Sir John Borlase Warren
1753-1822. He was born on 2 September 1753 at Stapleford in Nottinghamshire, the fourth son of a wealthy gentleman, John Borlase Warren, and of his wife, Bridget Rosell of Radcliffe-on-Trent.
Warren received an education at Bicester and Winchester, and having been destined for the church he entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1769 and studied there for two years. It was only when the untimely death of all his elder brothers led him to reconsider his future that he decided upon a career at sea.
On 24 April 1771 he joined the Medway guardship Marlborough 74, Captain Richard Bickerton, as an able seaman, but in 1772 he was struck off the books as an apparent deserter, although the likely reason for his absence was that he was still studying. On 14 February the entry was amended on the orders of the Navy Board, and he was sent to the sloop Alderney, Captain James O’Hara, which was engaged in the preventative service and fishery protection off the east coast whilst stationed at Yarmouth and in the Shetlands. On 9 April 1772 he was rated midshipman, and he nominally continued his service with the Alderney, although at the same time he was able to pursue his studies at Cambridge where in 1773 he achieved his B.A.
Upon being discharged from the Alderney, Warren was elected the M.P. for Great Marlow at the head of the poll at the general election in October 1774, and this was a seat he was to hold for the next ten years. On 1 June 1775 he kissed hands with the King at St. James’ Palace upon being created a baronet as the lineal descendant of the ancient baronetcies of the Warren and Borlase families, and in March 1776 it was reported that he would leave parliament if he were successful in his bid to inherit the dormant title of the Earl of Kent. This bid evidently failed. In the meantime, he was admitted to the degree off an M.A at Cambridge on 11 May. Enjoying his inherited wealth, he purchased Lundy Island and a yacht in which he cruised the Bristol Channel for his own pleasure, but although his status and political clout should have been enough to see him promoted in the Navy, the first lord of the admiralty, Lord Sandwich, could not prevail upon himself to break the rules in Warren’s favour and he therefore remained a midshipman, albeit a considerably influential and wealthy one.
Once the possibility of war arose with France because of its support of the rebellious American colonies, Warren sold his yacht and joined the frigate Venus 36, Captain William Peere Williams, going out to North America in the autumn of 1777, and moving on to the crack frigate Apollo 32, Captain Philemon Pownoll, in December. After being promoted fourth lieutenant on 19 July 1778 of the Nonsuch 64, Captain Walter Griffith, he returned to England, and in March 1779 he was appointed the first lieutenant of the Victory 100, Captain Henry Collins, flying the flag of Admiral Sir Charles Hardy in the Channel.
On 5 August 1779 he was promoted commander of the recently captured French sloop Helena 14 after she had been taken by the Grand Fleet, and with this vessel he served at the relief of Guernsey in September before arriving at Portsmouth in early October. This appointment appears to have been a mere steppingstone to advance his career, for he left the Helena in February 1780, and during August of that year was reported as a ‘fashionable arrival’ at Bath, prior to his marriage in December.
In February 1781 Warren was appointed to the sloop Merlin 18, in which joined the squadron in the Downs before going out on a cruise, and on 25 April he was posted captain to the frigate Ariadne 20. So as to be both near his new wife and the House of Commons where he was a supporter of Lord North’s government, he was able to obtain a relief captain to fit out his ship, and he was thereafter able to enjoy cruises in the Downs and the North Sea. During June the Merlin sought refuge in the Humber after being chased by a two-decked Dutch man-of-war off Flamborough Head, and by the end of the month she was back in the Downs. In July she collected a convoy from Guernsey before returning to the Downs, and on 1 October she fought an inconclusive fifty-minute action with the St. Malo privateer Aigle 38 off Calais after pursuing her for six hours through the day. Warren appears to have left the Ariadne on 30 November, and he then deserted the North administration when it failed to provide him with the plum command that he believed his influence warranted.
