John Carter Allen
1724-1800. Born the son of Carter Allen and Emma Hay on 19 January 1724, he was related to the Marchioness of Salisbury and the Marquis of Downshire, and apparently had a claim to the title of Earl of Erroll. He was the brother-in-law of Admiral Robert Swanton, who died in 1765 having earlier served as the commander-in-chief in the Leeward Islands.
Having enjoyed an education at Eton and formed an early friendship with the future Admiral Viscount Keppel, Allen was commissioned lieutenant on 14 June 1745 and saw some service aboard the Gosport 44, Captain Thomas Pye, which returned to England from Nova Scotia in early 1752.
He was promoted commander of the sloop Grampus 14 on 5 April 1757, which he joined at Yarmouth. Whilst escorting a convoy from London to Leith, the Grampus captured the French privateer Philippine 6 on 14 May after a four-hour chase off Scarborough, and she took her prize into Shields. She departed with the trade for Iceland at the end of the month, and to the north of Aberdeen was attacked by the privateer Duc d’Aumont 16, which attempted to board but was beaten off. A three-quarter hour engagement saw the Grampus prevail, having suffered three men wounded and inflicted casualties of four men killed and ten wounded. Leaving her prize in the Orkneys to make good repairs, the Grampus delivered her prisoners to Aberdeen. Towards the end of November she landed Major-General Grant of the Prussian Army at Shields, and she continued her service in the North Sea through to the following spring, capturing a small Dunkirk privateer snow, the Marquis St. Ange, on 1 April 1758 and taking her into the Lowestoffe Roads.
Allen was posted captain of the Experiment 20 with seniority from 21 March 1758, and his new command was engaged in convoy duty out of the Humber in the early summer. Shortly afterwards, the newspapers reported that she had taken five ships off Cape St. Vincent. She sailed with another convoy from the Downs at the end of September and was attached to Commodore Hon. Augustus Keppel’s squadron that was sent to take Gorée in November. On 9 April 1759 she arrived at Portsmouth from Goree, having shared with the Mercury 20, Captain Edmund Affleck, in the capture of a large St. Domingoman, the Prudent. From May until July, Allen commanded the frigate Sapphire 32 at Deptford on a temporary basis for Captain John Strachan.
In August 1759 Allen commissioned the French prize frigate Repulse 32 at Portsmouth, and she sailed out of the harbour on 25 September. Reports at the time indicated that she was under orders to depart for Brazil to bring home the East India convoy, but instead, at the end of October, she sailed with other frigates for a cruise in the Bay of Biscay. Despite further suggestions in December that she was to sail for the East Indies to bring home another convoy, she was still at Spithead in January 1760 and at the end of the month escorted three troop transports to Jersey.
On 14 March 1760 the Repulse sailed from Portsmouth for the St. Lawrence with other men-of-war, and having soon parted company in a gale, she had the good fortune to fall in with and capture the Bayonne privateer Chevalier de Barro 20 on 25 March. During the summer she joined Captain Hon. John Byron’s squadron in destroying the Louisbourg fortifications, and she also assisted Byron in the destruction of a French squadron of two frigates and a sloop in nearby Chaleur Bay on 8 July. In the early summer of 1761, the Repulse escorted a troop convoy to the West Indies from New York, and she was attached to Commodore Sir James Douglas’ squadron in the Leeward Islands which captured Dominica on 8 June. Twenty days later she took into Antigua a ship under Neapolitan colours mounting thirty guns but manned by a crew of a mere thirty-seven men, and it was subsequently reported at home that this prize and that of a snow were valued at thirty thousand guineas.
Remaining in the Caribbean, the Repulse continued to serve under the newly appointed and more aggressive commander-in-chief, Rear Admiral George Brydges Rodney, and she was with the force that successfully captured Martinique in January 1762. Towards the end of the month, she was off Grenada when a party of seventeen men sent ashore to cut wood were ambushed by forty Frenchmen on the beach. The latter refused quarter and continued to hack at the Repulse’s men, treating one midshipman barbarously before the frigate’s other boats could come to the rescue. Six men were killed outright, the midshipman and three others died of their wounds, and the other seven men were assumed to have been hunted down and killed.
Allen left the Repulse in October 1762 upon his transfer to the Rochester 50, and he retained that vessel in the West Indies until 18 January 1763, when he was ordered to exchange with Captain Francis Samuel Drake of the Vanguard 68 and raise the flag of his brother-in-law, Rear-Admiral Robert Swanton, in the Leeward Islands. The Vanguard returned to England in 1764 and was paid off at Portsmouth on 13 March.
