Charles Dudley Pater

c1763-1818. He was the brother of Lieutenant-General Sir John Pater, who died in Madras in 1817.

Pater was commissioned lieutenant on 8 October 1779, in which capacity he was serving aboard Vice-Admiral William Hotham’s flagship Britannia 100, Captain John Holloway, at the occupation of Toulon from August 1793, where he assisted Captain Sir William Sidney Smith in the attempted destruction of the French fleet and arsenal on the evacuation of the port in December.

On 7 October 1794 he was promoted commander of the Moselle 18, in which he was present at the Battle of Genoa on 13 March 1795. It was later reported that two days after the battle he had a remarkable escape when after becoming detached from the British fleet his sloop found itself in the midst of the French fleet, but by taking advantage of a light wind and the use of her boats was able to escape despite the fire of several 74-guns ships which tore through her sails and hull, but which he did his best to return. As a reward for his conduct on this occasion Hotham posted Pater captain on 16 March to the French prize Ça Ira 80, but on 11 April 1796 this vessel was destroyed by fire whilst fitting out in San Fiorenzo Bay, Corsica. Pater and all but four of his six hundred man crew were saved, and at their court martial aboard the Egmont 74 in San Fiorenzo Bay on 27 May the court concluded that a bottle of combustible matter in the carpenter’s cabin had caused the blaze, and that Pater and his officers should be acquitted of any blame for her loss.

Pater first came to notice when he assisted in the attempted destruction of the Toulon fleet in 1793.

In July 1797 Pater was appointed to the Porcupine 24, which went out to Halifax in September from Milford Haven with five transports carrying the Irish Regiment, taking possession of a Danish East Indiaman in passage which had earlier been captured by a French privateer. Following the death of Captain Henry Mowat of the Assistance 50 off Chesapeake Bay on 14 April 1798 a re-allocation of commands on the North American station saw Pater remove to the Thisbe 28. On 17 August this frigate left Halifax, but shortly afterwards was enveloped for twenty-four hours in a most severe hurricane which saw her on her beam ends for up to ten minutes at a time, in the course of which she lost her mizzen and main top-masts as well as two of her boats. She eventually made Plymouth under jury masts in the second week of September and was paid off in October, with Pater then recommissioning her as an 18-gun unrated sloop at Plymouth. At the end of the month four mutineers from the Glory 98, Captain James Brine, were hung from the foreyard of the Thisbe.

In March 1799 he joined the Shannon 32, which he commanded on the Irish station in the following months, although in July he was back in England to attend the King at a levee. His command then joined the expedition which departed for the Netherlands in August, and she arrived back off Deal in November from the Helder. During July 1800 the Shannon served off Quiberon Bay before entering Plymouth, and in March 1801 she brought three prizes into Leith which had been cut out from Egersund and Stavanger in Norway after their earlier capture by French privateers. It was later reported that one of these vessels had been boarded by his men whilst lashed to the town wharf at Stavanger in an action that was witnessed by five thousand people. Pater still had the Shannon at Sheerness in August 1801, from where he went out on a cruise at the end of the month, and with the ending of the war she was sold out of the service in May 1802. In the same month Pater was again presented to the King at a levee, this time by Admiral Lord Hood, and on 7 October, having crossed to Paris, he was presented to the First Consul, Napoleon Buonaparte.

After a period of unemployment following the re-opening of hostilities with France in 1803 he recommissioned the Bellona 74 at Portsmouth in July 1805, in which he set out to join the Channel Fleet at the end of August, but put into Plymouth within a matter of days after she was damaged aloft in a gale. He subsequently joined Commodore Sir Richard Strachan’s squadron which defeated that of Rear-Admiral Pierre Etienne Réne Marie Dumanoir Le Pelley on 4 November, although Pater’s command fell out of sight during the British chase and took no part in the engagement. At the time that Strachan’s despatches were received at the Admiralty the Bellona’s whereabouts were still unknown, and when she did arrive at Plymouth towards the end of the month it was to reports that she had gone in chase of two French vessels after they had broken away from their consorts before the action, but had lost them in the night. The Bellona was docked at Plymouth shortly afterwards and Pater was succeeded in command by Captain John Erskine Douglas in December on account of his poor health.

He thereafter remained unemployed until joining the Danish prize Princess Carolina 74 in July 1808, which vessel spent most of the winter in the Yarmouth Roads before sailing for the Dutch coast at the beginning of April 1809 with Pater flying a commodore’s broad pennant. On 20 May he led four of his ships boats in the cutting out of a Dutch national schooner in the Vlie passage off the Texel before returning to the Downs. Sailing thereafter for the Baltic, on 25 July he led a squadron whose boats under Commander Thomas Forrest of the Prometheus 18 attacked four Russian gunboats and a brig in Fredrikshamn, the modern-day Hamina in the Gulf of Finland, capturing three of them. This was a particularly bloody affair, with nine men being killed and fifty-one wounded. Continuing to fly Pater’s broad pennant, the Princess Carolina returned from the Baltic to Yarmouth via Leith on 26 December, and in April 1810 sailed from that port for the Baltic once more, prior to returning to Chatham on 8 December where she was taken into dock.

Moving to the year-old Cressy 74 in early January 1811, Pater again went out to the Baltic. On 5 July a convoy which was under the protection of his vessel, the Defence 74, Captain David Atkins, and the Dictator 64, Captain Robert Williams, together with the sloop Sheldrake 16, Commander James Pattison Stewart, and gun-vessel Bruiser 12, Lieutenant William Price, repulsed an attack by a Danish force of seventeen gunboats and ten heavy row-boats off Hjelm Island in the Kattegat, with four of the gunboats being captured. At the end of the year the Cressy set sail for England in company with the St. George 98, Captain Daniel Oliver Guion, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral Robert Carthew Reynolds, and the Defence 74, both of which ships foundered off Jutland on 24 December with huge loss of life. The Cressy had remained in company with the stricken vessels as long as she could before sailing away from the lee shore in order to preserve herself.

In February 1812 the Cressy sailed for the Basque Roads from Portsmouth, although she was forced to return within days after a lightning strike had shook her mainmast and stunned one hundred of her crew. She then sailed off Cherbourg on a cruise to return to Portsmouth in April, whereupon she departed for the Baltic once more. By the middle of May she was off Gothenburg from where she escorted a convoy further up the Baltic.

In August 1812 Pater left the Cressy upon his appointment to the William and Mary yacht at Deptford, and in January 1813 he was appointed to the yacht Dorset at Dublin. This vessel was found to be defective and entered Plymouth in April for repairs before returning to Dublin in the summer.

Pater became a rear-admiral on 4 June 1814, and he was presented to the Prince Regent at a levee shortly afterwards. On 31 December 1817 his 34 year-old wife Rebecca died at their residence of 64 Edgware Road, London, and Pater survived her by but a few weeks, for having gone to bed in good health he had then summoned his maid in distress two hours later, and had died in her arms. His sudden death was investigated by the coroner who concluded that he had ‘died by the visitation of God’.

Pater and his wife had children including a son born in September 1807.