Michael Clements

@1735-1796. He was born in Colwich, Staffordshire, a son of the Rev. John Clements, the vicar of that parish and later the rector of Long Whatton, Leicestershire.

From 1748-9 Clements was employed in the East Indies aboard the Siren 24, Captain Matthew King. Serving aboard the frigate Unicorn 24, Captains Matthew Buckle and James Galbraith, from 1755 in the Mediterranean and later in the Western Squadron, he was commissioned lieutenant on 4 December. In May 1757 he was the first lieutenant of the Unicorn to Captain John Rawling when she met the large privateer Invincible 24 of St. Malo. During the fierce action which followed, he assumed command when his captain was fatally wounded, and he forced the surrender of the enemy. Taking his prize into Kinsale, he then returned to sea to capture the privateer’s consort, in consequence of which intrepid behaviour he earned his immediate promotion to the rank of commander with seniority from 25 May.

For a period of four months thereafter in the summer of 1757 Clements commanded the buss London 6, and he was posted captain on 29 September, commissioning the new frigate Actaeon 28 at Chatham for Channel service. In early June 1758 his command participated in the fleet’s raid on St. Malo, and in the following month she assisted the Alcide 64, Captain James Douglas, capture the Robuste 24 armed en-flute with military stores. During January 1759 she was despatched in search of privateers that had been seen off the coast, but she returned empty-handed to Plymouth on 9 February.

On 4 June 1759 Clements was appointed to the Pallas 36, serving in the blockade of Brest and in Quiberon Bay. During the following January his command was forced into Kinsale to refit, and she was there with the Aeolus 32, Captain John Elliot, and the Brilliant 36, Captain James Loggie, when news was received that a French squadron of five vessels had appeared off the coast under Commodore François Thurot. The British ships got up with the French off Belfast on the morning of 28 February and won a complete victory, capturing three frigates, the Maréchal de Belleisle 44, Blond 36 and Terpsichore 24. All three British captains were subsequently given a vote of thanks in the Irish parliament. During May 1760 the Pallas tackled the French sail of the line Diadème 74 in the Bay of Biscay in the hope that her consort, the Shrewsbury 74, Captain Hugh Palliser, would join the attack, but after suffering significant damage and three men killed, she was forced to back off.


Captain Clements played his part at the capture of three French frigates in 1760

The Pallas was sent out to the Mediterranean in June 1760, taking a number of merchant prizes and capturing the privateer Revanche on 23 June 1762. Whilst she was being paid off after returning to England in December 1763, Clements became involved in a dispute with the sailing master, David Hawkins, who, having failed to have his certificate signed due to a perceived lax performance, made counterclaims against his captain. At length an inquiry found in Clements’ favour, the charge being deemed ‘groundless and malicious.’

From 4 October 1769 Clements commanded the guard-ship Dorsetshire 70 at Portsmouth, and in the following August she was ordered to be provisioned and sent out to the Mediterranean as part of the force detailed to shadow the French build-up at Toulon. She returned to Portsmouth from Gibraltar to perform quarantine at the end of February 1770, and after reassuming her guardship duties she was paid off at the end of May 1771.

On 9 March 1778 he was appointed to fit out the new Vengeance 74 at Portsmouth, in which he fought at the Battle of Ushant on 27 July, and which took a valuable prize in the Atlantic on 20 September. He was subsequently called as a defence witness at Admiral Hon. Augustus Keppel’s court-martial and was conspicuous by his testimony in the commander-in-chief’s favour. Unsurprisingly, despite his retirement from ill health some months later, he attributed the lack of any further offers of employment from the Tory administration to his support of the Whig Keppel.

In July 1780 he requested leave to visit Tuscany for the benefit of his health, informing the Admiralty that on his return he would hope to restore ‘that reputation which at present appears to be much sullied’. He was not given that opportunity, and he remained a captain until 1787 when he was placed on the list of superannuated admirals at the time of Lord Howe’s famous promotion of more capable officers.

Clements’ health finally gave way in the 1790’s, he was held in confinement due to insanity, and he appears to have died in 1796.

His wife, a Miss Hopton, whom he had married in December 1765 when she was described as ‘an agreeable lady with a fortune of ten thousand pounds’, predeceased him in 1786. His address at the time of death was given as Weybridge, Surrey.

Clements was a favourite of Admiral Lord Anson.