Sir Davidge Gould

1758-1847. He was born in Bridgwater, Somerset, to an influential family, the son of Richard Gould of Sharpham Park, near Wells, and of his wife, Susan Maundrell.

Gould joined the navy in 1772 as a volunteer aboard the Alarm 32, Captain John Stott, seeing employment in the Mediterranean and off North America. He later served as a midshipman aboard the Winchelsea 32, Captain Thomas Wilkinson, and the Phoenix 44, Captain Sir Hyde Parker, being involved in the latter frigate’s frequent cutting-outs of enemy shipping and assaults on the American coast. After returning to England in early 1779, he was promoted lieutenant on 7 May and appointed to the Ulysses 44, Captain Thomas Dumaresq, which was launched at Liverpool in July. Initially engaged in convoy duty in home waters, she went out to Barbados and Jamaica from Cork on 19 January 1780 with a convoy, and she remained on the latter station, surviving the ‘Great Hurricanes’ in October. After Gould exchanged into the Bristol 50, he returned to England under Captain John Thomas Duckworth in July 1781.

Sir Davidge Gould

He next joined the Conqueror 74, Captain George Balfour, which vessel departed for the Leeward Islands with Admiral Sir George Rodney’s reinforcements on 14 January 1782 and was present at the Battle of the Saintes on 12 April. Rodney then appointed Gould first lieutenant aboard his flagship, the Formidable 90, and upon arriving at Jamaica, he was promoted commander on 13 June of the sloop Pacahunter 14. However, this vessel was in a poor state of repair, so instead of taking her to sea, Gould was charged with carrying despatches back to England, whereupon he remained unemployed for the duration of the American Revolutionary War and the first three years of the peace.

On 2 November 1786 he was appointed to the sloop Pylades 18, but any joy at his commission was tarnished on 18 January 1787 by a tragedy which saw six men, including his clerk and a midshipman, drown when their boat overset in Cawsand Bay, Plymouth. Thereafter his command was engaged with some success in the preventative service, although at the end of September she sailed from Plymouth with sealed orders amidst speculation that she was bound for the West Indies. Instead, it turned out that she had instructions to reconnoitre Spanish preparations at Cadiz and near Gibraltar conversant with the Dutch Armament, from which duty she returned to Plymouth in early November.

On 26 August 1788 Gould removed to the sloop Ferret 12, going out to the Mediterranean, where he received notification of being posted captain on 25 March 1789, thereby requiring him to vacant the command and return to England. Initially appointed to the Salisbury 50, the flagship of Vice-Admiral Mark Milbanke, this vessel unfortunately put out for Newfoundland under Captain William Domett before Gould’s arrival home.

On 1 January 1790 he was appointed to the frigate Brune 28, commissioning at Chatham before dropping down to Blackstakes for her ordnance in February, and then sailing for Jamaica from Portsmouth in mid-March. As per his earlier experience with the Pacahunter, he found that his command was not up to the rigours of the West Indian station, and she returned to Portsmouth at the beginning of June 1792 to be paid off at Deptford a fortnight later and taken in for repairs.

Whilst he remained on the beach, fears that the French Revolution would gain traction in Britain resulted in Gould being appointed to an anti-Republican committee at Wells in January 1793. He was not immediately employed when war broke out several weeks later, but he resumed active service when ordered to join the frigate Cyclops 28 on 8 June, which vessel was commissioning at Portsmouth. On 17 August she left the harbour for Spithead, and after sailing from Portsmouth to Ireland with a number of transports in early October, she went out to the Mediterranean from Falmouth with a convoy at the beginning of 1794. Here she saw service in the Corsican campaign, which had begun in February.

Remaining in the Mediterranean, he was appointed to the Bedford 74 on the elevation to flag rank in July 1794 of her captain, Robert Man, although he could not immediately join her as she was at Smyrna under the acting captaincy of Captain William Hotham, who was due to succeed him aboard the Cyclops. After he did assume command, which appears to have been in January 1805, the Bedford suffered severely at the guns of the Ca-Ira 80 at the Battle of Genoa on 13-14 March, losing seven men killed and eighteen wounded. She was also present, but not in action, at the Battle of the Hyeres Islands on 13 July.

After the Bedford was recalled to England in August 1795, Gould exchanged into the Audacious 74 with her temporary captain, Augustus Montgomery. Serving in Rear-Admiral Man’s squadron consisting of seven sail of the line, he traded shot with the Spanish fleet of nineteen sail of the line under the command of Admiral Don Juan de Langara which chased the British force into Gibraltar on 1 October. The Audacious arrived at Portsmouth on 7 December with Man’s dispatches, bringing with her an American vessel which she had intercepted off Ushant, and which was carrying a cargo of twenty thousand stand of arms and a number of field pieces that it was believed had been destined for the Irish rebels.

