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Royal Naval Biography/Williams, Peter


PETER WILLIAMS, Esq.
[Commander.]

Was made a lieutenant on the 27th of Feb. 1801. We first find him commanding the Entreprenante cutter; and, in Dec. 1810, making the following report, of a very gallant action, to Commodore (afterwards Sir Charles V.) Penrose, then senior naval officer at Gibraltar:

“On the 12th inst. at eight a.m., I observed four vessels at anchor under Faro Castle; this place is between Malaga and Almeria Bay. It being a dead calm, at nine they got under weigh, sweeping towards us, and at half-past ten they hoisted French colours and commenced firing on us. Our guns Could not reach them till eleven a.m. when we began our fire; one vessel on our starboard bow, another on the starboard quarter, and two right a-stern; the enemy keeping up a most tremendous fire of round and grape-shot, which we returned with double vigour, with round, grape, and musketry, at this time within pistol-shot. About noon, the enemy shot away our main-top-mast, peak-haliards and blocks, fore-jeers, fore-haliards, and jib-tye; we had two of our starboard guns disabled, by the stock of one, and the carriage of the other being broken. The enemy seeing us in this disabled state, attempted to board us, but, with the courage that every true Englishman possesses, we repulsed them; we now kept up a well-directed fire with the two foremost guns and musketry. The enemy made a second attempt, but were again repulsed. By this time one man was killed, and four wounded. I then ordered the starboard sweeps to be manned, and pulled the cutter’s head round, it still being calm, and a swell from the S.W. We got our larboard guns to bear on them, and after two well-directed broadsides, and three cheers, three of them sheered off. I was now informed our canister and musket-ball were all expended; but nevertheless, with two well-directed broadsides, double-shotted, we carried away the largest of the two’s foremast and bowsprit. At this time they attempted to board a third time, but, as before, they were repulsed, and that with great loss on their side; but by this exertion two of our larboard guns were dismounted. The enemy’s fire began to slacken; we then gave three cheers, and with two of our guns, double-shotted, raked them, which must have made great slaughter; and at half-past two the enemy was taken in tow by two row-boats, who towed them in-shore, we still firing on them with our two guns, until three o’clock, when they were out of our reach; we then manned our sweeps, towed the cutter’s head towards the offing, began to clear the wreck, and by five o’clock had our main-sail, jib, and fore-sail set, but they were more like riddles than sails, after a four hours’ hard-fought action. I am at a loss to express sufficiently my feelings on this occasion, when I consider the very superior force of the enemy, and the courage, steadiness, and attention of my brave little crew. The enemy’s force, as I learnt from a Danish vessel, which had been lying alongside them in Almeria bay, consisted of one with three latteen sails, two long 18-pounders, six smaller guns, and 75 men; another, three latteen sails and jib, five guns, and 45 men; two others, two sails, two guns, and 25 men each. I was short of my complement four men, and had the n»ate and six men away in a detained vessel, leaving the total number on board thirty-three, out of which we had only one killed and four wounded.

(Signed)P. Williams.”

On the 15th of the same month, Lieutenant Williams and his gallant crew received the public thanks of Commodore Penrose, in a general order issued to the squadron under that officer’s command, and also inserted in the Gibraltar Chronicle. The merchants resident on the rock; as a testimony of their gratitude, for the protection thus afforded the trade, immediately afterwards entered into a subscription, for the purpose of presenting him with a valuable sword.

On the 20th of April, 1811, while communicating with the governor of Malaga, under a flag of truce, Lieutenant Williams observed two of his late opponents and a Spanish merchant brig, their prize, running into the bay. Before he could get on board, and make sail, one of them anchored close to the mole-head; but the other he brought to action, and, in fifteen minutes, beat and drove her on shore: he then brought-to and recaptured the brig. This service was performed without any loss on the part of the Entreprenante, in the presence of numerous spectators assembled on the molehead.

Lieutenant Williams subsequently commanded the Richmond gun-brig; and, April 5th, 1813, was appointed to the Nimble cutter, in which vessel he continued until promoted to his present rank, Aug. 27th, 1814.