TRAFALGAR. Midshipman Robert Patton, HMS Bellerophon. 20212



Autograph Letter Signed (twice) by Robert Patton as Admiral, responding to a request for his signature. 4 x 3 inches, in good condition, integral leaf (bearing second signature) mounted on part of an old album leaf. United Service Club, Pall Mall, 6 November 1877. Admiral Robert Patton (1791-1883). He entered the Navy in February 1804 in the Utrecht, 64 (his then vice-admiral uncle Philip’s flagship in the Downs), under Captain John Wentworth Loring, of whom he remained a ‘follower’ until late 1809. Briefly a midshipman in the Puissant from June 1804, in which his cousin Hugh became a shipmate in October, he then rejoined Loring in the Bellerophon, 74, and remained in her when John Cooke took over. He was therefore present as a midshipman at Trafalgar, where Cooke was killed and succeeded by his first lieutenant Edward Rotherham. Patton was subsequently three years and nine months in the Niobe, 40, again under Loring, including in the capture of the French 16-gun corvette Nearque, before being made master’s mate in November 1809. He next served in the Polyphemus, 64, at Jamaica, where he was made acting lieutenant in August 1810. The rank was confirmed in November that year, after which he was in the Dispatch, sloop, in the West Indies, and the Doterel ,18 (Channel, West Indies and North America). He became first lieutenant of the Loire in April 1813 and of the Junon in November 1814 – both in North America – until promoted Commander in June 1815. On 13 April 1826 he was awarded the Royal Humane Society medal for saving a boy from drowning, probably while on half-pay, since he was only appointed on 13 May to command of the sloop Trinculo, 10, at Plymouth assigned to the Cork station (Ireland), for which she sailed in August. He was promoted to post-captain on 2 April 1827 but Trinculo was his only command and last commission: when this ended he came ashore, formally joining the retired list in 1847 and rising on it to rear-admiral in August 1854 and admiral in September 1864. He died at Fareham, Hants, aged 92, on 30 August 1883 – possibly in the family house where he was born. The ‘Illustrated London News’ of 22 September (f. p.285), published a portrait of him in old age (engraved from a photograph) with a brief obituary note suggesting he was the last surviving officer who had fought at Trafalgar. Although one of the last, when ‘The Times’ of 24 October also mentioned his death (in a report of a Trafalgar dinner of the Royal Naval Club of 1765) it noted that there were still two others then alive who had also been midshipmen there: Admiral of the Fleet Sir George Rose Sartorius, in the ‘Tonnant’, and Lieutenant-Colonel James Fynmore RM, in the ‘Africa’.