With the change of government in March 1782, Warren was appointed to the frigate Winchelsea 32, and he captured the Dutch privateer Amazoone 18 after a nine-hour chase in the North Sea on 30 June, carrying her into the Yarmouth Roads. On 10 July he sent home reports that the Dutch fleet was off the Helder, and he captured the Dunkirk privateer Royale 5 on 20 July in the North Sea after a daylong chase, much of which had been under the tow of his boats. He also took the Dunkirk privateer Caprice 2 two days later, which vessel was taken into the Downs, whilst during the same period two East Indies-bound storeships were captured from the Dutch and sent into the Humber. In September the Winchelsea departed for Newfoundland from where she sailed with dispatches at the beginning of October to arrive at Portsmouth at the end of the month. Thereupon giving up the command, Warren went straight up to the Admiralty before commencing a long period ‘on the beach’.
In 1784 he decided not to seek re-election for the seat of Great Marlow, but he continued to enjoy the most prominent connections, as illustrated in 1787 when he was appointed a groom of the bedchamber to the Duke of Clarence, this being a position he retained until his death. During the same year he served as a volunteer with Captain Hon. George Berkeley aboard the Magnificent 74 in Commodore John Leveson-Gower’s squadron of observation, and in February 1788 he was the chairman of a meeting in Mansfield which deemed the slave trade to be ‘disgraceful’ and ‘at odds with the tenets of liberty, justice, and humanity’, and which called for its abolition. In June 1789, he witnessed the launching of an experimental copper vessel at Deptford, and two months later he attended a banquet at the Mansion House for the Prince of Wales. This period of peace also saw him publish a work entitled ‘A view of the Naval Force of Great Britain’, whilst during the Spanish Armament in 1790 he served as a volunteer under Clarence aboard the Valiant 74.
Upon the outbreak of hostilities with France in February 1793, Warren was appointed to the eighteen-pounder frigate Flora 36, and on 20 March he raised the flag of Rear-Admiral John MacBride in the Downs and continued to fly it until sailing out on the last day of the month with a convoy. Within days he captured the lug-sail privateer Republique Francoise 4 off Dungeness, which prize he took into Portsmouth on 4 April, and joining Vice-Admiral Phillips Cosby’s squadron which was destined for the Mediterranean, he sailed from the Hampshire port a fortnight later before returning on 21 April with two homeward-bound East Indiamen. He subsequently arrived at Lisbon with a convoy on 11 May in the company of the Inconstant 36, Captain Augustus Montgomery, and the two frigates briefly cruised off the Iberian Peninsula, taking several prizes including the privateer Affamée and the Phoenix 12, which was carried into Gibraltar. Sailing in due course for England with the Portugal convoy of sixty sail, the Flora fell in with the homeward-bound West Indies fleet and arrived in the Downs on 4 September with some two hundred sail.
At the beginning of November, Warren sailed from Portsmouth for Guernsey to collect a convoy which was delivered to Lymington on the 7th, and after returning to the Channel Islands he learned of a French Royalist uprising at St. Malo and sailed for that town to offer assistance. At the end of November, he hoisted MacBride’s flag once more at Portsmouth when the rear-admiral assumed command of a squadron to support the Army in operations with the Royalists, and taking a number of senior officers aboard the Flora they sailed for the Channel Islands at the end of the first week of December. With the troops being temporarily held at Guernsey, the Flora cruised along the coasts of Normandy and Brittany to ascertain whether the royalists were in control, but finding that not to be the case, and with the shipping being driven from its anchorage in Guernsey by a gale, the expedition returned to Portsmouth on 17 December via the Needles. On 27 December, whilst still flying MacBride’s flag, the Flora left Stokes Bay for Cowes from where she was to escort troops to the Continent; however, she remained inactive off the Isle of Wight for the next month until MacBride shifted his flag into the Cumberland 74 towards the end of January 1794, thereby allowing Warren to embark on a cruise on the French coast.
