Peter Denis

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Sir Peter Denis, 1st Baronet
Born 1713
Died 11 June 1778
Allegiance  Kingdom of Great Britain
Service/branch  Royal Navy
Rank Vice Admiral
Commands held Nore Command
Battles/wars War of the Austrian Succession
Seven Years' War

Vice-Admiral Sir Peter Denis, 1st Baronet (1713 – 11 June 1778) was an English naval officer and Member of Parliament.


The son of a Huguenot refugee, Denis was educated at The King's School, Chester[1] and joined the navy as a young man. He was a midshipman in HMS Centurion under the command of Commodore George Anson at the start of his famous circumnavigation (1740–1744). He was promoted to lieutenant in 1739. On 5 November 1741, in the South Seas, he was sent in command of 16 men in a cutter to pursue a Spanish vessel . He boarded and carried his prize, which proved to be bound from Guayaquil to Callao. The cargo was of little value to its captors, but intelligence derived from the capture led to the attack on the town of Paita a few days afterwards.

By 1745 Denis had been promoted to command and given the 26-gun sixth rate HMS Greyhound. Soon afterwards he was transferred to temporary command of HMS Windsor, during which time he captured a French privateer and recaptured two British merchantmen. By 1747 Denis was back in the 50-gun Centurion as her captain, commanding her at the Battle of Cape Finisterre, where he once more served under Anson, now an admiral. When the enemy was sighted, Anson signalled a general chase as he expected the French to evade action if possible until they could escape under cover of darkness; Centurion was swiftest into action, engaging the rearmost French ship and occupying her and two larger enemy ships until the main body of the British fleet could come up. After the battle Denis was entrusted with bringing back to England the news of Anson's victory; as the public acclaim that followed won Anson a peerage, this may well have further endeared Denis to Anson.

In 1754, Denis entered Parliament as member for Hedon, a Yorkshire borough where Anson was the "patron" with the power to select the MPs. He held the seat for fourteen years, throughout which time the other MP was another naval officer, Sir Charles Saunders, who later rose to become First Lord of the Admiralty.

Denis continued his naval career, commanding the 90-gun HMS Namur in Admiral Edward Hawke's unsuccessful expedition against Rochefort in September 1757. At the Action of 29 April 1758, he was captain of the 70-gun HMS Dorsetshire which defeated and captured French ship of the line Raisonnable in the Bay of Biscay.[2] Dorsetshire was with the fleet at the decisive victory of Quiberon Bay in 1759. In 1767 he was created a baronet, of St Mary's in the County of Kent, but as he left no male heir the title became extinct on his death.

Denis became Commander-in-Chief, The Nore, based on the River Medway in 1771 with his flag in the third-rate HMS Trident.[3]

He died in 1778, having reached the rank of Vice-Admiral of the Red.


  1. ^ "Inspirational Alumni Members". The King's School Chester. Retrieved 2 December 2011. 
  2. ^ "No. 9790". The London Gazette. 9 May 1758. p. 1. 
  3. ^ "Peter Denis". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 2 January 2015. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Sir John Savile
Luke Robinson
Member of Parliament for Hedon
With: Sir Charles Saunders
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Saunders
Beilby Thompson
Baronetage of Great Britain
New creation Baronet
(of St Mary's)