Samuel Thompson

1718-1813. He was born on 13 August 1718, and became the father of Vice-Admiral Norborne Thompson.

Having seen early service in the employment of the East India Company, Thompson joined the navy in 1739 aboard the Cumberland 80, Captain James Stewart, and was commissioned lieutenant on 25 July 1744. Serving on the Strafford 60, Captain James Rentone, he was present at the capture of Port Louis, Hispaniola, on 8 March 1748, in which operation his captain was killed. Remaining with that vessel under Captain David Brodie, Thompson fought in Rear-Admiral Charles Knowles’ action with a Spanish squadron off Havana on 1 October 1748. The Strafford was paid off in July of the following year.

During 1755 Thompson served in home waters aboard the Elizabeth 70, Captain John Montagu. He subsequently went out to Halifax aboard the Grafton 70, Captain Thomas Cornewall, bearing the broad pennant of Commodore Charles Holmes, and he was promoted commander of the sloop Jamaica 10 on 14 February 1757, which vessel he paid off after returning to England in the following year.

After a period as the regulating captain at Southampton, Thompson was posted captain of the Flamborough 20 on 4 November 1760, serving in the Channel before sailing to Tenerife in March 1761. He was present in Commodore Hon. Augustus Keppel’s expedition to Belleisle later in the same year, and retained the command until the peace of 1763.

After the ending of hostilities Thompson recommissioned the Lark 32 in March 1763, patrolling the Newfoundland Fishery and serving with her until the beginning of 1766. When the Lark was later ordered out to the West Indies Thompson secured an appointment to the newly commissioned Triumph 74, flying the flag of Admiral Sir Edward Hawke at Chatham. Upon paying this vessel off he joined the Rippon 60, which was based at Portsmouth in the summer of 1767. After sailing for Boston in August 1768 he saw service off Virginia and returned from North America in the autumn of 1769. From October 1771 he commanded the Levant 28, going out to the Mediterranean from Portsmouth in January 1772 and leaving her a couple of years later.

In October 1775 Thompson recommissioned the Nore guardship Conquestador 60, which he retained for the next three years. After joining the America 64 in June 1779 he commanded her in the Channel fleet retreat of August, and joined Admiral Sir George Rodney’s fleet when it sailed to relieve Gibraltar at the end of the year. His command was despatched home with those prizes taken from the St Sebastian convoy taken on 8 January and thus he did not see action at the Moonlight Battle off Cape St. Vincent a week later.

The Battle of the Saintes 1782

In the summer of 1780 the America went out to North America with Rear-Admiral Thomas Graves’ reinforcements, where she took the privateers Ranger on 11 October, Mercury on 27 October, and Adventure on 7 November. She fought in the Battle of Cape Henry on 16 March 1781, but being stationed at the rear of the line saw little action, suffering only three men wounded. Similarly at the Battle of Chesapeake Bay on 5 September the America’s position in the line did not afford Thompson the opportunity to distinguish himself.

He next sailed for the Leeward Islands with Rear-Admiral Sir Samuel Hood and fought at the Battle of St. Kitts on 25 January 1782, sustaining casualties of one man killed and seventeen wounded. At the Battle of the Saintes on 12 April the America shared broadsides with the French line before Thompson wore ship without orders to re-engage. He then wore again and assumed his original position when no signal of affirmation was received from the commander-in-chief. His ship sustained a great deal of damage during the action, and although his casualties were listed as one lieutenant killed and another lieutenant wounded it is probable that the actual figure was far higher.

The America sailed to North America once Admiral Hugh Pigot had assumed the command of the fleet later in the year, and she remained under Hood’s orders watching the French at Boston before returning to the West Indies. She eventually returned to England in June 1783 to be paid off at Portsmouth.

Thompson became a superannuated rear-admiral in 1788, and was one of the two officers particularly mentioned in a Parliamentary debate following Lord Howe’s decision to superannuate a large number of captains due for promotion in favour of more worthy officers further down the list. The dispute forced Howe’s resignation from his position as first lord of the Admiralty on 16 July 1788.

Thompson died on 13 August 1813 at Titchfield, Hampshire, on the occasion of his 95th birthday.

He was described as brave and an excellent seaman. In the early 1760’s he enjoyed the patronage of the Duke of York, whilst in turn he was the patron of his nephew, Captain James Sanders.