Once at sea, Warren captured the Vipère 18 off Le Havre on 23 January, and he also sent home reports of the French strength at that port and Cherbourg. In mid-February, he joined MacBride’s squadron on a cruise off the French coast, whilst in March Captain Lawrence Halsted temporarily took command of the Flora when Warren attended to parliamentary business in London. Once back on naval duty, Warren was appointed the commodore of a frigate squadron, and this force captured the magnificent French frigate Pomone 44 as well as another frigate, the Engageante 38, and the corvette Babet 22 off Isle Bas on 23 April, a feat for which he was invested with the K.B. on 30 May. During June the Flora captured the privateers Phoenix 12 and République Française 16, but when in company with her consorts, the Arethusa 38, Captain Sir Edward Pellew, and Melampus 36, Captain Sir Richard Strachan, she was lucky to escape from a squadron comprising the Tigre 74, Jean Bart 74, Zélé 74 and several frigates, when they fell in with the homeward bound French convoy from America in the Bay of Biscay on 26 June, the enemy frigates reportedly passing within musket shot of the British but preferring not to fire.
Having entered Portsmouth on 1 July 1794, Warren’s squadron was soon back at sea, although at the end of July it was reported to have fled for Falmouth under pursuit by a dozen French frigates. Putting out again on 7 August, the squadron attacked another French force sixteen days later near the Penmarks consisting of the 36-gun frigate Volontaire and two corvettes, the Alerte 12 and Espion 18. The first two vessels were destroyed, but the latter was successfully re-floated by the French after she had been driven aground and Warren had refused to burn her when the wounded could not be removed. The British squadron were then back at Falmouth by the end of the month.
On 8 September 1794 Warren with his officers and men removed from the Flora to the Pomone, but he did not immediately put to sea, for on the 18th he attended a meeting of the Board of Admiralty in London with MacBride. On 12 November he sailed from Falmouth with his squadron for the French coast, and having visited Cork the Pomone was back at Plymouth by early December. With reports indicating that the Brest Fleet was at sea, the Pomone, Arethusa 38, Captain Sir Edward Pellew, and Diamond 38, Captain Sir William Sidney Smith, sailed from Falmouth on 2 January 1795 to investigate, and this deployment resulted in the charismatic Smith famously entering the Brest Roads and engaging a French vessel in conversation on 3 January. The squadron was back at Falmouth four days later prior to putting out in search, it was understood, of any homeward-bound Dutch vessels following the decision to place shipping from the Netherlands under an embargo.
On 12 February 1795 the squadron consisting of four frigates and a lugger put to sea again, and on the 21st, having been bolstered by the arrival of two more frigates, a French frigate and two corvettes in escort of a convoy of some one hundred and fifty sail bound from Bordeaux to Nantes was discovered close into the coast near Isle de Oléron. Some twenty of the merchant vessels were captured, of which nine were sent in as prizes and the remainder destroyed. The Pomone returned to Cawsand Bay, Plymouth, on 2 March, and once back at sea she took the French corvette Jean Bart 24 on 16 April, which had been but a day out of Rochefort. The squadron subsequently fell in with another French convoy off Belleisle with reports stating that two dozen vessels were captured and up to a dozen destroyed, and it returned to Plymouth with several of the prizes on 26 April. Warren was rewarded for his successes against the French commerce by the presentation of a hundred guinea sword from the London Association for Encouraging the Capture of Enemy Ships of War, and thereafter the excitement continued into May when nine brigs and two armed brigs were taken by his squadron consisting of five frigates in an attack on a Brest-bound convoy under the protection of a shore battery.
In early June 1795 Warren was ordered to command the naval arrangements in support of the French Royalist rising in the Vendée, and after sailing from Plymouth for Cowes with his squadron to embark emigree troops, he also assumed command of several sail of the line. Having detached three of the latter ships to assist Admiral Lord Bridport in his attack upon the French fleet at the Battle of Lorient on 23 June, the troops were landed in Quiberon Bay four days later, and remaining in the vicinity, Warren’s squadron destroyed several Republican batteries in the face of fierce resistance. A month later he embarked the remnants of the defeated army and local populace to land them on the islands of Hoëdic, Houat and Dieu, which he had captured for that purpose. He continued to patrol Quiberon Bay in support of the Royalists in the Vendée, but despite a morale-boosting visit from the Comte d’Artois, to whom he gave a grand dinner, and the arrival of four thousand British troops in October, the campaign was eventually abandoned, and the Royalists transported to England. In the meantime, on 15 October, the Pomone had joined in the chase of several French men-of-war by Rear-Admiral Henry Harvey’s squadron, and upon falling in with an enemy sail of the line and a corvette brig off Rochefort, the Pomone managed to capture the latter, this being the Evielle 18.
