Admiral Sholto Douglas, CB

1833 - 1913



The following is thought to be his naval service
Date from Date to Service
4 March 1856   Lieutenant in Calcutta, commanded by William King Hall, flagship of Rear-Admiral Michael Seymour, East Indies
(November 1856)   Lieutenant commander in Coromandel, East Indies (including 2nd Anglo-Chinese War)
27 February 1858   Lieutenant in Calcutta, commanded by William King Hall, flagship of Rear-Admiral Michael Seymour, East Indies and China (at capture of Peiho River forts)
21 August 1860 April 1864 Commander in Espoir (from commissioning at Plymouth until paying off at Plymouth), west coast of Africa
14 February 1870 21 August 1872 Captain in Malabar
21 August 1872 20 April 1874 Captain in Aurora (until paying off at Plymouth), 1873 detached squadron, then temporary flagship at Queenstown
(October 1875) May 1877 Captain in Achilles, Coast Guard, Liverpool
16 May 1877 1 April 1878 Captain in Resistance (from commissioning at Plymouth), Coast Guard, Liverpool

Nominated Rear-Admiral 24 May 1881 - or was this when he was nominated as a CB? Yes CB on this day, when a Captain - see London Gazette of this date.

He had a least two sons, his 2nd being Vice-admiral Sir Henry Percy Douglas. He was married to Maria Louisa Bickford, the only daughter of William Bickford, of Stonehouse, Devon.

He may have been appointed to Caledonia as a cadet in 1848.

His retirement was announced on December 27th ????

There was some form of 'disturbance' on board the Aurora, whilst Douglas was in command, resulting in 'several petty officers and able seamen, in the various messes, who,' as a result were 'dismissed the ship and disrated.'


Snippets for evaluation:

1867; es of late Admiral Sholto Douglas, CB, South- sea, Hants; m. 1896, Bessie
(d. 1938), yd of late J. Koran, St. John's, Newfoundland; one 5. ...
Times online and memorial inscription contribution = Admiral Sholto Douglas died 26th December 1913 and is buried in Highland Road Cemetery in Southsea with his first wife Maria and his son Frederick.

Snippets for evaluation:

On the 26th, (?1914) (died) aged 80, Admiral Sholto Douglas, CB ; had served with distinction in the Russian and Chinese Wars, and on the West Coast of Africa.

He was concerned about slavery - see his letter>>>


MAN WHO LIBERATED TWELVE HUNDRED SLAVES. The death is announced at the age of 80 at of Admiral Sholto Douglas, C.B. The deceased admiral entered the Royal Navy 1847, at the age of 14. He saw service during the Kaffir and Burmese wars, for which he received medals, and then, on ... 29 December 1913 - Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser


From The memories of Sir Llewelyn Turner


Amongst my many old naval friends — alas, I must add, amongst the few of them who survive — is my friend whose name heads this page, whose kind hospitality in her Majesty's ship Achilles, an iron-clad of 10,000 tons, it was my lot on different occasions to enjoy. I have special reason to recollect one occasion, as it was from this ship that I went to pay a visit to the house from which I subsequently carried off the lady who has shared my lot for nearly a quarter of a century, and whose love and affection probably did more than all other things combined to lead me through, what I was very far from singular in believing, was the " valley of the shadow of death " on several occasions. I had once piloted her parents through Carnarvon Castle, and made her acquaintance at a bazaar which I had been invited to open in St. George's Hall, Liverpool, at which she had a stall.

I had the pleasure of Captain Douglas' company at Parkia on different occasions. The admiral, as he now is, was born in 1833 (very juvenile in comparison to those of whom I have been writing). He joined the Navy in 1847, and was in the Kaffir War in 1853, when he received a medal (extra African-Burmah war 1854 medal) ; China during part of 1854 ; Baltic (war with Russia), 1874-5 ; China, Canton, Patshan, 1857 '; Pei-ho, 1858 (medal). He commanded the Espece on the west coast of Africa, from 1860 to 1864, engaged in suppressing the slave trade, and liberated over 1200 slaves. Captain Sholto Douglas commanded the troopship Malabar, the first ship that took troops to India through the Suez Canal. Subsequently he was captain of the Aurora, 50-gun frigate, in the Flying Squadron, and from 1875 to 1878, H.M.S. Achilles, and afterwards H.M.S. Resistance, iron-clads, with the internal arrangements of both which I was well acquainted. Captain Douglas passed through the grades of rear- and vice-admiral ; he attained that of admiral, and got the C.B., retiring in 1888.


