Walter Young

Died 1781.

Young was commissioned lieutenant on 1 November 1765.

In March 1777 it was reported that he had been appointed to command the sloop Lyon in which he would attempt to discover a north-west passage through the Davis Straits and Baffin Bay, and that in addition to taking aboard eighteen months worth of provisions he would carry one of the late John Harrisons’ marine timekeepers and would also give passage to a mathematician charged with conducting experiments in the calculation of longitude and magnetic powers. On 12 April he wrote to the Admiralty from the Orkney Islands advising that he was shortly to proceed on the voyage, and on 8 June he reached a northern latitude of 72 degrees 42 minutes, being in the company of several whalers. At this point he was constrained by thick ice from making any further progress, and he left for home two weeks later. By the beginning of August the Lyon was back at Stromness, it being apparent that neither Young, nor his vessel, had been suitable choices for the task with which they had been charged.

He later served as an agent for transports at Deptford, in the course of which duty he was promoted commander on 22 February 1779 of the Cameleon 14, apparently for purposes of rank only.

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Captain Young claimed much credit, perhaps deservedly so, for the indisposed Admiral Rodney’s victory at the Moonlight Battle in 1780

On 1 October 1779 Young was posted captain and appointed to the Sandwich 90, the flagship of Admiral Sir George Brydges Rodney, the commander-in-chief designate of the Leeward Islands. Leaving England on 29 December with the fleet to relieve Gibraltar, he was present at the capture of the Spanish convoy on 8 January 1780 and the Moonlight Battle off Cape St. Vincent on 16 January. During this period Rodney was suffering from ill health which often confined him to his cot, and he gave his orders through Young, who had also assumed the duties of captain of the fleet. This led Young to privately claim a good deal of credit for his admiral’s successes, and indeed many felt that he had some justification in doing so.

On 13 February 1780 the Sandwich parted company for the West Indies with four sail of the line, joining Rear-Admiral Hyde Parker at St. Lucia on 27 March. Young was present at the Battle of Martinique on 17 April where the flagship lost eighteen men killed and fifty-one wounded. He was one of five captains who received a certificate from the cantankerous commander-in-chief praising their efforts to the detriment of the others who in the Rodney’s eyes had not done so well. Continuing in the Leeward Islands campaign, he also took part in the inconclusive actions in May although the Sandwich did not suffer any casualties.

Having sailed north in search of the French fleet, the Leeward Islands fleet spent the hurricane season from September – November in North America waters. Captain Young would thus have been party to the infamous dispute between Rodney and his junior, the local commander-in-chief, Vice-Admiral Marriot Arbuthnot. The fleet arrived back in the Caribbean in December where on 3 February Rodney seized St. Eustatius and other Dutch settlements.

Captain Young died of ‘an inflammation in his bowels’ at St. Eustatius on 2 May 1781.

He was notorious for making detrimental and disloyal comments about Rodney, often sharing these with his patron, Charles Middleton, the influential comptroller of the navy and future Admiral Lord Barham. Contrarily, the difficult Rodney appears to have admired Young s seamanlike abilities and bravery, and he felt able to rely upon him as he did so few others.