In the first week of January 1796, Warren attended a small levee with the King at St. James’ Palace, and it appears that he remained ashore over some weeks, for in February Captain Thomas Eyles acted for him in command of the Pomone. On 3 March he resumed command of his squadron at Falmouth, and he sailed with three other frigates on a short cruise. He put to sea again on 15 March for the French coast, and five days later his squadron consisting of the Pomone, Anson 44, Captain Phillip Durham, Galatea 32, Captain Richard Keats, and Artois 38, Captain Sir Edmund Nagle, came upon a French convoy off the Saintes which was under the escort of a French force of four frigates. After capturing several vessels from the convoy, Warren tried to force an action with the men-of-war off the Pointe du Raz, but despite engaging on opposite tacks and attempting to break the enemy line he was unable to prevent the French retreating inshore and had to be content with the mere capture of the Etoile 24, which he took into Falmouth on the 25th. Regarding this particular action, Warren would later be criticised for apparently over-emphasising the strength of the enemy.
On 7 April 1796 the squadron pursued another convoy through the straits between the Saintes and the French coast, but although the boats boarded five vessels laden with corn and flour the escorting brig escaped. Further prizes rolled into Falmouth throughout the early summer, and at the end of June Warren was received at court once more by the King. Back at sea, he ran in towards Brest to destroy the marker buoys before returning to Falmouth in the first days of August, and on the 9th his four frigates departed on another cruise, resulting in the squadron making its most significant capture of the year when it took the French frigate Andromaque 36 on 24 August, primarily due to the efforts of the Galatea 32, Captain Richard Keats, and the Sylph 18, Captain John Chambers White. A number of prizes were also taken off the Garonne during this period, and on 5 November the prolific French privateer Franklyn 12 arrived at Falmouth under a prize crew, having been captured off Brest. During December the squadron was cruising off Rochefort prior to sailing south for the Spanish coast, and by the end of the year Warren’s force had accounted for thirty-seven armed French vessels and one hundred and eighty other sail.
On 24 January 1797 the squadron consisting of five frigates and a sloop put to sea on a cruise from Plymouth, and prior to 7 March they captured or destroyed six French and Spanish merchantmen. Warren’s force was at sea when the Spithead mutiny broke out on 16 April, and although his urgent dispatches to the Admiralty regarding the activity of the Brest fleet in May resulted in the issuing of orders for Admiral Lord Bridport’s Channel Fleet to sail, the rebellious men at Spithead refused to comply. He then found his own squadron ordered into Plymouth by mutinous factions amongst his men, and in addition to Warren having his property stolen, one of his captains, Richard Keats of the Galatea, was turned out of his ship.
Returning to sea at the end of the mutiny, the squadron took eight vessels out of a convoy bound for Brest from Nantes on 17 July, sending the prizes into Falmouth, and in the same engagement it drove the frigate Calliope 28 onto the Penmarks and destroyed two further vessels. Early in August Warren’s death was erroneously reported in several newspapers amidst fallacious tales of an engagement which had seen a French ship of the line captured. On 11 August a convoy with several small attendant men-of-war was spotted off Rochefort and chased into the Sables D’Olonne where a corvette was run aground, and a gunboat sunk despite the presence of a shore battery firing red-hot shot. Another five enemy vessels were captured sixteen days later off the mouth of the Garonne, and a fine 20-gun cutter, the Petit Diable, was driven into the surf and destroyed by the Pomone.
