Sir William Hargood
1762-1839. He was born in Chatham on 6 May 1762, the youngest of nine children of Hezekiah Hargood, who had served as a purser in the navy and was at the time the clerk of the survey at Chatham. and of his wife, Mary Rosewell. His maternal uncle was Rear-Admiral Henry Rosewell.
In October 1773 Hargood’s name was entered into the books of the Medway guardship Triumph 74, Captain Maurice Suckling, who was succeeded by Captain Hon. George Falconer. Having briefly served with the latter officer aboard the Mars 74, fitting out at Woolwich, he moved in March 1775 to the Romney 50, Captain Hon George Keith Elphinstone, sailing for Newfoundland with the flag of Rear-Admiral Robert Duff .
In the winter of 1775 he joined the Bristol 50, flying the broad pennant of an old family friend, Commodore Sir Peter Parker, who had been appointed to a command in North America, and on 28 June 1776 he served under this officer in the unsuccessful attack on Charleston. He was present at the reduction of Long Island during the New York campaign which lasted from July-October, and removed with Parker into the Chatham 50 in early September, being present at the capture of Rhode Island on 8 December. After remaining at Rhode Island for the best part of a year he followed Parker back to the Bristol 50, Captain Tobias Caulfield, on 25 December 1777, going out to Jamaica where his patron had been appointed commander-in-chief. Here the Bristol enjoyed several profitable cruises, but on one occasion Hargood found himself the sole survivor of a shipwreck after a prize vessel was lost.
On 13 January 1780 he was appointed lieutenant of the sloop Port Royal 18, Commander Timothy Kelly, which a year later was surrendered to the Spanish after participating in the unsuccessful defence of Pensacola. Hargood was allowed to go to New York on parole on 4 July 1781, and having been released on exchange he returned to England and joined the Magnificent 74, Captain Robert Linzee, at Spithead in December. Departing for the West Indies in February 1782, she fought at the Battle of the Saintes on 12 April, and in the pursuit of the French in the Mona Passage with Rear-Admiral Sir Samuel Hood. At the signing of the peace terms in 1783 Hargood returned to England.
In May 1784 he joined the frigate Hebe 38, Captain Edwards Thornbrough, as her third lieutenant and began a lifetime’s friendship with a shipmate, Prince William, who upon being promoted commander of the Pegasus 28 requested Hargood to join him as a lieutenant. From 1788 to April 1789 he was the first lieutenant to the prince aboard the Andromeda 32 after the previous incumbent, Lieutenant Isaac Schomberg, had been removed from the vessel by Captain Horatio Nelson in the Leeward Islands as a result of several disputes with the young royal.
On 24 June 1789 Hargood was promoted commander, and in December he was appointed to the sloop Swallow 14, commanding her off Ireland. He was subsequently one of many officers posted captain on 22 November 1790 at the termination of the Spanish Armament.
In October 1791 he was appointed to the Hyaena 24, commissioning her for service at Jamaica whither he sailed in the following spring. Here he contacted yellow fever and was virtually given up for dead before making a miraculous recovery. Even so, his survival nearly proved to be but temporary, for on 24 January 1793 the Hyaena was carried into Fairy Hill Bay during a calm and heavy swell, and during the early hours of the next morning a rising wind threatened to cast her upon the lee shore. After firing signals of distress that attracted boats from a consort offshore it was only a change of wind in the late afternoon that allowed her to escape her perilous predicament.
During the first few months of the French Revolutionary War the Hyaena cruised off San Domingo with some success, taking eleven French prizes, but on 27 May 1793, whilst off Cape Tiburon, she became the first British loss of the war when she was captured by the French frigate Concord 40. Hargood had initially attempted to escape against a heavy swell, but with two enemy 74’s and three frigates in the vicinity he had little chance of flight, and after unleashing a cursory fire he struck his colours before it could be returned. The Hyaena’s officers and men were put ashore on parole at Cape François but immediately found themselves in the midst of an insurrection, and for their own safety they were re-embarked aboard the Concord and taken on parole as passengers to Jamaica. After being exchanged Hargood sat his court martial into the Hyaena’s loss at Plymouth on 11 October and was honourably acquitted.
On 13 April 1794 he was appointed to the frigate Iris 32 based in the North Sea, being primarily engaged in convoy duty to the Baltic, and in February 1795 he sailed with a convoy for Africa, being joined for the voyage down the Channel by a squadron under Vice-Admiral Sir Hyde Parker. After depositing the convoy on the Cape Coast on 6 April he set off back along the coast collecting freight. On 24 May off present day Sierra Leone he fell in with what he perceived to be a French squadron consisting of seven ships including one of 50 guns and two frigates, and he endeavoured without success to lure one of them down upon his command. Arriving back at Spithead on 27 June, he thereafter sailed to Quebec before returning with the trade in December. Following a refit he returned to the North Sea station.
In August 1796 Hargood was appointed to the Leopard 50 in which he undertook further convoy duty to the Baltic and captured the Dunkirk privateer Victorieux 4 off Scarborough on 18 February 1797. His command of this vessel proved to be of short duration, for four days after the general mutiny had reached the North fleet Sea on 27 May Hargood was put ashore by his previously compliant crew at Yarmouth, and although his officers retook the ship ten days later after she had sailed for the Nore he did not rejoin her. Instead he transferred in July to the Nassau 64, which was also serving in the North Sea fleet. Early in October this vessel had to return to Sheerness after being disabled in a violent storm, and she therefore had the ill-fortune to miss the Battle of Camperdown on 11 October. She remained thereafter in the Thames and at the Nore as a guardship.
On 23 February 1798 Hargood joined the Intrepid 64 in the Downs, and on 30 April he sailed with the China convoy of twelve ships, putting into Rio de Janeiro on 6 July and reaching Macao on 16 November before proceeding to deposit his charges at Anson’s Bay. On 21 January 1799, whilst awaiting a convoy at Macao with the Arrogant 74, Captain Edward Osborn, and Virginie 38, Captain George Astle, a Franco/Spanish squadron of two sail of the line, three frigates and a corvette appeared off the port but declined an engagement. The Intrepid then joined the East Indian fleet commanded by Vice-Admiral Peter Rainier, whose flag she often flew in 1801. Her duties included attending to convoy duty and transporting troops from Goa to Bombay in 1802 during the Mahratta War. Hargood’s worn-out command eventually left Madras on 8 October 1802, reaching the Cape on 3 December and sailing into Spithead on 14 February 1803, from where she went around to Chatham to be paid off on 5 April.
In November 1803 he was appointed to the Belleisle 74, employed in the Mediterranean fleet under the command of Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson, and which he joined on 18 March 1804 after taking passage in a frigate. He temporarily commanded the inshore squadron off Toulon in July when the bulk of the fleet was off the coast, and he played a small part in disturbing the French fleet’s sallies from May to August. During November the Belleisle and two frigates were ordered to detain a number of Spanish and Austrian ships off Cape Sebastien prior to the Spanish declaration of war on 14 December. She was then engaged in the chase of the Toulon fleet to the West Indies following its breakout of 29 March 1805, and following a brief refit at Plymouth she left that port on 23 September to rejoin the fleet off Cadiz on 10 October.
The Belleisle fought at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October where she seconded the Royal Sovereign in Vice-Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood’s line and found herself in the thick of the fight, losing thirty-three men killed and ninety-three wounded, and ending the engagement as a dismasted hulk, mostly due to the broadsides of the Fougueux 74. Two of her casualties were lieutenants, whilst Hargood himself was bruised in the neck and hip, yet he still found time to share a bunch of grapes on the quarter-deck with one of his subordinates. Following the battle, in which she took possession of the Argonauta 80, the hopelessly disabled Belleisle only survived the great storm through the efforts of the frigate Naiad 38, Captain Thomas Dundas. She sailed for England with the Victory on 4 November, and upon entering Plymouth for a refit she was paid off.
Once repairs had been completed and the Belleisle had been recommissioned by Lieutenant Josiah Thompson, Captain Hargood rejoined her and sailed on 8 May 1806 for the Channel fleet. Eleven days later she was detached with Rear-Admiral Sir Richard Strachan’s squadron in search of two escaped Brest squadrons. On the night of 18 August she survived a hurricane off Bermuda, and on the 14th of the following month, whilst in company with the Bellona 74, Captain John Erskine Douglas, and Melampus 36, Captain Stephen Poyntz, she discovered the jury-rigged Impétueux 74 off the Chesapeake, which vessel had been part of Rear-Admiral Willaumez’ squadron dispersed by the same storm. Hargood disregarded any possibility of infringing American neutrality and led an attack that saw the Frenchman driven ashore and burned by boats from the Melampus.
