Sir Hyde Parker 5th Baronet

1714-82. He was born at Tredington, Worcestershire, on 1 February 1714, the youngest son of the Reverend Hyde Parker, rector of that village, and of his wife Mary Reeves. He was the father of Admiral Sir Hyde Parker, and the grandfather of Vice-Admiral Hyde Parker.

Parker initially served in the merchant service and did not join the navy until the age of twenty-four. He was employed as an able seaman and later as a masters’ mate in Commodore George Anson’s expedition that circumnavigated the globe between 1740-4, serving firstly aboard the Pearl 40 and Gloucester 50, both commanded by Captain Matthew Mitchell, and later the pennant ship Centurion 50.

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Admiral Sir Hyde Parker, ‘Old Vinegar’.

On 16 January 1745 he was commissioned lieutenant of the Harwich 50, Captain Philip Carteret, sailing out to the East Indies. He held various appointments on that station, including aboard the Preston 50, Captain the Earl of Northesk, and Princess Mary 60, Captain Thomas Griffin, which ship flew the flag of that officer’s father, Rear-Admiral Thomas Griffin. On 24 March 1748 Parker was appointed captain of the Lively 20, and he returned with her to England in the summer of the following year.

In November 1751 Parker commanded the Vanguard 70 on harbour duties before going out to Minorca with troops in the spring of 1752 and being paid off at Plymouth that November. During 1753 he was engaged in fishery protection with the new sloop Cruiser 8, being also sent to search for smugglers on the Kentish coast, and in April 1755 he sailed from the Downs to join the fleet at Spithead before returning to the former station..

In the autumn of 1755 he joined the new Woolwich-built Squirrel 20 in which, during the following year, he was sent to negotiate the release of some Christian slaves from Morocco. Famously he incurred the wrath of the ‘emperor’ for turning up in court with dirty boots. He afterwards served in the North Sea and in the Elbe, preventing the delivery of forage to the French Army by intercepting and setting it alight it at Emden. He also captured the 30,000 guinea Amerique from St. Domingo, and the privateer Très Vénèrable on 19 October.

In October 1757 Parker commissioned the new Plymouth-built Brilliant 36, a vessel in which he would capture a host of enemy ships. His first major prize, in company with the Coventry 28, Captain Carr Scrope, was the privateer Dragon 24, and after sinking the Intrépide 14 off Bayonne he captured the Granville-based Nymphe 20 and the Dunkirk-based Vengeur 12, both of which vessels he took into Plymouth during April 1758. He participated in Commodore Lord Howe’s operations against the French coast during the remainder of the year and continued his prize-taking in 1759 with the capture of the Dunkirk-based Marquis de Barail 14 on 3 April, which he sent in to Kinsale, and the Bayonne-based privateer Basque 22 on 17 April in the Western Approaches, which was sent in to Plymouth. He thereafter assisted Rear-Admiral George Brydges Rodney in the assault on Le Havre during July.

Following his commissioning of the Norfolk 74 in November 1759, Parker sailed to the East Indies in January 1760, and in the summer exchanged into the Grafton 68 when the Norfolk was taken as his flagship by Rear-Admiral Charles Stevens. He served at the reduction of Pondicherry on 15 January 1761 and that of Manila in the autumn of 1762. In command of the Panther 60, he was despatched with the Argo 28, Captain Richard King, to seek out a Spanish treasure ship, the Saint Phillipina, bound from Acapulco to Manila, but failing to find her the two captains had the immense good fortune to fall in with another enemy instead on 31 October. This vessel proved to be the galleon Santisima Trinidad, bound from Cavite in the Philippines for Acapulco, and manned by over seven hundred crew. The Spaniard was able to see off the initial attack by the Argo, but then the Panther was able to get up and after battering her opponent’s thick wooden sides somewhat ineffectively at short range for two hours she was able to inflict enough damage on the Santisima Trinidad’s upper works to secure her surrender. The galleon proved to be so well laden that her capture earned Parker 30,000 guineas in prize money alone.

After leaving the Panther Parker returned to England in 1764, and he remained unemployed for the next dozen years until appointed to commission the new Invincible 74 in November 1776, in which he sailed from Chatham at the end of February 1777 and raised a commodore’s broad pennant in the Downs. During the summer he cruised between Ushant and Cape Finisterre, and towards the end of August sailed with a convoy of forty merchantmen for Gibraltar. After returning home the Invincible entered Portsmouth for repairs in January 1778.

