Thomas Graves, 1st Baron Graves

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The Lord Graves
Born23 October 1725
Plymouth, England
Died9 February 1802(1802-02-09) (aged 76)
Devon, England
Allegiance Kingdom of Great Britain
Service/branch Royal Navy
Commands heldNorth American Station
Plymouth Command
Battles/warsSeven Years' War
American War of Independence
French Revolutionary Wars
Elizabeth Williams
(m. 1771)
RelationsAlfred van der Smissen, 2nd Baron van der Smissen, his great-nephew.

Admiral Thomas Graves, 1st Baron Graves, KB (23 October 1725 – 9 February 1802) was a British officer of the Royal Navy and a colonial official. He served in the Seven Years' War and the American War of Independence. He was also the Commodore-Governor of Newfoundland for a period of time.[1]

Military career[edit]

Born in England in October 1725, Graves was the second son of Rear-Admiral Thomas Graves of Thanckes in Cornwall.[2]

Graves' first military experience was as a volunteer with Commodore Henry Medley's crew around 1740. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1743, and captain in 1755. In the first year of the Seven Years' War, Graves failed to confront a French ship which gave challenge.[1] He was tried by court-martial for not engaging his ship, and reprimanded.[1] Graves became Commodore-Governor of Newfoundland in 1761[1] and given the duty of convoying the seasonal fishing fleet from England to the island. In 1762 he learned that French ships had captured St. John's. Graves, Admiral Alexander Colville and Colonel William Amherst retook the port city.[1]

With the end of the Seven Years' War, Labrador came under his responsibility as French fishing fleets returned to the French Shore and St. Pierre and Miquelon. Graves strictly enforced the treaties to the extent that the French government protested. Graves' governorship ended in 1764. He returned to active service during the American War of Independence and became commander-in-chief of the North American Squadron in 1781.[1] when Mariot Arbuthnot returned home.

During the American Revolution, his fleet was defeated by the Comte de Grasse in the Battle of the Chesapeake at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay on 5 September 1781, leading to the surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown.

In September 1782, a fleet under his command was caught in a violent storm off the banks of Newfoundland. The captured French ships from the Battle of the Saintes Ville de Paris (110 guns) and HMS Glorieux (74 guns), and the British ships HMS Ramillies (74 guns) and Centaur (74 guns) foundered, along with other merchant ships, with the loss of 3,500 lives. In 1786 Graves became Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth.[1][3]

With the French Revolutionary Wars, Graves was second in command to Admiral Richard Howe at the British victory over the French at the Battle of the Glorious First of June 1794. Graves became a full admiral and was awarded an Irish peerage as Baron Graves, of Gravesend in the County of Londonderry.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Lord Graves married Elizabeth, daughter of William Peere Williams, in 1771. The couple had a son, Thomas, in 1775. Following several battle injuries, Graves retired to his Devon estate in 1794, and died in February 1802, aged 76.[5]


Coat of arms of Thomas Graves, 1st Baron Graves
A demi-eagle displayed and erased Or encircled round the body and below the wings by a ducal coronet Argent.
Gules an eagle displayed Or ducally crowned Argent. On a canton of the last an anchor Proper.
Two royal vultures wings close Proper.
Aquila Non Captat Muscas [6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Article by Kenneth Breen, ‘Graves, Thomas, first Baron Graves (1725–1802)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008; Retrieved 4 June 2008.
  2. ^ Historic Cornwall website: Thanckes estate near Torpoint.
  3. ^ "Admiral Graves, we hear, will succeed Admiral Milbanke in the Station of Port Admiral at Plymouth". The Public Advertiser. 22 February 1786. p. 2. Retrieved 2 January 2014.
  4. ^ London Gazette no. 13727. p. 1178
  5. ^ "Graves, 1st Baron Thomas (1725-1802)". Archived from the original on 12 September 2015.
  6. ^ Burke's Peerage. 1949.


External links[edit]

Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by Member of Parliament for East Looe
With: John Buller
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Governor of Newfoundland
Succeeded by
Military offices
Preceded by Commander-in-Chief, North American Station
Succeeded by
Preceded by Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth
Succeeded by
Peerage of Ireland
New creation Baron Graves
Succeeded by