Anselm John Griffiths

c1769-1842. He was the son of the Rev. John Griffiths of Kingston-upon-Thames.

In January 1781 Griffiths joined the Navy aboard the Juno 32, Captain James Montagu, serving in home waters, and on 22 November 1790 he was commissioned lieutenant of the Active 32, Captain John Laugharne. On 22 March 1791 he transferred to the sloop Fly 14, Commander James Drew, becoming her first lieutenant a month later and seeing service on the Newfoundland station. The frigate returned home to be paid off at the end of the year, although it is possible that he remained with her until she was recommissioned in October 1792.

In November 1792 he was appointed to the Culloden 74, Captain Sir Thomas Rich, which vessel served in the Leeward Islands campaign from March 1793, and he saw further employment under Captain Richard Rundle Burges from April 1794. Shortly afterwards Captain Isaac Schomberg was appointed to the Culloden, and the vessel fought at the Battle of the Glorious First of June. By now the crew was highly disaffected, and despite the able Captain Thomas Troubridge assuming command, the men mutinied on 4 December with fatal results for the ringleaders. In May 1795 the Culloden went out to the Mediterranean, and on 13 July she fought at the Battle of the Hyères Islands. Continuing with this ship in the Mediterranean Fleet, Griffiths was the first lieutenant to Captain Troubridge at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent on 14 February 1797.

Griffiths was the first lieutenant of HMS Culloden at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent in 1797.

On 8 March 1797 he was promoted commander, as it appears were all the first lieutenants involved in the Battle of Cape St. Vincent, and following a period of eight months in command of a detachment of the Isle of Wight Sea Fencibles he recommissioned the Atalante 16 in December 1798. Serving off the Dutch coast and northern France, his sloop captured the privateer Milan 14 on 20 February 1799 with the assistance of the Boadicea 38, Captain Richard Keats, and she was detached with the prize into Plymouth. During July she was engaged in convoy duty from Portsmouth to the Downs, whilst a further capture was the Boulogne privateer Succès 6 off the Downs on 4 December, in the course of which action she also re-took the privateer’s prize, a valuable London ship.

On 10 January 1800 the Atalante was put under a brief quarantine in the Downs after communicating with a ship from New York, and in February she joined other men-of-war in escorting a convoy down the Channel to Portsmouth, prior to going out on a cruise. Dispatched with the sloop Plover, Commander Edward Galway, and the hired brig Terrier to monitor a squadron of four French frigates in Dunkirk, Griffiths had the temerity to challenge the French commodore to an engagement when the latter’s frigate sailed out of the basin on 26 March. Continuing to operate out of the Downs, the Atalante remained engaged in convoy duty and cruising, although in early November she parted from her anchors during a violent storm before safely bringing to.

On 23 February 1801 the Atalante arrived at Plymouth from a disastrous cruise, in the course of which a single-gun Spanish gunboat had fired into her and wounded the first lieutenant before being destroyed by the sloop’s guns, and then six men had drowned when their boat had been dispatched to board a Portuguese vessel bound for Ireland. Continuing to cruise out of Plymouth, she took the St. Malo privateer Heros 14 off Land’s End on 1 April after a chase lasting seventeen hours, during which three of the enemy’s consorts escaped. In early May she joined the Channel Fleet following a cruise in the Bay of Biscay, but she was soon detached to resume her cruising, prior to returning to the fleet in June. On 11 August one of her boats crewed by eight men magnificently captured the chasse marée Eveillé 2 in Quiberon Bay, despite the fire of two coastal batteries.

On 29 April 1802, following the end of the French Revolutionary War, Griffiths was one of many officers posted captain, and on 9 May the Atlante under his command entered Portsmouth. He succeeded Captain Zachary Mudge aboard the small frigate Constance 22 at the end of August, commanding her on the North Sea station, and on 23 November she arrived in the Downs having lost her mizzen mast in a gale, departing shortly afterwards for repairs at Sheerness.

On 13 July 1803, following the resumption of war with France, the Constance captured the small Dunkirk privateer Susette, and she was then sent on a cruise off the Dutch coast. At the beginning of September, she captured two small French privateers off the Elbe River, one of which was subsequently lost on a sandbank, and on the 21st she took the French privateer Caroline 8 in the same river, although another vessel which had also struck her colours managed to escape upstream. Continuing to cruise out of Yarmouth, in March 1804 the Constance left port with a convoy of transports, and later that month she arrived at Harwich from Helgoland with specie and foreign recruits. An attempt to retake an English vessel in the Elbe during late May resulted in the capture of eight of her men, but when one of the prisoners escaped and swam out to the hired cutter Hawke, that vessel’s commander sought permission from Griffiths to make another rescue attempt. This one initially proved successful before the prize grounded in range of a body of troops, leading to the raiding party’s surrender.

Throughout the early part of 1805 the Constance continued to operate in the North Sea, taking a number of merchant prizes as well as engaging in convoy duty, and in the second week of August she arrived at Portsmouth to accompany the Mediterranean convoy out to a fixed latitude. The vessels under her charge were delivered to Oporto on 12 September, and on 21 December she departed the Tagus with the homeward-bound convoy to enter the Downs in the third week of January 1806, prior to immediately returning to Portsmouth. At the beginning of March Griffiths led a force of light frigates and sloops that were dispatched from Portsmouth upon the belief that the French were preparing an assault on the Channel Islands, but the Constance returned to repair a sprung bowsprit when the danger passed. In May what was described as a fine French sloop was cut out by her boats from Cherbourg and carried into Portsmouth, and on 19 July she arrived at St. Helens from her station off the French port.

