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Royal Naval Biography/Tancock, John


JOHN TANCOCK, Esq.
[Post-Captain of 1812.]

We first find this officer serving as a midshipman on board the Crescent frigate. Captain (now Sir James) Saumarez, at the capture of le Reunion of 36 guns, after a close action of 2 hours and 20 minutes, near Cherbourgh, Oct. 20, 1793[1]. In 1795, he followed his able and gallant commander into the Orion 74; and assisted at the capture of three French line-of-battle ships, by the fleet under Lord Bridport, off l’Orient[2]. He also participated in the glorious victory off Cape St. Vincent, Feb. 14, 1797; on which occasion two Spanish first-rates, one 80-gun ship, and one 74, were added to the British navy[3].

Soon after that celebrated event, Mr. Tancock was strongly recommended by Sir James Saumarez to the commander-in-chief, who immediately ordered him to act as junior lieutenant of the Orion, in which capacity he commanded her launch, and gallantly supported Sir Horatio Nelson in his attack upon the Cadiz flotilla, July 3, 1797[4]. He likewise fought under that immortal hero, at the mouth of the Nile, on the ever memorable first of August, 1798[5]. His commission as a lieutenant was confirmed by the admiralty, Mar. 9, 1799.

The Orion being paid off about this period, Mr. Tancock was afterwards successively appointed to the Rosario and Iris; the former a fire-vessel at Sheerness, the latter a frigate employed on the North Sea and Baltic stations. In 1800, he commanded one of that ship’s boats at the capture of a Dutch privateer, of 10 guns and 30 men, moored in a creek on the coast of Norway.

On the 1st Jan. 1801, Sir James Saumarez was promoted to the rank of rear-admiral, and directed to hoist his flag in the Caesar 80, to which ship Lieutenant Tancock was soon removed at the particular request of his worthy and distinguished patron; under whom he served at the battle of Algeziras, and the subsequent discomfiture of the combined squadrons in the Gut of Gibraltar, July, 1801[6].

After that most splendid achievement, Mr. Tancock succeeded the late Captain Philip Dumaresq as flag-lieutenant to Sir James Saumarez, under whose command he had then assisted at the capture and destruction of no less than five of the enemy’s 3-deckers, four 80-gun ships, twelve 74’s, and three frigates[7].

During the peace of Amiens, and after the renewal of hostilities, Mr. Tancock served as flag-lieutenant to the same officer, at Sheerness and Guernsey. Whilst on the latter station he commanded the Sylph brig for a short period, and in that vessel made one re-capture: his promotion to the rank of commander took place Aug. 15, 1806; on which occasion he was appointed to the St. Christopher sloop, stationed at the Leeward Islands. In her, he captured several small Spanish vessels; detained a Danish ship, which was condemned as a droit of admiralty; and re-captured a British merchantman, laden with bale goods, from Glasgow bound to St. Thomas’s. He was also present at the surrender of the Danish island of St. Croix, to the military and naval forces under General Bowyer and Sir Alexander Cochrane, Dec. 25, 1807[8].

Towards the end of 1808, Captain Tancock was obliged to return home in consequence of a severe attack of yellow fever; and in April, 1809, he was appointed, at the recommendation of Sir James Saumarez, to the Curlew sloop, fitted with 10 long 18-pounders, for the purpose of protecting the trade to and from Malmo and Gottenburgh through the Sound. During the season that he was thus employed, his boats captured seven Danish vessels laden with provisions for Norway. The Curlew being found defective, was paid off in the course of the same year.

Captain Tancock’s next appointment was, about June, 1810, to the Mercury troop-ship; the command of which he retained till the close of 1811, when he was removed to the Griffon brig, at Chatham. He there received his post commission dated Feb. 1, 1812. This enviable step of rank he obtained through the friendly interference of Sir James Saumarez, who, with his characteristic kindness, had recently laid a statement of the captain’s services before the admiralty, and earnestly solicited his promotion.

On the 27th Aug. 1812, Captain Tancock was appointed to the Bann corvette; but when nearly ready for sea he was turned over with his crew to the Conway 24; in which ship he accompanied a large fleet of merchantmen to a certain latitude, and was afterwards employed as senior officer on the Madeira station; from whence he returned to Plymouth early in May, 1815.

The Conway was next ordered to cruise across the entrance of the British Channel, for the purpose of intercepting Napoleon Buonaparte in his expected flight from France to America. In Feb. 1816, having, in the interim, been paid off and re-commissioned for foreign service, she sailed for the East Indies with government money; and on her arrival at Madras, Captain Tancock found himself appointed by his friend, Commodore Sayer, to the Iphigenia frigate, of which ship he took the command, at Trincomalee, in the month of Sept. following. From Jan. to June, 1817, he was employed in superintending the equipment of the Melville, a new 74, at Bombay; and in loading that ship with the teak frame of another third-rate. The Melville arrived at Plymouth, in company with the Iphigenia, Dec. 14, 1817.

Soon after his return to England, Captain Tancock was tried by a court-martial, and sentenced to be admonished, for having threatened to put a marine officer in irons; but notwithstanding this reproof on the part of his judges, the Lords of the Admiralty markced their sense of his conduct by immediately confirming his appointment to the Iphigenia, and continuing him in that command until an officer of sufficiently long standing on the post list to command so large a frigate was appointed to re-commission her.

Captain Tancock married, in Aug. 1805, Elizabeth Catharine, eldest daughter of Samuel Goodwin, Esq. merchant in the island of Guernsey, by whom he has had seven children, four of whom are now living.