John Bazely

1741-1809. He was born in March 1741 at Dover, Kent, the son of Captain John Bazely and his wife Margaret Barber. He was the father of Rear-Admiral John Bazely and Captain Henry Bazely.

After two years in the merchant service Bazely entered the Navy in April 1755 aboard the Ambuscade 40, Captain Joshua Rowley, serving in the Bay of Biscay, and in January 1756 he moved to the Hampshire 50, Captain Coningsby Norbury, being employed in Rear-Admiral Sir Edward Hawke’s fleet. During the latter year he served under Captain Edward Hughes aboard the Deal Castle 24 in home waters, and from July 1757 until 1762 was with this officer aboard the Somerset 70, in which he was present at the reduction of Louisbourg in 1758, at Quebec in the following year, and afterwards in the Mediterranean. He received his commission as a lieutenant on 7 April 1760.

In July 1773 Lieutenant Bazely was appointed to the cutter Greyhound 4 at Dover, in which he operated out of the Downs. During June 1775 his command accompanied the yacht Augusta, carrying Lord Sandwich, the first lord of the Admiralty, to Plymouth to undertake a review of the facilities, and he retained the Greyhound until June 1776.

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Captain Bazely was a central character at the controversial Battle of Ushant in 1778

He first came to the public’s attention whilst still a lieutenant when commanding the newly commissioned cutter Alert 10 in the Channel, which he had joined in July 1777 at Deptford. On 19 September he brilliantly captured the American brig Lexington 16 by quickly effecting repairs after a two and a half-hour duel and racing after the privateer to bombard her for a further hour before forcing her to strike. At the end of the month he was interviewed by Rear-Admiral Sir Hugh Palliser, one of the lords of the Admiralty, and soon afterwards, on 1 October, he was promoted commander.

Bazely commissioned the new Formidable 90 at Chatham in the early months of 1778, of which vessel he was posted captain on 15 April, and at the end of the month he received a visit from the King when the Formidable was at Blackstakes. He served as the flag-captain to Vice-Admiral Sir Hugh Palliser at the Battle of Ushant on 27 July and was a witness at the court-martials in the early months of 1779 which investigated the conduct during the battle of that officer and the commander-in-chief, Admiral Hon. Augustus Keppel. During Keppel’s court-martial in January, despite pressure from a senior member of the panel, Vice-Admiral John Montagu, Bazely declined to offer an opinion on the commander-in-chief’s actions as he affirmed that it was not the place of a junior officer to do so. When questioned by Montagu as to why three pages of the Formidable’s log-book had been torn out and replaced by a new leaf inserted with a packthread, Bazely responded ‘I do not know, so help me God’, leading Montagu to described his account as ‘strange’. A later witness, the master of the Formidable, testified that he believed Bazely would have had no knowledge of the amendment to the log-book. When Palliser’s house was destroyed by the mob shortly after Keppel’s acquittal Bazely’s name was also denigrated by the rioters. At Palliser’s court martial in April he was the principle witness for his admiral but was controversially called as a witness for the prosecution. Following Palliser’s own acquittal Bazely was unwise enough to illuminate his lodgings in Portsmouth, whereupon a mob shouting Keppel’s name threatened to break the windows, leading him to extinguishing the lights. Even a year later Bazely would be lampooned in some newspapers for his part in the political fall-out of the affair.

In May 1779 Bazely was appointed to commission yet another new vessel, the frigate Pegasus 28, going out on a cruise from Portsmouth in August, and later departing Dover with a commodore’s broad pennant for Le Havre with several small craft in company. In September he sailed from Portsmouth in search of the American privateer, John Paul Jones, for which purpose he went ashore at Scarborough to seek intelligence, and by the end of October he was back in the Downs.

Sailing with Admiral Sir George Rodney’s fleet at the end of the year, the Pegasus was present at the Moonlight Battle off Cape St. Vincent on 16 January 1780, and during this period she also took a richly laden merchantman bound from Marseilles to Nantes. Arriving with the fleet in the Leeward Islands, she was present in Rodney’s indecisive action with the Comte de Guichen at the Battle of Martinique on 17 April before departing for England with Captain Samuel Uvedale, who was to deliver the commander-in-chief’s despatches to the Admiralty. On 6 May, during the voyage home, the Pegasus sighted Commodore Charles Louis d’Arsac, Chevalier de Ternay’s squadron of seven sail of the line. Bazely was presented to the King at a levee by his old friend, Vice-Admiral Sir Hugh Palliser shortly after his arrival in England at the end of May, and apparently the monarch made him an offer of the next 74-gun ship to be put into commission.

Bazely succeeded the esteemed Captain Philemon Pownall in command of the Apollo 32 following that officer’s death in action on 15 June 1780, departing Sheerness at the end of July to escort a convoy to the Baltic via Newcastle and Leith. On 30 August he arrived in the Orkneys with an American prize, being in company with his old ship the Pegasus 28, Acting-Captain James Watt, and for a while he continued to cruise with the latter vessel. Towards the end of September he received Admiralty orders via an express to sail out of Leith in search of several Dunkirk privateers, and at the end of November the Apollo was ordered to be fitted out at Chatham for Channel service, whereupon Bazely left her.

He was once again entrusted with the commissioning of yet another new vessel, the Amphion 32, which was launched at Chatham in December 1780 before dropping down to Blackstakes to take on her ordnance in the second week of February 1781. She arrived in New York from Bremen on 15 August after a three-month passage with a convoy of transports carrying three thousand Hessian troops, and in the company of the Ostrich 14, Captain Sir Jacob Wheate. Bazely was then placed in command of a small squadron that co-operated with General Benedict Arnold in the destruction of New London in September, and which also destroyed the ships in the harbour. During the same year he also captured several rebel privateers.

