Warren, John Borlase (DNB00)

WARREN, Sir JOHN BORLASE (1753–1822), admiral, fourth son of John Borlase Warren of Stapleford, Nottinghamshire, and Little Marlow, by his wife Anne, was born at Stapleford on 2 Sept. 1753 and baptised there on 5 Oct. His grandfather, Arthur Warren, married Alice, only daughter and heiress of Sir John Borlase, bart., of Little Marlow, at whose death in 1689 the baronetcy became extinct. As a lad young Warren was intended for the church. He was admitted a fellow-commoner of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, on 23 Sept. 1769, and seems to have kept his terms there till March 1771. The death of his elder brothers changing his prospects changed also his views; and on 24 April 1771 he was entered on the books of the Marlborough, guardship in the Medway, as an ‘able seaman.’ From this time his residence at Cambridge was curiously intermittent. His service on board the Marlborough must have been equally irregular, and early in 1772 his name was marked on the ship's books with an R, that is, run or deserted. On 14 Feb. the R was taken off, ‘per navy board's order,’ and on the 17th he was discharged to the Alderney sloop, employed on preventive service on the east coast from Orfordness to the Humber. On 9 April 1772 he was rated a midshipman of the Alderney, but for the next eighteen months he alternated, as before, between service on board the Alderney and residence at Emmanuel. In 1773 he graduated as B.A., and on 17 March 1774 he was discharged from the Alderney ‘per admiralty order.’ In the general election of 1774 he was elected member of parliament for Marlow; and on 1 June 1775, being by the death of his father the representative of the Borlase family, the baronetcy was restored in his person. In 1776 he took his M.A. at Cambridge. About this time he bought Lundy Island and a yacht, in which ‘he amused himself in the Bristol Channel.’ On the imminence of war with France he resolved to join the navy in earnest; he sold his yacht, ‘left Lundy to the rabbits,’ and in the autumn of 1777 went out to North America in the Venus frigate, from which in December he was moved into the Apollo.

On 19 July 1778 he was promoted to be fourth lieutenant of the Nonsuch, from which he was discharged in October, and returned to England. In March 1779 he was appointed to the Victory, and on 5 Aug. 1779 was promoted to command the Helena sloop. In February 1781 he was removed to the Merlin; and on 25 April 1781 was posted to the 20-gun frigate Ariadne. In March 1782 he was moved to the Winchelsea of 32 guns, and at the peace was put on half-pay. During the following years he is said to have occasionally served as a volunteer under Commodore John Leveson-Gower [q. v.] (Ralfe).

On the outbreak of war in 1793 Warren was appointed to the Flora of 36 guns, in which for some months Rear-admiral John Macbride [q. v.] hoisted his flag as commander of a frigate squadron off Brest and among the Channel Islands. Early in 1794 he was himself ordered to hoist a broad pennant and take command of a frigate squadron on the coast of France, and especially to look for a squadron of French frigates which had done much damage to English trade. On 23 April he fell in with these, brought them to action, and succeeded in capturing three out of four [see Peller, Edward, Viscount Exmouth]. For this service Warren was made a K.B. In August he drove on shore, near the Penmarks, the French 36-gun frigate Volontaire and two 18-gun corvettes. One of these, though badly damaged, was afterwards got off, but the other and the frigate were totally destroyed (Troude, ii. 382–4). The number of vessels which he destroyed as they were endeavouring to carry on the French coasting trade was very great. In the spring of 1795 Warren was moved to the 44-gun frigate Pomone, one of those captured on 23 April 1794, and was ordered to convoy and support the expedition of the French royalists to Quiberon Bay. The troops were safely landed on 27 June, but after some early successes were decisively defeated by the republican forces; many deserted; many capitulated and were afterwards butchered; about eleven hundred of the soldiers and 2,400 of the sympathising population were received on board the English ships. Warren then took possession of Hoedic and Houat and of the Isle Dieu, where the refugees were landed. In October he was joined by Captain Charles Stirling [see under Stirling, Sir Walter], convoying a reinforcement of four thousand British troops, which were also landed on Isle Dieu; but after several weeks' delay it was resolved that nothing could be done; the people were re-embarked, and the whole expedition, with the survivors of the royalists, returned to England (James, i. 278–80).

