Edward Codrington

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Sir Edward Codrington
Sir Edward Codrington by Henry Perronet Briggs.jpg
Born (1770-04-27)27 April 1770
Dodington, England
Died 28 April 1851(1851-04-28) (aged 81)
London, England
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Navy
Rank Admiral
Commands held Portsmouth Command
Battles/wars

Napoleonic Wars

Greek War of Independence

Awards Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Signature Edward Codrington signature .jpg

Admiral Sir Edward Codrington GCB RN (27 April 1770 – 28 April 1851) was a British admiral, hero of the Battle of Trafalgar and the Battle of Navarino.

Early life and career[edit]

The youngest of three brothers born to an aristocratic, landowning family, Codrington was educated by an uncle named Mr Bethell. He was sent for a short time to Harrow, and entered the Royal Navy in July 1783. He served off the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, in the Mediterranean and in home waters, until he was promoted to lieutenant on 28 May 1793, when Lord Howe selected him to be signal lieutenant on the flagship of the Channel fleet at the beginning of the French Revolutionary Wars. In that capacity he served on the 100-gun HMS Queen Charlotte during the operations which culminated in the battle of the Glorious First of June.

As a reward for his actions at the battle, on 7 October 1794 he was promoted to commander, and on 6 April 1795 attained the rank of Post-Captain and the command of the 22-gun HMS Babet from which he observed the Battle of Groix. His next command was the frigate HMS Druid whom he commanded in the Channel and off the coast of Portugal, until she was paid off in 1797. Following this, Codrington spent a period largely on land and on half-pay for some years. In December 1802 he married Jane Hall, an English woman from Kingston, Jamaica, and remained without a ship until the Peace of Amiens came to a close in 1803.

Service in the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812[edit]

On the renewal of hostilities with France he remained in frigates for some time before being given the ship of the line HMS Orion in the spring of 1805 which was attached to Admiral Nelson's fleet off Cadiz in the blockade of the combined fleet. Codrington and Orion were engaged at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805, where Orion was stationed to the rear of the northern division and therefore took two hours to reach battle. Once there, Codrington ignored all other ships and focused entirely on closing with a hitherto unengaged French ship, the Swiftsure, forcing her to surrender. He then attacked but failed to capture the Spanish flagship Principe de Asturias before moving on to the Intrepide, the only ship of the northern division to return. Orion, with other ships, dismasted and then sailed round her, firing continually until she surrendered.

For the next several years, Codrington fought alongside the Spanish against the French in the Mediterranean Sea, commanding a squadron that harried French shipping and made numerous coastal raids. During this time also participated in the disastrous Walcheren expedition in 1809.

The two months of May and June in 1811 were to prove his most testing time whilst stationed on Spain's eastern seaboard. He went to great lengths to help the Spanish besieged at Tarragona by the French Army of Aragon under Louis Gabriel Suchet.

Convinced that Lieutenant General Juan Senen de Contreras, the Spanish general in charge of Tarragona, wasn’t up to the task, Codrington, who had a clearer understanding of the situation, helped the British military agent Charles William Doyle to contrive a plan of succour. Through his own personal efforts Codrington brought to Tarragona 6,300 Spanish infantry and 291 artillerymen as reinforcements. He spent many nights in the port area guiding cannon launches against the enemy. When the city fell, he rescued over 600 people from the beach in a Dunkirk-style operation under fire from enemy cannon and personally undertook to reunite mothers and babies who had been separated during the evacuation. Afterwards, he intervened on a political level to stop Captain General de Lacy disarming the local Catalan Somaténs (militias).

Codrington was promoted to the rank of rear admiral (of the Blue) on 4 June 1814, while he was serving off the coast of North America as captain of the fleet to Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane during the operations against Washington, Baltimore and New Orleans during the War of 1812. In recognition of this service, in 1815 he was made a Knight Commander of the Bath. He became a rear admiral of the Red on 12 August 1819, and then a vice admiral on 10 July 1821. He was also elected a fellow of the Royal Society in February 1822.[1]

The Greek War of Independence and the Battle of Navarino[edit]

The Naval Battle of Navarino (1827). Oil painting by Carneray

In December 1826 Codrington was appointed Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet and sailed on 1 February 1827. From that date until his recall on 21 June 1828 he was engaged in the arduous duties imposed on him by the Greek War of Independence, which had led to anarchy in occupied Greece[2] and surrounding areas. His orders were to enforce a peaceful solution on the situation in Greece, but Codrington was unfortunately not known for his diplomacy, and on 20 October 1827 he destroyed the Turkish and Egyptian fleet at the Battle of Navarino while in command of a combined British, French and Russian fleet.

