Robert Fanshawe

1740-1823. He was born on 4 January 1740, the second son of Rear-Admiral Charles Fanshawe and his wife, Elizabeth Rogers, daughter of a leading politician, Sir John Rogers of Blackford, Devon.

He joined the service in 1753, going out to India in the following year and seeing action in Vice-Admiral Sir George Pocock’s several indecisive battles with the French during 1758-9. On 11 September 1759 following the Battle of Pondicherry the day before he was commissioned lieutenant of the Tiger 60, Captain William Brereton, and he returned to England in 1761 when that ship was hulked.

Fanshawe was promoted commander of the bomb Carcass 8 on 23 August 1762 and retained until paid off at the peace of 1763, after which he recommissioned the brig Speedwell 8 in June, sailing for North America in August before being paid off in September 1766. He was posted captain on 25 May 1768 and recommissioned the Lively 20 in April 1769, commanding her in home waters for a couple of years.

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HMS Monmouth’s part in the Battle of Grenada was heralded by friend and foe alike

In December 1775 he recommissioned the Carysfort 28, going out to North America in the following April. He had her during the New York campaign of July-October 1776 and in the autumn of 1777 led a squadron off the coast of the Carolinas, having under his orders Captain Hon. George Keith Elphinstone pf the Perseus 20 and Thomas Mackenzie of the Lizard 28. In December he received aboard a number of escaped British prisoners who brought valuable details of the rebel ships in the port of Charleston. During 5-6 September 1778 he escorted troops under Major-General Charles Grey that attacked the rebel privateer base of New Bedford where some seventy vessels and assorted stores were destroyed.He then sailed south at the end of the year with Commodore William Hotham’s reinforcement to the Leeward Islands station, although he was not present at the Battle of St. Lucia.

Having joined her earlier in the year, he commanded the Monmouth 64 at the Battle of Grenada on 6 July 1779, losing twenty-five men killed and twenty-eight wounded. So well did she fight that the French officers toasted her performance, but the damage incurred almost led to her capture and she was forced to bear away for Antigua before returning home and being refitted at Portsmouth that winter. In July 1780 he returned to the Leeward Islands in command of the Egmont 74, joining the fleet but then remaining under the orders of Commodore William Hotham at St. Lucia when Admiral Sir George Rodney took the rest of the fleet north. During the great hurricane of 4-12 October 1780 the Egmont was swept out to sea and dismasted, and such was her damage that she was obliged to return to England with a convoy in the summer of 1781. Learning of a strong French presence in the Channel Fanshawe took the convoy around the north around Scotland to anchor in the Leith Roads, and the Egmont was eventually paid off in August.

At the beginning of 1782 he assumed command of the Namur 90 at extremely short notice,, actually rising from his bed at Plymouth and going aboard at Admiral Sir George Rodney’s invitation after Captain Herbert Sawyer had requested to be superseded on the point of sailing. Going out to the Leeward Islands once more he fought at the Battle of the Saintes on 12 April 1782, ably supporting his commander-in-chief and following him through the French line. The Namur then sailed to North America with Admiral Hugh Pigot’s fleet before returning to the Leeward Islands and being eventually paid off in June 1783.

From 1785-8 he commanded the Bombay Castle 74, during which period she was refitted as a guardship at Plymouth. He took up the civil position of commissioner of the dockyard at Plymouth on 13 November 1789 and remained in that position for twenty-six years. During his long and valued tenure Captain Israel Pellew convalesced at his house following the destruction of his command, the Amphion 32 as the result of an explosion on 22 September 1796. When the great mutiny spread to Plymouth on 26 April 1797 he provided funds at the request of the captains of the disaffected ships in order for them to send delegates around to Plymouth.

He was succeeded as commissioner on 12 December 1815 and died at Stonehouse, Plymouth, on 4 February 1823.

Fanshawe married Christiana Gennys of Whitleigh Hall, St. Budeaux, Plymouth, on 5 December 1769 and had three sons, Captain Robert Fanshawe, who died at Antigua in June 1804 when commanding the frigate Carysfort 28, General Sir Edward Fanshawe and Admiral Sir Arthur Fanshawe who held a number of senior appointments in the 1850’s. He also had nine daughters, many of whom married into the service with Fanshawe becoming the father-in-law of Admiral of the Fleet Sir Thomas Byam Martin, Admiral John Chambers White, Vice-Admiral William Bedford, and Admiral the Hon. Sir Robert Stopford.

He was the MP for Plymouth from 1784-9 in the interest of the Admiralty and as a supporter of William Pitt. He never spoke in Parliament.
Fanshawe and his large family were renowned for their hospitality towards brother officers at Plymouth. He was seen as a first rate seaman and brave too, if somewhat of a strict disciplinarian. Religious, he was also charitable but he could also be ill-tempered and unhelpful and he was described as an ‘odd fish’.