Royal Naval Biography/Tailour, John

[Post-Captain of 1813.]

Entered the navy under the auspices of the late Admiral Sir Thomas Pasley, Bart, and served as midshipman on board the Alfred 74, Captain John Bazely, at the defeat of the French fleet by Earl Howe, June 1, 1794. We subsequently find him in the Blenheim 90, which ship formed part af Vice-Admiral Hotham’s fleet at the destruction of l’Alcide 74, off the Hières islands, July 18, 1795[1]. After that affair, he joined le Censeur, a prize 74 commander by Captain (now Sir John) Gore, with whom he was taken prisoner, when returning to England, Oct. 7, 1795[2].

Mr. Tailour was next received on b0ard the Royal George, a first rate, bearing the flag of Lord Bridport, from whom he received an order to act as lieutenant of the Medusa troopship, during the general mutiny at Spithead[3]. His promotion to that rank took place in July, 1797; from which period he appears to have served in the Phaeton frigate until the peace of Amiens. The services performed by that active and successful cruiser will be seen by reference to our memoirs of the Hon. Sir Robert Stopford, Sir James Nicoll Morris, and Captain Francis Beaufort.[4]

Lieutenant Tailour’s next appointment was to be first of the Hindostan 54, armed en flute, and commanded by Captain Le Gros; which ship sailed from Plymouth with stores for the use of the Mediterranean fleet, February 12, 1804. The following account of her destruction by fire, is taken from Captain Brenton’s Naval History, Vol. III. p. 394 et seq.

“The Hindostan, a ship built for an Indiaman, of 1100 tons burden, was loaded with every article of which the British squadron could he supposed to stand in need. Her crew consisted of about 300 people, including passengers, women, and children; she arrived at Gibraltar in March, and sailed immediately, in company with the Phoebe frigate, to join Lord Nelson off Toulon. On the 30th, she was separated from her consort, in a heavy gale of wind, in the gulf of Lyons; and on the 2nd of April, at 7 in the morning, when no ship was in sight, and she was thirteen leagues from the land, smoke was observed to issue from the fore-hatchway. The hammocks were instantly got on deck, and the drum beat to quarters. The fire engine was set to work, but with little effect; the smoke encreased so much, as to prevent the people working on the orlop-deck; the hatches were therefore laid over and secured, the ports barred in, and every measure resorted to, in order to prevent the circulation of air. In the mean time she hove-to, and hoisted the boats out; but to prevent the people rushing into them, the marines were kept under arms. Prepared for the worst, they made all sail for the land: providentially the wind was fair, and they stood in for the bay of Rosas, with signals of distress flying at each mast-head, but no vessel was in sight to afford them relief. The fire rapidly increasing, the exertions of the captain and his noble crew increased with the danger. Water was thrown down in torrents, and part of the powder was destroyed or thrown overboard; in doing this one man was suffocated, and the people were again forced to quit the lower decks.

“At 2 P.M., when they had been seven hours contending with the flames they made the land. The joy of this discovery is not to be described or felt by any but those who have been in such a perilous situation; but they had still much to do; the land was five leagues off, and at half-past two, the flames flew up the fore and main hatchways as high as the lower yards. Some of the men now jumped overboard to got to the boats, and many of them were drowned.[5] Tarpaulins were kept over the hatches, and water was still poured down, by which means the flames subsided a little Many of the people lay apparently lifeless on the decks from suffocation. The crisis was fast approaching, when human fortitude could do no more. Had not the officers been steady, all must have perished: the mizen mast was set on fire in the captain’s cabin, and the flames bursting from all the lee ports. At 5 o’clock they ran the ship on shore, about a mile from the beach, in the bay of Rosas. The Spanish boats came off to their assistance, but were afraid to approach near enough to be of any service. At 5-30 she was on fire fore and aft, when, with an heroic self-devotion, which can never be sufficiently extolled, they first sent away the women, the children, the sick, and the foreigners; after which, the good and gallant captain with his brave adherents, quitted the Hindostan, and had scarcely reached the shore when she blew up.”

In a letter to Earl St. Vincent, dated April 19, 1804, Lord Nelson, speaking of Captain Le Gros, says:–

“If his account be correct (he is now on his trial), he had great merit from the order in which his ship was kept. It must have arisen either from some of the medicine chests breaking, or from wet getting down, which caused things to heat. The preservation of the crew seems little short of a miracle. I never read such a journal of exertions in my life.”

