Sir George Burlton

Died 1815. He was a younger son of Philip Burlton of Wickham Mills, Essex, and of St. James’ Street, London, who had served as the surgeon-general to the Army in Germany under the Marquis of Granby during the Seven Years War. Philip Burlton was well known in the world of horse racing as a breeder, trainer, and jockey, and he was also regarded as someone who indulged in ‘fashionable play’.

Little is known of Burlton’s early career, other than that he was commissioned lieutenant on 15 September 1777, and in October 1781 reached the Admiralty to report that the Renown 50, Captain John Henry, had arrived at Plymouth two days previously with the trade from St. Helena, having previously been sent to the River Plate with arms for an expedition that had then been cancelled. Whilst retaining the rank of lieutenant, Burlton commanded the armed transport Camel 20 from November 1782, going out to North America in May 1783 and being paid off in July 1784.

During the late 1780‘s he saw service in the Mediterranean aboard the frigate Carysfort 28, Captain Mathew Smith. On returning home he was brought to a court martial in the latter part of May 1790 aboard the Bellona 74 in Portsmouth Harbour under the presidency of Rear-Admiral William Hotham. Accused of selling what was described as a ‘great quantity of junk’ at Gibraltar in 1788, and for also boasting of selling stores from his earlier command, the Camel, his trial proved to be somewhat farcical, for the two prosecution witnesses, being the Carysfort’s boatswain and carpenter, both asserted that Burlton had never embezzled anything, whilst Captain Smith spoke of him in glowing terms. Upon being acquitted, Burlton was invited to dinner by Admiral Hotham.

The Battle of the Glorious First of June in 1794 saw Burlton promoted commander.

He served as the first lieutenant of Rear-Admiral Thomas Pasley’s flagship Bellerophon 74, Captain William Johnstone Hope, at the Battle of the Glorious First of June in 1794 and was promoted commander on 5 July. A ship of his own would not be forthcoming for some time, but whilst commanding the frigate Lively 32 in an acting capacity for Captain Lord Garlies when that officer was engaged in political affairs ashore, he captured the French corvette Espion 18 off Brest on 2 March 1795. He was posted captain on 16 March following the representation of a ‘Committee of Gentlemen’ from the Lloyds Coffee House, who also bestowed on him plate to the value of two hundred guineas. In the meantime, Burlton had earned further distinction with his capture of the French frigate Tourterelle 28 some forty miles off Ushant on 13 March. Shortly afterwards, concerns were raised as to the whereabouts of the Lively, but she arrived safely at Cork in early April, from where she set out on the 10th to cruise with three other frigates from Vice-Admiral Robert Kingsmill’s squadron.

During June – July 1795 Burlton commanded the frigate Brilliant 28 in a temporary capacity whilst she was between captains, and in which vessel he sailed with a fleet of merchantmen from Hull for the Baltic. At the end of August, he was reported to have held the temporary command of the Venus 32 for Captain Lawrence Halsted, during which appointment he had sailed with Captain Sir Richard Strachan’s squadron on a Channel cruise, and at the beginning of September he joined the Vengeance 74 at the Nore in a temporary capacity for the indisposed Captain Hon. John Rodney. During a gale at Portsmouth on 5 November, the Vengeance collided with two transports carrying troops destined for the West Indies, driving one of them ashore near Monckton Fort where she filled with water, although fortunately,all of the men aboard her were saved. Six days later, the Vengeance sailed for Quiberon Bay, on 2 December she arrived at Plymouth, and Burlton left her shortly afterwards. A further reward was received from Lloyds at the end of the year when the underwriters presented him with a valuable cup in honour of his personal courage, and for his zeal in returning to his station after capturing enemy vessels.

Burlton’s career over the next two years remains somewhat of a mystery, but it was reported in contemporary newspapers that at the beginning of January 1796 he took the Standard 64 from Sheerness to join the North Sea squadron at Yarmouth in the absence of Captain Joseph Ellison. Subsequent biographies have also stated that in December he took passage out to the Cape to commission the eighteen-pounder frigate Saldanha 40, which as the Castor had been taken from the Dutch on 17 August. Apparently, he then brought this vessel home, and she began fitting as a receiving ship at Plymouth towards the end of 1797.

