Provo Wallis

Provo Wallis

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Provo William Perry Wallis, GCB (May 12, 1791 – February 13, 1892) was a naval war hero and Admiral of the Fleet for the Royal Navy. He was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia and was 100 years old when he died.

His father, Provo Wallis Sr., wanted a naval career for his son and, knowing the rules for officers' entry into the navy, managed to get his son officially registered in 1795 as an able seaman on the 36-gun frigate HMS "Oiseau" at the age of four. In 1796 young Provo became a volunteer in the 40-gun frigate "Prevoyante" where he remained (on paper at least) for two years before returning in the 64-gun "Asia" where he served until 1800, then was promoted as a midshipman into the 32-gun frigate "Cleopatra".

Provo Wallis was then commissioned as a lieutenant on the 38-gun frigate, "Shannon" in 1811. It was here that Provo Wallis gained most of his notability. The "Shannon" fought with the USS "Chesapeake" near Boston on June 1, 1813, during the War of 1812. The Captain, Philip Bowes Vere Broke, was badly wounded during the action and the "Shannon"'s first lieutenant was killed. Provo Wallis served as the temporary captain of the British frigate for a period of exactly six days as she made her way back to Halifax, Nova Scotia, with the "Chesapeake" flying the Blue Ensign above the Stars and Stripes. For this action, he was promoted commander on 9 July, 1813.

He commanded "Niemen" on the Halifax station from 1824–1826, and "Madagascar" in the West Indies from 1838–1839. Later, he commanded "Warspite" in the Mediterranean from 1843–1846.

He was promoted rear-admiral on 27 August 1851 and appointed Commander-in-Chief on the south­east coast of South America in 1857, but was promoted to vice-admiral and recalled after a few months. He was made a KCB on 18 May 1860 and promoted admiral on 2 March 1863. To prevent two admirals from dying as paupers, a special clause in the retirement scheme of 1870 provided that those officers who had commanded a ship during the French war should be retained on the active list. The few days Wallis was in command of the "Shannon" qualified him to remain on the active list until he died. He was made GCB on 24 May 1873 and admiral of the Fleet on 11 December 1877.

Admiral Wallis died in 1892, only a few weeks shy of his 101st birthday with a combined service from the time his name first appeared on the books of a Royal Navy Ship of 96 years. He was both the last surviving commanding officer from the Napoleonic Wars and the last veteran of the conflict to serve as Admiral of the Fleet.


* [ "Dictionary of Canadian Biography online" Wallis bio]

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