Thomas Hicks

1729-1801. He was baptised on 27 February 1729, the seventh son of thirteen children of John Hicks, a clergyman long associated with Exeter Cathedral.

Having run away from home, Hicks obtained a berth in April 1742 aboard the Norfolk 80, Captain Thomas Graves, which vessel returned from Jamaica that summer. He saw further service in the Mediterranean on the Marlborough 90 with Captain Graves, and thereafter Captain James Cornwall, who succeeded to the command but was killed at the Battle of Toulon on 11 February 1744. Thereafter Hicks was aboard the Monmouth 70, Captain Henry Harrison, which prior to being paid off at the end of the War of Austrian Succession in 1748 saw a great deal of action in the Channel and the Western Approaches.

In April 1754 he was rated midshipman of the Bristol 50, Captain Samuel Marshall, and subsequent service was with Captain Thomas Graves, the son of the officer with whom he had first gone to sea, aboard the Hazard 8 off Brest, and the Sheerness 20 from the summer of 1755. After passing his lieutenant’s examination in November 1756 Hicks was employed aboard the Marlborough 90, Captain Robert Faulknor.

On 3 May 1758 he was commissioned lieutenant of the Lively 20, Captain Francis Wyatt, serving at Jamaica. Whilst a lieutenant aboard the Maidstone 28, Captain Dudley Digges, Hicks was stabbed outside the gates of Sheerness Dockyard by two men in August 1759. Going on half-pay at the peace of 1763, he remained unemployed for the next fifteen years.

In June 1775 he joined the Actaeon 28, Captain Christopher Atkins, as her first lieutenant, . sailing for North America in the following February. This vessel was later abandoned and set on fire the day after Commodore Sir Peter Parker’s unsuccessful attack on Charlestown on 28 June 1776. In October Hicks joined Atkins aboard the Aeolus 32, but with this vessel under orders for Jamaica he transferred two months later to the Terrible 74, Captain Sir Richard Bickerton.

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Captain Hicks fought at the Battle of Cuddalore in 1783, some forty years after witnessing his first major action

The appointment to the Terrible could not have been a more providential move, for it was to be his good fortune that nearing the age of fifty Hicks found himself promoted commander on 13 May 1778 as a beneficiary of the King’s fleet review, having been senior lieutenant aboard the yacht Princess Augusta which had conveyed the lords of the Admiralty under Bickerton’s orders. It was indeed a close shave for Hicks, as just three months earlier he had been recommended for a position as an agent of transports, and this would most likely have been a path to obscurity.

In the same month Hicks commissioned the French-built schooner Helena 14, but she was captured by the French frigate Sensible on 16 September 1778. He was acquitted of any blame for her loss but for a short while remained on half-pay .

He was posted captain on 10 November 1781, and in February1782 received the broad pennant of Commodore Sir Richard Bickerton aboard the Gibraltar 80, his patron being sent out to join Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Hughes in the East Indies in command of four other sail-of-the-line and two frigates. The squadron took many months longer than anticipated to reach its station and when it finally arrived on 21 October the ships were ridden with scurvy. The Gibraltar fought at the Battle of Cuddalore on 20 June 1783, and after returning home she was paid off in July 1784.

Hicks had the command of the Jupiter 50 from August 1786 until the following February with Bickerton’s broad pennant as commander-in-chief designate of the Leeward Islands, and during the spring of 1791 he commissioned the Cambridge 80 as flagship to the promoted Rear-Admiral Bickerton at Plymouth. This vessel was paid off in September when he recommissioned the St. George 90 as Bickerton’s flagship. After his patron’s death in February 1792 he briefly flew the flag of Rear-Admiral Sir Richard King at Plymouth, retaining her until November. In the following month he commissioned the Powerful 74 which took an East India convoy out to the Cape 1793, but he left her shortly afterwards.

Hicks was promoted rear-admiral on 1 January 1801, and died at his recently built residence of Maisonette, Stoke Gabriel, Devon on 9 May that year.

His first wife, Lucy, whom he had married in the early 1760’s, bore him a daughter before her death at Puddletown, Dorset. He married secondly Jane Hyde Champion of Salisbury on 26 September 1775, by whom he had a further five sons and two daughters. Two of his sons entered the Navy, Thomas Bickerton Ashton Hicks and Edward Buller Hicks both achieving the rank of lieutenant, and one of his daughters married Captain Edward Kendall.

Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Buller was a godson to Hicks’ son. Suffice to say the Graves family and Sir Richard Bickerton had a great influence on his career and were able to facilitate an old officer’s unlikely promotion and subsequent employment.