Sir Archibald Dickson

n.b There is a great deal of confusion surrounding the careers of Archibald and William Dickson during the period 1776-81. I am confident that having interrogated National Archive records on-line (and also taken into account William Dickson’s prodigious record of conceiving children during this period!) I have correctly separated their careers but final validation is desirable and I will attempt to achieve this.

Died 1803. He was a son of Archibald Dickson, younger brother of Admiral William Dickson, older brother of Lieutenant-General John Dickson of the East India Company, and uncle of Rear-Admiral Sir Archibald Collingwood Dickson.

He was commissioned lieutenant on 19 September 1759, and in March 1765 was placed in command of the schooner Egmont 10, taking her out to Newfoundland and bringing her home in the following year. He was promoted commander on 10 January 1771.

Posted captain on 31 January 1774, Dickson recommissioned the Antelope 50 as flagship of Rear-Admiral Clark Gayton, sailing for Jamaica in May. After being succeeded by Captain William Judd he returned home in 1775 and was appointed to commission the new Greyhound 28 in October, going out to the North American station in April 1776 and participating in the New York campaign of July – October. Having been refitted and coppered at Sheerness in the spring of 1779, the Greyhound participated in the destruction of enemy shipping at Penobscot during the May-August campaign, and took the rebel privateers American Revenue on 19 July, Nancy on 3 August and Revenge on 4 October. Dickson’s frigate was detached with the West Indian trade and transports on 4 January 1780, and he commanded the Greyhound at the Battle of Martinique on 17 April 1780.

As a consequence of Admiral Lord Rodney’s reorganisation of the fleet he was placed in temporary command of the Terrible 74 from 20 April and served in the Leeward Islands campaign, including the fleet skirmishes in May where his ship lost three men killed and nine wounded. After the death of Captain Thomas Watson in the action with the French on 19 May he was appointed to the Conqueror 74, sailing for Jamaica to collect a convoy. Following the Great Hurricanes of October 1780 his new command took three months to reach home, losing her mainmast on the way, and requiring a hundred men to bale her out every day when her pumps had become choked.

Upon returning to England he resided ashore in Hampshire to recover his health before assuming command of the Dublin 74 in the spring of 1781, joining the Channel fleet, in which he remained until the end of the war, and serving in the relief of Gibraltar on 12 April, operations of June-November, the campaign from April-August 1782, and the relief of Gibraltar on 18 October. He sat on the court martial into the loss of the Ramilles 74, Captain Sylverius Moriarty, on 21 September 1782, and left the Dublin in February 1783 when she went into the Ordinary.


The evacuation of Toulon following its occupation in 1793

From 1786-9 he commanded the guard-ship Goliath 74 at Portsmouth, being present at the Kings Naval Review at Plymouth on 18 December 1789, and during the Spanish Armament of 1790 commissioned the new Captain 74 for service in the Channel, paying her off in August.

Dickson recommissioned the Egmont 74 in January 1793, serving under the orders of Rear-Admiral John Gell when taking the East India trade out to Cape Finisterre in April 1793, off which coast the squadron cruised, and he reportedly earned a healthy prize sum of £56,000, or £8m in today’s money, following the capture on 14 April of the French privateer General Dumourier and her prize, the Spanish register ship St. Jago. He was present at the occupation of Toulon from 27 August 1793, and participated in the attack on Mortello Bay on 8 February 1794, and the reduction of Corsica in the same year.

He was advanced to flag rank on 12 April 1794, was promoted vice-admiral on 1 June 1795, and flew his flag at Great Yarmouth and in command of a division of the North Sea aboard the Veteran 64, Captain James Mosse, from June 1798 into the following year. He briefly had his flag aboard the Monmouth 64, Captain Robert Deans, at the beginning of 1799, and on 19 March transferred to the Monarch, Captain Archibald Dickson, shortly afterwards moving it to the Veteran 64 with that officer.

From April 1800-2 he was commander-in-chief of the North Sea fleet at Yarmouth in succession to Admiral Lord Adam Duncan. In August to September 1800, with his flag once more aboard the Monarch 74, Captain Mosse, he commanded a squadron of four sail of the line, three of 50 guns and a frigate in support of Lord Whitworth who had been sent to Denmark to negotiate over the Freja incident, earning some respect for the way in which he outwitted the Danes. Having become a full admiral on 1 January 1801, he transferred his flag in March 1801 to the Blenheim 74, Captain Peter Bover, in order for the Monarch to join Admiral Sir Hyde Parker’s fleet prior to it embarking on the campaign which resulted in the Battle of Copenhagen on 2 April 1801. In the same year his squadron blockaded the Texel.

He was created a baronet on 21 September 1802, and died near Norwich in May 1803.

Dickson married firstly Elizabeth Porter who died in 1799, and secondly, a year later, a young woman named Frances Anne Willis. His only daughter, Elizabeth, herself the widow of an army officer who had died at San Domingo in 1795, became the third wife of Admiral John Child Purvis. He lived at Hardingham in Norfolk.