Sir Edmund Affleck

1725-1788. Born at Dalham Hall in Suffolk of Scottish descent on 19 April 1725, he was the fifth surviving son of Mr Gilbert Affleck, M.P for Cambridge, and of his wife, Anne Dolben. He was the older brother of Admiral Philip Affleck.

Affleck was commissioned lieutenant on 2 July 1745. After steady if unspectacular service he was briefly given the acting command of the Advice 50 in controversial circumstances on the Leeward Islands station in 1755 when her previous commander, Commodore Thomas Pye, was ordered home by his successor on the station, Commodore Thomas Frankland.

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Sir Edmund Affleck

He was promoted commander of the Albany 14 on 5 June 1756, and posted captain of the Mercury 20 on 23 March 1757, going out to New York and then the West Indies. He remained with her until 1759 serving at Lisbon before returning to the Downs. In July 1759 he commissioned the Launceston 44, taking the privateers Chevalier de Grossole on 6 April 1760 and Saint-Antoine on 17 August, and serving with Commodore Hon. Augustus Keppel at the capture of Belleisle in 1761. He took a convoy out to New England in 1762, and after a period with the grand fleet sailed for the Mediterranean at the end of the year.

During the peace he continued in service, taking his brother’s previous command, the Argo 28, out to Lisbon in 1766 but retaining her for little over a year, and then commanding the guard ship San Antonio 64 at Portsmouth from October 1770 until the following July, when she was deemed unfit for further service.

In early 1778 Affleck was appointed to the Bedford 74, sailing with Vice-Admiral Hon. John Byron’s fleet to North America on 9 June. His was one of six ships which arrived at New York under the command of Rear-Admiral Hyde Parker following the storms which had badly disrupted the fleet’s passage. After refitting the Bedford at New York he went to sea in October, but returned to England when the fleet was again damaged in a storm, it being found that the Bedford was not fit to undertake the voyage to the Caribbean in pursuit of the French fleet.

Upon arriving at Spithead towards the end of January in company with the Amazon 32 Captain Maximilian Jacobs, the Bedford underwent a further refit and was copper-bottomed at Plymouth in January 1779. She then served under Admiral Sir Charles Hardy in the Channel, being present at the retreat before the allied armada in August.

At the end of the year Affleck sailed with Admiral Sir George Rodney to relieve Gibraltar, and his ship was the first in action with the fleeing enemy at the encounter off Cape St. Vincent on 16 January 1780. During the action the Bedford engaged the Princesa 70 for an hour, resulting in the striking of the Spanish ships’ colours. The Bedford briefly returned to England with Rear-Admiral Hon. Robert Digby’s squadron, assisting in the capture of the Protée 64 and three storeships on 24 February. She then went out to North America under the orders of Rear-Admiral Thomas Graves, arriving in July after a two month passage to reinforce the commander-in-chief, Vice-Admiral Marriot Arbuthnot, at Gardiner’s Bay.

The following January, having been detached under Graves to attempt the interception of some French transports, the Bedford was dismasted in a gale which saw another vessel, the Culloden 74, driven ashore. Affleck demonstrated great skill in re-masting the Bedford with the Culloden’s spars and by 10 March 1781 she was able to sail with Arbuthnot’s squadron in search of the French force under Commodore des Touches Unfortunately atthe Battle of Cape Henry on 16 March the commander-in-chief’s poor tactics found the Bedford un-engaged at the rear of the line of battle.

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Affleck fought with distinction in many battles, not least the Saintes in 1782

During the summer Affleck was appointed commissioner of the navy at New York where he also acted for the commander-in-chief in his absence, hoisting his broad pennant initially in the Bedford, and when that ship rejoined the fleet under Captain Thomas Graves, in any other available vessel as circumstances dictated.

Affleck rejoined the Bedford in the autumn of 1781 with the honorary rank of commodore, and with Graves as his flag captain he sailed in November under the orders of Rear-Admiral Sir Samuel Hood for the Leeward Islands. He distinguished himself during the repulse of the French fleet at St. Kitts on 25 / 26 January 1782, taking a good deal of punishment on behalf of his consorts at the rear of the line, and earning great praise from Hood who knew that the French had singled the Bedford out for special attention. During the Battle of the Saintes on 12 April 1782 his ship was the last in the centre division, but he led Hood’s rear division through the French line and then assisted the Centaur 74 in the capture of the César 74, adding even more gloss to his reputation. He was subsequently created a baronet on 10 July 1782.

During the remainder of the year he continued with his broad pennant aboard the Bedford 74, Captain William Scott, voyaging to North America with the fleet and forming part of Rear-Admiral Sir Samuel Hood’s detachment of a dozen sail of the line that was sent to cruise off Boston in an attempt to intercept part of the French fleet under the Marquis de Vaudreuil. He returned home from Jamaica in April 1783.

Affleck did not undertake any further employment, but in March 1782 was elected M.P. for Colchester, taking his seat on 23 January 1784 and nominally being a supporter of William Pitt’s administration. Although he did not appear to vote he did speak twice on naval matters.

On 10 February 1784 he was raised to flag rank, and he died at his residence at Fingringhoe Hall near Colchester on 19 November 1788.

Affleck married a widow, Esther Creffield, and following her death on 15 December 1787 another widow, Margaret Smithers from New York, on 14 May 1788. He did not have any issue.

Sir Edmund was an esteemed seaman and was renowned for his energy, zeal and decisiveness, being additionally well regarded for the key roles he had fulfilled in three major, successful actions.