John Elphinstone

1756- 1801. Born in Peckham, London on 14 August 1756, he was one of six sons of Captain John Elphinstone and of his wife, Amelia Warburton. His brothers Thomas and Robert-Phillip both reached the rank of post-captain in the Navy, another brother Samuel William died as a captain in the Russian service in 1788, and a further brother was Major-General Sir Howard Elphinstone. The second of his four sisters, Anna-Charlotta-Maria, married Captain Sir Francis John Hartwell.

After seeing duty with his father and brother Samuel in the service of Russia from 1769-71, Elphinstone was commissioned lieutenant in the British Navy on 11 July 1776 and in this rank commanded the schooner Labrador in North American waters until August 1777. He was subsequently employed in the Channel Fleet during 1778 aboard the Berwick 74, Captain Hon. Keith Stewart, in home waters during 1779 with the Lizard 28, Captain Francis Parry, and from 1781 the new Astraea 32, Captain Matthew Squire, going out to North America, and during 1782 the Monsieur 36, Captain Hon. Seymour Finch, in home waters.

From March 1787 until 1789 Elphinstone commanded the cutter Busy 10 off the north-east coast of Scotland. He was promoted commander on 21 September 1790, and he left England with the Swan 14 in September 1791, going out to the East Indies and meeting Captain William Bligh at the Cape on route when that officer was engaged in his second voyage to secure breadfruit plants from Tahiti for delivery to the West Indies.

Elphinstone spent much of his career as a post captain in the service of his kinsman, Admiral; Lord Keith.

On 16 May 1793 Elphinstone was posted captain, and he flew the flag of Rear-Admiral Sir George Keith Elphinstone aboard the Glory 98 from May to August 1794. Whilst the admiral was absent from the ship Elphinstone commanded her at the Battle of the Glorious First of June, losing thirteen men killed and thirty-nine wounded, and being one of those offices who was awarded a gold medal following recognition in his despatches by Admiral Lord Howe. In August 1794 Elphinstone removed with the rear-admiral to the Barfleur 98, remaining in the Channel until the following spring.

From May 1795 he commanded the Monarch 74 in the Channel fleet with Elphinstone’s flag before going out to the Cape to participate in the campaign that resulted in its capture on 16 September. The Monarch was also present on 17 August 1796 at the bloodless capture of the Dutch ships in Saldanha Bay, and she returned to England on 3 January 1797, having put into the French occupied Bantry Bay in a snowstorm four days earlier with only eight days provisions and suffering greatly from scurvy.

Continuing with the Monarch, Elphinstone was present at the Spithead mutiny which erupted on 16 April 1797, and in July he succeeded the late Captain Sir Andrew Snape Douglas aboard the Queen Charlotte 110, retaining the flag of the promoted and ennobled Vice-Admiral Lord Keith in the Channel until the autumn of 1798.

In November 1798 Keith was sent out to the Mediterranean as second-in-command to Admiral Lord St. Vincent and he took Elphinstone as his flag captain aboard the Foudroyant 98 in place of the late Captain Sir Thomas Byard. During February 1799 they returned to the Barfleur 98, with Keith commanding the fleet at Cadiz whilst the ailing St. Vincent remained ashore at Gibraltar. Accordingly Elphinstone participated in operations attending the pursuit of the Brest fleet, which had escaped on 25 April.

In September 1799 he recommissioned the veteran Hector 74, serving with the Channel fleet during the early part of 1800 and in the western Mediterranean under the orders of Rear-Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren during the early stages of Rear-Admiral Honoré Ganteaume’s cruise from January – July 1801, prior to becoming captain of the fleet to Lord Keith in the Mediterranean during the spring

Captain Elphinstone died at Valletta, Malta on 17 December 1801.