Warren’s long and profitable frigate career came to an end at the beginning of October 1797 when it was announced that he had been appointed to the Canada 74, attached to the Channel fleet. On 11 November he was elected to parliament as the member for Nottingham, but whilst being borne aloft through the town he was attacked by a party of so-called Jacobins and his chair was smashed to pieces. He finally raised his pennant aboard the Canada at Plymouth in early December where the ship had been refitting, and despite earlier suggestions that the commander-in-chief of the Channel Fleet, Admiral Lord Bridport, had resented the deployment of independent commands on his station, it was announced that Warren would continue to lead his own squadron off the French coast.
During January 1798 Warren’s squadron was in Plymouth Sound, and by February it was back off the French coast where within the Isle Dieu on 8 March it took a dozen vessels out of a convoy bound for Brest from Rochefort. Five days later he sent his boats into the Basque Roads to capture another nine vessels, but the Canada suffered a scare when she drove aground off the Gironde when in chase of the French frigate Charente 36 on 22 March in the company of the Phaeton 38, Captain Hon. Robert Stopford, and Anson 44, Captain Phillip Durham. Having been re-floated but still taking on water, she reached Plymouth on 29 March and was taken into dock. Here an unfortunate incident occurred on 4 April when a boat which had been dispatched from the Canada to assist the grounded frigate Pallas 32, Captain Hon. Henry Curzon, overset in Cawsand Bay with the loss of an acting-lieutenant and three seamen.
On 28 May 1798 the Canada sailed from Torbay with the Channel Fleet, and on 9 June she was one of several vessels that chased three sail of the line and two frigates into the Bertheaume Roads but were recalled by Lord Bridport, having exchanged fire with the stern-most of the enemy. Shortly afterwards she was swept by an abnormally huge wave that tore over the forecastle and killed two men, this remarkable incident occurring when the sea had been a millpond and no other ship had been affected. She returned to Plymouth with Vice-Admiral Sir Alan Gardner’s squadron to re-victual on 7 July before putting out again on the 24th, and she was still with Gardner’s squadron when it anchored in Cawsand Bay on 12 September.
On 23 September 1798, pursuant to reports that a division of the French fleet had left Brest, Warren sailed from Plymouth to seek out the enemy with three sail of the line, being later joined by five frigates. On 12 October at the Battle of Tory Island, he intercepted and defeated the French force of one sail of the line and nine frigates off Ireland, his squadron capturing the Hoche 74 and three frigates in the engagement. Three of the other French frigates were subsequently captured by his own squadron or other vessels which joined the chase over the next few days. Although the Canada did not get into the action, Warren’s conduct was praised by both the British and Irish parliaments, and gold medals were struck for him and for his captains. By early November he was back at Plymouth where he remained into the new year. Regrettably, his victory over the French was tarnished by a dispute between Lord Bridport and the commander-in-chief of the Irish station, Vice-Admiral Robert Kingsmill, regarding the eighth of prize-money due to Warren’s superior, whilst Warren himself would later be criticised for failing to concentrate his forces in the chase of the French.
On 14 February 1799 he was promoted rear-admiral when the list of advanced post captains was extended to include him, and there followed a short period of unemployment during which he enrolled himself in the Nottingham Volunteer Cavalry and Infantry, taking his place as a sergeant at a field day towards the end of April.
At the end of June 1799, it was announced that Warren was to raise his flag at Portsmouth aboard the newly commissioned Téméraire 98, Captain Thomas Eyles, and arriving at Plymouth in early August he sailed for Torbay with several other vessels to join the Channel fleet. During September he was detached by Bridport in pursuit of a Spanish squadron, but as that force held the weather gauge it was able to reach Lorient safely. Towards the end of the month, he was left in command off Ushant with half a dozen sail of the line when Bridport sailed for Torbay, and he in turn sailed for that anchorage in early October.
