James Spratt (Royal Navy officer)

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Commander James Spratt born in Dublin (1771–1853), was an officer in the Royal Navy and became known as one of the heroes of the Battle of Trafalgar. Spratt was also the father of Thomas Abel Brimage Spratt, English vice-admiral, hydrographer and geologist.[1]

Commander James Spratt was famous for having dived into the sea from the HMS Defiance, swimming cutlass in teeth to the French 74-gun Aigle, boarding her single handed. Climbing in through a stern window, he found his way to the French poop deck and threw himself on the French crew, one man against several hundred. In the melee he killed two French seamen, and was grappling with a third when he fell from the poop deck to the main deck, killing his opponent but injuring himself badly. He was saved by the timely arrival of a full boarding party from the Defiance, but his gallantry cost him his career. His wounds left him with one leg shorter than the other and he retired to Teignmouth, Devon, where he became renowned as a long-distance swimmer.

It was in Woodway House, Teignmouth, that his son Thomas Abel Brimage Spratt was born in 1811 and at the age of 16 entered into the Royal Navy.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "James Spratt (1771-1853)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 
  2. ^ Severin, Timothy (1987). The Ulysses Voyage: Sea Search for the Odyssey. E. P. Dutton. ISBN 978-0525246145. 

Further reading[edit]

  • J. K. Laughton, ‘Spratt, James (1771–1853)’, rev. Andrew Lambert, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [1], accessed 9 May 2009 (available online to subscribers, including most UK public libraries)