Home Riggs Popham
|Admiral Sir Home Riggs Popham, KCB, MP|
1783 portrait in the uniform of a Lieutenant, by an unknown artist
|Born||12 October 1762|
|Died||20 September 1820
Admiral Sir Home Riggs Popham KCB (12 October 1762 – 2 September 1820) was a British Royal Naval Commander who saw service during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. He is remembered for his scientific accomplishments, particularly the development of a signal code that was adopted by the Royal Navy in 1803.
Early life and career 
He was the son of Joseph Popham, consul at Tétouan in Morocco, and was his mother's fifteenth child. Educated at Westminster School, he was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge in 1776, though it is unclear if he took up residence in Cambridge. He entered the navy in 1778 and served with the flag of Admiral George Rodney till the end of the American War of Independence. In 1783 he was promoted to lieutenant, and was for a time engaged on survey service on the coast of Africa.
Between 1787 and 1793 he was engaged in a series of commercial ventures in the Eastern Sea, sailing, first for the Imperial Ostem Company, and then in a vessel which he purchased and in part loaded himself.
During this time he took several surveys and rendered some services to the British East India Company, which were officially acknowledged. In 1793, however, his ship was seized, partly on the grounds that he was carrying contraband, and partly because he was infringing the East India Company's monopoly. This loss was put at £70,000, and he was entangled in litigation. In 1805 he obtained compensation to the amount of £25,000. The case was a hard one, for he was undoubtedly sailing with the knowledge of officials in India.
Service in the wars with France 
While this dispute was going on Popham had resumed his career as a naval officer. He served with the army under the Duke of York in Flanders as "superintendent of Inland Navigation" and won his confidence. The protection of the duke was exercised with so much effect that Popham was promoted commander in 1794 and post captain in 1795. He was then engaged for several years in co-operating in a naval capacity with the troops of Great Britain and her allies. In the Red Sea he was engaged in transporting the Indian troops employed in the expulsion of the French from Egypt.
His bills for the repair of his ship at Calcutta were the excuse for an attack on him and for charging him with the amount. It was just the time of the general reform of the dockyards, and there was much suspicion in the air. It was also the case that Lord St. Vincent did not like Popham, and that Benjamin Tucker (1762–1829), secretary to the admiralty, who had been the admiral's secretary, was his creature and sycophant. However, Popham was not the man to be snuffed out without an effort. He brought his case before Parliament, and was able to prove that there had been, if not deliberate dishonesty, at least the very grossest carelessness on the part of his assailants.
In the spring of 1798 the Admiralty created the Sea Fencibles, a force of coastal militia, following a plan by Popham. On 8 May 1798 Home Popham led an expedition to attack the sluice gates at Ostend. The expedition landed 1300 troops under Major General Coote. The army blew up the locks and gates on the Bruges canal but was then forced to surrender.
Commissioned in 1805 to study the military plans being proposed by Venezuelan revolutionary Francisco de Miranda to the British Government, Popham then persuaded the authorities that, as the Spanish Colonies were discontented, it would be easy to promote a rising in Buenos Aires. After co-operating with Sir David Baird in the occupation of the Cape of Good Hope in 1806, he led the attempt on Buenos Aires with his squadron and 1400 soldiers; but the Spanish colonists, though discontented, were not disposed to accept British rule. They rose against the soldiers who landed, and took them prisoners.
Popham was recalled, and censured by a court martial for leaving his station; but the City of London presented him with a sword of honour for his endeavours to "open new markets," and the sentence did him limited harm. In 1806 he was appointed groom of the bedchamber to the Duke of Gloucester, and in 1807 Lord Gambier appointed him captain of the fleet for the Second Copenhagen Expedition perhaps due to his familiarity to navigation of the Copenhagen Road he gained from previous service there in 1800. In 1809 he went on to command HMS Venerable, which he continued to command with success against the French in Spain.
Last years and legacy 
Despite the court martial he was appointed to other commands. In 1812 and 1813 he was stationed on the northern coast of Spain where he worked with the Spanish guerrillas to successfully harry the French troops and assault French fortresses on the Basque coast while Wellington was advancing through Spain. He was promoted to rear admiral in 1814, and made K.C.B. in 1815. He died in Cheltenham on 20 September 1820, leaving a large family, and is buried at Sunninghill in Berkshire.
Popham was one of the most scientific seamen of his time. He did much useful survey work, and was the author of the code using signal flags adopted by the admiralty in 1803 and used for many years. These were most famously used for the signal "England expects that every man will do his duty". (See that article for a brief description of the code.)
His descendants remained actively involved in the armed forces of Britain and the British Empire until the 1970s.
- Popham, F. W (1976) A West Country family, the Pophams from 1150, Sevenoaks : The author, ISBN 0-9505233-0-5
- Popham, H. (1991) A damned cunning fellow : the eventful life of Rear-Admiral Sir Home Popham KCB, KCH, KM, FRS 1762-1820, Tywardreath : Old Ferry Press, ISBN 0-9516758-0-X
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Popham, Sir Home Riggs". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs [self-published source][better source needed]
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Sir Home Riggs Popham
- Popham numeric code
- Portraits of Sir Home Riggs Popham at the National Portrait Gallery, London
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
Jervoise Clarke Jervoise
|Member of Parliament for Yarmouth
1804 – 1806
With: Jervoise Clarke Jervoise
Sir David Scott
Jervoise Clarke Jervoise
|Member of Parliament for Shaftesbury
1806 – 1807
With: Edward Loveden
|Member of Parliament for Ipswich
1807 – 1812
With: Robert Alexander Crickett
Robert Alexander Crickett