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Royal Naval Biography/Young, Robert Benjamin


A son of the late Lieutenant Robert Parry Young, R.N., whose only sister was the wife of the late Admiral John Brisbane.

This officer was born at Douglas, in the Isle of Man, Sept. 15th, 1773; and first went to sea, in the Cruiser cutter, about June 1786; between which period and Sept. 1794, he served in various line-of-battle ships, on the Channel and West India stations. At the latter date he was appointed acting lieutenant of the Thorn sloop, Captain (now Sir Robert Waller) Otway, who makes honorable mention of his spirited conduct in the action between that vessel and le Courier Nationel, French corvette, ending in the capture of the latter. May 25th, 1795. He also distinguished himself on various occasions during the Carib war in the Island of St. Vincent, but particularly at the attack of Owia and Chateau-Bellair, the loss of which posts obliged the enemy to retire into the interior. On the former occasion, he commanded the party landed with a detachment of H.M. 60th regiment, led the boats himself through a heavy surf, and had his hat and coat shot through, whilst proceeding to the assault. His first commission from the Admiralty, appointing him to the Majestic 74, bearing the flag of Sir John Laforey, and about to return home from the Leeward Islands, bears date Jan. 21st, 1796. He arrived in England on the 24th April following: and subsequently served under Captains Charles Lindsay and Richard Retalick, in la Bonne-Citoyenne sloop, on the Channel and Mediterranean stations. Whilst thus employed, be witnessed the battle off Cape St. Vincent, Feb. 14th, 1797; and assisted in capturing two French privateers, le Pluvier and la Carnarde. In Oct. 1798, he was removed, at Naples, to the Colossus 74, Captain George Murray; with whom he suffered shipwreck in St. Mary’s harbour, Scilly, Dec. 10th following[1].

Lieutenant Young’s next appointments were, – in April 1799, to be first of the Savage sloop. Captain Norborne Thompson, then employed on the Boulogne station, and afterwards in occasional co-operation with the British forces at the Helder; – in 1802, to the Goliah 74, commanded by his first cousin, Captain (afterwards Rear-Admiral Sir Charles) Brisbane, under whom he assisted at the capture of la Mignonne, French corvette, near Cape Nicola Mole, St. Domingo; – Sept. 30th, 1803, to the vmdsor Castle 98; – shortly afterwards to the Foudroyant 80; – and, Mar. 28th, 1804, to command the Entreprenante cutter. His exertions, as first of the Goliah, during, and after a midnight hurricane, in which that ship was laid on her beam-ends and dismasted, on her return home from the West Indies, appear to have been no less deservedly than highly praised; for we are informed, that on the very next day she was in full chase of, and succeeded in recapturing, a merchantman of considerable value. It was in the storm to which we allude, that the Calypso sloop, Captain W. Venour, then under the orders of Captain Brisbane, was run down and sunk by one of the homeward bound convoy; not an individual on board of either escaping.

The Entreprenante, after having had the honor of attending on King George III., at Weymouth, in company with the Crescent and AEolus frigates, was employed in escorting supplies to the blockading squadrons off l’Orient and Havre, near which latter port she made several captures. In July 1805, she was attached to the Mediterranean station; and on the day previous to the ever memorable battle of Trafalgar, Lieutenant Young received directions to keep close to Nelson’s flag-ship, the heroic chief having resolved to send him home with the account of his justly anticipated victory. Towards the close of that celebrated engagement, a French 74, l’Achille, caught fire, and, in about an hour afterwards, exploded; but not before the Entreprenante, in conjunction with the Pickle schooner, and the boats of the Prince George and Swiftsure, had succeeded in rescuing about 200 of the unfortunate enemy. This, we should observe, was a most dangerous, and, to Lieutenant Young, an expensive service; l’Achille’s guns, when heated, discharging their contents; and humanity prompting him to distribute among the captives the whole of his linen, wine, and other necessaries, for which he never received the least remuneration. During the tremendous gale that immediately ensued,the Entreprenante, although crowded with prisoners, and in the greatest distress for want of water, was indefatigable in ascertaining, and correctly reporting the position of the prizes, one of which, the Bahama 74, would have been run into Cadiz but for her timely telegraphic intelligence. Instead, however, of being sent to England, according to the deceased hero’s intention, Lieutenant Young was ordered to convey the duplicate despatches to Faro; and, consequently, instead of obtaining preferment, and the usual handsome donation, all that he received was a sword, value one hundred guineas, presented to him by the Committee of the Patriotic Fund. In 1806 and 1807, he was almost incessantly employed in watching the enemy’s fleet at Brest, a service of the most arduous nature. In 1809, after having been indulged with a few months’ relaxation, for the recovery of his health, he was appointed first lieutenant of the Ulysses 44, Captain the Hon. Warwick Lake; and he appears to have been the senior officer of his rank employed in flat-bottomed boats during the Walcheren expedition. On the termination of that service, he was removed to the Princess Caroline 74, Captain Charles Dudley Pater; under whom he was serving, in the Gulf of Finland, when promoted to his present rank, Oct. 21st, 1810. Since that period he has most reluctantly continued on half-pay.

This officer married in Mar. 1810, and has issue three sons and two daughters. His grandfather died first lieutenant of the Cumberland 66, bearing the broad pendant of Commodore Pocock, on the East India station, in 1755. His paternal uncle, James Young, Esq. was a lieutenant-colonel of marines: and his brother. Lieutenant John James Young, R.N. died afloat in the year 1796.

(See Vol. III. Part II. p. 403 et seq.)

At the attack of Owia, in the Island of St. Vincent, this officer had eight men killed and wounded in his own boat, – half of them belonging to the Thorn sloop, the others to H.M. 60th regiment. La Bonne Citoyenne and the frigates attached to the fleet under Sir John Jervis, at the battle off Cape St. Vincent, were not mere spectators on that occasion; they participated in the engagement, by exchanging several broadsides with various Spanish ships of the line. After this great victory, and while the said sloop was under repair at Gibraltar, Lieutenant Young volunteered his services, and commanded a gun-boat in two successful actions with a Franco-Spanish flotilla, of superior force, sent from Algeziras, to cut oft’ some valuable British and other merchantmen making for the rock. Previous to his leaving la Bonne Citoyenne, he received a severe bruise by the heart of the main-top-mast falling (shot away) while he was training the forecastle guns at a Spanish man-of-war steering for Cadiz.

  1. See Nav. Chron. I. 86.