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Royal Naval Biography/Trollope, Henry

Admiral of the White; Knight Commander of the most honourable Military Order of the Bath.

Amongst the supposed ancestors of this officer were Andrew Trollope, Esq. who distinguished himself in the French wars, in the time of Henry VI, and was killed at the battle of Towton; and Thomas Trollope, of Thorlby, Esq., who married Margaret, daughter and co-heiress of Roger, youngest son of Thomas Lumley, Esq. by Elizabeth Plantagenet, daughter of King Edward IV. by the lady Elizabeth Lucy. In the year 1641, Thomas Trollope, of Bourne, co. Lincoln, was created a Baronet; and, consequently, the subject of this memoir is collaterally, though distantly, related to the present possessor of that title.

Our officer is a native of Norwich, and was born about the year 1750. He entered the naval service at a very early period of life; and, we believe, under the auspices of the late Earl of Sandwich.

“There is no opportunity,” says the Author of the ‘Naval Atalantis,’ “which enables an aspiring young officer to distinguish himself in the navy, with so much eclat, as when his country is attacked by increasing foes. It was at the period when the ungrateful republic of Holland, by her inimical acts in favour of our nautical enemies, rendered it necessary for Great Britain to commence hostilities against her, that Mr. Trollope, at that time commander of the Kite cutter, stood forth an active champion hi his country’s cause. His uncommon exertions in the Channel of England occasioned the unweildy Dutchmen to crowd our ports for many succeeding weeks, and the hovering Kite scarce ever saw one of them upon which she did not fix her fascinating talons.”

Lord Sandwich, then at the head of the Admiralty, was so sensible of Lieutenant Trollope’s services, that his Lordship thought fit to put the Kite upon the establishment of a sloop of war, by which this officer obtained the rank of Commander. In the spring of 1781, he accompanied Vice-Admiral Darby’s squadron to the relief of Gibraltar[1]; and, on the 4th June, in the same year, was promoted to the rank of Post-Captain.

The first ship to which he was subsequently appointed, was the Rainbow, of 48 guns. On the 4th Sept. 1782, having sailed from Plymouth two days before, for the purpose of joining Commodore Elliott, in the Channel, he fell in with, and, after a running fight, captured, off the Isle de Bas, la Hebe, a French frigate, of 40 guns and 360 men, five of whom, including her second Captain, were killed, and several wounded; but the Rainbow lost only one man. Captain Trollope continued in that vessel till the peace of 1783, when he purchased the lease of a castle in Wales, where he diffused with liberality the ample fortune which he had acquired by his professional exertions.

During the Spanish armament our officer commanded la Prudente, of 38 guns; and in the following year was appointed to the Hussar frigate, in which he was employed for some time on the Mediterranean station.

In 1795, owing to the alarming aspect of public affairs, the greatest exertions were made in every department of government, and several additional ships were purchased into the service. To one of those, the Glatton, of 56 guns and 319 men[2], which had been built for the India service, Captain Trollope was appointed. During the winter of that year, and the spring of 1796> he was employed, under the orders of Admiral Duncan, in the North Sea. On the 14th July, in the latter year, he sailed from Yarmouth Roads for the purpose of joining Captain (now Admiral) Savage and his squadron, cruising off the port of Helvoetsluys. On the succeeding day, about two P.M., the Glatton made the land, and at the same time descried five ships of war and a cutter, which her commander conjectured to be British; but the distance, aided by the sudden fall of the wind, would not admit of an immediate communication by signals. In the course of the afternoon a breeze sprang up; and at six o’clock the discovery was made, that the flags hoisted by the vessels, which had now all anchored, were not English. Immediately the Glatton bore up towards the strangers; who thereupon weighed, and, as they dropped out in a line, were seen to consist of three large frigates, two smaller ones, and a cutter; besides another frigate and a large brig, about to join them from to-leeward.

