William Henry Webley (Parry)

1764-1837. He was born on 3 March 1764, the youngest of seven children, many of whom died early, of a leading lawyer, William Webley.

Webley entered the Navy in 1779 aboard the Britannia 100, Captain Charles Morice Pole, the flagship of Vice-Admiral George Darby in the Channel Fleet, who succeeded to the command of that force in September 1780 with Captain James Bradby serving as his flag-captain. Webley was present at the Relief of Gibraltar in April 1781, and following the change of government in March 1782 and the return to service of a number of senior officers he continued on the Britannia under Vice-Admiral Hon. Samuel Barrington and Captain Benjamin Hill. An obituary has stated that in 1782 his ship formed part of a squadron sent to intercept an East India fleet that was departing from Brest, and Webley was credited with towing the ‘frigate’ Lively alongside a French frigate, being slightly wounded under fire; however this claim has not been verified. He did serve under Barrington at the Relief of Gibraltar in October and the subsequent battle of Cape Spartel, and he received the admiral’s personal approbation when acting as his aide-de-camp in the latter engagement.

Webley was next employed aboard the Grampus 50, Commodore Edward Thompson, who was appointed to command off West Africa in July 1783. Having briefly returned home in 1784 suffering from yellow fever, Thompson died aboard the Grampus of a tropical fever on 17 January 1786, and Webley suffered the disappointment of not having an acting-lieutenancy confirmed. He then joined the sloop Nautilus 16 under Captain Thompson’s nephew, Commander Thomas Boulden Thompson, remaining on the African station and surveying the coast from the Cape of Good Hope to Cape Negro. The Nautilus returned to Portsmouth in July prior to leaving port at the end of September, and in the following April Webley was involved in the colonisation of Sierra Leone. Further service took the Nautilus to the North American, West Indian and Newfoundland stations prior to her being paid off in December 1788. A period aboard the Salisbury 50, Captain Edward Pellew, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Mark Milbanke at Newfoundland, followed from June 1790, in which vessel Webley was finally commissioned lieutenant on 21 September 1790, and the Salisbury was eventually paid off in December 1791.

Webley was aboard the Amphitrite 24, Captain John Child Purvis, at the start of the French Revolutionary War in February 1793, as Pellew’s request that he be appointed his first lieutenant aboard the Nymphe 36 had been rejected by the Admiralty because he was deemed insufficiently senior. After the captaincy of the Amphitrite changed hands in May he joined Captain Samuel Hood aboard the Juno 32, going out to the Mediterranean. He was the third lieutenant of this frigate when she sailed in to Toulon on 11 January 1794 after the port had been re-occupied by the French, and Webley was mentioned by Hood in his dispatches for his prominent role in engineering her escape by audacious seamanship. He continued with the Juno during the Corsican campaign from February, being present in the attack on the Martello Tower in the bay of that name, and after commanding thirty seamen in the assault on San Fiorenzo and serving as an aide-de-camp to Major-General Thomas Dundas he later commanded a boat at the capture of Bastia.

Webley saw a great part of his career as a subordinate to Vice-Admiral Sir Samuel Hood

Webley next volunteered his services as the first lieutenant of the San Fiorenzo 36, Captain Charles Tyler, which French frigate had been salvaged at the capture of Calvi, but when that officer was removed to the Diadem 64 during August 1794 whilst sailing the prize to Gibraltar, Webley rejoined Hood, who in the meantime had been appointed to the Aigle 36. A year was spent in the eastern Mediterranean, and after Hood transferred to the Zealous 74 in April 1796 Webley remained aboard the Aigle to which Captain Tyler had been appointed, seeing service in the Adriatic to assist the Austrian army from August. In the spring of 1797 the Aigle rendezvoused with the Mediterranean Fleet in the Tagus, having passed though the defeated Spanish fleet following the Battle of Cape St. Vincent on 14 February, and it was later reported that during this period Webley had gallantly jumped into a heaving sea with a rope to rescue three men who had fallen overboard from the frigate.

