Sir Cloudesley Shovell Crayford's Admiral

Artilce by Dennis Jarrett

Born in the village of Cockthorpe in the County of Norfolk in 1650, Cloudesley Shovell was to rise from a humble birth to become one of the leading and finest Admirals of the age. He left home at the age of 12 to be a cabin boy in the service of Christopher Myngs, and was soon in action off the West Indies against the Spanish treasure ships on their way home laden with bullion from their South American colonies. He showed his metal at an early age during the Four Days War against the Dutch when he volunteered in the heat of the battle to swim from ship to ship bearing a message for assistance which turned defeat into victory.

When Myngs was fatally injured in the battle of North Foreland, Cloudesley continued his service under Sir John Narborough. He distinguished himself when he confronted the Dey of Algiers after the Algerians captured a number of English ships and enslaved their crews. Cloudesley set fire to the Algerian ships in their harbour and forced the release of the slaves, also securing the sum of £80,000 in reparations.

He distinguished himself at the battle of Bantry Bay during the “Glorious Revolution” of 1689, after which William III & Mary II ascended to the throne of England. King William knighted him after the battle, and the following year (1690) he was promoted to Admiral of the Blue. At the Battle of Barfleur, the invading French fleet attempting to restore James II to the English throne was defeated, with much of the credit going to Sir Cloudesley, although a wound to his thigh nearly killed him from blood poisoning, prevented him celebrating.

Cloudesley was jointly blamed for the disastrous Smyrna Convoy. The Admirals failed to give the rich merchant convoy to the Levant protection, which resulted in many ships being destroyed or captured by the French, and a parliamentary enquiry. Only his previous good record saved him. However by 1694 King William had forgiven him and promoted to him Vice- Admiral of the Red. In 1696 he was promoted to Admiral of the Blue and in 1698 Full Colonel of 2nd Regiment of Marines. The 1700s saw him in the thick of battle again, against the Spanish in the War of Succession at Vigo (1702), the Siege of Gibraltar, and the Battle of Malaga (1704). On Boxing Day of that year, he was made Rear-Admiral of the Fleet of England. At the height of his power he refused to leave Barcelona, but victoriously supported the 3rd Earl of Peterborough’s land forces. Alas, this illustrious career was to come to an abrupt end. On 22nd October 1707, on his way home after once more supporting the army at Toulon, Shovell’s ship the Association, together with 3 other ships carrying a large amount of bullion, struck rocks off the Scilly Isles with the loss of all hands. Sir Cloudesley’s body was recovered and he was laid to rest in Westminster Abbey at Queen Anne’s expense.