Edward Edwards

1742-1815. He was the fifth of six children of Richard Edwards of Water Newton near Peterborough, and of his wife, Mary Fuller.

Edwards was commissioned lieutenant on 7 September 1759 and saw service in the American Revolutionary War aboard the Augusta 64, Captain Francis Reynolds. He was promoted commander on 22 April 1778, and for the remainder of the year had the bomb-ketch Carcass 8 manned by eighty men in an acting-capacity, forming part of Vice-Admiral Lord Howe’s fleet at the defence of New York in July and in operations off Rhode Island in August. At the end of the year he departed for the Leeward Islands with Commodore William Hotham’s squadron, and he was present at the defence of St. Lucia on 15 December 1778.

He removed to the Hornet 14 in the Leeward Islands and was posted captain on 25 April 1781. During the following month he commissioned the new Narcissus 20 at Plymouth for service in the Channel fleet, taking part in the June-November 1781 operations. This vessel later went out to the North American station and subsequently returned there after a brief service in the West Indies. During 1782 six men were hung and fourteen flogged for mutiny on board the Narcissus, and she eventually returned home to be paid off in March 1784.

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The wreck of the Pandora

Having joined the Pandora 24 three months earlier, Edwards left Portsmouth in November 1790 with instructions to seek out the mutineers who had rebelled against Captain William Bligh of the Bounty on 28 April 1789. On arriving at Tahiti on 23 March 1791 he found fourteen men, and chaining the innocent and guilty alike in an airless hell-hole on his quarter-deck he spent the next four months touring the Pacific in search of Fletcher Christian and the Bounty. His mission came to an abrupt end on 28 August when the Pandora sank in the Torres Straight with thirty-six deaths, but after an open boat voyage Edwards brought the survivors to Timor seventeen days later. During the voyage home to England aboard a Dutch ship he ensured that the alleged mutineers continued to suffer imprisonment and a meagre diet.

At the court-martial into the loss of the Pandora presided over by Vice-Admiral Lord Hood aboard the Hector 74 in Portsmouth on 17 September 1792, Edwards and his surviving officers were exonerated of any blame for her loss. He did not see any further active service but was employed as the regulating captain at both Inverary and Hull.

Edwards eventually reached flag rank on 14 February 1799, was further promoted to vice-admiral on 9 November 1805, and admiral on 31 July 1810.

He died, unmarried, on 13 April 1815 at his brother’s house in Stamford, being buried in St. Remigius Church, Water Newton.

Although a fine seaman and of a ‘venerable’ appearance, Edwards was a martinet of the worst order, and described as ‘unimaginative’. Opinions of him differed, especially as the influential Heywood family, whose loyal son he had treated harshly as a mutineer, led a furious campaign against him and possibly prevented his further employment, although equally his ‘beaching’ could have been on account of the affect to his health of the open boat voyage following the loss of the Pandora. His own officers apparently held him in high regard.