John Lewis Gidoin


Gidoin passed his lieutenant’s examination on 11 October 1748 but was not commissioned until 19 January 1755.

He was promoted commander in September 1759, at which time he had been captaining the storeship Port Royal 12 for six months. Joining the Port Antonio 12 at Jamaica, he remained with her until July 1761 when he brought the Valeur 28 home from Jamaica to Deptford.

From May 1762 Gidoin had the brig Zephyr 10 off the coast of Portugal, and in September it was reported that she had put into Lisbon having sustained serious damage and casualties of three men killed and several wounded in an engagement with an unknown 32-gun French frigate. Continuing on that station, she returned to Lisbon from a cruise at the end of the year and brought troops home to Cove in May, although it is not clear whether Gidoin still held her command at this stage as her captain was reported to be an officer by the name of Jennings.

In July 1763 Gidoin recommissioned the Jamaica 10, going out to New England in November and spending most of his time on that station before paying her off in February 1767. He was posted captain of the Surprise 20 for purposes of rank only on 26 May 1768, and during the Falklands Islands dispute of 1770-1 he was the captain of the impress service at Falmouth.

Gidoin was present at several battles during the american War of Independence, including that of the Saintes in April 1782.

He commissioned the newly copper-sheathed frigate Richmond 32 at Chatham in March 1776, but suffered a tragedy at Portsmouth on 26 August when his longboat capsized, resulting in the drowning of his nephew, the boatswain, the gunner and six other men. After taking aboard five tons of new half-pennies for use by the Army he sailed for North America in September, serving in the North River and the Philadelphia Campaign of August-November. After wintering in the Chesapeake the Richmond was present at the defence off New York in July 1778 and operations off Rhode Island in August. She captured the rebel privateer Black Prince on 15 August and remained on that station over the ensuing winter before returning to Plymouth from New York at the end of April 1779.

In May 1779 Gidoin was detached from Portsmouth in command of a small frigate squadron to protect the Channel Islands from a French threat, rendezvousing with the Experiment 50, Captain Sir James Wallace, who defeated a French squadron in Cancale Bay on 13 May. He left the Richmond in July and remained on half pay for the next five months.

Joining the Torbay 74 which had began recommissioning in December 1779, he made a rendezvous with Commodore Hon. Robert Boyle Walsingham’s outgoing convoy off Plymouth in April 1780 and arrived in the Leeward Islands during July. He was present at the occupation of St. Eustatius on 3 February 1781, and in the Battle of Fort Royal off Martinique on 29 April when his command was badly damaged. After repairs at Jamaica the Torbay sailed for North America but did not arrive in time to participate in the Battle of Chesapeake Bay on 5 September. Continuing in the Torbay, Gidoin fought at the Battle of St. Kitts on 25-26 January 1782 but did not suffer any casualties, and at the Battle of the Saintes on 12 April, where she lost ten men killed and twenty-five wounded and assisted in bringing about the surrender of the French flagship.

On 17 October 1782 the Torbay was in company with the London 98, Captain James Kempthorne, when they fell in with the French Scipion 74 and Sibylle 40 off San Domingo. The London was faster in the chase and brought the Frenchmen to action at long-range, eventually going yardarm to yardarm with the Scipion. The French sail of the line then managed to rake the London and make good her escape but she sank in Samana Bay after striking a rock the next day. In November the Torbay reached Port Royal, Jamaica with a convoy, and Gidoin left her at the island in March 1783.

After returning home Gidoin did not see any further service, but was promoted rear-admiral on 12 April 1794 and vice-admiral on 1 June 1795. He died in February 1796, being buried at St. George’s Church, Modbury, Devon on 15 February.

He married Mary Legassicke on 15 November 1763 and lived at Modbury then Mothecombe in South Devon. Rear-Admiral James Walker was his protégé.