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Royal Naval Biography/Toker, Thomas Richard

[Post-Captain of 1813.]

This officer, the son of an opulent Kentish grazier, received his first commission in 1800, and was senior lieutenant of the Colossus 74, Captain (now Sir James) Nicoll Morris, at the battle of Trafalgar; on which glorious occasion that ship sustained a greater loss than any other in the British fleet[1]. Her conduct is thus described by Mr. James:–

“About 1 P.M. after having, during’ten minutes or so, in her efforts to close, received the fire of two or three enemy’s ships, the Colossus ran past the starboard side of the French Swiftsure, who had just before bore up, as well to avoid being raked by the Colossus, as to bring her larboard guns to bear upon the Bellerophon. The density of the smoke on the starboard side, hid from view all the enemy’s ships in that direction, until, having run a short distance to leeward, the Colossus found herself close alongside of the Argonaute, whose larboard yard arms locked into her starboard ones. A spirited cannonade now ensued between the two ships, and lasted for about ten minutes, when the Argonaute’s fire became nearly silenced, except from a few of her aftermost guns; a shot from one of which, just as the ships, driven apart by the concussion of their guns, began to settle broadside off, struck Captain Morris a little above the knee. As soon as she had cleared her yards, the Argonaute paid off, and went away, receiving into her stern the parting fire of the Colossus. The latter, in the mean while, was warmly engaged, on her larboard quarter, with the French Swiftsure, and also with the Bahama, who lay close on that ship’s larboard bow, and fired at the Colossus across the Swiftsure’s fore-foot.

“At a few minutes before 3 P.M., having forged a-head, the Swiftsure got between the Bahama and Colossus; and being thus more fully exposed to the latter’s well-directed broadsides, soon slackened her fire, and dropped astern. The Colossus was now enabled to devote her sole attention to the Bahama, who, on her mainmast falling, as it presently did, over her engaged side, shewed an English jack from the hen-coops on her poop, to denote that she had struck. Meanwhile the French Swiftsure endeavoured to bear up under the stern of the Colossus; but the latter, wearing more quickly, received a few only of the former’s larboard guns, before she poured in her starboard broadside. This brought down the Swiftsure’s mizen-mast. At the same time the Orion, in passing, gave the French ship a broadside, which brought down her tottering main-mast; whereupon the Swiftsure made signs to the Colossus of having surrendered. In hauling up to take possession of her two prizes, the latter lost her wounded mizen-mast over the starboard side.

“The main-mast of the Colossus was so badly wounded, that she was compelled, during the ensuing night, to cut it away; and her damages altogether were extremely severe.”

“With a truly gallant spirit. Captain Morris would not go below, but, applying a tourniquet to his thigh, remained at his post near the head of the poop-ladder, until, to avoid the fall of the mizen-mast, he descended to the quarter-deck. After the battle was over, and the Agamemnon had come down to take the Colossus in tow, he became faint from loss of blood, and was carried below. He was landed in his cot some days afterwards, at Gibraltar.”

The subject of this sketch was made commander, Dec. 24, 1805; and appointed to the Cruiser brig, of 18 guns, about Nov, 1808. In the following year, he captured two privateers, on the Baltic station, where he appears to have been principally employed until promoted to post rank, Dec. 4, 1813. Since the peace he has successively commanded the Tartarus, of 20 guns, Perseus 22, and Tamar 28; the latter stationed at Newfoundland.

Agent.– Sir F. M. Ommanney.