On 23 January 1778 Parker was promoted rear-admiral, taking Captain Charles Middleton’s Royal Oak 74 as his flagship, and with Henry Francis Evans as his flag-captain. Commanding a division that was detached from the Channel fleet at Portsmouth during the Kings review of the fleet in May, he eventually sailed from Plymouth for New York on 9 June as second-in-command of Vice-Admiral Hon. John Byron’s fleet which had been despatched to meet the threat posed by the sailing of the Comte d’Estaing’s Toulon expedition. When the fleet parted company in mid-ocean following a violent storm Parker managed to get into New York with six sail of the line on 29 August. Following the force’s reunification he sailed to the West Indies with Byron, but in the Battle of Grenada on 6 July 1779 his commander’s poor tactics meant that Parker’s new flagship, the Conqueror 74, Captain Harry Harmood, together with the rest of his division, was barely engaged.

Following his elevation to the position of commander in chief of the Leeward Islands on the return home of Byron and the wounded Vice-Admiral Hon. Samuel Barrington in August, Parker transferred to the Princess Royal 90, retaining Captain Harmood as his flag-captain. This position earned him a great deal more prize money through the good fortune of his cruisers. He also had the responsibility of watching the French fleet at Martinique from his base at St Lucia. On 18 December 1779 elements of his force dashed out of Gros Islet Bay and attacked a convoy of twenty-six French ships, capturing or destroying all but seven which were rescued by Admiral La Motte-Picquet coming out of Fort Royal, Martinique. Early the following year he followed the French admiral who had sailed to Cape François to escort a convoy with seven sail of the line, and he blockaded the French in the Basseterre Roads, Guadeloupe.

Upon hearing of the imminent arrival of the Comte De Guichen’s fleet Parker returned to St Lucia where he was superseded on 27 March by Admiral Sir George Rodney, who brought four sail of the line to join Parker’s sixteen. . Typically, Rodney informed all and sundry that on his assumption of the chief command Parker provided him with a less than thorough appreciation of the state of affairs on the station. At the subsequent Battle of Martinique on 17 April 1780 Parker commanded the van but was one of many officers who failed to understand Rodney’s intentions, thereby causing an unsuccessful engagement. This resulted in the commander-in-chief’s censure of his subordinate admiral. After participating in the remainder of the Leeward Islands campaign from May to July Parker returned to England with a convoy in the latter month, flying his flag aboard the Medway 60, Captain Harmood, and arriving in Plymouth Sound on 29 August. Although simmering at his rebuke from Rodney he was dissuaded from making any complaint.

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The Battle of the Doggersbank 1781

On 26 September 1780 he was promoted vice-admiral, and in March 1781 was appointed to the command of the North Sea station with four sail of the line and a 50-gun vessel, some of which were in poor repair. From 20 March his flag was aboard the Victory 100, Captains Samuel Clayton and John Howarth, and on 31 May he transferred to the Fortitude 74, Captain George Robertson.

After departing Leith with the Baltic trade of five hundred sail at the end of June, and having been joined by Commodore Keith Stewart with the Berwick 74 and two frigates, he was nearing home with two hundred sail on 5 August 1781 when he met a Dutch fleet of an equal force off the Doggersbank under the command of Rear-Admiral Johan Arnold Zoutman. The battle that followed was extremely fierce and fought on traditional terms with the two fleets engaging in parallel lines. No result transpired, but Parker nevertheless felt he should have deserved to gain a victory, and he castigated the first lord of the Admiralty, Lord Sandwich, for failing to provide him with the effective ships that would have won the engagement. He went so far as to claim that he was a victim of treachery and falsehood, and even remained dissatisfied and resentful after the King himself made a state visit to his fleet. Indeed, Parker barely treated the King with civility, persisted with his intention to resign, and refused a knighthood. As a result a prospective appointment to succeed Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Hughes in the East Indies command, as reported in November, was not made.

At the beginning of April 1782 the installation of a new government did approve Parker’s appointment as commander-in-chief in the East Indies with the initial intention that he would hoist his flag aboard the Bristol 50. He succeeded to the family baronetcy on the death of his brother on 10 July, and after sailing in October with his flag aboard the brand new Cato 60, Captain James Clark, he reached Rio de Janeiro on 12 December. Subsequent to leaving that port the Cato was never seen again, and in all probability she caught fire and foundered at sea off the Malabar Coast. A number of contrary theories as to her fate surfaced, including one that was presented to the Admiralty in 1791 by a Captain Burn in the service of the Nabob of Arcot, who stated that whilst at Mecca in 1790 he had seen a Malay vessel rigged out with various stores from the Cato, and that further enquiries revealed that she had been wrecked on the Malabar Coast and all her men slaughtered

Parker married Sarah Smithson of Northumberland in 1734 and had two sons, Harry and Hyde. He also claimed to have adopted the son of the late Captain John Macartney of the Princess Amelia 80, who had been killed at the Battle of the Doggesrsbank.

He was strict and a brave officer who did not possess any great skill or imagination, was disdainful of ornamentation, and was known as ‘Old Vinegar’ because of his vitriolic temper. Politically he despised the Lord North government and the first lord of the Admiralty, Lord Sandwich. He suffered for many years from asthma and preferred to serve in warmer climates as a consequence.