Rejoining Captain Hood in the Tagus as the senior lieutenant aboard the Zealous 74, he commanded a boat in attacks upon the blockaded Spanish fleet in Cadiz during the summer of 1797, and from 21-25 July was present in Rear-Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson’s unsuccessful assault on Santa Cruz, Tenerife. Returning to Cadiz, Webley boarded and carried a Spanish vessel, the Isabella 10, and when the Zealous was sent into the Mediterranean as part of Nelson’s detached force in 1798 he fought at the Battle of the Nile on 1 August. As a reward for his participation in the battle he was promoted commander, but he spent the next nine months on the coast of Egypt and Syria, being dispatched on one occasion to confer with the pasha at Acre, and it was not until June 1799 that he reached England with dispatches from Admiral the Earl of St. Vincent and Rear-Admiral Lord Nelson.

In August 1800 he was appointed to the sloop Savage 14, which arrived at Plymouth on 20 October with a convoy from the Downs via Portsmouth and by the end of November was back in the Downs. On 9 December she set off for Portsmouth prior to returning on 21 December, nine days later she departed for Portsmouth with two East Indiamen and a fleet of coasters and victuallers from where she again returned to the Downs, having been briefly forced to turn back for the Hampshire port due to adverse winds. On 8 January she departed the Downs for Le Havre with French prisoners of war, by the 16th she was back off Deal, and thereafter she appears to have remained on the Kentish station through February. The pattern of convoy duty to Portsmouth resumed throughout the spring and summer until 21 August when she arrived at Sheerness with a convoy of victuallers from the Downs, prior to going into harbours for repairs. Here a court-martial dismissed the vessel’s surgeon for drunkenness and for not attending to his duty, and the vessel also experienced a tragedy when a ship’s boy lost his life after tumbling down the main hatchway.

On 23 September 1801 the Savage left Sheerness for the Downs, and two days later she sailed from that station for the westward in the company of the Amazon 38, Captain William Parker, which was flying the flag of Rear-Admiral Lord Nelson, although that frigate soon put back. Webley’s command then reportedly went out on a cruise in November, was back in the Downs by December, and undertook a further cruise in the new year. She came into the Downs from Plymouth on 12 March 1802, prior to apparently enjoying another cruise, and on 21 April she arrived at Portsmouth from the Downs, with Webley being praised in the Press for helping to preserve the cargo of a richly-laden vessel that had gone aground on Beachy Head.

Along with many other officers Webley was posted captain on 29 April 1802 following the end of the French Revolutionary War, and after leaving the Savage he remained unemployed for the next four years. At least part of this period was spent in Bath, where he was listed as one of the ‘fashionable arrivals’ in June 1802.

In late September 1806 he was appointed the acting-captain of the Centaur 74 at the request of her usual captain, Sir Samuel Hood, who was recuperating from the loss of his arm in an action with four French frigates, and he was ordered to prepare her for sea at Portsmouth. He subsequently flew Hood’s broad pennant in the Centaur from November, departing St. Helens with a squadron commanded by that officer on 21 December which later cruised off the Cape Verde, Canary and Madeira islands, prior to returning to Portsmouth in early June 1807. On 11 July orders arrived at Portsmouth for the Centaur and a number of other sail of the line to prepare for sea with all dispatch, and two days later she put out for the Downs where she re-hoisted Commodore Hood’s broad pennant. By now it was known that a force was being sent to the Baltic, and Webley was with the expedition that forced the surrender of Copenhagen on 7 September, being active two weeks later in extinguishing a fire in the Danish Naval arsenal.

In November 1807 the Centaur was at Portsmouth with the apparent intention that she be employed in the Channel, and on the 18th Hood, who had recently been promoted rear-admiral, arrived from London to hoist his flag. Having also embarked Major-General William Carr Beresford but then been detained by an unfavourable wind, the Centaur eventually got away for Plymouth on 26 November, and after embarking troops in the Devonshire port she proceeded for Cork with the rest of Hood’s squadron to collect more troops. This force executed the capture of Madeira in December, and after leaving that island on 27 January to return to Portsmouth a fortnight later, the Centaur departed for Plymouth where she remained in the Sound whilst Hood posted up to London.

The Centaur’s celebrated engagement with the Russian sail of the line Sewolod in 1808

On 25 March 1808 the Centaur arrived at Portsmouth from Plymouth from where she proceeded to the Downs to again re-hoist Hood’s flag, and in the first week of April she set sail for the Baltic with several other vessels to arrive at Gothenburg on the 7th, her appearance being greatly celebrated by Britain’s new Swedish allies. During her celebrated duel on 26 August with the Russian sail of the line Sewolod 74 within sight of the enemy fleet at the entrance to Roggersvik, the modern-day Paldiski on the north-western coast of Estonia, Webley lashed the enemy’s bowsprit to the Centaur’s mizzen rigging under a hail of metal, but although the Russian vessel struck her colours she could not be brought out and was instead set on fire.

