Sir Edward Vernon

1723-94. He was born on 30 October 1723 at Hilton in Staffordshire, the fourth son of Henry Vernon, and of his wife, Penelope Phillips. He was the brother of Richard Vernon who became a famous horseracing attendee and official, and he was also a distant relative of the famous Admiral ‘Old Grog’ Edward Vernon.

From November 1735-9 Vernon was educated at the Portsmouth Royal Academy, and he first went to sea as a volunteer aboard the Portland 50, captained by the unfortunate Hon. John Byng, with whom he moved on to the Sunderland 60 in October of the latter year to serve in the Mediterranean. He continued his service on that station aboard the Sutherland 50, Captain George Pocock, and on 3 March 1743 passed his lieutenant’s examination, being commissioned to the sloop Granado, Commander William Parry, on 4 April. In June he joined the newly commissioned Berwick 70, Captain Edward Hawke, and he saw further service in the Mediterranean, being present at the Battle of Toulon on 11 February of the following year.

398px-Captain_Edward_Vernon_(1723-1794)._by_Francis_Hayman (1)

Sir Edward Vernon

Vernon was promoted commander of the sloop Baltimore 14 on 5 December 1747, which vessel he retained for the next couple of years. On 3 April 1753 he was posted captain of the Mermaid 20, and from May 1755 he commanded the Lyme 28 in the Bay of Biscay, taking the privateers Revanche on 29 February 1757 and Lis on 2 December. In company with the Colchester 50, Captain Lucius O’Brien he had a hard-fought but inconclusive action on 17 May 1756 with two French ships of a similar force, and on 28 February 1757 he shared in the capture of the Entreprenate 16 off Le Havre with the Deal Castle 20, Captain Edward Hughes, prior to going out to the Mediterranean in April.

In November 1758 he was appointed to the St Albans 64, capturing the Loire 36 in company with the Favourite 16, Commander Timothy Edwards, and which vessel was present under Admiral Hon. Edward Boscawen in his victory over the French in the Battle of Lagos on 19 August 1759. During 1760 Vernon commanded the Lyme 28 again, and in August 1761 recommissioned the Revenge 70 for service in the Bay of Biscay under Boscawen and Admiral Sir Edward Hawke. This ship was paid off in 1763.

During the peace Vernon captained the Kent 70, flagship of Rear-Admiral Thomas Pye at Plymouth, and from 1770 had the guardships Yarmouth 64 at Sheerness and Bellona 74 at Portsmouth. In March 1771 he became flag captain to Vice-Admiral Pye at Portsmouth aboard the Barfleur 98, and on 22 June 1773 was knighted by the King during his review of the fleet at Spithead, later entertaining the monarch to dinner aboard. From the following year he served in the same capacity aboard the Barfleur for the new commander-in-chief, Vice-Admiral Sir James Douglas, and in May 1775 he was appointed commodore and commander-in-chief at the Nore with his broad pennant aboard the Ramillies 74.

In May 1776 Vernon was appointed commander-in-chief in the East Indies with his broad pennant aboard the Rippon 60, Captain Hon. William Waldegrave, who would be succeeded in November 1777 by Captain George Young. He sailed in November with two frigates and a corvette otherwise comprising his force, and on 10th August 1778 he fought an indecisive action against the French Admiral François l’Ollivier de Tronjoly off Pondicherry. Neither commander had the necessary strength to enforce their superiority over the other, and eventually Tronjoly decided to retire to Mauritius where he remained thereafter. With Captain Young being sent home with despatches announcing the capture of Pondicherry in October, Captain Benjamin Marlow assumed the duties of flag-captain. On 19 March 1779 Vernon was promoted rear-admiral, and he left Indian waters in April 1780 with Captain John Blankett as his flag-captain, returning to England with a convoy and ending his service after striking his flag.

Vernon retired to his residence at Binfield, Berkshire, yet although unemployed he still remained active, and in 1785 he caused some astonishment by engaging in a couple of balloon rides from Tottenham Court Road, landing on one occasion at Horsham and the other at Colchester. He became a vice-admiral on 24 September 1787, an admiral on 12 April 1794 and he died two months later on 16 June, being buried at Binfield Church.

His widow, Dame Hannah Vernon survived him.