Royal Naval Biography/Smith, William Sydney


Entered the royal navy in 1813; obtained his first commission on the 25th April, 1823; was advanced to his present rank July 23d, 1830; and appointed to the Larne sloop, on the North Sea station, Sept. 24th, 1832. The following is taken from the Naval and Military Gazette:–

Portsmouth, 19th April, 1833.

“A court-martial assembled yesterday on board H.M.S. Victory, to try Commander W. S. Smith, of the Larne, for having run the said ship on shore, on the 4th inst., and for his conduct on that occasion. It appeared by the evidence, that the Larne, being on a cruise in the narrowest part of the Channel, between Calais and the South Foreland, on the morning of the 4th instant, fell in with and detained a Dutch galliot, from Villa Nova, bound to Rotterdam, and having placed the master and a pilot on board, took her in tow and made all sail for the Downs. The weather was thick and rainy, and at 10-30 the steeple of Calais bore about S.E. by S. four miles, the wind S.S.W., and steering N.W., at half-past 12; the wind drawing rather to the westward, the course was altered to W.N.W., and sails trimmed accordingly, and immediately afterwards the ship struck; the hands were on deck at the time, the guns, except five, were thrown overboard, together with the spars and every thing else on deck, for the purpose of lightening the ship; assistance from the men of war in the Downs was promptly sent, as well as pilot boats and craft from Deal; and after great exertions at the next tide she floated off. It seemed probable that after a long prevalence of easterly winds, a sudden change to the westward might have considerably accelerated the velocity of the eastern current, and thus set the ship unaccountably to leeward; a branch pilot was on deck looking out, but the lead was not going. At two o’clock the case for the prosecution closed; and time being requested by Commander Smith to prepare his defence, the court adjourned to this day at nine o’clock, when Commander Smith entered upon his defence, in support of which he called the look-out men, who were stationed in the usual manner to give warning of the approach to danger; and also Captains Nicholas Lockyer and Henry Eden, who both bore testimony in the strongest terms to the general ability and zeal of Commander Smith in the discharge of his duty during the last winter, while cruising in the North Sea. At ten o’clock the court was cleared, to deliberate on the evidence adduced; at half-past eleven pronounced sentence, finding that the Lame took the ground on the outer side of the Goodwin Sand, in consequence of the course recommended by the pilot having been shaped without sufficient regard to the strength of the current; and that Commander Smith had not attended to the first article of the general printed instructions, page 91, respecting pilotage; but that in consideration of the general vigilance and zeal displayed by him during the late winter’s cruise, and the great and effectual exertions used in extricating the ship from the perilous situation in which she was placed, the court adjudged him to be reprimanded, and admonished to be more attentive to the said instructions in future.”

The Larne soon afterwards sailed for the West India and Halifax station, where she is at present employed.