Adm. Sir Edward Codrington, GCB, RN

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Edward Codrington

Birthdate: (81)
Death: April 28, 1851 (81)
Immediate Family:

Son of Edward Codrington and Rebecca Codrington
Husband of Jane Codrington
Father of General Sir William John Codrington, GCB and Admiral Sir Henry Codrington
Brother of Christopher Bethell Codrington, MP and Caroline Walrond

Managed by: Woodman Mark Lowes Dickinson, OBE
Last Updated:

About Adm. Sir Edward Codrington, GCB, RN

Admiral Sir Edward Codrington GCB RN (27 April 1770 – 28 April 1851) was a British admiral, hero of the Battle of Trafalgar and the Battle of Navarino.

Early life and career

The youngest of three brothers born to an aristocratic, landowning family, Codrington was educated by an uncle named Mr Bethell. He was sent for a short time to Harrow, and entered the Royal Navy in July 1783. He served off the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, in the Mediterranean and in home waters, until he was promoted to lieutenant on 28 May 1793, when Lord Howe selected him to be signal lieutenant on the flagship of the Channel fleet at the beginning of the French Revolutionary Wars. In that capacity he served on the 100-gun HMS Queen Charlotte during the operations which culminated in the battle of the Glorious First of June.

As a reward for his actions at the battle, on 7 October 1794 he was promoted to commander, and on 6 April 1795 attained the rank of Post-Captain and the command of the 22-gun HMS Babet from which he observed the Battle of Groix. His next command was the frigate HMS Druid whom he commanded in the Channel and off the coast of Portugal, until she was paid off in 1797. Following this, Codrington spent a period largely on land and on half-pay for some years. In December 1802 he married Jane Hall, an English woman from Kingston, Jamaica, and remained without a ship until the Peace of Amiens came to a close in 1803.

Service in the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812

On the renewal of hostilities with France he remained in frigates for some time before being given the ship of the line HMS Orion in the spring of 1805 which was attached to Admiral Nelson's fleet off Cadiz in the blockade of the combined fleet. Codrington and Orion were engaged at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805, where Orion was stationed to the rear of the northern division and therefore took two hours to reach battle. Once there, Codrington ignored all other ships and focused entirely on closing with a hitherto unengaged French ship, the Swiftsure, forcing her to surrender. He then attacked but failed to capture the Spanish flagship Principe de Asturias before moving on to the Intrepide, the only ship of the northern division to return. Orion, with other ships, dismasted and then sailed round her, firing continually until she surrendered.

For the next several years, Codrington fought alongside the Spanish against the French in the Mediterranean Sea, commanding a squadron which harried French shipping and made numerous coastal raids. The two months of May and June in 1811 were to prove his most testing time whilst stationed on the eastern seaboard of Spain. He went to great lengths to help the Garrison at Tarragona, which was besieged by the French under Suchet. Convinced that the Spanish general in charge of the garrison wasn’t up to the task, Codrington, who had a clearer strategic outlook of the situation, contrived a plan of succour. Through his own personal efforts he brought to that city 6300 Spanish infantry and 291 artillerymen as reinforcements. He spent many nights in the port area guiding cannon launches against the enemy. When the city fell, he rescued over 600 people from the beach in a Dunkirkesque-style operation under fire from enemy cannon and personally undertook to reunite mothers and babies who had been separated during the evacuation. Before that he had also supported the disastrous Walcheren expedition in 1809. In 1814 he was promoted to the rank of rear admiral, at which time he was serving off the coast of North America as captain of the fleet to Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane during the operations against Washington, Baltimore and New Orleans during the War of 1812. In recognition of this service, in 1815 he was made a Knight Commander of the Bath and then a vice admiral on 10 July 1821. He was also elected a fellow of the Royal Society in February 1822.

The Greek War of Independence and the Battle of Navarino

In December 1826 Codrington was appointed Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet and sailed on 1 February 1827. From that date until his recall on 21 June 1828 he was engaged in the arduous duties imposed on him by the Greek War of Independence, which had led to anarchy in occupied Greece[3] and surrounding areas. His orders were to enforce a peaceful solution on the situation in Greece, but Codrington was unfortunately not known for his diplomacy, and on 20 October 1827 he destroyed the Turkish and Egyptian fleet at the Battle of Navarino while in command of a combined British, French and Russian fleet.

After the battle Codrington went to Malta to refit his ships. He remained there till May 1828, when he sailed to join his French and Russian colleagues on the coast of the Morea. They endeavoured to enforce the evacuation of the peninsula by Ibrahim Pasha peacefully. The Pasha made diplomatic difficulties,which came in the form of continuous genocide against the Greeks of Morea who were to be replaced with Muslims from Africa and on 25 July the three admirals agreed that Codrington should go to Alexandria to obtain Ibrahims recall by his father Mehemet Ali. Codrington had heard on 22 June of his own supersession, but, as his successor had not arrived, he carried out the arrangement made on 25 July, and his presence at Alexandria led to the treaty of the 6 August 1828, by which the evacuation of the Morea was settled. His services were recognized by the grant of the Grand Cross of the Bath, but there is no doubt that the British government was embarrassed by his heavy-handed gunboat diplomacy and not too impressed by the further weakening of Russia's main opponent, the Ottomans.

Later years


After his return home Codrington spent some time in defending himself, and then in leisure abroad. He commanded a training squadron in the Channel in 1831 and became a full admiral on 10 January 1837. He was elected Member of Parliament for Devonport in 1832, and sat for that constituency until he accepted the Chiltern Hundreds in 1839. From November 1839 to December 1842 he was Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth. Codrington died in London on 28 April 1851. He left two sons, both of whom achieved distinction in the British armed forces. Sir William Codrington (1804–1884) was a commander in the Crimean War. Sir Henry Codrington (1808–1877), a naval officer, became an Admiral of the Fleet.

A third son, Edward Codrington, was a midshipman aboard Cambrian who died sometime in 1821 or 1822 in the Mediterranean. He had been taking a cutter to Hydra when a squall overturned the boat, drowning him, a merchant, and three crewmen.

Codrington was buried in St Peter's Church, Eaton Square, but due to shoddy maintenance work in 1953 and a large fire in 1987, there is no remaining trace of his tombstone or body. Plaques to his memory can be found in St Paul's Cathedral, All Saints Church, Dodington close to the family home, and there is a large obelisk dedicated to the memory of him and the other officers at Navarino at Pylos in Greece.

Research at St. Peter's Church in October 2005 revealed that in 1954 the remains were buried at Brookwood cemetery in Surrey, plot number 70.

Further reading

The Trafalgar Captains (2005) - Colin White and the 1805 Club, Chatham Publishing, London ISBN 1-86176-247-X

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Adm. Sir Edward Codrington, GCB, RN's Timeline

April 27, 1770
Age 33
August 17, 1808
Age 38
April 28, 1851
Age 81