John Maitland

1771-1836. Born in Scotland to a prominent military family, he was the youngest son of Colonel Hon. Richard Maitland, himself a younger son of the Earl of Lauderdale, and of his wife Mary McAdam, who had been born in New York. He was the nephew of Captain Hon. Frederick Lewis Maitland and the cousin of that officer’s son, Rear-Admiral Sir Frederick Lewis Maitland. His brother, Lieutenant-Colonel James Maitland, died leading a storming party at the siege of Bharatpur in January 1805.

By 1794, Maitland was serving aboard the Boyne 98, Captain Hon. George Grey, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Sir John Jervis in the Leeward Islands campaign, in the course of which he was to earn that exacting officer’s admiration and patronage. In particular, he distinguished himself under the orders of Captain Robert Faulknor during the storming of the well defended Fleur d’Epée hill fortification on Guadeloupe on 12 April, being the first man onto the ramparts, saving the life of Faulknor when he was assailed by two men, and slaying several defenders of the garrison with his own hand, his victims being reported in some accounts as numbering up to eight men. As an acting lieutenant he later assumed command of the force storming Pointe à Pitre on Guadeloupe when the commanding officers were incapacitated, and as a reward for his endeavours he was commissioned lieutenant on 20 July.

Returning to England in August 1794 aboard the Winchelsea 32, Captain Lord Garlies, he transferred with the officers and crew of that vessel to the Lively 32 in November, and he was present under the acting command of Commander George Burlton when the Lively captured the French frigate Tourterelle 28 in the Channel on 13 March 1795. Thereafter, he continued to serve in the Lively when she went out to the Mediterranean under Lord Garlies in November, giving passage to the new commander-in-chief of that station and Maitland’s old admirer, Admiral Sir John Jervis.

Gaubaud, J.; Admiral John Maitland (1771-1836); Thirlestane Castle Trust;

It appears that having been notified of his impending promotion to the rank of master and commander by Jervis, Maitland was a passenger aboard the Blanche 32, Captain d’Arcy Preston, when in company with the Minerve 38, Commodore Horatio Nelson and Captain George Cockburn, they engaged the Spanish frigates Santa Sabina 40 and Ceres 40 off Cartagena on 20 December 1796. During the action the Blanche forced the surrender of the Ceres but had to abandon the prize on the approach of a Spanish first-rate and another frigate. Maitland was praised by Captain Preston for his assistance on the quarterdeck, and three days later, on 23 December, Jervis promoted him commander. He then commissioned a captured French privateer as the Transfer 16, being employed in the protection of convoys on the Spanish coast.

In April 1797 he joined the sloop Kingfisher 18, in which continued to serve on the Spanish and Portuguese Atlantic coasts. On 1 July a mutiny broke out aboard the vessel at Lisbon whilst he was ashore, and he immediately repaired on board and summoned the crew, being seconded by Lieutenant John Pilford and the other officers and marines with their swords drawn. When one mutineer tried to grab him, Maitland killed him on the spot before fatally wounded another man who died the next day. So pleased was Admiral Jervis, the newly ennobled Earl of St. Vincent, with this conduct that Maitland was posted captain of the Battle of Cape St. Vincent prize San Nicolas 80, the promotion being confirmed on 11 August 1797. Of equal honour however was the term ‘Doctor Maitland’s recipe for mutineers’ which St. Vincent attached to Maitland’s prompt intervention, offering it as a template to the other officers of his fleet when dealing with disaffected crews. Meanwhile, Maitland sailed the San Nicolas from the Tagus to Plymouth where she arrived at the beginning of October with three other Spanish prizes to the rapture of hundreds of spectators ashore.

Surprisingly, he was not re-employed until July 1802, during the brief peace between the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, when he was appointed to the eighteen-pounder frigate Glenmore 36, a vessel that was described as ‘very old and crazy’. One of his first tasks was to leave Plymouth with several other frigates, intercept the homecoming Jamaica fleet, and order them to enter the Devonshire port to be paid off. By the beginning of August his command was in the Downs where she remained until sailing for the Texel at the end of the month with Dutch troops who were returning home after fighting for Britain. By 3 September she was back at Plymouth where she remained for several weeks, during which period Maitland’s officer of the watch sent an armed party to board a merchant brig whose crew had mutinied, but who quickly returned to their duty once they had been hauled before him on the Glenmore. On 4 October his command arrived at Portsmouth before departing five days later for the Channel Islands to embark troops, and on 1 November she was back at Plymouth where she embarked part of the 26th Regiment, last from Egypt, in order to carry the troops home to Scotland. She was back at Plymouth from Leith on 2 December and seventeen days later was taken into the harbour to be paid off.