After the battle Codrington went to Malta to refit his ships. He remained there till May 1828, when he sailed to join his French and Russian colleagues on the coast of the Morea. They endeavoured to enforce the evacuation of the peninsula by Ibrahim Pasha peacefully. The Pasha made diplomatic difficulties,which came in the form of continuous genocide against the Greeks of Morea who were to be replaced with Muslims from Africa and on 25 July the three admirals agreed that Codrington should go to Alexandria to obtain Ibrahims recall by his father Mehemet Ali. Codrington had heard on 22 June of his own supersession, but, as his successor had not arrived, he carried out the arrangement made on 25 July, and his presence at Alexandria led to the treaty of the 6 August 1828, by which the evacuation of the Morea was settled. His services were recognised by the grant of the Grand Cross of the Bath, but there is no doubt that the British government was embarrassed by his heavy-handed gunboat diplomacy and not too impressed by the further weakening of Russia's main opponent, the Ottomans.

Later years[edit]

Lithograph of the Admiral, circa 1897
Admiral Codrington, MP for Devonport, painted for the reformed House of Commons picture by Sir George Hayter in 1836

After his return home Codrington spent some time in defending himself, and then in leisure abroad. He commanded a training squadron in the Channel in 1831 and became a full admiral on 10 January 1837. He was elected Member of Parliament for Devonport in 1832, and sat for that constituency until he accepted the Chiltern Hundreds in 1839. From November 1839 to December 1842 he was Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth. Codrington died in London on 28 April 1851. He left two sons, both of whom achieved distinction in the British armed forces. Sir William John Codrington (1804–1884) was a commander in the Crimean War. Sir Henry Codrington (1808–1877), a naval officer, became an Admiral of the Fleet.

A third son, Edward Codrington, was a midshipman aboard Cambrian when he died sometime in 1821 or 1822 in the Mediterranean. He had been taking a cutter to Hydra when a squall overturned the boat, drowning him, a merchant, and three crewmen.[3]

Codrington was buried in St Peter's Church, Eaton Square, but due to shoddy maintenance work in 1953 and a large fire in 1987, there is no remaining trace of his tombstone or body. Plaques to his memory can be found in St Paul's Cathedral, All Saints Church, Dodington close to the family home,[4] and there is a large obelisk dedicated to the memory of he and the other officers at Navarino at Pylos in Greece.

Numerous roads are named after him in Greece.[5]

Research at St. Peter's Church in October 2005 revealed that in 1954 the remains were buried at Brookwood cemetery in Surrey, plot number 70.

Further reading[edit]

  • The Trafalgar Captains (2005) – Colin White and the 1805 Club, Chatham Publishing, London ISBN 1-86176-247-X

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Library and Archive Catalogue". Royal Society. Retrieved 23 December 2010. 
  2. ^ Battle of Navarino
  3. ^ Marshall (1823), Vol. 1, Part 2, pp.875–6.
  4. ^ "Codrington, Edward". Maritime Memorials. National Maritime Museum. Retrieved 11 April 2009. 
  5. ^ "Οι δρόμοι Κοδριγκτώνος, Δεριγνύ και Χέυδεν και η ιστορία τους – αποψεις , τριανταφύλλου" (in Greek). Archived from the original on 3 March 2010. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  • Marshall, John ( 1823–1835) Royal naval biography, or, Memoirs of the services of all the flag-officers, superannuated rear-admirals, retired-captains, post-captains, and commanders, whose names appeared on the Admiralty list of sea officers at the commencement of the present year 1823, or who have since been promoted ... (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown).

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Devonport
1832–1839
With: Sir George Grey
Succeeded by
Sir George Grey
Henry Tufnell
Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Harry Burrard-Neale
Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet
1826–1828
Succeeded by
Sir Pulteney Malcolm
Preceded by
Charles Elphinstone Fleeming
Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth
1839–1842
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Rowley