Walter Griffith

1727- 1779. He was born on 15 May 1727, being a younger son of Walter Griffith of Bron-gain, Llanfechain, Montgomeryshire, and of his wife, Prudence Trevor of Bofynfol, Llanfechain.

Griffith was educated at Oswestry Grammar School and joined the Navy in 1743 aboard the Duke 90 commanded by his kinsman Thomas Trevor, which vessel was employed as the flagship of Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Hardy in the Channel.

He was commissioned lieutenant on 7 May 1755 and for the next few years served aboard the Eagle 60, Captains Joseph Hamar, and Hugh Palliser, and the Royal George 100, Captains Piercy Brett, Alexander Hood, Richard Dorrill and John Campbell, flying the flags successively of Admiral Lord Anson and Admiral Sir Edward Hawke during 1758-9.

On 4 June 1759 Griffith was promoted commander of the sloop Postillion 18, although from 24 June to 16 July he held the temporary command of the Argo 28 for the indisposed Captain John Tinker. On 5 September he was given temporary command of the frigate Gibraltar 20, and he provided Hawke with vital and prompt intelligence of the well-commanded French Fleet off Brest in November, earning great praise from the Admiralty for his part in bringing about the ensuing victory at the Battle of Quiberon Bay. He was confirmed as a post captain on 11 December and remained in the Gibraltar for the next four years, returning to Portsmouth from the Rock following a two week voyage in January 1760 and taking her out to the Mediterranean once more in April. He effected the capture of the privateer Belle Etoile after a smart engagement on 6 April 1762, losing a lieutenant and five men killed and sending the prize into Leghorn. After returning to England the Gibraltar was paid off in October 1763.


The Battle of Quiberon Bay 1759 – Captain Griffith provided vital information on the French fleet beforehand

During the Falkland Island dispute with Spain in 1770 Griffith was appointed in October to the Namur 90, which he initially struggled to man at Portsmouth, and in which he briefly flew the flag of Rear-Admiral Matthew Buckle, and from 21 March Rear-Admiral Admiral Hughes. In May Vice-Admiral Francis Geary raised his flag aboard the Namur at Portsmouth before days later she sailed around to Blackstakes to be paid off.

In February 1776 he joined the Nonsuch 64, going out to the Azores in the summer prior to returning to Plymouth. Here the newspapers delighted in reporting that all her men were instructed to bathe, and that a wager had taken place that involved two seamen jumping from the main-top and diving under the ship to surface on the other side. Thereafter operating out of Plymouth, the Nonsuch cruised somewhat unsuccessfully against rebel privateers in the Channel, although she did take the Massachusetts-based Charming Sally off Cape Finisterre on 16 January 1777, which prize was sent into Plymouth.

In March 1777 the Nonsuch sailed with a convoy to join Vice-Admiral Lord Howe’s fleet in North America, arriving at New York on 25 May. During the Philadelphia campaign of August -November Griffith commanded the rear of Lord Howe’s fleet in the Chesapeake, and in January 1778 he became the senior officer and commodore at Rhode Island following Rear-Admiral Sir Peter Parker’s departure for Jamaica. During the early part of the year Captain Samuel Reeve commanded the Nonsuch under his orders, and he later took part in the defence of New York in July, and the operations off Rhode Island in August.

The Nonsuch sailed in the autumn of 1778 with Commodore William Hotham’s reinforcement of Rear-Admiral Hon. Samuel Barrington in the Leeward Islands, and after Griffith had assisted in the superintendence of the landing of troops he fought at the Battle of St. Lucia on 15 December. In the spring of 1779 he commanded a detachment of the fleet that was carried away to leeward, prompting the French to put out of Martinique, and he subsequently fought at the Battle of Grenada on 6 July.

Captain Griffith transferred to the Conqueror 74 in August 1779, but on 18 December was killed in the dying moments of a smart but trivial action with elements of the French fleet commanded by Rear-Admiral La Motte-Picquet in Fort Royal Bay.

He married Mary Davies, the widow of the Duke of Portland’s second son, Colonel Lord George Bentinck M.P., on 24 June 1759, which somewhat astonishingly was just three months after that gentleman’s death. Griffith had no issue from this marriage, nor did his wife from her first marriage. Mary Davies appears to have been a common woman about town who was taken in and eventually married by Bentinck, but was never accepted by his immensely wealthy and powerful family.

An esteemed and well-respected officer, Sir Peter Parker was moved to comment of Griffith that the ‘service could not have lost a better man or officer’.