The Audacious left Plymouth Dock on 19 March 1797 to join Commodore Robert Calder’s reinforcements to Admiral Lord St. Vincent’s Mediterranean Fleet, and she remained with that force off Cadiz and in the Tagus prior to sailing into the Mediterranean to join Rear-Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson’s reinforcements under the command of Captain Thomas Troubridge at the end of May 1798. Gould subsequently participated in the Battle of the Nile on 1 August, where his ship was the fourth in line, took an inshore course, and received the surrender of the Conquérant 74, although most observers felt that he had lacked imagination in choosing his position between two ships which had already been battered into submission, and that the striking of the Conquérant had little to do with his endeavours. On the next morning, he was ordered to assist the damaged Bellerophon 74, and was then sent in chase of Rear-Admiral Pierre Villeneuve’s squadron, which had come through the battle unscathed, but as the Audacious was somewhat cut-up he was promptly recalled. During the battle his command suffered casualties of one man killed and thirty-five wounded. He was afterwards employed in preparing the Conquérant for sea, and the Audacious was attached to Captain Sir James Saumarez’s escort which sailed with the prizes for Gibraltar in September.

Remaining in the Mediterranean, the Audacious joined Nelson at Naples, with whose force she patrolled off Sicily following the French breakout from Brest on 25 April 1799. During the autumn she was off Malta in the company of the Alexander 74, Captain Alexander Ball, and on 18 February 1800 she was present at, but little involved in, the capture of the Généreux 80 off that island. Subsequent to the destruction by fire of the flagship Queen Charlotte 100 on 17 March, she temporarily flew the flag of the commander-in-chief, Vice-Admiral Lord Keith, sailing from Leghorn with a convoy on 3 April. She was later present at the siege of Genoa, which resulted in that city’s capture on 4 June, and during October she delivered a convoy from Gibraltar to the Tagus, where she remained for a short while. On 15 December the Audacious returned to Portsmouth with the remnants of a Lisbon convoy which had become dispersed by gales during its three-week passage, whereupon she sailed for Plymouth to be paid off.

In February 1801 it was reported that Gould had been awarded the freedom of Wells for his participation in the Battle of the Nile. He returned to active service in March when appointed to the Majestic 74, and in the middle of April his new command put out of Plymouth to join the Channel Fleet. During early June she spent some time in Plymouth Dock, and after going around to Torbay, she sailed on the 19th with dispatches for Admiral Hon. William Cornwallis, the commander-in-chief in the Channel. At the end of the month, she departed from Cowes with a secret expedition which was bound for the French Atlantic coast to assist a royalist uprising, and continuing to serve in the Channel, she briefly entered Falmouth in early July and Plymouth in October.

HMS Audacious

The Majestic was attached to Vice-Admiral Sir Andrew Mitchell’s fleet which went around to Bantry Bay in early December 1801, and where a mutiny broke out aboard various vessels that were under instructions to sail for the West Indies. Accordingly, in January 1802, Gould sat on the court-martial at Portsmouth of the Téméraire mutineers before sailing for the West Indies in early February with Rear-Admiral George Campbell’s squadron. After peace had been agreed with France, the squadron returned to Plymouth from Jamaica on 20 September following a difficult eleven-week passage that saw all reduced to short rations. The Majestic was paid off at Plymouth on 1 October.

Gould remained unemployed during the peace, in which time he visited Bath and later got married, and it was not until May 1804, a year after the resumption of hostilities with France, that he joined the Windsor Castle 98 at Plymouth, where that vessel had been taken into dock to inspect her leaky condition. For a short while he flew the flag at the Devonshire port of Rear-Admiral John Sutton, and at the end of June his command sailed at short notice to join the Channel Fleet off Brest. A brief return to Plymouth followed in September, and in mid-January 1805 she departed to join Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Graves’ squadron off Rochefort. Shortly afterwards, it was reported that she had been firing both broadsides at the Brest fleet in Berthaume Bay. During April she was fitting for sea with a number of other men-of-war in Cawsand Bay prior to rejoining the Channel Fleet, but at the end of the month, stress and tiredness led Gould to relinquish his commission and he was never employed again.

Retiring into a quiet life that included regular trips to such resorts as Weymouth and Brighton as well as Bath, he became a rear-admiral on 2 October 1807, being presented to the King later that month, and was further promoted vice-admiral on 1 August 1811. On 7 June 1815 he was nominated a K.C.B., on 27 May 1825 he was promoted admiral, and on 24 January 1833 he was created a G.C.B.

Admiral Gould died at Hawkshead, Hertfordshire, on 23 April 1847 after a long decline. At the time of his demise, he was one of the most senior admirals on the list.

In May 1803 he married Harriet Willes, the daughter of an archdeacon and granddaughter of the Bishop of Bath and Wells. The couple remained childless. In 1810 he owned a property on the New Steyne at Brighton.

Gould was reputedly cheerful and kind, but although brave and well-disciplined, he was devoid of tactical skill and lacked initiative. His conduct at the Battle of the Nile was criticised by many, it being felt that he had done only that which was necessary and had not the intuition to capitalise on a good position. Nelson clearly thought him a liability, criticising his conduct at the Battle of Genoa, and writing on another occasion that the outstanding zeal and attention with good humour in a squadron under his command was ‘like the Nile fleet without Davidge Gould’. In turn, Sir Thomas Troubridge wrote of Gould’s wedding in 1803 that he had ‘taken to himself a wife, and I believe, and hope, left off the sea’.