After five and a half years on the beach, Allen was appointed to the command of the guardship Superb 74 at Portsmouth on 15 November 1769, and he paid this vessel off on 16 May 1770 in order to commission the new Ajax 74 as a guardship. He commanded the latter vessel during the dispute with Spain over the Falkland Islands that autumn, although in sailing to Ireland after several days wind-bound at St. Helens during November, the Ajax lost her fore and main topmasts and sprung her main-mast in heavy weather not far from Cork, requiring her to put back to Plymouth. She was soon ready for sea once more, but then a fever took hold of her crew, killing several pressed men and rendering over a hundred men sick. She finally got away to Ireland towards the end of the month, and she sailed from thence on 10 February 1771 with a troop convoy to Gibraltar under the orders of Commodore John Knight of the Ramillies 74. The Ajax returned with Knight’s squadron to Spithead at the end of April and she entered Portsmouth on 7 May to be paid off.
On 27 October 1776 Allen was appointed to the Albion 74, which he commissioned at Plymouth to serve in home waters. She was at Dublin during July 1777 and was ordered to proceed up the St. George’s Channel with other men-of-war to seek out three rebel privateers. He removed to the Egmont 74 in April 1778 when it was reported that the Albion was under orders for the Indies, and on 27 July he fought at the Battle of Ushant, closely seconding Vice-Admiral Sir Hugh Palliser’s flagship Formidable 90, and losing twelve men killed and nineteen wounded. He gave evidence in favour of the commander-in-chief, Admiral Hon. Augustus Keppel, at the court-martial brought at Palliser’s behest against that officer in January, although in the prelude to the trial he found it necessary to incarcerate the bearer of a £1,000 banknote in a room and threaten him with pistols until the fellow revealed that the anonymous benefactor was a lady admirer who wished to alleviate Allen’s fiscal deficit, rather than a representative of Keppel’s or Palliser’s faction! He was later employed with the Channel Fleet during its retreat of August 1779.
On 20 March 1780 he was appointed to the ex-Spanish Fenix, which had been captured at the Moonlight Battle on 18 January, and which was renamed the Gibraltar 80. This vessel was employed in the Channel Fleet campaign from June, but Allen left her in October. It then appears that on 22 January 1781 he was appointed by the Admiralty to the Formidable 98, only to be replaced three days later by Captain John Cleland.
In May 1782 he commissioned the Royal William 84, which had undergone a thorough repair at Portsmouth, but although ready for sea in July, she could not undertake any duty for a lack of men, and it was not until 27 July that she was able to leave harbour. Joining the Channel Fleet, Allen sat on the court martial into the loss of the Royal George 100 on 29 August, and he then sailed with Admiral Lord Howe for the relief of Gibraltar on 18 October. His ship led the van at the action off Cape Spartel, two days later, losing two men killed and thirteen wounded. She returned to Spithead with the fleet on 14 November, and at the end of the month entered Portsmouth to be docked, prior to being paid off on 22 February 1783.
Allen did not see any further service but became a rear-admiral on 24 September 1787, a vice-admiral on 1 February 1793, and an admiral on 1 June 1795. He died at Bath on 2 October 1800.
Allen was married three times; however, a great deal of mystery attends his family history. His second wife, whom he married on 20 Jun 1780, was Caroline Addington, the widow of William Addington. Following her death he married Stella Frances Freeman on 29 June 1799, this lady being a wealthy heiress whose family had owned property in Jamaica. He was the father of Vice-Admiral John Allen, and of ‘Captain’ Thomas Allen, 1773-1852, and also of a daughter, all three being described as his ‘natural children’. Somewhat incredibly, the sons of Thomas Allen claimed that their father was in fact the son of Bonnie Prince Charlie, and that he had been adopted by Admiral Allen after being left in his care whilst cruising off Italy. Thomas Allen did not share greatly in Admiral Allen’s will, the younger son John being by far the greater beneficiary, and after a short career in the Navy Thomas apparently led a somewhat shadowy existence living abroad, particularly in Italy.
Admiral Allen lived in Devonshire Place, Marylebone. Politically, he was a supporter of the Rockingham Whigs, and he was a friend of Admirals Hon. Samuel Barrington and Lord Hotham.