In 1796 Warren was directed to attend more particularly to the enemy's coasting trade; and during the year he destroyed, captured, or recaptured no fewer than 220 sail, thirty-seven of which were armed vessels, including the 36-gun frigate Andromache [see Keats, Sir Richard Goodwin]. For this service he was presented by the patriotic fund with a sword of the value of a hundred guineas. In the following year he was appointed to the 74-gun ship Canada, one of the Channel fleet, sometimes off Brest under the command of Viscount Bridport, and during the mutiny in the spring of 1797, happily at sea with the detached squadron. He was still in the Canada in September 1798, when he received intelligence from Keats of the sailing of a French expedition, carrying some five thousand troops, which it was intended to land on the west coast of Ireland, where—in Killala Bay—an advanced body of some eleven hundred men under General Humbert had been already put on shore. Warren immediately followed with three ships of the line, five powerful frigates, and some smaller vessels. Off the north-west of Ireland on 11 Oct. he came up with the enemy, whose force consisted of one 74-gun ship the Hoche, and eight frigates mostly smaller than the English. There is no question that the French, even in nominal force, were altogether outmatched; and when on the 12th Warren succeeded in bringing them to action, the Hoche and three of the frigates were captured after a sturdy defence. The others scattered and fled, but three more of the frigates were captured within a few days, either by the ships of Warren's squadron or others that had followed [see Thornbrough, Sir Edward; Martin, Sir Thomas Byam; Durham, Sir Philip Charles Henderson Calderwood; Moore, Sir Graham]. Two frigates and a schooner got back to France. The Canada herself was not engaged, but Warren's conduct of the affair was deservedly commended, and the complete success which he had achieved, at a time of great public tension, insured his popularity; the thanks of both English and Irish parliaments and a gold medal were awarded to him and his gallant companions.

On 14 Feb. 1799 Warren was advanced to the rank of rear-admiral, and in July hoisted his flag on board the Téméraire, in which he continued throughout the year with Lord Bridport off Brest, or detached into the Bay of Biscay or off Ferrol. In 1800 he commanded a detached squadron in the Bay of Biscay, and was afterwards with Lord Keith off Cadiz [see Elphinstone, George Keith, Viscount Keith]. In 1801 he was in the Mediterranean, where, while Keith was co-operating with the army in Egypt, he was for the most part in charge of the western basin till the peace. In 1802 he was nominated a member of the privy council, and was sent to St. Petersburg as ambassador-extraordinary, principally, it would seem, on a complimentary mission to the emperor on his accession. On 9 Nov. 1805 he was made vice-admiral. In 1806 he had command of a small squadron in western waters, with his flag in the Foudroyant; and, stretching well to the southward, on 13 March fell in with and captured the French 74-gun ship Marengo and the frigate Belle Poule, homeward bound from the East Indies [see Neale, Sir Harry Burrard; Parker, Sir William, (1781–1866)]. On 31 July 1810 Warren was promoted to the rank of admiral. Early in 1813 he was appointed commander-in-chief on the North American station, from which he was relieved in the following spring. On the extension of the order of the Bath in 1815 his K.B. was replaced by the new G.C.B. He had no further service, and died suddenly at Greenwich, while on a visit to Sir Richard Keats, on 27 Feb. 1822. He was buried in the family vault at Stretton Audley in Oxfordshire. There is a tablet to his memory in Attenborough church, Nottinghamshire.

He is described by Sir William Hotham [q. v.] as ‘more an active and brave man than an officer of any great (particularly practical) professional knowledge.’ It appears now, from his time at sea in the junior ranks, and from the intermittent way in which he served in a harbour ship, that his knowledge of practical seamanship must have been extremely limited. ‘In his person he was above the middle size, with a pleasing countenance and good figure, and had much the air and appearance of a man of rank and fashion. He was one of the grooms of the bedchamber to the Duke of Clarence.’

Warren married, in December 1780, Caroline, daughter of Lieutenant-general Sir John Clavering, and had issue by her three daughters and two sons, the younger of whom died in infancy; the elder, a lieutenant in the guards, was killed in Egypt. The two younger daughters also predeceased their father; the eldest, Frances Maria, his sole heiress, married George Charles, fourth lord Vernon, and was mother of George John Warren Vernon, fifth baron Vernon [q. v.] The widow died at Stapleford in December 1839. A portrait of Warren, by Opie, belonged in 1867 to Sir John Warren Hayes, bart. (Cat. of National Portraits, South Kensington Exhibition, 1867).

[Ralfe's Nav. Biogr. ii. 302; Naval Chronicle (with a portrait), iii. 333, xxvi. 89; Ann. Reg. 1822 ii. 272, 1839 ii. 378; Notts and Derbyshire Notes and Queries, 1892, i. 41–4. The unique intricacy of his early career is aggravated by the fact that neither passing certificate nor statement of services has been preserved; and it is impossible to say with certainty that he had no service in the navy, nominal or otherwise, before his entry on the books of the Marlborough. It is, however, probable that he had not. The course of his service in the Marlborough and Alderney is shown by the ships' pay and muster books. The writer is indebted to Mr. W. Chawner, the present master of Emmanuel, for some notes on his residence at Cambridge. See also James's Naval History, the author of which shows himself uniformly and, in the present writer's opinion, unjustly hostile to Warren; and Troude's Batailles Navales de la France.]

J. K. L.