By the sentence of the court-martial, the captain, officers, and crew of the Hindostan were all most honorably acquitted; and it is scarcely necessary to add, that much credit was given to them for fighting so long with the flames. Lieutenant Tailour was subsequently appointed second of the Excellent, 74, Captain (now Vice-admiral) Frank Sotheron, under whom he served at the defence of Gaata and capture of Capri, in 1806[6].

We next find him first of la Nereide frigate, Captain Robert Corbett, and accompanying the expedition under General Whitelocke to Buenos Ayres. In the following year, 1808, he joined the Tigre, 80, Captain Benjamin Hallowell, on the Mediterranean station.

The very gallant exploit for which Lieutenant Tailour was promoted to the rank of Commander has been briefly noticed at p. 483 of Vol. I. Part II., and is thus fully described by Lord Collingwood, in an official letter to the Admiralty, dated November 1, 1800:–

“When the enemy’s convoy was chased on the 23d ultimo[7], their transports separated from the ships of war, and under the protection of an armed store-ship, two bombards, and a xebec, made for the bay of Rosas. When the ships of war were disposed of, as related in my letter of yesterday, the transports and their escort became the object of my attention; and on the 29th, the Apollo was sent off Rosas, to examine what vessels were there, and how far they were in a situation assailable.

“The next day I appointed the ships and brigs as per margin[8] for this service, under the orders of Captain Hallowell, to bring them out if the wind was favourable, or otherwise to destroy them. The state of the wind and sea would not permit this operation until last night; when, after dark, the detachment bore up for the bay, and anchored about five miles from the castle of Rosas; under the protection of which work, of Trinity fort, and of several other newly-erected batteries, the convoy, consisting of 11 vessels, 5 of them armed, were moored.

“The boats being arranged in separate divisions, the whole were put under the orders of Lieutenant Tailour, first of the Tigre, and proceeded to the attack of the enemy; who, although he could have had no previous intimation of such an enterprise against him, was found vigilant, and completely on his guard. The ship, which was a smaller sort of frigate, was enclosed in boarding-nettings, and a gun-boat advanced a-head of her for the look-out. On being hailed, and the alarm gun fired, our boats stretched out, the crews at the highest pitch of animation, filling the air with their cheers; each division took the part previously allotted to it: the armed ship was boarded at all points, and carried in a few minutes, notwithstanding the spirited and sturdy resistance which the enemy made; all their armed vessels were well defended, but the British seamen and marines, determined to subdue them, were not to be repelled, even by a force found to be double that which was expected; and, besides the opposition made by the vessels, the guns from the castle, the forts in the bay, the gun-boats and musketry from the beach, kept a constant fire on them. On the opening of day, every ship and vessel was either burnt or brought off, aided by the light winds which then came from the land.

I cannot conclude this narrative without an expression of the sentiment which the execution of this bold enterprise has inspired me with, and the respect and admiration I feel for those who performed it.

“In the first place, success greatly depended upon the previous arrangement which was made by Captain Hallowell, with a judgment and foresight that distinguishes that officer in every service he is employed on; the division of the boats, the preparation of fire materials, and providing them with every implement that contingency could require, established confidence throughout the whole; and in this, he was ably assisted by the experience and zeal of Captains Wodehouse, Bullen, Taylor, and Hope. The brigs were under sail, as near the vessels attacked as the light winds would allow, and Captain Hallowell speaks in high terms of praise of their commanders. Lieutenant Tailour led to the assault in a most gallant manner, and was followed by the other officers, as if each was ambitious of his place, and desired to he first; the whole party bravely maintained the character which British seamen have established for themselves.

“I am sorry I have to add, that the loss has been considerable[9]. Lieutenant Tait, of the Volontaire, an excellent and brave young officer, and Mr. Caldwell, master’s-mate of the Tigre, a youth of great promise, were the only officers slain.

“Many officers in the fleet were desirous of being volunteers in this service. I could not resist the earnest request of Lieutenants Lord Viscount Balgonie, the Hon. James Ashley Maude, and the Hon. William Waldegrave, of the Ville de Paris, to have the command of boats, in which they displayed that spirit which is inherent in them.

“I transmit Captain Hallowell’s letter relating his proceedings, with lists of the officers who commanded boats, and had appointments in this service; and of the vessels burnt and captured.”