The decommissioning of the Glenmore could not have been more providential for Maitland, as he was on hand at Plymouth to commission the newly repaired crack eighteen-pounder frigate Boadicea 38, manning her at the Devonshire port, and taking her down the Hamoaze into the Sound in the middle of March 1803. After remaining in Cawsand Bay for several days, and with a recommencement of the war with France looming, she stood down the Channel at the end of the month to collect impressed men whom she brought back to Plymouth on 4 April. Almost immediately she put out with urgent dispatches, returning ten days later, and she then sailed for Ireland to collect more pressed men for the fleet.

When the war with France did resume in May 1803, the Boadicea initially cruised out of Plymouth, capturing a Batavian East Indiaman, the Vrouw Elizabeth, at the end of the month with a valuable cargo which was calculated to be worth sixty thousand guineas. Days later she took the Le Havre cutter privateer Eleonore in the Channel, and shortly afterwards captured another small privateer from St. Malo near the Eddystone.

On 29 August 1803, whilst cruising in the Bay of Biscay some hundred miles to the north-west of Ferrol, the Boadicea fell in with the French ship of the line Duguay Trouin 74 and frigate Guerrière 40, which had escaped a British blockade of Saint-Domingue by sailing out of Cap François in company with the Duquesne 74 on 24 July. Despite a dense fog the Boadicea managed to hang on to the Frenchmen, and when it cleared at 3.00. p.m. on the 30th she moved in for a closer look. Maitland suspected correctly that the French ships were from Cap François but believed that they were both armed en-flute and were much reduced by sickness. Manoeuvring to within a quarter mile he tried a broadside, but the return fire from the Duguay Trouin gave him a less sanguine appreciation of the enemy’s condition and he promptly went about, to be chased for fifty minutes by the two ships before they gave up the pursuit.

On 5 October 1803 the Boadicea arrived at Portsmouth with her hands constantly at the pumps after she had been badly holed when striking the Bas de Lis rock off Brest, but she came out of dock within a matter of days to rejoin the Channel Fleet. Shortly afterwards, on 24 November, she captured the French lugger Vautour 12 off Cape Finisterre, this swift vessel having been in passage from Saint-Domingue with despatches. For a month over the Christmas and New Year period, Captain Charles Dashwood took command of the Boadicea whilst Maitland was on sick leave, and during this time the frigate was damaged both by winter gales and by running afoul of the Loire 40, whose captain, ironically, was Maitland’s cousin, Frederick Lewis Maitland.

Returning to command the Boadicea following his sick leave, Maitland took her to sea from Plymouth at the beginning of February 1804 to rejoin the Channel Fleet. By March, she was employed as one of the frigates of observation off Rochefort, where on the 14th, after being obliged by a shift in the wind to withdraw from her usual station, she discovered a French ship of the line and frigate occupying that same position at daybreak, having apparently been sent out to capture her. Fortunately, as she was still holding the weather gauge, the Boadicea was able to avoid an action. On 26 June she arrived at Plymouth from the fleet off Brest, and remaining thereafter in the Sound for more than a week, she was paid six months wages before putting out again, only to return days later having sprung her bowsprit. Rejoining the squadron off Rochefort, she spent the next few months on that station before arriving at Plymouth on 22 October and anchoring in the Sound for a week or more.

On 16 January 1805 the Boadicea arrived at Portsmouth from the Channel Fleet, and in the middle of February she sailed for Yarmouth, where she remained in the Roads until early March. On the 28th of that month she returned to Yarmouth from the Texel with two hundred and fifty members of the crew of the Romney 50, Captain Hon. John Colville, who had been held as prisoners and then exchanged following the wrecking of that vessel on the Haak Sands on 19 November 1804. Continuing to serve out of Yarmouth and off the Texel, the Boadicea was ordered to Sheerness for repairs at the beginning of July, and whilst in the Thames a master’s mate sadly fell overboard and drowned. Having been paid six months wages she was released for service on 30 August, and by the end of September she was at Portsmouth from the Downs, whereupon she took a convoy to Cork in early October before sailing for the Spanish Atlantic coast.

The Boadicea, depicted off Brest in 1799.

In early November 1805 the Boadicea 38 was in the vicinity of Ferrol in the company of the Dryad 36, Captain Adam Drummond, when after failing to obtain answers to their recognition signals from what turned out to be Commodore Sir Richard Strachan’s squadron, they fled. Shortly afterwards, on 4 November, Strachan brought four escapees from the Battle of Trafalgar to action and defeated them off Cape Ortegal. Returning to Cork, on 11 December the Boadicea sailed with the Barbados-bound convoy in the company of the Arethusa 38, Captain Charles Brisbane, and the Wasp 14, Captain Buckland Stirling Bluett, her duty being to see it as far as Madeira. Four days later they sighted and were chased by a squadron of five sail of the line, two frigates, and a corvette under the command of Vice-Admiral Corentin Urbain Leissègues, which had broken out of Brest with a similar number of ships under Rear-Admiral Jean Baptiste Philibert Willaumez on the 13th, and which force was also in sight. Captain Brisbane ordered the convoy to disperse and head for the safety of Lisbon whilst the Boadicea and Wasp were dispatched to alert the British blockading forces on the Atlantic coast. In due course, Maitland’s command entered Gibraltar on Boxing Day.