In early December 1799, Warren transferred to the new Renown 74 with Captain Eyles, sailing that month from Plymouth to Torbay to join the Channel Fleet. His flagship arrived at Portsmouth from the French coast on 10 April 1800, and going up to London he attended a banquet later that month with the Duke of Clarence and members of the French royal family. During this period his desire for a sabbatical to attend to his constituency interests drew complaints from the new commander-in-chief of the Channel Fleet, Admiral the Earl of St. Vincent, who thought Warren incapable of staying at sea for any great length of time. In early June he sailed to rejoin the fleet, and later that month was off the Penmarks. At the end of the month, reports from the Paris newspapers claimed that Warren’s son was being held as a prisoner on the island of Noirmoutier where several landings had been attempted by British forces, and that Warren was attempting to arrange a prisoner exchange; however, it is not clear whether these accounts were accurate
From August 1800 he commanded a detached squadron formed from part of Commodore Sir Edward Pellew’s force which during June had been despatched to Quiberon Bay in support of a Royalist uprising in the Morbihan, but he was unable to fulfil his orders to destroy six Spanish sail of the line at Ferrol due to the miserable efforts of the Army commander, Lieutenant-General Sir James Pulteney, who withdrew nine thousand men despite having taken the heights above the harbour. His squadron arrived back at Plymouth on 10 October, and early in the following month it was reported that he had reached London and taken up residence with his wife in Somerset Street.
At the end of November 1800, Warren and the Renown sailed for the Mediterranean to join Vice-Admiral Lord Keith, and in January 1801 he was cruising off Cadiz in the expectation of capturing Spanish galleons; however, his four sail of the line and four frigates had unfortunately departed to join the pursuit of Rear-Admiral Honoré Ganteaume’s Brest fleet in early February when a rich ship from Vera Cruz got in to the Spanish port. Arriving at Port Mahon on 18 January, Warren afterwards joined Lord Keith off Cadiz, but a planned attack on the city was abandoned because a plague was raging ashore. During the Egyptian campaign which opened on 8 March he commanded the fleet in the western Mediterranean with his flag still aboard the Renown, but with his flag captain being John Chambers White. That month his five sail of the line came close to bringing Ganteaume’s seven sail of the line to action. Having lost them during the night, he sailed for Egypt in the expectation that they had proceeded there, and on arrival he heard the calamitous news of the death of his only son, a captain in the Guards, during the campaign ashore. Returning to the western Mediterranean, Warren raised the French blockade of Elba on 1 August and then returned to the island with troops on 12 September, although these were withdrawn ten days later. Suffering from ill-health and from grief at the loss of his son, Warren arrived at Portsmouth on 1 December following a two-week passage from Gibraltar aboard the Minerve 38, Captain George Cockburn, and after a visit to the Admiralty he retired to his home near Nottingham to comfort his wife.
On 11 September 1802 Warren joined the Privy Council, and at the end of June it was announced that he was to be despatched to St. Petersburg as an ambassador-extraordinary in a goodwill gesture to the new Czar, Alexander I, who had specifically requested a naval officer for the post. Taking leave of the King at the beginning of September, Warren arrived at Sheerness on the 16th with his suite to embark aboard the Clyde 38, Captain John Larmour, and immediately put to sea. Eight days later he was off Elsinore, and he reached Cronstadt on 4 October. Amidst many complaints about his low salary, and with his half-pay barely covering his gambling debts, he was eventually recalled from a position for which his many talents were misplaced. Returning to Harwich on 5 December 1804 aboard the brig Charger, having earlier been collected from Russia by the Amethyst 36, Captain John William Spranger, he went down to London seeking and expecting a peerage, but applications to prime minister William Pitt and the King proved fruitless, leading him to undertake a realignment of his political affiliations.
In the early part of 1805, Warren was to hold several conferences in London to which the Russian ambassador was an attendee, and he also sat in parliament throughout the year. Unhappily, suggestions that he might command an expeditionary force proved to be unfounded. He was promoted vice-admiral on 9 November 1805, and he was further honoured by being granted permission to wear the Insignia of the Order of the Crescent, which had been presented to him by the Ottoman Empire.