On 9 November 1808 the Centaur arrived at Portsmouth from the Downs as a private ship, Hood having struck his flag off Deal, and in December Webley was presented to the King at a levee. He was further honoured on 19 January 1809 when it was announced that the King had granted him permission to accept and wear the ensigns of the ‘Knight Grand Cross of the Swedish Military Order of the Sword’. In mid February the Centaur went out of Portsmouth Harbour with orders to proceed to the Downs to take on Hood’s flag once more for service in the Baltic, but with a French squadron having broken out from Brest, and with Hood in convalescence after being burned by a bed-pan, she was instead diverted to Plymouth. By the end of June she was back at Portsmouth, and on 10 July she sailed for the Downs to join the Walcheren Expedition, with Webley briefly holding the command in the Texel. She returned to Portsmouth from that service on 16 September

On 28 October 1809 Rear-Admiral Hood rejoined the Centaur prior to her going out to the Mediterranean at the beginning of the following month to join the main fleet. Towards the end of 1810 Webley transferred with Hood to the Hibernia 110, remaining in the Mediterranean, and on 9 August 1811 he arrived at Portsmouth as a passenger aboard Admiral Sir Charles Cotton’s flagship San Josef 114, Hood having come home in the previous month upon being appointed to the chief command at Jamaica, although this appointment was changed to the command of the East Indies station when news was received of the death of Vice-Admiral William O’Brien Drury.

At the end of September 1811 Webley embarked with Rear-Admiral and Lady Hood aboard the frigate Owen Glendower 36, Captain Bryan Hodgson, in order to go out to the East Indies with the new commander-in-chief, and to take command of the Bombay-built Minden 74. Following a testing voyage Hood removed his flag to the Illustrious 74 on arrival at Madras in April 1812, taking Webley with him, as by now the Minden was sailing with a convoy to England. From the spring of 1813 Webley, whose ill-health had been reported at home, commanded the frigate Phoenix 36, departing Bombay on 13 May, convoying a fleet of merchantmen to China, and then departing Canton on 1 March 1814 to round the Cape on 10 May and reach St. Helena two weeks later, prior to arriving in the Downs on 8 August.

Webley was next appointed to the Swiftsure 74 on 9 October 1814, sailing for the West Indies in December with a convoy of two hundred and fifty ships, and arriving at Barbados on 1 February 1815. Almost immediately his command departed with a homeward-bound convoy to arrive at Portsmouth on 8 April, and after going around to Plymouth she sailed in early June for the French coast where Webley temporarily commanded a squadron off the Vendee under the orders of Rear-Admiral Hon. Sir Henry Hotham. He was then sent to the Basque Roads to prevent any escape by the defeated Emperor Napoleon, and on 15 August the Swiftsure arrived at Portsmouth from Plymouth where she was ordered to be paid off.

Webley was nominated a C.B. in June 1815, and in September assumed the additional name of Parry when inheriting Noyadd Trefawr in Cardiganshire, in which county he was appointed a deputy-lieutenant in September 1818. On 8 December 1822 he commissioned the Prince Regent 120 as a guardship at Chatham for the flag of Vice-Admiral Sir Benjamin Hallowell, who had been appointed the commander-in-chief at the Nore, although this vessel was not launched until 16 April 1823, and after Hallowell left the post in August 1824 Webley Parry continued as the flag-captain to his successor, Vice-Admiral Sir Robert Moorsom, before leaving the Prince Regent in December 1825.

Webley Parry became a rear-admiral on 10 January 1837, and he died on 31 May that year at Noyadd Trefawr in Cardiganshire

On 1 May 1800 he married Maria Washington White of Larne, County Antrim, whose father, a major, had been killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill, and the marriage had issue three daughters and a son. His eldest daughter, Anne, married Rear-Admiral Charles Hope.

Whilst commanding the Hibernia in 1810, Webley examined the flagship’s hull by descending into the depths in a machine designed by the ship’s carpenter, despite having previously own seen a model of the invention.