Walter Young

Died 1781.

He was commissioned lieutenant on 1 November 1765 and promoted commander on 28 February 1779. In May 1779 it was reported that he had left the Orkney Islands in command of the armed ship Lion to search for a north-west passage to the Southern Ocean, but this voyage was clearly terminated.

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Captain Young claimed much credit, perhaps deservedly so, for the indisposed Admiral Rodney’s victory at the Moonlight Battle in 1780

Having been employed as an agent for transports at Deptford, he was posted captain on 1 October 1779 and appointed flag-captain aboard the Sandwich 90 to Admiral Sir George Brydges Rodney, the commander-in-chief designate of the Leeward Islands. Leaving England on 29 December with the fleet to relieve Gibraltar, he was present at the capture of the Spanish convoy on 8 January 1780 and the Moonlight Battle off Cape St. Vincent on 16 January. During this period Rodney was suffering from ill health which often confined him to his cot, and he gave his orders through Young, who had also assumed the duties of captain of the fleet. This led to Young privately claim a good deal of credit for his admiral’s successes, and indeed many felt that he had some justification in doing so.

On 13 February 1780 the Sandwich parted company for the West Indies with four sail of the line, joining Rear-Admiral Hyde Parker at St. Lucia on 27 March. Young was present at the Battle of Martinique on 17 April where the flagship lost eighteen men killed and fifty-one wounded. He was one of five captains who received a certificate from the cantankerous commander-in-chief praising their efforts to the detriment of others who in the Rodney’s eyes had not done so well. Continuing in the Leeward Islands campaign, he also took part in the inconclusive actions in May although the Sandwich did not suffer any casualties.

Having sailed north in search of the French fleet, the Leeward Islands fleet spent the hurricane season from September – November in North America waters. Captain Young would thus have been party to the infamous dispute between Rodney and his junior, the local commander-in-chief, Vice-Admiral Marriot Arbuthnot. The fleet arrived back in the Caribbean in December where on 3 February Rodney seized St. Eustatius and other Dutch settlements.

Captain Young died of fever at St. Eustatius on 2 May.

He was notorious for making detrimental and disloyal comments about Rodney, often sharing these with his patron, Charles Middleton, the influential comptroller of the navy and future Admiral Lord Barham. Contrarily, the difficult Rodney appears to have admired Young’s seamanlike abilities and bravery, and he felt able to rely upon him as he did so few others.