Continuing to operate out of Cork, the Boadicea cruised in the Bay of Biscay during the early part of 1806, but on 25 May she ran aground on the rocks at Linsfort in Lough Swilly. Although rescued by local vessels her damages required repair, and she entered Plymouth in the first week of June, prior to proceeding to Portsmouth to go into dock at the end of the month. She was back at sea in July, escorting a convoy from the Downs to Portsmouth on the 23rd, but eight days later it was necessary for her to re-enter Portsmouth Harbour. On 6 August she put out again for Cork, where after going out on a cruise, she rescued a dismasted transport with twenty-nine soldiers and fifteen prisoners aboard. That incident apart, her employment on the Irish station was uneventful for the remainder of the year.

In the middle of February 1807, the Boadicea left Cork for Plymouth to refit, but she was out of dock again by 14 March, and leaving Cork shortly afterwards with secret orders, she joined the Topaze 36, Captain Anselm Griffiths, in the protection of the whaling fleet in the Davis Strait. The ensuing summer was a cold season, and the two frigates were surrounded by icebergs which even prevented them from watering on the Labrador coast, whilst the death of their sheep and poultry by the end of July left them on salt beef rations alone. On 26 September they sailed from Newfoundland with a convoy for Lisbon, and the Boadicea was eventually back at Spithead on 10 November, bringing news that the Portuguese ports had been shut three days before her departure. She then underwent a brief refit before departing on 18 December to cruise off Le Havre.

In January 1808 the Boadicea sailed from Portsmouth to cruise off the French coast once more, and shortly afterwards she sent in the French privateer, the General Conclaux. Thereafter she was in and out of the Hampshire port on a regular basis, and towards the end of March she brought in eighteen fishing boats which she had captured off Le Havre in retaliation for Napoleon’s commercial prohibitions known as the ‘Continental System’. She continued cruising off Le Havre until June when Maitland ceded the command to Captain John Hatley after five and a half years at the helm.

The next five and a half years were spent on the beach, until at the end of 1813 he was appointed to the Barfleur 98 in the Mediterranean Fleet, taking passage out from Portsmouth in January 1814 aboard the Blenheim 74, Captain Samuel Warren. His tenure in command proved uneventful, and on 4 July the Barfleur arrived in the Downs to be laid up in Ordinary at Chatham later that month.

Maitland did not see any further service, but in accordance with his seniority he was advanced to flag rank on 19 July 1821, and he attended a levee shortly afterwards. In July 1822 he crossed the Channel with his ‘suite’, and thereafter, it appears that he visited India, for he was a passenger aboard the ship Eliza which in July 1824 landed him at Plymouth after her voyage home from Bengal. Once back home he became involved in charitable works, including as a director for an asylum set up to seek a cure for scrofula, and he attended further levees in April 1825 and July 1830. During June 1826 he was actively involved in the by-election for Banffshire, proposing a Whig, the Earl of Fife, as the M.P., but he was back south in Brighton by the end of September.

In the summer of 1827, Maitland and Captains Sir Thomas Foley and Charles Phillott were arrested and detained in custody for a short time over the non-payment of work undertaken at the Royal Navy Club. The matter was eventually passed for arbitration, but the Lord Chief Judge lambasted the fact that such deserving and honourable persons as Maitland and his co-defendants had been detained on the charge. He was back in court in May 1829 when bringing a charge against a hosier who had turned up at his London address and demanded payment of a fourteen-year-old bill, had spouted insulting remarks and refused to leave, and had then attempted to strike Maitland with his umbrella, only for the admiral to ward off the blow with a stick which he had fetched to see the hosier on his way. Fortunately, the butler managed to slam the door both on the assailant and a crowd of a hundred or more people who had gathered to watch the fun, and he then wisely prevailed upon Maitland to compose himself and send for a law officer. At the conclusion of the hearing, the hosier was found to be the transgressor and was ordered to pay bail.

Rear-Admiral Maitland died at his residence in Montagu Square, London, on 20 October 1836 after a few weeks’ illness.

He married firstly Elizabeth Ogilvy of Inchmurrin, Dumbarton, on 22 April 1799, and secondly a widow, Dora Simson of Bedford, County Kerry, at Bath on 8 January 1820, the service being officiated by her brother, the Reverend R. Bateman. In April 1822 he was living at 36 Pulteney Street, London, and by the end of the decade he had a residence in Montagu Square.