RADM Richard Kempenfelt

RADM Richard Kempenfelt

Birth
Westminster, City of Westminster, Greater London, England
Death 29 Aug 1782 (aged 63–64)
Hampshire, England
Burial Westminster, City of Westminster, Greater London, England
Memorial ID 186582387 · View Source
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British Royal Navy Rear Admiral. Known for his reputation as a naval innovator, he is best remembered for his victory against the French at the Second Battle of Ushant in 1781, during the Anglo-French War, and for his death when the HMS Royal George accidentally sank at Portsmouth the following year. His father was a Swedish citizen who is said to have been in the service of British King James II, and subsequently to have entered the British Army. After joining the British Navy, he was commissioned a lieutenant in January 1741. He saw service in the West Indies, taking part in the capture of Portobelo during the War of Jenkins' Ear. In 1746 he returned to Britain, and from then to 1780, when he was made rear-admiral, he saw active service in the East Indies with Admiral Sir George Pocock. In 1779 he became Chief of Staff or Captain of the Fleet under Admiral Sir Charles Hardy on the HMS Victory which was to lead a hastily assembled fleet to oppose an invasion of England set to begin with the destruction of the Portsmouth naval base by the French and Spanish Armada of 1779. In 1782 he was given command HMS Royal George, which formed part of the fleet under Admiral of the Fleet Lord Richard Howe. In August of that year, his fleet was ordered to proceed to the relief of Gibraltar, and underwent a refit at top speed at Portsmouth, England. On 29 August 1782, the Royal George was being heeled off Portsmouth to allow repairs to be made to the water intake for the deck wash pump, which was three feet below water level. The larboard guns had been run out and the starboard guns moved into the center of the deck to heel over the ship until her lowest gun ports were close to the surface of the water. A supply vessel, the Lark approached the Royal George on her low side to transfer a cargo of rum. According to an Admiralty report – not made public until early the next century – the larboard cannons' weight on the ship's central frame caused excessively decayed timbers to break. This caused the ship to heel to such a degree that the sea washed in at her gunports, and she soon began to ship water in her hold. A sudden breeze on the raised side of the ship forced her further over and the water rushed in. The crew were ordered to right the ship but the fallen cannon could not be moved. Within a couple of minutes she rolled on to her side and sank before any distress signal could be given. Nine hundred people were estimated to have lost their lives, for besides the crew there were a large number of tradesmen and women and children on board. About 230 people were saved, some by running up the rigging, while others were picked up by boats from other vessels. Kempenfelt was writing in his cabin when the ship sank; the cabin doors had jammed due to the ship heeling, and he perished with the rest at the age of about 64. A religious person, he wrote hymns that were published in "Original Hymns and Poems" (1777). In 1783 a medallion was created commemorating the sinking of theRoyal George and in 1808 a memorial to Kempenfelt, by the sculptor John Bacon the younger, was placed in Westminster Abbey. Kempenfelt Bay on Lake Simcoe in Ontario, Canada, is named in his honor.


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  • Created by: William Bjornstad
  • Added: 12 Jan 2018
  • Find a Grave Memorial 186582387
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for RADM Richard Kempenfelt (1718–29 Aug 1782), Find a Grave Memorial no. 186582387, citing Westminster Abbey, Westminster, City of Westminster, Greater London, England ; Maintained by William Bjornstad (contributor 47016546) .