 1801 . During the latter part of the late war with France, he commanded the Mars, of 74 guns. His first commission as a Rear-Admiral, bears date Aug. 12, 1819.

  1. In the spring of 1798, the British government having received intelligence that a great number of gun-boats and transport-scbuyts had been collected at Flushing, formed a plan for the destruction of the locks and sluice-gates of the Bruges canal, by which they were about to proceed to Dunkirk and Ostend, in order to be employed in the threatened invasion of England. For this purpose; a squadron, consisting of the Expedition, a 44-gun ship, armed en flute, the Circe, Vestal, Hebe, Minerva, and Druid frigates, the three latter fitted as troop-ships; the Champion, of 20 guns, and Ariadne, of similar force; the Harpy, Savage, Dart, Kite, and Wolverene sloops; Tartarus and Hecla bombs; and ten smaller vessels, having on board about 2,000 troops, commanded by Major-General Coote, sailed from Margate on the 14th May, but owing to the unfavorable state of the weather, did not reach the place of its destination until lh A.M. on the 19th. The wind soon afterwards shifted to the west, and threatened to blow hard, notwithstanding which, the greater part of the troops, with all the necessary implements for destroying the sluices, were landed at a short distance from the town of Ostend, by 5 o’clock. The enemy’s batteries had previously opened on the ships, and their fire was returned in a most spirited manner, by the Wolverene and two gun-vessels; whilst the bombs threw their shells with such precision, that the town was set on fire in different places, and the ships in the basin much damaged. As a feint to cover the operations of bringing up the materials, and of destroying the sluices, a summons was sent to the Commandant of Ostend to surrender that place; but he replied, that the council of war, then sitting, bad resolved rather to be buried under its ruins. By this time the vessels opposed to the batteries had sustained considerable damage; they were therefore called off, and the Dart, Harpy, and Kite, ordered to take their stations; but it being low water, they could not get near enough to fire with much effect. At 10h 20’ a great explosion was seen, which indicated the destruction of the sluices; and soon after the troops were observed to be assembled on the sand hills near the shore; but unfortunately the surf ran so high, that not a man could be re-cm barked. In this situation they remained until the morning of the 20th, when Major-General Coote had the mortification to find that the enemy had collected in considerable force, and surrounded his little army; he, however, maintained his post with great gallantry, until being severely wounded, and seeing no prospect of extricating himself from his situation, he felt himself under the uecessity of capitulating.

    The loss sustained by the navy in this expedition, was 2 Midshipmen and 13 men killed; Lieutenant J. Edmonds, of the Asp gun-vessel, and 13 men wounded; Captain J. Mackellar, of the Minerva, and his boat’s crew, taken prisoners. The army had about 60 men killed and wounded, among whom were several valuable officers; the number taken prisoners amounted to 1,134.

    The canal, which it was the object of the assailants to destroy, had cost the states of Bruges an immense sum of money, and taken the labour of five years to complete. The sluice-gates were indeed demolished, and several boats burnt, by the explosion; but it was soon found that the damage was very trifling, every thing being restored to its former state in the course of a few weeks.