In April 1798, Burlton commissioned the Dutch prize Haarlem 68 as a troopship at Chatham, in which he collected troops at Plymouth in September for conveyance to Ireland. During 1799 he was off Sicily with Rear-Admiral Lord Nelson when Vice-Admiral Etienne-Eustache Bruix made a sortie into the Mediterranean following his departure from Brest in April, and after reaching Gibraltar in early July the Haarlem was chased out into the Atlantic by part of the allied fleet. She came home to Portsmouth with valuables belonging to the Pope valued at £200,000, and on 24 July Burlton reported to the Admiralty. On 26 August he sat on the court-martial aboard the Gladiator 44 in Portsmouth Harbour which investigated the loss of the Ambuscade 32 under the command of Captain Henry Jenkins on 14 December 1798. Next sailing for Ireland, the Haarlem arrived at Passage near Waterford at the end of October with three other men-of-war carrying the Carmarthen Militia, and by January 1800 she was back in the Downs with troops from Ireland.

On 5 February 1800, the Haarlem sailed from the Downs with several other men-of-war and a number of merchant vessels, and at the beginning of March she entered Portsmouth Harbour from Spithead. The end of April saw her sail from St. Helens with troops for Minorca, and by June she was back at Cowes to embark troops for a secret expedition under Major-General Lord Cavan, which proved to be destined for the Mediterranean. During the late autumn she arrived at Smyrna from Malta, and in February 1801 she was heaved down at Mahon to repair damage sustained when grounding at Malta. Having obtained additional cannons from the garrison, she then served under the orders of Rear-Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren, whose squadron put to sea on 4 March in search of Vice-Admiral Honoré-Joseph Ganteaume’s fleet which had broken out of Brest in January and was at loose in the Mediterranean.

In September 1801 it was announced that Burlton was to join the frigate Africaine 38, which had recently been captured by the Phoebe 36, Captain Sir Robert Barlow, but shortly afterwards he was instead appointed to the twelve-pounder frigate Success 32, which had been recaptured from the French by Captain George Cockburn on 2 September. Remaining in the Mediterranean, he continued with the Success until just before the peace, arriving at Portsmouth on 29 March 1802 and being paid off shortly afterwards.

Burlton does not appear to have been re-employed at the commencement of the Napoleonic War in 1802, and it was not until 7 June 1804 that he recommissioned the Adamant 50 at Chatham, sailing for the Long Reach on 9 July to take on board stores, and completing her crew with men paid off from the Stately 64, Captain George Scott. In August his command was engaged in convoy duty between the Downs and Portsmouth, and she was then employed off Boulogne in October before sailing at the beginning of November for Yarmouth. On 18 November she departed the latter port with the Romney 50, Captain Hon. John Colville, carrying stores, live cattle, and mail destined for Rear-Admiral Thomas Macnamara Russell’s division of the North Sea fleet based off the Texel, but the two ships parted in a storm that night and on the next day the Romney was wrecked on Zuider Haak sandbank, although most of her crew were rescued by the Dutch.

Over the winter of 1804-5 the Adamant continued to serve out of Yarmouth with Admiral Russell squadron, she was in the Downs during April 1805, and on 13 April she captured the privateer Alert 4 when in company with the Inflexible 64, Captain Thomas Bayley. Shortly afterwards, she sailed from Yarmouth for the Nore, during June she was in the Downs, and in July she cruised off the Texel under the orders of Admiral Russell before returning to Yarmouth at the end of the month. She then undertook another cruise with Russell in August, and in September was based in the Downs until sailing for Sheerness on the 29th. During December, whilst Burlton was apparently still with the Adamant, it was reported that he had been instructed to act as the port admiral at Deal in the absence of Vice-Admiral John Holloway, who had been ordered to sit on Vice-Admiral Sir Robert Calder’s court-martial at Portsmouth which was to consider that officer’s conduct at the Battle of Cape Finisterre.

In January 1806 Burlton recommissioned the aged Resolution 74 at Chatham, sailing from the Long Reach to the Nore in the second week of March, and serving thereafter on the North Sea station and off the Texel with Admiral Russell. On 11 December his command entered Sheerness, but she was back with Russell’s force at Yarmouth by the beginning of January 1807. There followed the occasional visit to Sheerness in March and July until she joined the Copenhagen Expedition which brought about the surrender of that city on 7 September. In November she sailed from Yarmouth for the Nore, and at the end of the month she entered Chatham for a refit.