Nothing daunted at so formidable a force, but merely considering the occasion as affording a fair opportunity of trying the effect of the Glatton’s heavy carronades, Captain Trollope pushed on, and selected as his opponent the third ship from the van, she appearing, from her superior size, to be the Commodore. At a little before ten, just as the Glatton had got close upon the French ship’s larboard quarter, and was ranging up a-breast of her, the latter’s second a-head tacked, and placed herself close upon the Glatton’s larboard bow. All three ships immediately opened their fire; and a tremendous crash it was, the Glatton discharging her enormous shot from both sides, with direful effect, into her two opponents, neither of whom was much above twenty yards from her. Meanwhile the two frigates a-stern of the Commodore, kept annoying the Glatton with a raking fire, which, in her present position, she could not return. After a cannonade of about 20 minutes, the Commodore and his second a-head dropped a-stern out of gun-shot; and immediately the two rearmost frigates advanced upon the Glatton’s starboard quarter; as did the leading ship of the line, on the opposite tack, upon her larboard beam. In another twenty minutes, these three frigates, having, in the shattered state of their hulls, experienced what it was that had so suddenly put to flight their companions, sheered off in equal confusion.

The dismantled state of the Glatton discovered itself the moment an attempt was made to wear in pursuit; every brace and rope had been cut away. The principal part of the enemy’s fire had passed between her top? and gunwale, so that her lower sails were in ribands, and her shrouds nearly all shot through. The main-mast and the fore and mainyards were also badly wounded, and ready to fall. Scarcely half a dozen shot had struck the hull; and, in consequence, no men were killed, and but 2 wounded: one of these was Captain Strangeways of the marines, who, although wounded badly in the thigh, insisted on returning to his quarters; where he remained until, being faint with loss of blood, he was carried off the deck; he died shortly afterwards.

While the Glatton’s people were hastening to repair her damages, in order that the ship might wear clear of the Helvoet shoals, on a part of which she then lay, the French frigate and brig, already mentioned as approaching from toleeward, fired several shot at her; but did no material injury. Captain Trollope, soon after, discovered his former opponents, drawn up in close order under his lee; and used every exertion, during the night, to put his ship in a state to renew the action in the ensuing morning, with the assistance, as he hoped, of part of the British squadron before alluded to. At day-break, however, not a friendly sail was to be seen, a circumstance much to be regretted, as even the aid of a single frigate, the enemy being panic-struck, might have led to the capture of one, if not more of his ships. As it was, the Glatton, in her present disabled state, declined to become a second time the assailant; but neither attempted, nor, being between the enemy and the land, could well have effected her escape. No doubt the French had, by this time, both handled and weighed several of the Glatton’s shot; at all events, the formef tacked, and thus left an opening for Captain Trollope to pass to the offing. The Glatton immediately bore up, under easy sail; and, keeping just without random-shot, hauled round to the lee beam of the French ships; both parties then hove too. In this manner they remained viewing each other for upwards of an hour; when the enemy made sail away, and Captain Trollope to the northward, he still hoping, by the junction of some friend, to bring the encounter to a favourable issue. The night passed in disappointment; but our officer could not bring himself to quit the coast, without another peep at his shy antagonists. He therefore, in the morning, stood back; and then saw the French squadron, close hauled, standing for Flushing. The Glatton kept the enemy’s ships in sight during the day; and it was not until her commander found that they were near to their port, and that the wind was beginning to blow hard on the shore, that he reluctantly steered for the British coast.

The Glatton’s affair, says Mr. James, from whose Naval History the account of this gallant action is extracted, like many other drawn battles, is imperfect in its details, for the want of any correct information as to the names, force, damages, or loss of the ships which she had engaged. One vessel was known to be the Brutus, a cut-down 74, mounting from 46 to 50 guns. A second is stated to have been the Incorruptible, of 50 guns, the largest frigate ever launched in France. The Magicienne, of 32 guns, 12-pounders, is named as the third frigate; and the remaining two of the five engaged ships were probably similar in size and force to the British 28-gun frigate. The name and force of the frigate in company with the brig is of no consequence. That the French ships sustained considerable damage in their hulls, may be inferred from the size of the Glatton’s shot, the closeness of the action, and the shyness ultimately evinced by the former; moreover, on the morning succeeding the battle, the Glatton’s people plainly saw men, on stages, over the sides of the enemy’s vessels, plugging their shot holes.

Viewed in every light, the action was highly honourable to the officers and crew of the Glatton. The prompt decision of Captain Trollope to become the assailant, when two of the opponent ships were each (one, perhaps, by 300 or 400 tons) larger than his own, contributed, no doubt, to dismay the enemy; and, coupled with the conduct of the latter in the conflict, well entitled him to the honor of knighthood, subsequently conferred upon him by his sovereign. The merchants of London also presented him with a piece of plate, of the value of 100 guineas, in testimony of the high sense which they entertained of his conduct, and of the protection which he had proved himself capable of affording to the commerce of the country.

