Richard Grindall

Richard Grindall

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name = Richard Grindall

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birth_date = 1750
birth_place = Holborn, London, England
death_date = death date|1820|5|23|df=y
death_place =Wickham, Hampshire, England
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occupation = Royal Navy Officer
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Vice Admiral Sir Richard Grindall KCB (1750 - 23 May 1820) was an officer in the British Royal Navy whose distinguished career during the American War of Independence, the French Revolutionary War and the Napoleonic Wars was highlighted by his presence at the battle of Trafalgar in 1805, when despite being cursed with the slow and ungainly 98 gun HMS "Prince" was instrumental in the final stages of the battle and especially in the chaotic storm which followed, when many of the British fleet would have been lost but for the efforts of Grindall and other captains of largely undamaged ships.


Born in 1750, Grindall joined the Resolution on 07 January 1772 as an Able Seaman on James Cook Second voyage (1772–75). He messed with the midshipmen during the voyage.

Grindall had a late initiation to the Royal Navy, only making lieutenant [ 29 November 1776 ] in 1776, a full eight years past the date most of his contemporaries had reached that rank. Almost his entire service was spent in ships of the line especially flagships, including HMS "Barfleur", Samuel Hood's flagship in the West Indies during 1781 [ 21 December 1781 ] . In this ship he saw his first action off Martinique and was promoted two year later to Post Captain. [ 13 March 1783 ]

The outbreak of the Revolutionary War saw him in command of the frigate HMS "Thalia", but after an uneventful time in command he was transferred to HMS "Irresistible" in 1795 and was engaged with the French Brest fleet in the battle of Groix. The next eight years was slow and uneventful for Grindall, consisting of constant blockade and convoy work and little chance for action or excitement. Following the Peace of Amiens, this seemed likely to continue, as he was given the huge "Prince", which had a reputation for "sailing like a haystack". This unfortunately proved to be the case, and the boring blockade duty continued, joining Nelson off Cadiz in 1805. It was on the 21 October that the combined Franco-Spanish fleet attempted to escape and Grindall lined up in Collingwood's division to attack them.

Unfortunately for Grindall's hopes of action, the ship was such an awful sailer that she was passed by her whole division, and took over two hours to cover the two or three miles to reach the battle. By the time she arrived most of the enemy fleet was in British hands or had fled, leaving few targets for the "Prince's" massive broadsides. She did fire on the Spanish flagship "Principe de Asturias" and the already blazing "Achille" but was not attacked and suffered no damage or casualties. Making the most of his unique position, Grindall immediately launched boats and rescued hundreds of struggling survivors in the water, including many from the sinking "Achille".

In the week of ferocious storms which followed the battle the sturdy "Prince" was invaluable, providing replacement stores to more battered ships and towing those that needed it. She also played the humanitarian very successfully, at one point saving 350 men from the sinking "Santissima Trinidad" who would otherwise have drowned. When his laden ship arrived at Gibraltar, it was ready to sail again in a matter of hours.

Thanks to his good long service record, Grindall was made a Rear Admiral [ Rear Admiral of the Blue 9 November 1805, of the White 28 April 1808, of the Red 25 October 1809 ] and Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath [ 2 January 1815 ] in the general promotion which followed the action on the 9 November. This however spelt doom for his career, as so many admirals were created that not enough posts could be found for them, and Grindall was one of the promoted men who never commanded at sea again, taking a shore appointment in late 1805 and retiring with his family soon afterwards as a Vice-Admiral [ Vice Admiral of the Blue 31 July 1810, of the White 12 August 1812, of the Red 4 June 1814 ] . His retiremnet was a difficult one however, as two of his sons who had joined the navy in their father's footsteps, Edmund and Festing Horatio [ Was also at "Trafalgar", as a midshipman on board Victory. ] , died in 1811 and 1812 from unconnected illness. When Richard Grindall died in Wickham in 1820 he was interred next to them [ St Nicholas Church, Wickham, Hampshire ] , joined by his wife Katherine in 1831.

Further reading

*"The Trafalgar Captains", Colin White and the 1805 Club, Chatham Publishing, London, 2005, ISBN 1-86176-247-X
* [,,1928953,00.html Maev Kennedy, Trafalgar anniversary resurrects haystack jibe, The Guardian, 23rd October 2006]


Appears as a character in the book Hornblower and the Hotspur, C. S. Forester, ISBN 0-14-002901-X.


External links

* [ Richard Grindall bio]
* [ Animation of the Battle of Trafalgar]

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