Philip Patton

1739-1815. He was born at Anstruther, Fifeshire on 27 October 1739, the eldest son of Philip Patton, a customs collector at Kirkcaldy in Fife, and of his wife Agnes Loch. His younger brother Charles, 1741-1837, was posted captain on 30 May 1795 and superintended the transport department at Plymouth during the Napoleonic War, whilst another brother, Robert 1742-1812, served in the East India Company.

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Patton’s early career was spent under ‘Old Dreadnought’ – Admiral Sir Edward Boscawen

Following an education at Kirkcaldy grammar school, Patton spent his early years at sea in the merchant service with his ship-owner uncle before joining the Torbay 74, Captain Charles Colby, under the patronage of Vice-Admiral Hon. Edward Boscawen in 1755. He followed this officer to the Invincible 74, Royal George 100 and Namur 90, and was present at the reduction of Louisbourg in 1758. Following Boscawen’s departure he remained with the Namur under Captain William Buckle, and was present at the Battle of Quiberon Bay on 20 November 1757.

He passed his lieutenant’s examination on 10 September 1760, and whilst remaining in the Namur served under the flag of Admiral Sir George Pocock at the reduction of Havana. Commissioned on 3 July 1762, he was appointed lieutenant of the bomb-ketch Granado 8, and when her captain, Commander Thomas Fraser, was taken ill shortly after she went aground in the Bay of Honda, Cuba he performed exceptionally well in getting her afloat and sea-worthy. Later that year she returned to England and was paid off.

From 1764-7 Patton was aboard the frigate Emerald 28, Captains John Knight and Charles Douglas, serving in the North Sea, in the Channel and off the Scottish islands. During 1769-72 he was again with the Emerald under Captain Douglas who undertook a mission to the North Cape to view the transit of Venus. Thereafter he remained with the frigate as she was successively commanded by Captains John Moutray and Hugh Dalrymple, operating in the Shetlands and Orkneys, and paying her off within the latter year as her first lieutenant.

In 1776 he was appointed to the Spithead-based Prince George 90, Captain Charles Middleton, and he subsequently followed this officer to the Royal Oak 74. In the spring of 1778 this ship became the designated flagship of Rear-Admiral Hyde Parker, who was bound for North America as second-in-command to Vice-Admiral Hon. John Byron. Fortunately, although Patton was due to be superseded as her first lieutenant by a follower of the new admiral, he was promoted on the occasion of the King’s review of the fleet at Spithead with seniority from 9 May 1778, as were all the other flagship first lieutenants.

Initially given command of the newly commissioned bomb Aetna 8, he shortly afterwards became acting-captain of the Prince George 90 in the absence of Captain Sir John Lindsay, who was required to give evidence at the court-martial of Admiral Hon. Augustus Keppel following the Battle of Ushant. The Prince George formed part of Vice-Admiral Lord Shuldham’s squadron which soon put to sea, but on 16 January 1779 Patton had to subdue a mutiny which arose over the seemingly trivial matter of the men’s hammocks being brought up on deck to provide ventilation in the areas below. After one mutineer was severely dealt with the disturbance soon subsided and the men came to accept their acting-captain. The fleet soon returned to Spithead in March and Sir John Lindsay resumed command.

Patton next moved into the sloop Thorn, and on 22 March 1779 was posted to the Namur 90, flagship of Rear-Admiral Hon. Robert Digby, who he then followed to the Prince George once more. He took part in the Channel fleet’s retreat of August 1779, and the Moonlight Battle of 16 January 1780 where he captured the San Julian 74, although she sank near Cadiz shortly afterwards. Following the return of the fleet to Spithead he fell out with Rear-Admiral Digby and left his post.

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Captain Patton fought at the Battle of the Doggersbank in 1781

Although he soon joined the frigate Milford 28, she proved unfit for service and instead he was appointed to commission the French prize Belle Poule 36, with William Bligh as his sailing master. In this ship, with the help of the Berwick 74, Commodore Hon. Keith Stewart and Captain John Ferguson, he captured the notorious Irish privateer commander Luke Ryan aboard the French frigate Calonne 32. Having joined Vice-Admiral Hyde Parker’s fleet in good time to participate in the Battle of the Doggersbank on 5 August 1781, he then sat on the court-martial of Ryan who was sentenced to hang, but escaped death on the request of France at the peace. Patton re-joined the Belle Poule, which had been commanded in the interim by Captain William Fairfax, and was engaged in convoy duty until she was laid up at Chatham in November 1782. He thereafter remained unemployed for the next dozen years.

In May 1794 he became a commissioner of the Transport Board in which role he acquitted himself so well that he became indispensable to the first lord of the Admiralty, Lord Chatham. Somewhat unfairly he was advised that if he accepted flag rank he would not be employed afloat, and having been promoted rear-admiral on 1 June 1795 he entered semi-retirement at his home in Fareham. With some foresight he submitted a report to the Admiralty supporting better conditions for the seamen, and correctly predicting the mutinies of 1797.
On 1 January 1801 Patton was promoted vice-admiral and following the change of government was commander-in-chief in the Downs and second in command of the Home Fleet to Admiral Lord Keith from 1803. Flying his flag in the Utrecht 64, Captain John Wentworth Loring, he met the acquaintance of William Pitt who was then residing at Walmer Castle and in so doing earned a favourable opinion which resulted in his becoming a lord of the Admiralty on Pitt’s return to office in 1803. He served in this capacity for the next three years, and following Pitt’s death retired once more to Fareham. He was promoted admiral on 9 November 1805 and created a stir by writing a pamphlet to the effect that all first lords of the admiralty should be service personnel.

During his retirement Patton had become increasingly death and blind, although a successful operation obviated the latter condition. He died at Fareham on 31 December 1815, his funeral being well attended by the warrant officers of the fleet, whose cause he had promoted throughout his life.

In 1783 Patton married Elizabeth, the daughter of John Dixon, and had issue six daughters and a son. His second daughter, Anna, married Admiral Sir John Wentworth Loring, and his third daughter, Elizabeth, married the future Rear-Admiral Edward Down in 1813, which officer had earlier been his flag lieutenant. His nephew Robert Patton, the son of Charles, entered the service on his flagship in 1804 and was promoted captain in 1827.

Highly regarded and respected, Patton was a thorough student of French and Latin, and a keen poet and scientist. He was of medium stature, generous and amiable, and was ever kind to his men who returned his affection for them. He detested the Impress Service for the way it bred mutinies in the service. The Earl of St. Vincent christened him ‘a dull dof’ for his collusion with Admiral Lord Barham in the changes to the signal codes, whilst Admiral Markham described him as a ‘plain, honest man.’