In February 1808 the Resolution arrived at Portsmouth, from where she departed at the end of the month for Lisbon to join Admiral Sir Charles Cotton. She remained off Portugal throughout the summer and sailed to join Rear-Admiral Sir Samuel Hood off Vigo in December, participating in the evacuation of Corunna on 16 January 1809. In March she left Portsmouth Harbour, and she was present but largely inactive along with the majority of Admiral Lord Gambier’s fleet at the Battle of the Basque Roads on 11 April. She subsequently arrived at Portsmouth from Rochefort on 19 June and Burlton left her shortly afterwards.

The magnificent Ville de Paris, which Burlton commanded in the Mediterranean.

He was next appointed to the Rodney 74 in February 1810, in which vessel he arrived in the Downs in May before going around to Portsmouth and from there to Plymouth. A brief period of service followed in the Channel during June before the Rodney proceeded to the Mediterranean to serve at the defence of Cadiz under the orders of Rear-Admiral Sir Richard Keats. During October she sailed from Cadiz via Gibraltar to Minorca in the company of the Spanish two-decked ship Vencedor, which at that time was under the command of a Lieutenant Cook.

When Rear-Admiral Thomas Fremantle requested the Rodney as his flagship for service at Sicily, Burlton exchanged into the Ville de Paris 110 in May 1811, being present in the skirmishes off Toulon from July-November and suffering a lightning strike later in the year without incurring too much damage. His command entered Mahon to receive a new main-mast in November, and she appears to have remained there for the next few months with other ships of the fleet. In July 1812 she was at Malta with elements of the fleet, and she arrived at Portsmouth in November after a twelve-day passage from Gibraltar to enter harbour for a refit.

On 17 March 1813 the Ville de Paris sailed for Ushant from Portsmouth to accept the flag of Rear-Admiral Sir Harry Neale, allowing Burlton to exchange into the Boyne 98, which arrived at Portsmouth from Ushant in early April. Going around to the Downs, she sailed for Flushing with Admiral William Young before coming back to that station on 19 May, and nine days later she departed for Portsmouth to begin fitting out for service in the Mediterranean.

On 20 August 1813, the Boyne sailed with a convoy of fifty odd vessels for Portugal and the Mediterranean, having aboard the new governor of Malta, Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Maitland, together with several other dignitaries. Meanwhile back in England, it was announced in September that Burlton was to become a colonel of marines, and this appointment was confirmed by the Prince Regent in December. Remaining in the Mediterranean, the Boyne was present in partial actions with the Toulon fleet on 5 November and 13 February 1814, and she almost forced the capture of the Romulus 74 on the latter occasion, being thwarted by the excellent seamanship of the French captain. As a result of this action the Boyne lost two men killed and forty wounded, and she had to sail for Mahon to undergo repairs. In April she was present at the capture of Genoa, and Burlton had the honour of delivering the King of Sardinia to that port in early May.

On 4 June 1814 Burlton was promoted rear-admiral, and on 17 August the Boyne arrived at Portsmouth after a nineteen-day passage from Mahon, whereupon he left her. Shortly afterwards, he was appointed the commander-in-chief of the East Indies station following the death of Vice-Admiral Sir Samuel Hood. After hoisting his flag on 13 October at Portsmouth aboard the Cornwallis 74, Captain John Bayley, his departure was delayed until 18 January 1815, which was just a few days after he had been created a K.C.B. Whilst on passage for the Indies, his flagship fell in with the American brigs Peacock 18 and Hornet 18 on 27 April, but after a two-day chase of the latter, and despite some excellent gunnery, the Cornwallis failed to run her down. Had the capture been effected, it would have at least earned the Navy some recompense for the American brigs’ earlier defeat of the Penguin 16, Commander James Dickinson, off Tristan da Cunha on 23 March.

By July 1815 Burlton had arrived at Madras, but he died on 21 September following a short illness from which he had appeared likely to recover. Curiously, he passed away in the very same room as his predecessors, Vice-Admirals William O’Brien Drury and Sir Samuel Hood.

Burlton appears to have been unmarried, but he had taken his sister and her husband, who also acted as his secretary, out to India, together with the couple’s three daughters. The family returned home aboard the Doris 36, Captain John Harper, which delivered news of Burlton’s death to England.