Thomas Symonds

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Captain Thomas Symonds, R.N. (1731–1792) was a British naval captain of the American Revolutionary War.

He was a son of the Rev John Symonds, rector of Horringeth Suffolk, and his wife Mary, a daughter of Sir Thomas Spring of Packenham Suffolk. Thomas was baptized in Horringeth parish church on 10 August 1731 (Horringeth Parish Register).

He entered the Royal Navy as a Lieutenant on 22 May 1755 and served on the "Elizabeth", the "Grafton" and the "Borwick" (Pitcairn-Jones Naval List).

On 18 February 1762 he was appointed Commander of the sloop "Albany" and was ordered to join Commodore Young's squadron then blockading the estuaries of the rivers Seine and Orne, France.

The "Albany" joined that squadron on 8 July 1762.

On 13 July 1762 he was the commanding officer of a flotilla of small boats which, in a night raid, attempted to destroy landing barges moored in the river Orne. The attack failed.

The following Court-Martial found Thomas Symonds "guilty of acting in a manner not becoming to an officer". He lost command of the Albany ("One Summer's Night, an account of the raid by Patrick Arnold (1990)).

In 1771 he attrained post rank of Captain and took command of the "Captain". In 1776 he was captain of the "Solebay" which took part in the bombardment of Forst Moultrie overlooking Charleston Harbour.

In 1780, in England, he replaced John Luttrell as captain of HMS Charon, and sailed for America with a naval force. On 13 August 1780 the "Charon" accepted after a lengthy engagement the surrender of the "Comte d'Artois", a Franch privateer off the Irish coast. After successful anti-convoy operations on the Atlantic crossing and coastal cruising, the ship became trapped in the York River, Virginia, where Symonds took supreme command of British naval forces in America. Charon was destroyed and sunk with red-hot shot soon afterwards.[1] At the end of the Siege of Yorktown, it was he (as the most senior naval officer present) and Cornwallis, Lieutenant General of the British Armed Forces, who signed the Articles of Capitulation on 18 October 1781. After his release as a prisoner of war he was appointed Captain of the "Diadem".

Thomas Symonds died in his brother's house in Bury St Edmunds on 25 May 1792 (The Bury and Norwich Post).

He is buried in Packenham Church where there is a mural tablet to his memory and to that of his son, Jermyn John, Commander RN who was the commander of the "Helena", a sloop of 14 guns which was lost with him and all his crew in a gale off the Dutch coast in October 1796 (some authorities put the loss as 3 November 1796).

Thomas Symonds married twice, first to Mary Noble who died in 1777 and who is buried in St James's church Bury, secondly to Elizabeth Mallet (Burke's Peerage).

In his Will, proved 15 June 1792, Thomas Symonds left bequests to his wife Elizabeth, to his sons Jermyn John, Thomas Edward, and John Charles and to his daughters, Mary Anne, Elizabeth, Juliana, Merelina, and Sophia (Public Record Office Probate 11, 1220, I-E 353).

His daughter was Mary Anne Whitby, his son was William Symonds, Surveyor of the Navy, and his grandsons included William Cornwallis Symonds, Thomas Symonds, and Jermyn Symonds.


  1. ^  Lee, Sidney, ed. (1892). "James, Bartholomew". Dictionary of National Biography. 29. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 

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