On 3 January 1782 the Amphion recaptured the Bonetta 14 from the French off North America, this vessel, which was commanded by the nephew of Rear-Admiral Jacques-Melchior Saint-Laurent, the Comte de Barras, having previously been taken in the Chesapeake on 28 May 1781 whilst under the command of Captain Ralph Dundas. In September Bazely sent three prizes into New York including a 20-gun Spanish vessel bound from Havana to Cadiz, the value of the whole being estimated at 30,000 guineas.

By the summer of 1783, following the end of the war with the Americans, the Amphion was in New York assisting in the repatriation of the loyalists, and she eventually returned to Spithead on 28 December with the commander-in-chief of the North American station, Rear-Admiral Hon. Robert Digby, to be paid off in the following month.

During the Battle of the Glorious First of June Bazely’s command, the Alfred, saved many Frenchmen from the sinking Vengeur de Peuple, here pictured.

In the spring of 1784 Bazely put his name forward for election to Parliament as the member for Dover, but he finished at the bottom of the poll having harvested just one hundred and eighty of the fifteen hundred votes. Otherwise, he remained out of employment for the large portion of the peace.

During the Russian Armament in 1791 Bazely commanded the Marlborough 74, considered to be the fastest vessel of her class in the Navy, joining her at Spithead in February after she had returned from the Leeward Islands in a very sickly condition. He took the flag of Rear-Admiral Sir Richard King on board at Portsmouth in April but struck it when sailing for the Downs on the 30th of that month. His command remained off Deal throughout the summer until orders were received in August to pay her off at Chatham, and she sailed thither from Blackstakes to be put out of commission in the first week of September.

In the spring of 1792 Bazely assumed the command of the Alfred 74 as a guardship at Chatham, dropping down to Blackstakes for her ordnance and powder in June prior to going around to Spithead to join Vice-Admiral Lord Hood’s fleet. Here he sat on the court martial of the alleged Bounty mutineers. By October he was back at Chatham for his vessel to resume her duties as a guardship, but with a French war inevitable the Alfred sailed to join the fleet at Spithead in December, collecting seven hundred volunteers in the Downs to arrive in early January.

Following the opening of hostilities with France in February 1793 the Alfred was initially based in the Downs before returning to Chatham to be docked at the end of March. In early June she was ordered down to Blackstakes for her powder and guns, and she was in the Downs during July before going around to Portsmouth to join the Channel Fleet. She cruised with the fleet during the autumn, entering Plymouth having lost her foreyard in a gale at the beginning of November, and being present in the chase of Rear-Admiral Vanstabel’s squadron on 18 November. At the end of the year Bazely discovered six French frigates off The Start, but as his vessel had suffered severely in the chase of the French squadron, both aloft and below, it was reported that she would have to undergo a lengthy repair.

Remaining with the Channel Fleet, the Alfred fought at the Battle of the Glorious First of June in 1794 having engaged a French 80-gun ship on 29 May from which she was relieved by the Brunswick 74. The Alfred suffered only eight men wounded in the battle itself, and she achieved little of note bar saving many men from the sinking French Vengeur 74 and racing between the Queen Charlotte and the French flagship when the latter threatened to rake Admiral Lord Howe’s vessel, leading to the commander-in-chief calling Bazely aboard the next day to thank him personally. Following the battle it was reported that the Alfred was to go around to Chatham to effect repairs, and on 8 August she departed St. Helens as an extra escort to the Gibraltar and West Indies convoys, seeing them as far as Cape Finisterre. Having briefly fallen it in with the Channel Fleet off the Scilly Isles, the Alfred then escorted home part of the homeward bound West Indies fleet.

On 13 November 1794 Bazely and the crew of the Alfred transferred to the Blenheim 90 at Plymouth, which ship remained fitting out over the following month before joining the Channel fleet and then going out to the Mediterranean with the Bombay Castle 74, Captain Thomas Sotheby, and a convoy to arrive at Leghorn on 19 March 1795. Here the Blenheim joined the Mediterranean fleet, and on 13 July she fought in the second of Admiral William Hotham’s actions with the French, the Battle of Hyères, being part of the van that managed to get into action.

Bazely had been advanced to the rank of rear-admiral on 1 June 1795, and after being obliged to remove from the Blenheim he arrived at the Admiralty in August with news of events in the Mediterranean. He was the temporary commander-in-chief in the Downs from the last week of November 1796 for Admiral Joseph Peyton, and later in 1797 at the Nore for Vice-Admiral Skeffington Lutwidge, flying his flag aboard the Overyssel 64, Captain John Young, and following that officer’s death his own son, Captain John Bazely. At the end of the latter year he attended the service of thanksgiving with the King at St. Pauls Cathedral for the victories achieved in the war to date.

He did not see any further service and retired to Edinburgh whilst making the occasional visit to Bath. He became a vice-admiral on 14 February 1799, an admiral on 9 November 1805, and died at Edinburgh on 6 April 1809.

Bazely married Amelia Waddington, who died in 1769 having borne him two sons, Henry and John, who both served in the Navy.

During the early part of his career Bazely enjoyed the patronage of Vice-Admiral Sir Joshua Rowley. He was one of the chief mourners at Admiral Palliser’s funeral in 1796.