On 12 January 1806 he resumed his naval career when he sailed from Portsmouth with his flag aboard the Foudroyant 80, Captain John Chambers White, in command of a squadron of seven sail of the line that was sent in chase of two flying French squadrons from Brest commanded by Vice-Admiral Corentin Urbain Leissègues and Rear-Admiral Jean Baptiste Philibert Willaumez. During the hunt for the enemy, Warren visited Madeira in February, and on 13 March to the southwest of the Canary Islands he had the good fortune to capture Rear-Admiral Durand Linois’ Marengo 74, and the frigate Belle Poule 40, which vessels were homeward-bound from the East Indies. By then Leissègues’ squadron had been defeated at the Battle of San Domingo, yet Warren’s return to England having failed to intercept Willaumez’ squadron attracted some criticism, and along with a poor reception at the Admiralty it was suggested by some that he was more interested in prize money than the good of the country. On 4 June his squadron set off again in search of Willaumez, by the 19th he was off Madeira, and he then proceeded to the West Indies, reaching Tortola in mid-July before sailing north to Newfoundland in August. The orders to intercept Willaumez were negated when that officer’s force was rendered impotent by a hurricane on 18 August, and on 30 October Warren’s complete squadron reached Cawsand Bay, having endured a month’s passage from North America, and having failed to encounter a single French flag on its cruise. Upon arriving home, he travelled up to London where he was presented to the King once more at a private levee.
On 4 March 1807 he attended a chapter of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath with the King, and on 23 March he was elected the M.P. for Buckingham, although this was a seat he only retained until parliament was dissolved on 29 April. After a further period ashore, he was presented to the King on 14 October upon his appointment as the commander-in-chief in North America following the recall of Vice-Admiral Hon. George Berkeley as a consequence of the damaging Leopard-Chesapeake affair. Having left town with his family and servants in November, he returned briefly to London for another audience with the King before departing Plymouth in the first week of December aboard the Swiftsure 74, Captain John Conn. Despite the looming War of 1812 with the former colonies, Warren’s tenure was an uneventful one, with winters spent at Bermuda and the summer season at Halifax. On 4 May 1810 Conn reportedly slipped over the side and drowned when the Swiftsure was chasing a small French vessel off Bermuda, although there were some suggestions that his death was a suicide. Captain Charles Austen, the brother of the author Jane Austen, whose novels would become famous over the next decade, initially assumed the captaincy of the Swiftsure, and on 25 September the command passed to Captain Robert Lloyd. Warren’s period as commander-in-chief concluded with his return to Portsmouth from Bermuda on 21 February 1811 aboard the Swiftsure. In the meantime, he had become a full admiral on 31 July 1810.
On 14 August 1812, following the outbreak of the War of 1812, Warren sailed from Spithead to resume his position of commander-in-chief in North America at Halifax with his flag aboard the San Domingo 74, Captain Charles Gill, there being some expectation that his diplomatic powers would prevent an all-out war. Arriving at Nova Scotia on 26 September, he quickly sent out a proclamation summoning any British seamen in the American service to return to the colours with the promise that he would solicit a pardon from the Prince Regent for their disloyalty. Having been allowed some latitude for negotiation, reports reaching home indicated that he had also transmitted a ‘pacific proposal’ to the American government, but he was soon criticised for showing a lack of hostility to the old colonies, with demands to know why he held a pen in a hand that should have been waging war. Questions were also asked in Parliament as to why he had not enforced an early blockade of the American coast, and as to why he was idle at Halifax and not parading off Boston when British frigates were being captured by the enemy.
As was the norm, Warren managed his station from Bermuda during the winter of 1812-13, by which time the so called ‘chicanery’ of the American peace negotiators with regard to Russian offers of mediation had put paid to any hope of an end to hostilities. His subordinate, Rear-Admiral George Cockburn, was now unleashed on the Americans, being particularly aggressive in his Chesapeake campaign from March to August. By 20 April the San Domingo was off Annapolis in Chesapeake Bay, and on 26 May Warren issued a proclamation stating that the ports of New York, Charleston, Port Royal, Savannah, and the Mississippi were to be placed under a strict blockade. It has since been recognised that Warren was somewhat infirm and reduced by this time, as illustrated by his failure to do nothing more than simply dismiss rather than severely punish a group of French soldiers in British pay who had raped and plundered their way through Hampton Village.
