Richard Rundle Burges

1754-97. Born on 10 September 1754 to Richard Burges and his wife, Mary Rundle, he came from a seafaring family that originated from Topsham, Devon, and was the brother in law of Captain Thomas Watson who died in action in the Leeward Islands on 19 May 1780.

Captain Burges lost his life at the Battle of Camperdown in 1797

Burgess was commissioned lieutenant on 21 November 1772, served on Lake Pontchartrain in early 1777, and whilst employed aboard the London 90, Captain James Kempthorne, he was wounded during the inconclusive engagement with the Scipion 74 off San Domingo on 17 October 1782. He was subsequently promoted commander on 7 December by his patron, Rear-Admiral Joshua Rowley, who was the commander-in-chief at Jamaica.

In January 1786 he recomissioned the sloop Savage to patrol off western Scotland and eastern Ireland in the preventative service, and he remained with her until August 1789. He was posted captain on 21 September 1790, whereupon he commissioned the Ferret 12 at Greenock and retained her until the following January.

In the early autumn of 1794 he briefly commanded the disaffected Culloden 74, flagship of Admiral Sir Thomas Rich in the Channel, and from February 1795 he had the Argo 44, leaving Gibraltar for England in September with the convoy that included the French prize Censeur 74. The Argo returned safely to England with thirty-two merchantmen and several consorts, but Rear-Admiral Joseph de Richery recaptured the Censeur off Cape St. Vincent on 7 October. By early 1796 the Argo was cruising under the orders of Captain Sir Edward Pellew off Ushant, and Burges shared in the distribution of prize money earned by that officer’s successful squadron.

In May 1796 Burges commissioned the new Ardent 64 at Woolwich, which vessel was serving in Admiral Adam Duncan’s fleet when she was involved in the Nore mutiny that broke out on 12 May 1797, although she was one of the first sail of line to return to duty. During the first ten minutes of the Battle of Camperdown on 11 October Burges was cut in two by a chain shot, and he was one of forty-one men killed and one hundred and seven wounded aboard the Ardent, these being the highest single ship casualties on the British side. He was accorded a stunning monument in St Paul’s Cathedral.

Burges’ patron was Vice-Admiral Sir Joshua Rowley, and he in turn became the guardian of the future Captain Joshua Rowley Watson. He was described as a ‘model officer’ who was admired by his contemporaries. It was reported that a year before his death, whilst dining in Arundel Street, London, Burges noticed a boy drowning in the River Thames and without a moment’s hesitation jumped out of the window overlooking the river and pulled him out.