Sir Clowdisley Shovell

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Sir Clowdisley Shovell (or Shovel), 1659-1707 was a British admiral. In a spectacularly eventful life he climbed from his role as a 6 year old cabin boy under a relative, Captain Myngs, in the Second Dutch War (1665-7) to attain the elevated rank of Admiral of the Mediterranean Fleet during the War of Spanish Succession (1702–13).

He probably served at the Battle of Solebay during the Third Dutch War (1672-4), and by 1676 he was in the Mediterranean where commanded the fleet of ships’ boats during the operation to burn the corsair fleet in Tripoli Harbour. A year later he was promoted to post-captain. He was still only eighteen years old.

Until 1686 he was continuously in action against the Barbary Pirates. But was in England during the Glorious Revolution of 1688, when he transferred his allegiance to William and Mary. He commanded a ship in the Battle of Bantry Bay (1692) and was subsequently knighted, and given command of the English squadron in the Irish Sea during William’ invasion of Ireland.

By the end of the century he was Admiral of the Blue, in charge of the Channel fleet. The War of Spanish Succession found him in the Mediterranean, where he distinguished himself in the capture of Gibraltar (still a British naval base) and Barcelona, and other engagements against the French. Shovel helped capture Gibraltar (1704), and assisted at the capture of Barcelona (1705)[1]

In 1707 his fleet sailed for England but encountered an unexpected current and several ships were wrecked on the Scilly Isles. Sir Clowdisley himself was washed ashore half drowned, where a local woman strangled him for the large ring he was wearing. (She was to admit this on her deathbed many years later, and the ring returned to his family).

The tragedy ended a life that still had much to offer.

Reference: “The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea”