Thomas Roger Eyles

c1769- 1835. He was the son of Thomas Eyles of Stratton Audley in Oxfordshire, and of his wife, Ann Woodward Baxter.

Eyles was commissioned lieutenant of the Hero 74 for purposes of rank only on 22 November 1790, being one of many officers advanced at the end of the Spanish Armament, and on 2 May 1792 he joined the Trimmer 14, Commander Francis Fayerman.

At the outset of the French Revolutionary War in January 1793 he was appointed to the Flora 36, Captain Sir John Borlase Warren, which frigate was engaged in cruising and convoy duty to the Iberian Peninsula. Remaining with that vessel, he presumably would have been present on 23 April 1794 at the capture by Warren’s squadron off the Île de Batz of the French frigates Pomone 44 and Engageante 38, together with the corvette Babet 22.

The capture of the Pomone in 1794

On 8 September 1794 Eyles removed with Warren and the officers and crew of the Flora to the captured Pomone, being largely engaged in cruising in the Channel. Continuing to serve on that vessel, he had become her first lieutenant by January 1795 when he was dispatched from Falmouth to the Admiralty to advise that the Brest Fleet was at sea. He also arrived at the Admiralty on 12 July that year with dispatches from Warren relating to the campaign in Quiberon Bay, and as a reward for his part in the operations, and passing through the rank of commander, he was posted captain on the next day, 13 July.

Eyles thereafter served as the acting-captain of the Pomone with Commodore Warren’s broad pennant. At the end of January 1796, he supervised the replacement of the frigate’s foremast at Plymouth, and he brought her back to the Devonshire port not long afterwards in a very leaky state from Warren’s squadron after she had gone ashore on the Bouefs off Nantes due to the errors of a French pilot. By 3 March she was back at sea where she took the privateer Le Sans Peur 8, and it appears that Eyles was still at the helm when on 20 March, Warren’s squadron controversially failed to capture any of four frigates which were escorting a convoy off the Saintes. The Pomone was present when the squadron 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, whilst a number of prizes were also taken off the Garonne during this period. In December the squadron was cruising off Rochefort prior to sailing 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.

Throughout the first nine months of 1797 the Pomone continued to cruise under Warren’s broad pennant out of Plymouth with that officer’s squadron, and although she was at sea when the Spithead mutiny broke out on 16 April, she was ordered into Plymouth by mutinous factions amongst her crew. Returning to duty at the end of the mutiny, the squadron took eight vessels out of a convoy bound for Brest from Nantes on 17 July, in which engagement it drove the frigate Calliope 28 onto the Penmarks and destroyed two further vessels. On 11 August a convoy with several small attendant men-of-war was spotted off Rochefort and chased into the Sables D’Olonne, in which engagement 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.

At the end of September 1797 Warren was ordered to raise his broad pennant aboard the Canada 74, which was refitting at Plymouth, and it would appear that he retained Eyles as his flag-captain. In December the commodore resumed his independent command off the French coast, and on 8 March 1798 his squadron was within the Isle Dieu when it took a dozen vessels out of a convoy bound for Brest from Rochefort. Five days later the squadron’s boats were sent 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 Admiral Lord Bridport after exchanging 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’s squadron sailed from Plymouth to seek out the enemy, and near Tory Island on the north-western tip of Ireland on 12 October it intercepted and defeated the French force of one sail of the line and nine frigates, although the Canada did not get into the action. By early November the squadron was back at Plymouth where it remained into the new year.

At the end of June 1799, it was announced that the promoted Warren was to raise his rear-admiral’s flag at Portsmouth aboard the newly commissioned Téméraire 98, and with Eyles continuing as his flag-captain. After arriving at Plymouth in early August, this vessel sailed for Torbay with several other sail to join the Channel Fleet. During September, Warren was detached by Lord Bridport in pursuit of a Spanish squadron, but that force was able to retain the weather gauge and reach Lorient safely. Towards the end of the month, Warren was left in command off Ushant with half a dozen sail of the line when Bridport sailed for Torbay, and the Téméraire in turn sailed for that anchorage in early October, with Warren and Eyles leaving her shortly afterwards.

In early December 1799, Warren joined the new Renown 74 with Captain Eyles, and they sailed that month from Plymouth for Torbay to join the Channel Fleet. The flagship arrived at Portsmouth from the French coast on 10 April 1800, and in early June she put out to rejoin the fleet. Later that month she was off the Penmarks, and in August she was serving with a detached squadron from Commodore Sir Edward Pellew’s force which had been despatched to Quiberon Bay two months earlier in support of a Royalist uprising in the Morbihan. Most regrettably, Warren was then unable to destroy six Spanish sail of the line at Ferrol due to the miserable conduct of the Army commander, Lieutenant-General Sir James Pulteney. The Renown arrived back at Plymouth on 10 October, whereupon Eyles appears to have ceded the command to Captain John Chambers White.