By the end of September 1813 Warren had briefly returned to Halifax from the Chesapeake before he sailed south for Bermuda to over-winter. It was here that he was superseded by the more belligerent Vice-Admiral Hon. Sir Alexander Cochrane, and the San Domingo under the captaincy of his nephew, Samuel Pechell, returned to Portsmouth from the island with Warren’s flag on 21 May 1814.
On 2 January 1815 Warren was nominated a G.C.B. and although he no longer held a command at sea, he remained conspicuous in society, attending the funeral of Captain Sir Peter Parker in Westminster in May, visiting Bridlington to the generous acclaim of the inhabitants in August 1816, and dining with the Prince Regent and the Duke of Clarence at Brighton on Boxing Day that year. He chaired the bench of magistrates who dealt with the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire rioters in June 1817, and on 28 January 1818 he arrived at Dover from France prior to taking up residence with his wife at Mivart’s Hotel, the modern-day Claridges. Having visited the Duke of Clarence in July, he reciprocated the future King William IV’s hospitality with a grand dinner at his residence in Upper Grosvenor Street days later before attending the duke and his wife to Dover on the first leg of their journey to Germany. Returning to London, he held an audience with the Prince Regent, and with tensions rising once more with America over its seizure of Florida and the execution of two British subjects, there was some speculation that he would be ordered to take a strong squadron across the Atlantic to teach the old foe a lesson. Fortunately, the speculation remained just that, and he instead set off on a tour with his wife.
During the early spring of 1819 Warren and his wife were at Brighton, and after he had attended the Prince Regent with other luminaries, he set off on a summer tour. At the funeral of King George III in February 1820 he was given the honour of bearing the Duke of Clarence’s train, he officiated at the funeral of the duke’s daughter, Princess Elizabeth, in March 1821, and retiring to the country he attended the Moira Baths in Leicestershire during May. Nevertheless, despite rubbing shoulders with royalty and the rich and powerful, his many applications for the peerage that he felt his services deserved went unrewarded.
Sir John Warren died whilst visiting Vice-Admiral Sir Richard Keats at Greenwich on 27 February 1822, and he was buried at Stretton Audley in Oxfordshire.
On 12 December 1780 Warren married Caroline Clavering, a lady who was later described as ‘pretentious’, and who was the daughter of Lieutenant-General Sir John Clavering. The couple had issue three daughters and two sons, one of the latter dying in infancy in July 1791, and the other being killed in Egypt in 1801 whilst serving as a lieutenant in the guards. His youngest daughter, Diana, died in June 1802. The sole surviving child at his death was his elder daughter, Frances Maria, who married George, fourth Lord Vernon. Warren’s wife died in 1839. He was the uncle of Rear-Admiral Sir Samuel John Brooke Pechell, and his residence at Stratton Audley in Oxfordshire was described as a plantation in 1793.
Of medium height, handsome and aristocratic, Warren was urbane, had a good figure, was considered a man of rank and fashion, and a thorough gentleman. He was not a master of his trade, and it was said that he knew nothing of practical seamanship, but he was undoubtedly courageous and aggressive, if somewhat reserved. It was said of him that he kept his ship in a state of ‘the most admired disorder’. On one occasion he refused to confine French prisoners below decks when in chase of an enemy, with the consequence that they surreptitiously sliced through all the main-deck gun breechings. Admiral the Earl of St. Vincent felt that he sought command only to improve his wealth, and money was always of a paramount importance to him. His riches no doubt helped his career, as did his attachment to Lord Sandwich in the early years of his service, however, after deserting that first lord of the Admiralty he was subjected to a brusque invective, being labelled ‘a rat and an idiot’.