Admiral Sir Phipps Hornby

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About Admiral Sir Phipps Hornby

Wikipedia Biographical Summary

Admiral Sir Phipps Hornby, GCB (27 April 1785 – 19 March 1867) was a prominent and experienced British Royal Navy officer of the nineteenth century. Hornby served on frigates throughout most of his wartime experience, which included witnessing the Nore Mutiny first hand aged 12 in 1797. Later, commanding his own sixth-rate HMS Volage in 1811, Hornby played a vital role in the British victory at the Battle of Lissa. At Lissa a British squadron under William Hoste overwhelmed a French force more than twice their own strength, Volage combating a much larger ship alone for several minutes and taking numerous casualties, including Hornby, who was wounded.

Later in life, Hornby accepted a succession of home and seagoing positions to ensure the promotion prospects for his son in the Navy as well as to support his close allies in Parliament under the Earl of Derby, to whom he was related. These positions included a period in command of the Pacific Fleet and later a role as one of the Lords of the Admiralty. During his career, Hornby accrued numerous awards and accolades, being made a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath and a full admiral before his death in 1867.

Early career

Hornby was born in 1785, the son of Geoffrey Hornby, rector of Winwick, and his wife Lucy Stanley. Hornby's mother was a daughter of James Smith-Stanley, Lord Strange and sister to Edward Smith-Stanley, 12th Earl of Derby. Hornby's sister Charlotte Margaret later married her cousin Edward Smith-Stanley, 13th Earl of Derby, and the close association between the Earls of Derby and the Hornby family would play a significant role in Phipps Hornby's career and politics. Hornby received education at Sunbury-on-Thames and joined the Navy as a midshipman in 1797 aged 12.

In 1797, Britain was embroiled in the French Revolutionary Wars, and Hornby's ship HMS Latona became caught up in the Nore Mutiny just weeks after he joined her. Latona's captain, John Bligh, took Hornby with him when he moved ships, and Hornby saw service on HMS Romney, HMS Agincourt and HMS Theseus, mainly serving in the Americas.

Napoleonic Wars

In 1804 following the Peace of Amiens, Hornby joined Horatio Nelson's flagship HMS Victory in the Mediterranean briefly before being posted to HMS Excellent with the admiral's recommendation. Excellent was detached from Nelson's fleet soon afterwards and in 1805 and 1806 participated in numerous operations on the Italian coast, particularly at Gaeta. Excellent was also present at the capture of Capri. Hornby was granted his first independent command in 1806, the small armed vessel HMS Duchess of Bedfordshire and in her fought off two large Spanish privateers. In 1807 he was promoted to commander and took over the sloop HMS Minorca in which he fought numerous engagements with Spanish gunboats off Cadiz.

In 1809, Minorca operated briefly with the squadron in the Adriatic Sea and the following year Hornby was promoted to post captain, becoming temporary commander of HMS Fame before moving to the small sixth rate HMS Volage to serve in the Adriatic squadron under William Hoste. Hornby was wounded in March 1811 during the Battle of Lissa, at which his ship fought a much larger French vessel and despite losing all but one gun, remained in combat throughout. Recovering from his injuries, Hornby took command of HMS Stag off the Cape of Good Hope the next year and later moved to HMS Spartan in the Mediterranean. While commander of Spartan, Hornby participated in the capture of Elba from the French, for which he was invested with the Austrian order of St Joseph of Würzburg.

Later service

In 1814, Hornby married Sophia Maria Burgoyne, daughter of General John Burgoyne. The couple had five daughters and three sons. The eldest son, John, died in service with the Royal Engineers in 1848 aged 27, while his younger sons Geoffrey Hornby and James John Hornby had lengthy and successful careers in the Royal Navy and education respectively. In 1815, Hornby was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath and the following year paid off Spartan and entered semi-retirement. During his retirement, Hornby dabbled in politics, a supporter of the Earls of Derby.

In 1832, Hornby returned to service to promote his son's career through preferment, initially becoming superintendent of Plymouth Naval Hospital and in 1838 moving to become superintendent of the Woolwich Dockyard. In 1841 he became comptroller-general of the Coast Guard until 1846 when he was promoted to rear-admiral. In order to further his son's career, Hornby then accepted the position of commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, raising his flag in HMS Asia in 1847. In 1852 Hornby returned to Europe to serve as a Second Naval Lord under the Duke of Northumberland and remained in post until his final retirement in 1853, shortly after the fall of Lord Derby's government.

In retirement Hornby continued to receive honours, eventually being promoted full admiral in 1858 and becoming a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in 1861. He died a widower at his estate in the village of Little Green near Petersfield in Hampshire in March 1867.

SOURCE: Wikipedia contributors, 'Phipps Hornby', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 8 November 2013, 20:18 UTC, <> [accessed 29 December 2013]

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