‘The Fighting Temeraire’ on which Eyles suppressed a mutiny in 1801.

He returned to command the Téméraire on 31 August 1801 as the flag-captain to Rear-Admiral George Campbell, being at Plymouth in the autumn, and in Bantry Bay with Vice-Admiral Sir Andrew Mitchell’s squadron in December. Here, Eyles would find himself praised in the Press for facing down a mutiny, during which incident he was hustled and crowded when seizing one of the ringleaders. On 29 December the Téméraire anchored off St. Helens with Mitchell’s squadron, and on 6 January 1802 aboard the Gladiator 64 in Portsmouth Harbour before a court-martial presided over by Mitchell, Eyles opened the prosecution against fourteen men who were charged with mutiny. All fourteen were found guilty, and whilst a dozen were executed aboard the Téméraire and other men of war in Portsmouth, the other two were sentenced to two hundred lashes apiece.

On 7 February 1802, the Téméraire with Campbell’s flag sailed with that officer’s detachment for Jamaica to join Rear-Admiral Sir John Thomas Duckworth’s fleet in monitoring the French at Saint-Domingue, and the squadron arrived back at Plymouth on 25 September with Eyles paying the Téméraire off at the port on 5 October.

He thereafter remained unemployed and in obscurity until August 1809, when he joined the Plantagenet 74 in succession to the increasingly unstable Captain William Bradley. During November he brought one of the largest convoys ever assembled in the Baltic, together with six sail of the line and other men-of-war, back to England. His new command was docked at Chatham in January 1810, and following a lengthy refit she sailed for Long Reach two months later to take in her guns, prior to proceeding to the Nore at the end of the month. On 6 April she arrived at Yarmouth to join the Baltic Fleet, and after putting out on the 22nd of that month with Rear-Admiral Manley Dixon’s squadron, she cruised off Karlskrona during June. Upon returning to England at the end of the year, a storm separated her from the Minotaur 74, Captain John Barret, and that vessel was wrecked with huge loss of life on the Haak Sands off the Texel on 22 December. The Plantagenet departed the Downs for Portsmouth on 30 December, and on 3 January 1811 she sailed in the company of the Mediterranean convoy for Plymouth, where it was intended that she enter harbour to be docked; however, she overshot the port to arrive off Penzance three days later before making her way back.

On 11 March 1811, after two months spent in dock, the Plantagenet sailed from Plymouth, and she arrived at Portsmouth eight days later having in the interim unsuccessfully attempted to intercept what was described as a French 74 and a prize, the sloop Challenger 16, Commander Godden Blennerhasset, off Cherbourg. On 9 April she arrived at St. Helens from a cruise off the Île de Batz, and proceeding three days later to the Downs, she quickly put out to join Vice-Admiral Sir James Saumarez’ fleet in the Baltic. After a summer spent on that station, she departed Wingo Sound on 25 October with a two hundred and fifty strong convoy, and on 19 November arrived at Portsmouth. The next day she sailed for Plymouth for a refit, but presumably there was no room for her as she was back at Portsmouth by 9 December, and after several attempts to put out for Brest, she was brought back to the Hampshire port to be docked. Eyles was subsequently obliged to resign the command of the Plantagenet in February 1812 on account of a hand that had been injured by frostbite and a fall.

He was reportedly appointed to the yacht Royal Charlotte in August 1812, although this vessel appears to have remained inactive until she began preparing for King Louis XVIII’s suite in April 1814 following Napoleon’s abdication. On 23 April she arrived in the Downs from the Thames prior to conveying the French monarch to Calais, and Eyles left her upon his advancement to flag rank on 4 June.

He did not see any further employment and instead returned to his residence, Loddington Hall, near Kettering where he became prominent in local affairs. In June 1822 he attended a levee with King George IV, he was promoted a vice-admiral on 27 May 1825, and he attended another levee in July 1830 after King William IV had inherited the throne.,

Vice-Admiral Eyles died on 29 September 1835 at Loddington Hall.

On 20 February 1797 he married the eldest daughter of Charles Morris of Loddington Hall, with whom he had a large family. One of their sons was Major Thomas Woodward Eyles. In 1809 he was living at Polebrook near Oundle in Northamptonshire, and he later became the tenant of Loddington Hall.