Admiral de Saumarez was born in St Peter Port on 11th March 1757

Early life of de Saumarez

He was entered on the books of a naval vessel in 1767, aged just 10.

This was a common ploy of the day in order to secure seniority. He did not actually go to sea until the grand old age of 12 in 1769. His career only concluded on 10th May 1827 when he struck his flag for the last time after three years as Port Admiral at Plymouth. His career had lasted the greater part of 60 years.

He took an active part in the War of American Independence. He so impressed Lord Cornwallis that he was offered a commission in the army, which, fortunately, he declined. Whilst serving on HMS Bristol in 1776 the ship was heavily engaged by a powerfully defended coastal fort. There were 111 killed and wounded on his vessel alone. Seven out of the eight men who were working the gun he commanded were killed. Later in the action Sir John Ross recounts how Saumarez: “…was standing close to Mr Darley, a midshipman, for whom he had the greatest regard, when a shot took off the young man’s head and covered Mr Saumarez with his blood”. Life was brutal and bloody on a British man-of-war in action.

Saumarez was appointed Lieutenant and given command of a schooner-rigged galley called Spitfire in which he further distinguished himself, engaging the enemy 47 times in that vessel alone. He returned to England and served for a time as 3rd and later 1st Lieutenant in HMS Victory, flagship of the Channel Fleet. He took part in the Battle of Dogger Bank on 5th August 1781 against the Dutch, a fiercely fought, but inconclusive engagement.

Lieutenant Saumarez was presented to King George III and promoted to Master and Commander of the Tisiphone, a fire-ship. Action followed in the West Indies and soon after he was again promoted to the rank of post Captain (i.e. a full Captain) in command of HMS Russell, a 74 gun ship of the line. In April 1782 he was engaged in a particularly fierce action against the French, actually causing the French flag-ship, the much heavier gunned Ville de Paris, the largest ship in the then French navy, to strike her colours.