Royal Navy obituary in the Times newspaper
Royal Navy obituary in the Times newspaper

Royal NavyObituaries

The following obituary for Algernon Frederick Rous De Horsey appeared in the Times newspaper.

Obituary in the Times newspaper
23 October 1922




Admiral Sir Algernon de Horsey, whose death, in his ninety-sixth year, is announced on another page, was the doyen of the Naval Service, being not only the senior Admiral on the retired list (he had held the rank since 1885), but also the oldest. As was explained in an article on "Victorian Admirals" in The Times of last Thursday, the next oldest officer of flag rank is Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Fellowes, K.C.B., who on that day celebrated his ninety-fifth birthday.

Sir Algernon's career was remarkable for the service he saw in command of men-of-war. Out of his 25½ years' actual sea time as a commissioned officer, twenty years were spent in command, thirteen years being on foreign stations. The Admiral watched the operations of four wars - the Prussian-Danish, United States Civil, Mexican, and Chilean-Peruvian. But he was, perhaps, chiefly noted for having engaged, when in command of an unarmoured ship, the Shah, an ironclad vessel, the Huascar, with results which in the circumstances were satisfactory. This engagement sounded a distinct warning as to the weakness of wooden cased ships like the Shah, in combat with ironclads, and had its influence on naval architecture.

Sir Algernon Frederick Rous de Horsey was born on July 25, 1827, and was a son of Mr. Spencer de Horsey, of Great Glemham, Suffolk, and Lady Louisa, a daughter of the first Earl of Stradbroke. He was thus a nephew of Admiral Rous, long famous on the Turf, and of Vice-Admiral the Hon. Sir M. Hotham. His only sister was the Countess of Cardigan, whose reminiscences created no small scandal on their appearance in 1909. The Admiral then chivalrously defended her as much as he could.

The family of de Horsey is traced back to the reign of Henry II.; the Admiral was directly descended from Sir Jerome Horsey, Queen Elizabeth's Ambassador to the Tsar, and from Major Samuel Horsey, Governor of North Carolina in 1738. He entered the Navy in 1840, and as a youngster was present at the operations on the coast of Syria in that year. On several occasions he was under fire, and he received the bar for Syria given with the Naval General Service medal for these operations, as well as the medal for Acre given by the Sultan of Turkey. After passing his examinations he received his commission as mate (sub-lieutenant) on July 25, 1846, and on the following day was promoted to lieutenant, to fill a death vacancy, at the age of 19. We next find him employed as flag lieutenant to Vice-Admiral Sir George F. Seymour, the Commander-in-Chief on the West Indies and North America Station, having been appointed to the Cumberland, the flagship, in February, 1851. To fill another death vacancy he was promoted to commander on June 10, 1853, and given command of the Devastation, a steam-sloop, on the same station. After this ship was paid off he was promoted to captain on September 7, 1857, in his thirtieth year.

Captain de Horsey served the greater part of the eighteen years he held this rank on the West Indies Station. While in charge of the Brisk, he captured after a hard chase a celebrated Spanish slaver, the Manuela, of 702 tons, with 846 slaves on board. He was senior officer at Jamaica in the Wolverine during the riots in 1865, and for his services on that occasion received the thanks of both Houses of Parliament. In opening the Legislative Session of 1865, Governor E.J. Eyre, of Jamaica, in referring to this matter, said: - "To the senior naval officer, Captain de Horsey, of H.M.S. Wolverine, we owe it that we were enabled to carry out with promptitude and efficiency, the arrangements necessary to control and suppress the rebellion."

He was also senior officer on the Lakes of Canada in the Aurora during the Fenian disturbances of 1866-67, and wintered his ship in the ice at Quebec. For these services he received the Canada medal awarded in 1899, with the clasp for the operations in 1866. In 1871 he was made an A.D.C. to Queen Victoria, and in the following year was appointed Commodore in charge of the establishment at Jamaica, with his broad pennant in the Aboukir. He was advanced to flag rank on May 7, 1875. and as a rear-admiral, became Commander-in-Chief on the Pacific Station, with his flag in the Shah, in the following year, an appointment he held till July, 1879. It was in the Shah, in company with the Amethyst, that the Admiral engaged the Peruvian rebel turret-ship Huascar on May 29, 1877. This vessel had committed outrages against British subjects and British property, and was declared by the Peruvian Government to be a pirate. The Admiral determined, therefore, to proceed against her. In the three-and-a-half hours' action neither British ship suffered any loss, but the Huascar was hit some seventy or eighty times, and next day she surrendered to the Peruvian squadron. The Law Officers of the Crown decided that Admiral de Horsey was justified in these proceedings, and the Admiralty convoyed to him their approval of his action. Promoted to vice-admiral on November 27, 1879, he commanded the Channel Squadron in 1884-85, and on April 29 of the latter year was advanced to admiral on the active list.

The fact that Admiral de Horsey did not reach the highest rank open to officers of his standing and service raised a question which has been much discussed. The matter is thus referred to in the "History of the Navy," by Laird Clowes: - "For many years after 1857 the flag officer at the top of the list of admirals always received promotion as a vacancy occurred ... Seniority was never ignored until in 1892 came the turn of Admiral Algernon Frederick Rous de Horsey, who had been Commander-in-Chief in the Pacific for nearly three years, and, in addition, had been Senior Officer in the Channel for about five months. On that occasion her Majesty the Queen, exercising her right of selection, saw fit to pass over de Horsey and to promote Sir John Edmund Commerell, whose name stood next on the active list." No reason was assigned, nor could any be expected, for this departure from the usual practice, but it was not repeated, and new rules on the subject were made in 1914. On July 25, 1892, Admiral de Horsey retired, and on November 9, 1903, he was made a K.C.B.

Sir Algernon married, in 1861, Caroline, daughter of Admiral Andrew Drew, who, in the Eurotas, Captain Phillimore, assisted on February 25, 1814, at the capture of the Clorinde, a French frigate. Lady de Horsey, who is 87, survives him with one son and two daughters; the former is Vice-Admiral Spencer Victor Yorke de Horsey. One of his daughters married Captain Thomas Vaughan Wynn Phillips, R.A., and the other married Major William Croughton Peel, late 3rd Dragoon Guards, of Peele Fold, Lancashire, and Trenant Park, Cornwall. Sir Algernon, who had lived for many years at Melcombe House, Cowes, on February 14, 1918, resigned the chairmanship of the Isle of Wight county magistrates at the age of 90. He had been Joint Deputy Governor of the Island since 1913, and Deputy Lieutenant. To the last he retained a keen interest in all matters relating to his profession and county administration. He frequently contributed letters to The Times, and was the author of two works, "An African Pilot" and "The Rule of the Road at Sea."

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