Captain Hallowell, in his report to the commander-in-chief, acquainted his lordship, that the spirited manner in which Lieutenant Tailour led the boats on to the attack, “commanded the admiration of every one present.” The officers employed in the boats under him were as follow:–

In the Tigre’s, – Lieutenants Augustus William James Clifford, Edward Boxer, William Waterface, Gawen William Hamilton, John Brulton; Messrs. James Caldwell, Joshua Kynson, (mates); Dey Richard Syer[10], Hon. Robert Cavendish Spencer, Henry Fawcett, George Francis Bridges, George Sandys, James Athill, Hon. George James Perceval, James Montagu, Frederick Noel (midshipmen); and Alexander Hosack, assistant-surgeon.

Cumberland’s, – Lieutenants, John Murray, Richard Stuart[11], and William Bradley (the latter acting); Captain Edward Bailie (R.M.); Messrs. John Webster (mates), Charles Robert Milbourne, Henry Wise, William Hollinshed Brady[11], and Annesley Blackmore, midshipmen.

Volontaire’s, – Lieutenants Dalhousie Tait, Samuel Sison, Hon. James Ashley Maude[11], William Burton, and Duncan Campbell (the two latter R.M.); Messrs. John Bannatyne, Thomas Randall (mates); Richard Stephens Harness, Henry John Leeke, and John Armstead[11], midshipmen (the latter belonging to the Ville de Paris).

Apollo’s, – Lieutenants James Begbie[11], Robert Cutts Barton, and John Forster[10]; Messrs. Henry William De Chair, William Plant (mates); James Dunderdale, Henry Lancaster (midshipmen); and John Oliver French, clerk.

Topaze’s, – Lieutenants Charles Hammond, James Dunn, William Rawlins, Viscount Balgonie, (and William Halsted, R.M.); Messrs. Alexander Boyter (mate), Joseph Hume, Hungerford Luthill, and Harry Nicholas, midshipmen.

Philomel’s, – None reported.

Scout’s, – Lieutenants John Tarrant and Hon. William Waldegrave; Mr. Davy, midshipman of the Ville de Paris.

Tuscan’s, – Lieutenant Pascoe Dunn[11], Messrs. John M’Dougall, Charles Gray (mates, both belonging to the Ville de Paris); and John Stiddy, midshipman.

List of the French vessels.

La Lamproie, of 600 tons, pierced for 22 guns on the main-deck, mounting 16 long 9-pounders, with a complement of 110 men; la Victoire, bombard, of 14 long 16-pounders and 80 men; one government store-vessel, and four transports: – burnt.

Le Normande, xebec, of 10 long 4-pounders and 48 men; le Grondeur, bombard, of 8 long 6-pounders and 45 men, laden with biscuit; and two transports, of 200 tons each: – brought out.

While in the act of boarding la Lamproie, Lieutenant Tailour was very severely wounded in the head, near the temple, notwithstanding which he continued among the foremost in the fight. His commission as a commander was dated back to Nov. 1, 1809.

Towards the end of 1810, Captain Tailour received an appointment to the Regulus troop-ship, in which he continued, on very active service, till his advancement to post rank, Oct. 26, 1813. In 1815, he commanded the Comus 22, on the coast of Africa, under the orders of Commodore Thomas Browne, whose successful exertions in suppressing the slave trade have been noticed at p. 708 et seq, of Vol. II. Part II.

Captain Tailour’s last appointment was, Nov. 6, 1815, to the Tonnant 80, bearing the flag of Sir Benjamin Hallowell, at Cork; where he is said to have had two ribs broken by missiles, while attempting to quell a riot, in 1817. He continued to serve as Sir Benjamin’s flag-captain, until the expiration of that officer’s command on the Irish station.

Agent.– J. Copland, Esq.

  1. See Vol. I. Part I. pp. 75–78, and note at p. 254.
  2. See Suppl. Part II. p. 473, et seq.
  3. See Vol. II. Part II. p. 583.
  4. See Vol. I. Part I. p. 356; id. Part II, p. 489, et seq.; and Suppl. Part II. p. 84.
  5. Only 2 we believe. The total number that perished, first and last, certainly did not exceed 5; we rather think that it was but 3.
  6. See Vol. I. Part I. p. 315 et seq.
  7. See Vol. I. Part I. p. 282 et seq.
  8. Tigre; Cumberland 74, Captain Hon. Philip Wodehouse; Volontaire 38, Captain Charles Bullen; Apollo 38, Captain Bridges Watkinson Taylor; Topaze 36, Captain Henry Hope; Philomel 18, Captain George Crawley; Scout 18, Captain William Raitt; and Tuscan 16, Captain John Wilson.
  9. Grand total 15 killed and 55 wounded.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Severely wounded.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 Slightly wounded.