Tuesday, March 29, 2005

A short note about English captain Richard Kirby, who was executed for cowardice

One captain who was shot after Admiral Benbow's action in the Caribbean was Richard Kirby. He was appointed captain on 7 February 1690. In 1695, he had been part of a squadron in the Mediterranean Sea that was operating against pirates. At that time, he commanded the Southampton (48 guns). He was part of Vice-Admiral John Benbow's squadron engaged with the French in August 1702. The squadron consisted of the following ships:
  • Defiance, 64 guns crew 445 Richard Kirby
  • Pendennis, 48 guns crew 230 men Thomas Hudson
  • Windsor, 60 guns crew 340 men John Constable
  • Breda, 70 guns crew 460 men Vice-Adm. John Benbow, captain Christopher Fogg
  • Greenwich, 54 guns crew 280 men Cooper Wade
  • Ruby, 48 guns crew 230 men George Walton
  • Falmouth, 48 guns crew 230 men Samuel Vincent
Captains Kirby and Wade were convicted of cowardice and shot. Captain Constable was acquitted of cowardice, but was cashiered from the navy for other deeds. He also was imprisoned. Syrett says that Kirby was executed for cowardice under fire on 16 April 1703. The two guilty captains were sent home before being executed on board the Bristol. Sources:
  1. William Laird Clowes, The Royal Navy: A History from the Earliest Times to the Present, Vol.II, 1898.

  2. David Syrett, R. L. DiNardo, The Commissioned Sea Officers of the Royal Navy 1660-1815, 1994.

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