Early in October, 1797, Captain Trollope, who, in the preceding summer, had removed into the Russell, of 74 guns, was left with a small squadron to watch the Dutch Fleet in the Texel during the absence of Admiral Duncan, who had proceeded to Yarmouth Roads to refit his ships. The enemy availed themselves of this opportunity to put to sea; but, by the vigilance of Captain Trollope, the British Commander-in-Chief was immediately apprised of their sailing, and soon encountered them[3]. This essential service rendered by our officer, was thus acknowledged by Admiral Duncan;– “Captain Trollope’s exertions and active good conduct, in keeping sight of the enemy’s fleet until I came up, have been truly meritorious, and I trust will meet a just reward.”

On the 30th of the same month, his late Majesty, being anxious to visit his victorious fleet, embarked at Greenwich on board the Royal Charlotte yacht, commanded on the occasion by Captain Trollope; and his attendants having gone on board two other yachts, the whole got under weigh, but owing to a foul wind did not proceed farther than the Hope, below Gravesend. In the evening of the 31st, the signal was made to weigh in order to return; and at 8 o’clock the yachts anchored off Gravesend; the next day they arrived off Greenwich.

Previous to his landing, the King conferred upon Captain Trollope the honour of knighthood as a Knight Banneret; but in consequence of some peculiarities in the nature of the Order, it was afterwards settled by the Privy Council, that a Knight Banneret could only be made in the field, where a battle had actually been fought, in which the person so created had borne a part.

When his Majesty first signified his intention of knighting him, Captain Trollope modestly begged leave to decline that honour; but being at length formally introduced by Earl Spencer, as First Lord of the Admiralty, the King performed the ceremony, and then bowed in the most courteous manner, saying, “Rise, Sir Henry Trollope, I wish you health and long life.” He had previously thanked him in the most gracious manner, in his own name, and that of the kingdom, for his previous gallant conduct.

On the 19th Dec. following, their late Majesties and all the royal family went to St. Paul’s cathedral, to return thanks for the great victories obtained over the French, Dutch, and Spanish fleets; on which occassion Sir Henry Trollope was one of the officers who walked in the procession[4].

In the following year, Sir Henry Trollope, continuing in the Russell, served with the Channel Fleet; and during the remainder of the war, he commanded the Juste, an 84-gun ship, on the same service. He was promoted to the rank of Rear-Admiral, Jan. 1, 1801; Vice-Admiral, Nov. 9, 1805; Admiral, Aug. 12, 1812; and created an extra K.C.B., May 20, 1820[5].

Our officer married, about the year 1782, Miss Fanny Best, a native of London, but who had been educated at Brussels.

A representation of the Glatton’s engagement with the squadron of French frigates, by H. Singleton, was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1804.

  1. See p. 4, and note ‡, at p. 33.
  2. The Glatton’s armament consisted of twenty-eight 68, and the same number of 32-pounders, all carronades, of which species of ordnance Captain Trollope appears to have been among the earliest patrons. (See James’s Naval History, v. 1, pp. 66. 418.)
  3. Admiral Duncan had cruised off the Texel during the whole of the preceding summer; but having occasion to put into Yarmouth Roads to refit his fleet, the Dutch Admiral de Winter availed himself of the opportunity to put to sea; which was intimated to the British commander early on the morning of the 9th Oct., by a signal from the Black Joke lugger, sent for that purpose by Captain Trollope. The fleet immediately got under weigh, and on the morning of the 11th, obtained sight of the enemy, whose force consisted of four 74-gun ships, seven 64’s, four 50’s, two 44’s, two frigates, and six smaller vessels. Admiral Duncan’s fleet, including the squadron of observation, was composed of the following ships:–
    Venerable 74 Admiral Adam Duncan,
    Captain Edward O’Brien.
    Monarch 74 Vice Admiral Richard Onslow,
    Captain William Geo. Fairfax.
    Russell 74 Henry Trollope.
    Montagu 74 John Knight.
    Triumph 74 William Essington.
    Bedford 74 Sir Thomas Byard.
    Powerful 74 Wm. O’Brien Drury.
    Agincourt 64 John Williamson.
    Ardent 64 Rich. R. Burgess.
    Belliqueux 64 John Inglis.
    Director 64 William Bligh.
    Lancaster 64 John Wells.
    Monmouth 64 James Walker.
    Veteran 64 George Gregory.
    Adamant 50 William Hotham.
    Isis 50 William Mitchell..

