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Royal Naval Biography/Tyler, Charles

Vice-Admiral of the Red; Knight Commander of the most honourable Military Order of the Bath.

This officer was made a Commander previous to the termination of the war with America, and appointed to the Queen, armed ship, of 20 guns. He afterwards commanded the Trimmer sloop, stationed at Milford for the suppression of smuggling. His post commission bears date Sept. 21, 1790.

Early in 1793, on the breaking out of the war with France, he obtained the command of the Meleager, of 32 guns, and served in that ship at Toulon, and the reduction of Corsica, where his services were so distinguished, that when la Minerve, a prize frigate of 40 guns, that had been sunk, was (chiefly by his exertions) weighed again, the command of her was given to him. She acquired the name of the St. Fiorenzo, from the town and fortress so denominated[1]. This took place about the month of March, 1794; and in the autumn of the same year, Captain Tyler was removed into the Diadem of 64 guns, which ship formed a part of Vice-Admiral Hotham’s fleet, and was engaged in the partial action of March 14, 1795[2].

Soon after this event an instance occurred of an officer of the 11th regiment of foot, serving on board the Diadem, with part of the regiment embarked for marine duty, being brought to trial, for having behaved with contempt to Captain Tyler when in the execution of his duty. Lieutenant Gerald Fitzgerald, the officer alluded to, denied the legality of the court, and refused to make any defence. The court, composed of four Admirals and nine Post-Captains, overruled his objections to their competency to try him; and having proved the charge, Lieutenant Fitzgerald was adjudged to be dismissed from the King’s service, and rendered incapable of ever serving his Majesty, his heirs and successors, in any military capacity[3].

Having adverted to this occurrence merely for the purpose of pointing out an authority that may be consulted whenever a difference of opinion may arise between naval and military men, with respect to the extent of the authority with which commanding officers in the navy appear to be vested, for punishing soldiers of every description, according to the rules and articles established for the discipline of the King’s ships; or for trying officers or soldiers of his Majesty’s land forces by naval courts martial, for any offences committed while serving on board vessels of war; we return to Captain Tyler, who, after the skirmish with the French fleet off Gourjon Bay, was entrusted with the command of a small squadron stationed in the Adriatic; and subsequently employed under the orders of Commodore Nelson, on the coast of Italy.

Our officer’s next appointment was in 1796, to l’Aigle frigate, in which he cruized with considerable success, and captured several of the enemy’s privateers; but in 1798, when conveying despatches to Sir Horatio Nelson, was wrecked near Tunis, and on that unfortunate occasion he lost all his personals, and had to sustain many severe privations and serious hardships.

Captain Tyler, on his return to England, obtained the command of the Warrior, 74, and served with the Channel fleet until the spring of 1801, at which period he accompanied the late Sir Hyde Parker on an expedition to the Baltic, where he continued till July; and during the remainder of the war was engaged in the blockade of Cadiz.

On the 20th Jan. 1802, a squadron, consisting of the Warrior, Bellona, Zealous, and Defence, under the orders of Captain Tyler, sailed from Gibraltar for the West Indies, to watch the motions of an armament despatched thither immediately after the suspension of hostilities. Our officer anchored at Port Royal, Jamaica, Feb. 15, and returned from thence to England in the month of July following.

On the renewal of hostilities against France, in 1803, Captain Tyler was appointed to the superintendence of a district of Sea Fencibles, and remained on that service until appointed to the Tonnant of 80 guns, about the commencement of the year 1805.

The Tonnant formed part of the British fleet in the glorious battle off Cape Trafalgar[4], on which occasion she appears to have been very warmly engaged, having 26 men slain and 50, including her Commander, wounded. Our officer was advanced to the rank of Rear-Admiral, April 28, 1808, and.soon after hoisted his flag as second in command at Portsmouth. He subsequently served under Sir Charles Cotton, off the Tagus, and was present at the surrender of the Russian Admiral Seniavin, Sept. 3, 1808, the first division of whose fleet he escorted from Lisbon to Spithead, where they arrived on the 6th of the following month.

In the autumn of 1812, Rear-Admiral Tyler was appointed Commander-in-Chief at the Cape of Good Hope, where he continued until relieved by Sir George Cockburn, in 1815. On the 2d Jan. in the latter year, he was nominated a K.C.B. Sir Charles has been twice married; first to Miss Pike, of Portsmouth; and secondly to Miss Leach, of Pembroke, South Wales. His son, George, has recently been promoted to the rank of Post-Captain.

  1. See p. 250.
  2. See p. 340.
  3. The above-mentioned trial of Lieutenant Fitzgerald was the foundation of an additional article of war, signed by the King, to be annexed to the code for the army, in the latter end of 1795; on which H.R.H. the Duke of York, ordered certain regulations to be adopted for the government of soldiers under the said article, who might be serving on board his Majesty’s ships of war. On these orders being communicated to Lieutenant-General Abercromby, and made public to the fleet at Portsmouth, by an order from the Board of Admiralty, enjoining the strictest attention to be paid thereto by the respective officers of the navy; the Admirals and Captains then present wrote a letter to their Lordships, expressing their utmost concern thereat, and giving their decided opinion, that the proposed regulations militated against the principles of the naval service, inasmuch as they appeared to them to be in direct contradiction to the statute for the government of the King’s ships, vessels, and forces by sea, and must, if endeavoured to be carried into execution, inevitably cause the total destruction of the navy of this country. That by virtue of the said statute, all officers and soldiers serving on board his Majesty’s ships, are amenable to a naval court martial, and that they could not imagine that any regulations made by H.R.H. the Duke of York, could have any authority in the fleet, more especially when they are at variance with an act of parliament. In consequence of these strong representations, orders were received for the disembarkation of the troops in several ships, and for replacing them by Marines. The law therefore stands as heretofore; and by virtue of the statute above-mentioned, all officers and soldiers serving on board his Majesty’s ships, are amenable to a naval court martial, for any offences specified in the naval articles of war. See M‘Arthur on Courts Martial, 4th edit., vol. 5, cap. 9, sect. 7, p. 202, et seq.
  4. See p. 202, et seq.