After returning to England in November, and following another refit at Portsmouth, Hargood took the Belleisle out to the Leeward Islands in January 1807 to join the flag of Rear-Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane. In July he exchanged into Cochrane’s flagship, the Northumberland 74, and returned to England with a convoy, arriving at Portsmouth on 30 September. As the Northumberland was considered to be in need of a lengthy repair her crew, bar the petty officers and marines, were discharged into the Neptune 80, Captain Sir Thomas Williams.
In April 1808 Hargood was awarded the honorary and lucrative rank of a colonel of marines but he rejected the similarly rewarding offer of the pay captain at Portsmouth and two commissionerships in order to continue his active career at sea. After the Northumberland was refitted and re-manned he sailed out in February 1808 to serve at the blockade of Cadiz under Rear-Admiral John Child Purvis before joining Vice-Admiral Lord Collingwood’s Mediterranean fleet in September. From May-September 1809 Hargood spent a fruitless and frustrating time in command of a small squadron in the Adriatic that was unable to achieve any of their objectives due to dismal luck with the elements and the defeat of Britain’s Austrian allies by France.
At the end of October 1809 he returned to Malta and thereafter served with the Mediterranean fleet, but by the following January his command was in such a poor state of repair that it was deemed necessary to return her to England. His service in the Mediterranean was not at an end however, for sailing in company with the similarly unseaworthy Hibernia 110, Captain Richard Dalling Dunn, he was ordered to take into protective British custody five Spanish sail of the line that were threatened in Cartagena by French advances. In the event the local captain-general only granted him permission to remove two three-deckers, the Ferdinand VII and San Carlos, which ships being speedily made ready for sea were escorted to Gibraltar. Departing the Rock on 1 June 1810, the Northumberland and Hibernia made Spithead three weeks later after an arduous voyage, whereupon Hargood’s command was taken into dock.
On 31 July 1810 he was promoted rear-admiral and towards the end of August was presented to the King. Through the good offices of his friend, the Duke of Clarence, he was appointed second-in-command at Portsmouth at the beginning of October, flying his flag aboard the Gladiator 44, Lieutenant Thomas Dutton, and from July 1812 Commander Charles Hewitt. On 13 March 1813 he was appointed commander-in-chief in the Channel Islands with his flag aboard the Fylla 20, Captain William Shepheard, and he retained this position until May 1814.
He was promoted vice-admiral on 4 June 1814, was nominated a K.C.B. in January 1815, and he entered retirement at Worthing before removing to Bath in 1817, being frequently listed in the papers as a ‘fashionable arrival’, and where at the end of December 1829 he slipped on ice and broke his leg. In early July 1830 he was granted a long and private audience with his friend, King William IV, just weeks after the monarch had ascended to the throne, and on 22 July was advanced to the rank of admiral. He received a G.C.H. on 22 March 1831 from the King, and in September 1831 was nominated a G.C.B.
From the end of April 1833 until the end of April 1836 Hargood was a popular and charitable commander-in-chief at Plymouth with his flag aboard the San Josef 110, and from December 1835 the Royal Adelaide 104, both commanded by Captain Gordon Thomas Falcon. His flag lieutenant for much of this time was Claude Henry Mason Buckle, the son of Captain Matthew Buckle, both of whom would eventually reached the rank of admiral. He frequently hosted visiting dignitaries at Plymouth, and in August 1833 received the Duchess of Kent and Princess Victoria, the future Queen.
After leaving his post at Plymouth Hargood retired once more to Bath where in March 1837 his residence at no 9 Royal Crescent was burgled, with jewels valued at 150 guineas being stolen from Lady Hargood.
Admiral Hargood died at Bath on 12 December 1839, a monument being erected in Bath Abbey to his memory. The pallbearers at his funeral included Admiral Sir William Hotham and Sir Henry William Bayntun, Vice-Admiral Lord James O’Bryen, and Rear-Admirals Sir Robert Lewis Fitzgerald, John Sykes and Sir Charles Bullen.
He was married at St. George’s Church, Hanover Square, London, on 11 May 1811 at the age of 49 to Maria Cocks of Downing Street, London, the third daughter of the banking family. The couple had no children. His nephew, William Hargood, who was born on 22 June 1801, served under him in 1813-14 and rose to the rank of admiral.
Hargood was a long-standing and frequent correspondent of King William IV, and was credited with saving the young royal’s life when a wherry overturned on the Thames in 1791 as a result of the young prince’s foolhardiness. He displayed great coolness whilst taking the Belleisle into action under fire at the Battle of Trafalgar, conning his ship from a carronade whilst munching on his ship-grown grapes.