Thomas Herbert (Royal Navy officer)

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Thomas Herbert
Sir Thomas Herbert.jpg
Born February 1793
County Kerry, Ireland
Died 4 August 1861
Cadogan Place, London, England
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Navy
Rank Vice-Admiral of the White[1]
Wars Napoleonic Wars
War of 1812
First Anglo-Chinese War
Awards CB
China War Medal
Naval General Service Medal

Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Herbert, KCB (February 1793 – 4 August 1861), was British Royal Navy officer. He served in the Napoleonic Wars, War of 1812, and First Anglo-Chinese War. From 1847 to 1849, he was commodore of the South East Coast of America Station. Herbert served as Member of Parliament for Dartmouth as a Conservative from 1852 to 1857.

Early career[edit]

Herbert was born in County Kerry, Ireland, in February 1793 as the second son of Richard Townsend Herbert, esquire of Cahirnane, County Kerry (where the Herbert family had been seated since the reign of King Charles II), and his wife Jane, daughter of Anthony Stoughton, esquire of Ballyhorgan.[2][3] Among his ancestors was Sir Richard Herbert of Coldbrook, who was beheaded with his brother William, Earl of Pembroke at Banbury, the day after the Battle of Edgecote Moor on 26 July 1469.[2]

Herbert joined the Royal Navy on 23 July 1803 as a first-class volunteer on board HMS Excellent under Captain Frank Sotheron. In that ship, he went to the Mediterranean and was invested with the rating of midshipman on 1 January 1804. After assisting in the defence of Gaeta and the capture of Capri in 1806, he moved to HMS Blonde under Captain Volant Vashon Ballard, whom he accompanied to the West Indies Station, where he witnessed the reduction of the Danish West Indies and contributed to the capture of five privateers carrying 58 guns and 515 men. On 1 August 1809, as a reward for his conduct as prize-master of L'Alert, containing 20 guns and 149 men, Herbert was nominated by Sir Alexander Cochrane to Lieutenant in his flagship HMS Neptune on the recommendation of Ballard. He was officially promoted on 10 October.[2]

War of 1812[edit]

From March 1810 to June 1814, Herbert served as Lieutenant on board HMS Pompée under Captain James Athol Wood in the West Indies, Home, and Mediterranean stations. In 1814, he became First Lieutenant under Captain Charles John Napier of the frigate HMS Euryalus, in which he served in the War of 1812 against the United States.[2][4] He obtained the official mention of Sir James Gordon for his ability and exertions displayed throughout the operations on the Potomac River, including the capture of Fort Washington and Raid on Alexandria. After serving in over 20 engagements and being wounded three times, he was promoted to Commander on 19 October 1814. He did not take up his commission until February 1815, and he remained on half-pay until 6 September 1821.[2]

West Indies and South America[edit]

In September 1821, Herbert commissioned HMS Icarus for the Jamaica station in the West Indies, where he transferred to HMS Carnation, and was posted to HMS Tamar on 25 November.[2][4] In that ship, he destroyed three piratical vessels on the coasts of Cuba and Yucatán. He served in the Tamar until he brought her back home, and she was paid off in August 1823. In 1829, he was High Sheriff for County Kerry. He had no further military service until 10 November 1837, when he was appointed to HMS Calliope and sent to Brazil. Until the arrival of Commodore Thomas Ball Sulivan, Herbert conducted the duties of Senior Officer. Herbert was directed to assume command of the naval force in the Río de la Plata to protect British interests at Buenos Aires during a blockade by a French squadron, and at Monte Video. While carrying out his duties, he was twice officially assured of the approbation of the Admiralty. In January 1840, he went round Cape Horn, and joined Rear-Admiral Charles Ross at Valparaiso, where he began his expedition to China.[2]


In June 1840, Herbert sailed from Valparaiso to China in the Callope via St. Bernardin's Passage. While en route in the Philippine Islands, the crew encountered a typhoon, which the ship survived through their efforts. After arriving in the Canton River, China, on 10 October, he assumed command of the blockading force until the arrival of Rear-Admiral George Elliot on 20 November.[2] In the Second Battle of Chuenpi on 7 January 1841, Herbert, who was in the Calliope, also had the Hyacinth and Larne under his command.[5][6] The ships fired on the island's lower fort of 16 guns facing the sea, and silenced the Chinese batteries in less than an hour.[5] On 23–26 February, he participated in the Battle of the Bogue to prevent the Chinese making further defensive preparations in the Bocca Tigris. On 23 February, he sailed to the back passage of Anunghoy Island on board the Nemesis, with the Calliope, Samarang, Herald, and Alligator under his command. After unexpectedly reaching a masked battery of 20 guns that opened fire, the British ships rapidly returned fire and landed the troops, who soon captured the fort. Herbert reported 80 guns captured (20 mounted and 60 unmounted), and 20 to 30 Chinese dead.[7]

