Thomas Pringle

Died1803. He was the only son of Walter Pringle, a wealthy plantation owner of St. Kitts, and his wife, Eleanora Lidderdale of Roxburgh, Scotland.

He was commissioned lieutenant on 30 November 1760, and saw much early service with Captain Hon. Samuel Barrington.

Serving on the North American station, he was the senior lieutenant of the Lizard 28, Captain John Hamilton, and he left Quebec on 22 November 1775 aboard the Polly with despatches London warning of the impending colonial attack on that town. He returned to Quebec in command of the armed ship Lord Howe, and at the Battle of Lake Champlain on 11-12 October 1776 he commanded the British flotilla, being aboard the Maria with General Sir Guy Carleton in the action with the Americans led by Benedict Arnold. Pringle subsequently received a great deal of criticism from three lieutenants, including John Schanck, both for his shy performance in the battle and for his subsequent letter to the Admiralty claiming all the glory.

347px-Rear_Admiral_Thomas_Pringle

Thomas Pringle

Upon returning to England after the battle he was immediately posted captain on 25 November 1776 and commissioned the new Ariadne 20 at Chatham in January, sailing with the Lisbon and Gibraltar trade. He then continued on to the Leeward Islands in March 1777, in which station he captured the American privateer Musquito 14, taking her into Barbados in June 1777, and the privateer Johnston on 29 November. Being in consort in Barbadian waters with the Ceres 18, Commander James Richard Dacres, he captured the American privateer Alfred 20 on 9 March 1778, whilst the rebel’s consort, the Raleigh 32, fled the scene, throwing guns and stores overboard in order to lighten herself. In the same year the Ariadne took an 8-gun privateer schooner and drove two more ashore on Guadeloupe.

Pringle was afterwards present at Rear-Admiral Hon. Samuel Barrington’s defence of St. Lucia on 15 December 1778, having come in ahead of d’Estaing flying the signal ‘enemy in sight’, and continuing in the Ariadne he was present at the Battle of Grenada on 6 July 1779, before returning home with Barrington.

Back in England he commissioned the new Daedalus 32 at Liverpool in May 1780, taking a convoy out to North America in May 1781. After returning to the Channel he took the privateer Moustic on 20 January 1782, and in April went out to North America with a convoy in company with Captain Horatio Nelson’s Albemarle 28. Returning once more to Europe, the Daedalus took the privateer Légère in the Channel on 11 December, and a spell with the Shetlands Fishery followed before she was paid off in July 1784.

During the autumn of 1787 Pringle commissioned the new sail of the line Impregnable 98 and, from October 1787 until April 1788 commanded the Hero 74 as a receiving ship at Chatham. During the Nookta Sound dispute of 1790 he was flag-captain to his patron, Admiral Hon. Samuel Barrington, aboard the new Royal George 100.

Having recommissioned her the previous autumn he fought well in command of the Valiant 74 at the Battle of the Glorious First of June in 1794, badly damaging the Achille, suffering two men killed and nine wounded, and being one of those captains honoured with a gold medal.

Pringle was promoted rear-admiral on 4 July 1794, and with his flag in the Asia 64, Captain John M’Dougall, he took a squadron out to Norway, during which voyage one of his ships, the Edgar 74, Captain Sir Charles Henry Knowles, was badly afflicted by gaol fever. In October 1795 the Defiance 74, Captain Sir Grieg Home, mutinied whilst his squadron was replenishing at Leith, and whilst no less an officer than Captain William Bligh took active steps to resolve the dispute Pringle did little to enhance his own reputation by displaying a great deal of prevarication. In February 1796 his small squadron in the North Sea came upon a Dutch force which, bound as it was for the Cape, deferred from an action, and he surprisingly did nothing to force one.

Pringle next joined Vice-Admiral Sir George Elphinstone’s squadron at the Cape, his flag flying aboard the Tremendous 74, Captain John Aylmer, to which he had moved earlier that year. He acceded to the command of the station in October 1796, having been present when Elphinstone took the Dutch ships on 17 August 1796, and with Aylmer returning home with despatches Captain Charles Brisbane joined the Tremendous as flag-captain until the following March.

Whilst commanding at the Cape in October 1797 Pringle was faced by a mutiny in his squadron which was put down with the help of the army, men aboard his flagship Tremendous 74, Captain George Hopewell Stephens, having been the instigators. Stephens himself was one of the officers put ashore, and when Pringle struck a compromise whereby the officers would be allowed back but put on trial if the men had a case against them Stephens asked for a court-martial. He was acquitted, his accusers were then arraigned for mischievous behaviour and Pringle gave the crew two hours to hand them over. Following the subsequent court-martials on these mutineers a number of men were hung. Captain Stephens was conveniently sent home with despatches and Charles Brisbane was recalled to became Pringle’s flag captain once more, and the officers returned home aboard the frigate Crescent 36 in the summer of 1798.

Advanced to the rank of vice-admiral on 14 February 1799, Pringle died on 8 December 1803.

He was well-regarded and liked by Nelson, but had an aversion to serving officers getting married. He himself never married and was prone to speak disparagingly of women.