From July 1806 Griffiths had the frigate Topaze 36, escorting the West Indies convoy from Cork as far as Madeira in September, and then proceeding to Halifax, Nova Scotia, from where she sailed for the Chesapeake under the orders of Rear-Admiral Sir Richard Strachan in search of the remnants of Rear-Admiral Willaumez’ Brest squadron. Serving thereafter out of Cork, towards the end of February 1807 the Topaze arrived at Portsmouth with a convoy of eleven transports, prior to being ordered back to the Irish station in the last week of March. Throughout the summer she patrolled the Davis Strait in protection of the whaling fleet in the company of the Boadicea 38, Captain John Maitland, and she arrived back at Portsmouth from Newfoundland on 28 September after being forced from her uneventful duty by fogs so dense that she could hear but not see her consort. After being taken into harbour and fitted out for foreign service, she was released for duty on 22 December.

On 4 January 1808 the Topaze sailed from Portsmouth under sealed orders, carrying dispatches that were of such import that she was ordered to struggle out in a fog against adverse winds. The contemporary supposition that she was bound for the Brazils appear to be valid, for by the spring she was on the Jamaican station. Reaching Gibraltar in early May, the Topaze served thereafter in the Mediterranean, and on 12 March 1809, in company with the Kingfisher 18, Commander Ewell Tritton, she pursued the French frigates Danaé 40 and Flore 40 in the Adriatic; however, the enemy displayed no inclination to fight. On 31 May her boats under the orders of Lieutenant Charles Hammond cut out nine French and Italian vessels from Demata Bay on the island of Santa Maura in the Ionian Sea, with one man losing his life and another being wounded in the attack.

Next commanding the Leonidas 38 in the Mediterranean from July 1809, Griffiths joined the forces under Captain John William Spranger of the Warrior 74 which captured Cephalonia in October. By the beginning of December the frigate was at Malta, and in the early part of 1810 she cruised off the coast of Italy. She was present at the capture of the island of Santa Maura in April, during which assault she initially cruised to the north of the island to prevent the movement of supplies before being placed inshore as close as the waters would permit to cover the troop landings. Shortly afterwards she was dispatched to take possession of the island of Fanu to the south of Corfu, which had been abandoned by the French, and she was engaged in the blockade of the latter island in the autumn. She eventually returned to England from the Mediterranean with a fifty-four-sail convoy, departing Gibraltar on 1 August 1811 and reaching the Downs on 1 September to be placed in quarantine. Three days later she sailed for Plymouth and was taken into harbour for repairs, during which period of inactivity a Lieutenant Eldridge, recently appointed, was dangerously wounded when attempting to commit suicide with a pistol.

During the third week of November 1811 the Leonidas was released into Plymouth Sound, and at the end of the month she sailed for Lisbon. In January 1812 she chased the St. Malo privateer Confiance 14 off the Scilly Islands, and although the vessel escaped by jettisoning her cannons, the Dasher 18, Commander Benedictus Kelly, was able to intercept her. At the end of the month Griffiths’ command entered Cork, prior to departing on 13 February and capturing the French privateer Gazelle 14 after an eleven-hour pursuit three days later, taking the prize into Plymouth. Returning to Cork, in May she took under convoy a Botany Bay ship, escorting her south to a prescribed latitude, and by early June she was off Lisbon having discharged that duty. In the first days of July, she chased a French privateer off the Lizard but lost her in a fog, and she spent some time that month at Cork before proceeding to Lough Swilly, where she remained through the autumn. On 23 December she arrived at Plymouth with Captain James Richard Dacres and the officers of the Guerriere 38, who were returning home following their frigate’s defeat by the American frigate Constitution 44 on 19 August. The Leonidas was docked for repairs, and Griffiths resigned the command in January 1813.

He did not serve at sea again, but in 1824 his work ‘Observations on Some Points of Seamanship’ came out, aimed at officers who were making their way in the Service, including advice on chaplains at sea, procedures for bringing wives on board, and the empowerment of the common seamen. Two years later he published another work entitled ‘Impressment Fully Considered, with a View to its Abolition’, this tome also comparing the Navy’ unfairness in the provision of pensions to that of the Army. As late as 1832 he was active in the cause of pensions for the widows of naval officers, and in 1836 he published ‘The Case of the Admirals and Senior Captains of the Navy: with Reference to their Claim to Promotion’.

Griffiths was advanced to the rank of rear-admiral on 10 January 1837, at which time he and many other officers were placed on the retired list, prior to being reinstated to the active list in 1840. During November 1841 he was appointed to lead a commission to inquire into the system of purser’s accounts.

He died at the residence of Captain William Dawson on Barnes Common on 14 June 1842.

Griffiths married Ann Charlotte Parker of Arundel on 7 July 1802. She died at Bath on 7 May 1830 after a short illness.

He respected his men for their worth and held the view that by giving as much leave as was convenient, he discouraged desertion. He also obliged his midshipmen to spend two hours a day receiving tuition from an experienced seaman.