George Countess

1743- 1811. He was of Irish extraction.

Countess was commissioned lieutenant on 8 August 1774 and was one of a dozen officers promoted commander at the conclusion of the Dutch Armament on 1 December 1787, being appointed to the Atalanta 14 for purposes of rank only. His service over the next few years is unclear, but it appears that on 9 October 1789 he was appointed to the sloop Drake 14; however, although she sailed from the Downs a week later and escorted a transport carrying Irish convicts from Portsmouth to Dublin in December, it is possible that this service was undertaken by another officer. Similarly, although Countess recommissioned the Courageux 74 for Commodore Alan Gardner at Portsmouth in May 1790 during the Spanish Armament, it is possible that he then commanded the sloop Fortune 16 until posted captain on 22 November to the frigate Brilliant 28, which appointment was again possibly for purposes of rank only.

He initially remained unemployed at the commencement of the French Revolutionary War in 1793 until appointed to command the Charon 44 as a hospital ship on 18 November. She was in the Downs during the opening months of 1794, and by April was with the Channel Fleet, attached to which force he commanded her at the Battle of the Glorious First of June.

Countess was next appointed to the frigate Pegasus 28 in succession to Captain Robert Barlow on 7 July 1794, sailing from Portsmouth for the North Sea a week later, and undertaking a brief mission to Holland, in the course of which his command reached Flushing on 17 August. At the end of the autumn, she served in the North Sea with a squadron under Rear-Admiral Henry Harvey in search of a French frigate force which had been creating havoc with the British trade, and she returned with that officer to the Downs on New Year’s Eve. She continued to serve in the North Sea in the opening months of 1795, entering Shields in June to collect transports, and she was later employed off Scotland.

During September 1795 Countess was appointed to the twelve-pounder frigate Daedalus 32, continuing in the North Sea and escorting troop transports from Hamburg to Ireland in October. She was at Portsmouth in early November prior to going out to the coast of Africa that winter and voyaging on to Jamaica. Whilst on this station she fell victim to yellow fever which accounted for a huge proportion of her officers and crew, and she returned to Portsmouth via Halifax on 10 October 1796 to immediately be put in quarantine before entering port at the end of the month to be paid off. Countess remained in command of her when she returned to duty, and on 8 January 1797 she assisted the Majestic 74, Captain George Blagden Westcott, and the fireship Incendiary 8, Commander George Barker, in the capture and sinking of the French ammunition storeship Suffren off Brest. Returning to England, she was posted as a guardship off St. Helens in February.

HMS Ethalion – seen in action shortly after Captain Countess left her in 1799.

In April 1797 he commissioned the newly built eighteen-pounder frigate Ethalion 38 at Chatham after she had sailed there from her launching at Harwich, and her first task was to escort the Baltic convoy, prior to departing The Sound for her return voyage to England on 27 September. In the second week of November, after several weeks wind-bound at Hull. she escorted six ships to Spithead to join the Oporto and Lisbon convoy, from where she departed with a larger convoy on the penultimate day of the month for Portugal. When she returned from Lisbon to Portsmouth at the end of January 1798 it was under bare poles, there having been a great storm off the south coast. Thereafter she then spent some weeks at Spithead.

On 1 May 1798 the Ethalion arrived at Plymouth from Portsmouth, by mid-summer she was cruising off southern Ireland, and after further employment off France she returned to Plymouth on 18 August. Once back at sea, she fell in with Commodore Jean Bompart’s Ireland-bound expedition, and along with several other vessels she monitored that force over the next two and a half weeks. She then joined Commodore Sir John Borlase Warren off Ireland and took a full part in the Battle of Tory Island against Bompart’s squadron on 12 October, losing one man killed and four wounded, and receiving the surrender of the frigate Bellone 36. Countess was warmly praised in Warren’s dispatches for his tenacity in hanging onto the French from the commencement of their expedition. The Ethalion managed to reach Falmouth on 6 November with the shattered Bellone in company after Countess had threatened to sink her if any of the hundreds of French sailors and troops aboard had shown signs of challenging the prize crew, and two days later his command entered Plymouth.

Departing Plymouth in January 1799, the Ethalion in company with the Anson 38, Captain Philip Durham, took the troublesome Dunkirk cutter privateer Boulonnois 14 in the North Sea on 2 February. Later in the same month it was announced that Countess was to remove to the Robust 74, which at the end of April was ordered from Plymouth to join the Channel Fleet. She was cruising off Cape Clear under the orders of Admiral Lord Bridport in June, took part in the attack on the Spanish squadron in the Aix Roads on 2 July, and was back with the fleet at Torbay in early August and again at the end of September.

On 22 November 1799 the Robust arrived at Plymouth from Torbay, she was there at the end of the year with elements of the Channel Fleet, and in early March she sailed from that port for Torbay. The fleet was at the Devonshire anchorage at the beginning of April, and the Robust was with the force when it sailed under Admiral Sir Alan Gardner at the end of the month before returning to Torbay towards the end of May and entering Plymouth on 30 June. She then sailed to rejoin the fleet ten days later, which was cruising off Ushant under the far stricter orders of the new commander-in-chief, Admiral the Earl of St. Vincent. At the end of September, she entered Plymouth with elements of the fleet, towards the end of October was in Plymouth Sound, and on 1 November she sailed to re-join the fleet. On 2 December the Robust put into Portsmouth, whereupon Countess left her.

He did not see any further active service, although during the early years of the Napoleonic War he commanded the Sea Fencibles for the Cork district. In accordance with seniority, he was promoted a rear-admiral on 25 October 1809.

Rear-Admiral Countess died suddenly in his sleep at Somer’s Town, London, on 12 February 1811, his passing requiring a coroner’s inquest

He was married and had at least one daughter.