Sir Albemarle Bertie, 1st Baronet

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Sir Albemarle Bertie, Bt
Born 20 January 1755
Died 24 February 1824
Donnington, Berkshire
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Navy
Years of service 1760s to 1812
Rank Royal Navy Admiral
Battles/wars American Revolutionary War
First Battle of Ushant
• Loss of HMS Fox
French Revolutionary Wars
Glorious First of June
Napoleonic Wars
• Capture of Mauritius
Awards Baronetcy
Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath

Admiral Sir Albemarle Bertie, 1st Baronet, KCB, was a long-serving and at time controversial officer of the British Royal Navy who saw extensive service in his career but also courted controversy with several of his actions.[1]

Bertie won recognition for unsuccessfully defending his ship against superior odds in the American Revolutionary War. He was later criticised however for failing to close with the enemy at the Glorious First of June and later for pulling rank on a subordinate officer just days before the capture of the French island of Mauritius and taking credit for the victory. Despite these controversies, Bertie was rewarded for his service with a baronetcy and the Order of the Bath, retiring in 1813 to his country estate at Donnington, Berkshire.

American Revolutionary War[edit]

Albemarle Bertie was born in 1755 and much of his childhood is undocumented. It is not even clear when he entered the Navy, although he was gazetted lieutenant in December 1777 aged 22, quite a bit older than most of his contemporaries. Within a year of promotion, Bertie had witnessed combat on a repeating frigate at the First Battle of Ushant, a brief and inconclusive action which resulted in a court martial for Admiral Hugh Palliser, a court martial at which Commander Bertie (as he by then was), was called on to give evidence in 1779.[1] The intervening two years had been highly eventful, Bertie spending most of it as a prisoner of war in France after his frigate HMS Fox had been taken by the larger French Junon.[1]

Following his exchange and appearance as a witness, Bertie spent two years without a ship, due to the shortage of available positions for young officers during the American Revolutionary War. In 1782, after a change of government, Bertie was reinstated and made captain of the small frigate HMS Crocodile. He remained in service throughout the 1780s, marrying Emma Heywood of Maristow in Devon. Emma predeceased him and the couple had two daughters, although nothing is known of his marriage, including the date.[1]

French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars[edit]

In 1790 at the Spanish armament, Bertie gained command of the frigate HMS Latona before progressing to captain of a ship of the line, HMS Edgar in 1792. The following year he took over HMS Thunderer in Lord Howe's Channel Fleet. With Thunderer and Howe, Bertie participated in the Atlantic campaign of May 1794 and the culminating Glorious First of June. Howe omitted Bertie from his dispatches of the battle and Bertie was not awarded a commemorative medal like many of the other captains. His failure to close with the French fleet was later cited against him.[1]

For the next ten years Bertie remained with the Channel Fleet on uneventful blockade duty, serving under Sir John Borlase Warren and commanding HMS Thunderer, HMS Renown, HMS Windsor and HMS Malta on this duty.[1] In 1804, Bertie was promoted to rear-admiral, climbing the ranks over the next three years until he was senior enough to become admiral in charge of the Cape of Good Hope station off South Africa.[2] Bertie served off South Africa for the next two years, suddenly sailing in late 1810 to take over the operations to invade Mauritius and seize it from the French. Most of the fighting had already been concluded by Admiral William O'Bryen Drury before Bertie's arrival and Drury was furious at Bertie's behaviour, writing several strong letters to the Admiralty in protest.[1]

Bertie returned to Britain in 1811 and endured a brief political storm over his actions at Mauritius, which had been criticised by his fellow senior officer on the island Lord Minto.[1] Angered, Bertie requested court martial to defend his conduct but was firmly refused by the Admiralty, which did not wish for another scandal. A change of government the following year changed the political situation however and Bertie was returned to favour and presented with a baronetcy as reward for the capture of Mauritius, Drury having died in the meantime.[1]

Retirement[edit]

Retiring to his country estate at Donnington in Berkshire, Bertie continued to be promoted post-retirement, finishing as a full admiral. He was also made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath on the restructuring of the orders of knighthood in 1815. He died in 1824 after ten years retirement. As he had no male heirs, his baronetcy became extinct.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j  "Bertie, Albemarle". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 
  2. ^ "BERTIE, Admiral Sir Albemarle". The annual biography and obituary for the year 1825. vol. 9. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green. 1825. p. 396. 
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baronet
(of the Navy)
1812–1824
Extinct