Arthur Fleming Morrell

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Arthur Fleming Morrell
Scanned photograph of a colour portrait of Captain Arthur Fleming Morrell, RN, unknown artist and date
Captain Arthur Fleming Morrell, RN (1788-1880)
Born (1788-11-10)10 November 1788
Stoke Damerel, Devon, England
Died 13 September 1880(1880-09-13) (aged 91)
Erith, Dartford, Kent, England
Allegiance United Kingdom Great Britain, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
Service/branch Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Navy
Years of service 1800-1856
Rank Captain
Commands held
Awards Arctic Medal (1818-1855)

Arthur Fleming Morrell (10 November 1788 – 13 September 1880) was British officer of the Royal Navy, an explorer, and a colonial administrator of Ascension Island, who saw service spanning the end of the Napoleonic era and well into the Victorian era.[1]

Early naval career[edit]

Arthur Morrell was born in 1788 in Stoke Damerel, Devon,[2] the second son of a Royal Navy lieutenant, John Morrell. His father had been an able seaman, rising to the warrant officer's rank of gunner by the time his sons entered the Royal Navy.

Morrell's brother was John Arthur Morrell, who became a commander and served aboard HMS Eagle during an 1806 attack on Naples, then held by Napoleon's brother, Joseph Bonaparte.

Morrell joined the Royal Navy at the age of about twelve or thirteen as a first class volunteer. He served first on HMS Doris, a 38-gun fifth rate ship in the Channel fleet that took several French ships as prizes during the years Morrell served on her.[3]

He then moved to the Caribbean on board HMS Pique, and was by now a Master's mate. It was aboard Pique, a captured French ship formerly named Pallas, that he would take part in the 1803 blockade of Saint-Domingue, serving off Cape Francois, at what is now Haiti. A boat from the Pique, commanded by Lieutenant Nesbit Josiah Willoughby, was dispatched to capture the French frigate Clorinde as she fled the rebellious Haitians led by Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Morrell was part of the crew that brought Clorinde under a British flag to Jamaica.[1]

Pique later took part in an abortive attempt to capture Curaçao, which in 1804 had been retaken from Britain by a Dutch-French force.

After nine years in the Caribbean, Morrell found himself in the Mediterranean, in a succession of ships including HMS Termagant, from which he beheld the fall of Genoa in 1814, one of his last naval actions during the Napoleonic Wars.

At the end of hostilities, Britain turned to Arctic exploration to employ its navy and to attempt to discover a shorter route to the resource-rich Pacific.

Arctic voyage[edit]

In 1818, Morrell took part in a "perilous voyage of discovery" to Spitzbergen, in search of the Northwest Passage, in what was one of the earliest voyages of Arctic discovery.[4] The voyage was unsuccessful, but Morrell would later be awarded the Arctic Medal (1818–1855).

Captain David Buchan commanded HMS Dorothea, while Morrell served as first lieutenant. The Dorothea was accompanied by HMS Trent, commanded by John Franklin.

As first lieutenant, Morrell kept a detailed log book which provided meteorological observations and navigational notes. The expedition eventually failed to penetrate thick pack ice.[5][6]

The expedition returned to England without having achieved its goal. It would be nearly 40 years before Arctic exploration would be recognized, and in 1856 the Arctic Medal was struck and issued retroactively for various polar voyages starting with 1818, the year of Buchan's expedition.

Marriage and family[edit]

In 1820, Morrell married Elizabeth Reid, daughter of the "first pay clerk of wages" at Devonport, William Reid.[1]

Morrell was promoted to the rank of commander in 1821, but with peace, much of the Royal Navy was on half-pay. In between periods at sea, it seems that Morrell and Elizabeth lived in or near Devonport. But by 1830, the family had moved to Dinan, in France, where two of his sons were born, George Truman Morrell and another Arthur Morrell, both of whom would also serve in the Royal Navy.

Elizabeth later died aged 61 on 29 September 1862, by which time the family had settled in Dartford, Erith, Kent.[7]

They had eight children together, of whom six would survive into adulthood.

Finally, Morrell returned to sea service in 1843, on being given command of HMS Espoir.


Arthur Fleming Morrell
16th Administrator of Ascension Island
In office
October 1844 – January 1847
Preceded by J Fraser
Succeeded by Capt. Frederick Hutton
Personal details
Nationality British
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Reid
Profession Royal Navy officer
Religion Anglican

After a brief period commanding HMS Espoir, which included successfully interdicting slave ships off the west coast of Africa, Morrell, now a commander, was in 1844 appointed governor of Ascension Island, an island in the Atlantic that held strategic value to Britain, due to its proximity to both Africa and South America.[1]

He served as the island's 16th administrator for nearly three years, during which time the Royal Navy continued to engage the slave trade, and would have used the island as a base of operations and victualling stop.

Service History[1][edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e O'Byrne, William Richard (1849). "Wikisource link to Morrell, Arthur". Wikisource link to A Naval Biographical Dictionary. John Murray. Wikisource. 
  2. ^ "Search". Retrieved 15 December 2010. 
  3. ^ emason (12 October 2009). "HMS Spartiate and her Union Jack". Retrieved 14 December 2010. 
  4. ^ Clowes, Wm. Laird; Sir Clements Robert Markham (1997) [1900]. The Royal Navy: A History from the Earliest Times to the Present. VI (Reissue ed.). Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-86176-015-9. 
  5. ^ The National Archives. ADM 55/36.
  6. ^ "Log of the Dorothea, By Lieutenant A Morrell". CORRAL Project. Retrieved 14 December 2010. 
  7. ^ Jeffries, F. The Gentleman's Magazine, Vol. 213. p. 651.

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
J Fraser
Administrator of Ascension Island
Succeeded by
Frederick Hutton