Walter Griffith

1727- 1779. He was born on 15 May 1727, being a younger son of Walter Griffith of Bron-gain, Llanfechain, Montgomeryshire, and of his wife, Prudence Trevor of Bofynfol, Llanfechain.

Griffith was educated at Oswestry Grammar School and joined the Navy in 1743 aboard the Duke 90, commanded by his kinsman Thomas Trevor, which vessel was employed as the flagship of Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Hardy in the Channel.

He was commissioned lieutenant on 7 May 1755, and for the next few years served aboard the Eagle 60, Captains Joseph Hamar, and Hugh Palliser and the Royal George 100, Captains Piercy Brett, Alexander Hood, Richard Dorrill and John Campbell, flying the flags successively of Admiral Lord Anson and Admiral Sir Edward Hawke during 1758-9.

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The Battle of Quiberon Bay 1759 – Captain Griffith provided vital information on the French fleet beforehand

On 4 June 1759 he was promoted commander of the sloop Postillion 18, although from 24 June to 16 July he held the temporary command of the Argo 28 for the indisposed Captain John Tinker. On 5 September he was given temporary command of the frigate Gibraltar 24, and he provided Hawke with vital and prompt intelligence of the well-commanded French Fleet off Brest in November, earning great praise from the Admiralty for his part in bringing about the ensuing victory at Quiberon Bay. He was confirmed as a post captain on 11 December and remained in the Gibraltar for the next four years, taking her out to the Mediterranean in April 1760, and assisting the Valeur 28, Captain Robert Lambert, in the capture of the privateer Belle Etoile on 6 April 1762. The Gibraltar was paid off in October 1763.

During the Falkland Island dispute with Spain in 1770 Griffith was appointed in October to the Namur 90, which ship was paid off in June of the following year, and which briefly flew the flag of Vice-Admiral Francis Geary at Portsmouth.

In February 1776 he joined the Nonsuch 64, cruising somewhat unsuccessfully against rebel privateers in the Channel, although he did take the Charming Sally on 16 January 1777. In March he sailed with a convoy to join Vice-Admiral Lord Howe’s fleet off North America, arriving at New York two months later, and in July he became the senior officer and commodore at Rhode Island following Rear-Admiral Sir Peter Parker’s departure for Jamaica. During the Philadelphia campaign of 25 August – 27 November 1777 he commanded the rear of Lord Howe’s fleet in the Chesapeake, and in the following year, during the early part of which Captain Samuel Reeve commanded the Nonsuch under his orders, he took part in the defence of Sandy Hook in July, and the action off Rhode Island in August.

The Nonsuch sailed in the autumn of 1778 with Commodore William Hotham’s reinforcement of Rear-Admiral Hon. Samuel Barrington in the Leeward Islands and was present both at the Battle of St. Lucia on 15 December and the Battle of Grenada on the following 6 July. Captain Griffith transferred to the Conqueror 74 in August, but on 18 December 1779 was killed in the last moments of a smart but trivial action with elements of the French fleet commanded by Rear-Admiral La Motte-Picquet in Fort Royal Bay.

He married Mary Davies, the widow of the Duke of Portland’s second son, Colonel Lord George Bentinck MP, on 24 June 1759, which somewhat astonishingly was just three months after that gentleman’s death. Griffith had no issue from this marriage, nor did his wife from her first marriage. Mary Davies appears to have been a common woman about town who was taken in and eventually married by Bentinck, but was never accepted by his immensely wealthy and powerful family.

An esteemed and well-respected officer, Sir Peter Parker was moved to comment of Griffith that the ‘service could not have lost a better man or officer’.