In the Battle of First Bar on 27 February, Herbert, while in the Calliope, also had the Herald, Alligator, Sulphur, Modeste, and the steamers Madagascar and Nemesis under his command. The ships cannonaded the Chinese war junks and batteries, which protected their strongly entrenched camp. In an hour, when the Chinese artillery was nearly silenced, he landed with the seamen and marines, and stormed the works, driving before them over 2,000 Chinese troops and killing nearly 300. The forts were under British possession about half an hour later.[8] He participated in further campaigns in capturing the forts leading towards Canton. From June to July 1841, he was senior officer in the Canton River, and on the arrival of Sir William Parker, Herbert was moved to HMS Blenheim, in which he took part in the capture of Amoy and Chusan, and commanded the naval brigade at the capture of Chinhai.[3] He was appointed a Companion of the Most Honourable Military Order of the Bath on 29 June,[9] and a Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Military Order of the Bath on 14 October.[10]

Later career[edit]

Herbert returned to England by the Cape of Good Hope, thus completing a circumnavigation of the globe, and paid off the Blenheim in March 1843. On 11 January 1847, he was employed as Commodore on the South East Coast of America Station until 1849, with a broad pennant on HMS Raleigh.[4][11] From February to December 1852, he was Third Naval Lord under Algernon Percy, 4th Duke of Northumberland.[2][4] He became a Rear Admiral on 26 October 1852.[12] He was promoted to Vice Admiral on 8 December 1857.[13] He received a good service pension in 1849.[11] From July 1852 to April 1857, Herbert was Member of Parliament for Dartmouth.[14] A Conservative, he opposed "further concessions to the Roman Catholics", and was against re-imposing an import duty on corn.[15] He unsuccessfully contested that borough in 1859.[14] After a protracted illness,[16] he died on 4 August 1861 in Cadogan Place, Chelsea, London.[14]


  1. ^ London Gazette: no. 22537, p. 3317, 9 August 1861.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i O'Byrne, William Richard (1849). "Wikisource link to Herbert, Thomas". Wikisource link to A Naval Biographical Dictionary. John Murray. Wikisource. 
  3. ^ a b Laughton, J. K.. "Herbert, Sir Thomas (1793–1861), rev. Roger Morris". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004 ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/13051. Accessed 11 April 2010.
  4. ^ a b c d Stephen, Leslie; Lee, Sidney (1891). Dictionary of National Biography. Volume 26. New York: Macmillan and Co. pp. 217–218.
  5. ^ a b London Gazette: no. 19976, pp. 1162–1163, 7 May 1841.
  6. ^ Bernard, William Dallas; Hall, William Hutcheon (1845). Narrative of the Voyages and Services of the Nemesis from 1840 to 1843 (2nd ed.). London: Henry Colburn. p. 120.
  7. ^ London Gazette: no. 19987, pp. 1496–1497, 11 June 1841.
  8. ^ London Gazette: no. 19987, p. 1500, 11 June 1841.
  9. ^ London Gazette: no. 19995, p. 1720, 2 July 1841.
  10. ^ London Gazette: no. 20028, p. 2593, 15 October 1841.
  11. ^ a b Colburn's United Service Magazine and Naval and Military Journal. Part 3. London: H. Hurst. 1849. p. 457.
  12. ^ London Gazette: no. 21387, p. 3516, 3 December 1852.
  13. ^ London Gazette: no. 22071, p. 4367, 11 December 1857.
  14. ^ a b c Urban, Sylvanus (1861). The Gentleman's Magazine (1861). Volume 40. London: John Henry and James Parker. pp. 445–446.
  15. ^ Morton, Edward (1854). Adam's Parliamentary Handbook: Comprising a Pocket Peerage and Parliamentary Companion (3rd ed.). London: Henry Adams. p. 149.
  16. ^ Lord Ashburton (1862). "Obituary". The Journal of the Royal Geographical Society (London: John Murray) 32: cix.

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Samuel Inglefield
Commander-in-Chief, South East Coast of America Station
Succeeded by
William Henderson
Preceded by
Sir James Stirling
Third Naval Lord
Succeeded by
Sir Richard Dundas
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
George Moffatt
Member of Parliament for Dartmouth
Succeeded by
James Caird