    Beaulieu, Circe–frigates. Martin, sloop.

    As Admiral Duncan approached near, he made the signal for the fleet to shorten sail and form in close order. Soon after he saw the land between Camperdown and Egmont, about nine miles to leeward of the enemy; and finding there was no time to be lost in making the attack, at half past eleven he made the signal to bear up, break the enemy’s line, and engage them to leeward, each ship her opponent; and by these means he got between them and the land, whither they were fast approaching. Admiral Duncan’s signals were obeyed with great promptitude. Vice-Admiral Onslow, in the Monarch, bore down in a most gallant manner on the enemy’s rear, and was followed by his whole division. About half past twelve he broke through the enemy’s line, passed under the Dutch Vice-Admiral’s stern, and engaged him to leeward. Admiral Duncan intending to engage the Dutch Commander-in-Chief, was prevented by the States General of 76 guns, bearing a blue flag at the mizen, shooting close up with him; the Admiral therefore ran under his stern, engaged him close, and soon forced him to quit the line, The Venerable then fell alongside of the Dutch Admiral, who was for some time well supported, and kept up a very heavy fire. At one o’clock the action was pretty general, except by two or three van ships of the enemy’s line, which got off without the smallest apparent injury, and entered the Texel the following day. The action continued with unabating fury for near two hours and a half, when all the masts of the Dutch Admiral’s ship went by the board; she was, however, defended for some time after in a most gallant manner; but at length, finding all further resistance vain, struck her colours to the Venerable. Admiral de Winter himself being, it is said, the only man left on the quarter deck who was not either killed or wounded.

    About the same time the Dutch Vice-Admiral appeared dismasted, and surrendered to the Monarch. Several others of the enemy had likewise struck; but the Admiral finding himself in only nine fathoms water, and but five miles from the land, had his attention so much occupied in getting the heads of the crippled ships off shore, that he was not able to distinguish the number which were captured; and the wind blowing constantly on the land, the British ships were unavoidably dispersed. Some of the vessels which had struck, took advantage of the night to escape; and two or three of them were seen going into the Texel the following morning. The ships, however, which were secured, were seven sail of the line, two of 56 guns, and two large frigates; the Delft, of 56 guns, foundered; one of the frigates was also lost; the other was driven on the coast of Holland, and retaken.

    A more bloody conflict than this is not recorded in the naval history of Britain since the famous Dutch wars. The loss sustained in killed and wounded on board nine ships only of Admiral Duncan’s fleet, was upwards of 700. The only officer of note killed was Captain Burgess, of the Ardent, who led his ship into action in the most gallant manner, and fell most nobly supporting his brave Admiral, one of whose seconds he was. [Captain Burgess, as an officer, was highly esteemed and respected; his death, though glorious, became a public loss. In private life he was beloved; so was his fate lamented by his friends.] The carnage on board of the Dutch ships must have been dreadful, if we are to judge from the destruction made on board the two which bore the Admirals’ flags, each having not less than 250 killed and wounded.

    The Dutch Vice-Admiral Reintjies was severely wounded, and died soon after his arrival in England.

    The wind continuing to blow strong, and in general on the enemy’s coast, it was with some difficulty that Admiral Duncan could keep off the land, and get over to the British coast; many of his own ships, particularly the Venerable and Monarch, as well as the prizes, being in so bad a condition. The gallant Admiral, however, arrived at the Nore on the 16th of the same month, with the trophies of his glorious victory, and on the following day was raised to the peerage, by the titles of Baron Duncan of Lundie, and Viscount Duncan of Camperdown. At the same time Vice-Admiral Onslow was created a Baronet; gold medals were struck to commemorate the victory, and presented to the several commanding officers, to be worn in the same manner as those given on Earl Howe’s victory. [ See p. 75, et seq. ]

    The thanks of both Houses of Parliament were voted to the fleet. The city of London presented Lord Duncan with its freedom, and a sword of 200 guineas value; and to Sir Richard Onslow the freedom, and a sword valued at 100 guineas. [Admiral de Winter died at Paris, June 2, 1812; the Dutch Vice-Admiral died in London, of a chronic disease.]

  4. See p. 62.
  5. See note §, at p. 116.