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Royal Naval Biography/Wolley, Thomas

Vice-Admiral of the White.

At the breaking out of the war with the French republic, in 1793, we find this officer commanding the Goelan sloop at Jamaica. On the 20th Sept. in the same year, Commodore Ford, who commanded the squadron on that station, in conjunction with Major-General Williamson, took possession of Jeremie, in the island of St. Domingo, at the intercession of the French royalists; and on the 23d, Cape Nichola Mole followed its example. The Commodore, in his public despatches, speaks highly of the zeal and attention shown by Captain Wolley on this occasion. About the same time, the frigates of the squadron entered l’lslet, and Bay des Flamands, on the south side of the island, where they captured upwards of 2000 tons of shipping, chiefly laden with West India produce.

Captain Wolley obtained post rank, Dec. 19, 1793; and in the following year commanded the Active frigate, in the North Sea, and subsequently at Newfoundland. His next appointment was to the Arethusa, mounting 44 guns, in which ship he conveyed the late Sir Ralph Abercromby to the Leeward Islands in the spring of 1796; and after the reduction of St. Lucia[1], was detached by Sir Hugh Christian, with three frigates and two sloops, to co-operate with the army, in quelling the insurrections which then raged with great virulence in the islands of St. Vincent and Grenada. The insurgents were chiefly Charibs, and people of colour; and after an obstinate resistance, they laid down their arms, and surrendered by capitulation. On this service, two seamen belonging to the Arethusa, who were acting with the troops on shore, were killed; and 7 seamen killed, and 5 wounded, on board the Mermaid, by the bursting of one of her main-deck guns. We next find our officer employed at the conquest at Trinidad, and destruction of a Spanish squadron, by the forces under Sir Ralph Abercromby and Rear-Admiral H. Harvey, in Feb. 1797[2], on which occasion he superintended the debarkation of the army.

On the 10th Aug. following, the Arethusa being on her passage from the West Indies, with a detained neutral in tow, discovered three sail to windward, one of which, the Gaieté, a French corvette of 20 long 8-pounders and 186 men, had the temerity to bear down and commence an action, which she maintained for half an hour; when being much cut up in her sails and rigging, and unassisted by her consorts, she struck her colours. The enemy had 2 men killed and 8 wounded. The Arethusa 1 killed and 3 wounded.

On the 24th July, 1799, H.R.H. the late Duke of Kent embarked on board the Arethusa at Portsmouth, and proceeded in her to Halifax. During the remainder of the war she was employed in occasional cruizes, and captured several of the enemy’s privateers. In the spring of 1801, she escorted an East India fleet from St. Helena to England; and early in the following year brought Brigadier-General Clinton and suite home from Madeira, at which island Captain Wolley had been presented with the thanks of the British Factory, for the protection he had at different times during the war afforded to their interests. A sword was at the same time voted to him, as a mark of the respect entertained by that body for his professional character.

From this period, we find no particular mention of our officer until Aug. 1, 1811, on which day he was advanced to the rank of Rear-Admiral. His commission as Vice-Admiral bears date Aug. 12, 1819. He married, April 7, 1804, Miss Francklyn, of Lansdowne Crescent, Bath.

Residence.– Clifton, Somersetshire.


VICE-ADMIRAL WOLLEY. (p. 505.) It was Lieutenant-Colonel Whitelocke, not Major-General Williamson, who co-operated with Commodore Ford, in 1793.