From The Times, 18 April 1864
The screw steam gun-vessel Espoir, 5, Commander S. Douglas, from Sierra Leone February 4th, Goree, February 20th, Cape Verd Islands March 6th, and the Western Islands April 4th, arrived on Saturday morning in Plymouth Sound. When she left the station the Rattlesnake was at Sierra Leone, the Zebra at Cape Coast, the Speedwell, the Snake, and the Pandora in the Bights, and the Investigator at Lagos. The Espoir spoke on the 11th of April, in lat. 48 24 N., long. 15 40 W. the brig Eaglet, steering west; 14th, lat. 49 39 N., long. 11 17 W., the bark Juno, outward bound, and lat. 49 32 N., long. 11 40 W., a large steamer steering west. Off Fayal she encountered a heavy gale from the eastward, but sustained no damage.

The Espoir was commissioned at Devonport by Commander Sholto Douglas August 21,1860, and left England on September the 27th. On the coast she was first engaged up the River Gambia in settling native disputes. She then conveyed a portion of the troops wrecked in the Perseverance from Navy Island to Sierra Leone. During the passage fever broke out, and on arrival three-fourths of the ship's company were on the sick list; she therefore proceeded to the Bananas to recruit. On the 19th of November, 1860, off Gallinas River, she captured a Spanish brig, and subsequently, near Ascension, the bark Clara Windsor, with 750 slaves. The Espoir was occupied until July, 1861, in suppressing the slave trade. She was then engaged in escorting the Sunbeam up the Niger to Onitsha, and while performing this duty she fired at and burnt the village of Kpetema, and bad two men killed in the action. She then cruized on the North coast until May, 1862, when she was ordered to the south, where she captured, July the 22d, off Corigo, the bark Traviata; in October, 1862, the Dutch bark Jane or Fleet Eagle; in November,1862, the Portuguese launch E, with 1200l for the purchase of slaves; and in August, 1863, the brig Haidee, with 590 slaves. For the remainder of the commission she was employed in visiting the forts on the coast with Major Clarke, R.E., who has come home a passenger in her. During her commission she has lost Lieut. Stephenson and Mr. Teppett, gunner, by fever, and Mr. Hersee, assistant engineer, by consumption; including the above she has lost 11 by death. The total amount of her prize money will amount to 10,000l. The Espoir will to-day discharge powder and ammunition, and after inspection will proceed from the Sound into Hamoaze to be dismantled. Her crew will be paid off at Devonport.



As the King can do no wrong, there is no legal way of claiming compensation from the State in case of tort - that is in case of mistaken orders, negligent execution of duty, misunderstanding, delay, and the like. In all these respects individual officers ma be prosecuted, only for personal misbehaviour, but there is no claim for compensation against the Crown. The leading case on this point is Tobin v. the Queen (1864).

A man-of-war engaged in the suppression of the slave trade under Captain Sholto Douglas seized, on the coast of Florida, a merchant vessel under strong suspicion that the ship had been used for slave trading, the evidence being that it contained appliances for putting up a second deck under which the slaves were to be hidden. The ship ought to have been taken to St. Helen, but in view of the bad weather Captain Douglas used the power given by the Act of 5 Geo. IV, c. 113, s. 73, and sank the ship. An action was brought in which the owners tried to prove that the ship was engaged, not in slave trading, but in perfectly honest trade. The question as to whether Captain Douglas had, as a matter of fact, made a mistake or not is immaterial, the juridical problem was whether a petition of right would lie, that is whether the Crown as such could be made liable for compensation, and the judgment of the Court of King's Bench was emphatically against granting redress in this way. It held that the officer had acted within his legal power, and in using his discretion he was acting on his personal responsibility, so that any action for damages should have been directed against him and not, by petition of right, against the Queen. The economic aspect of this decision was that, supposing he had acted wrongly he would have been adjudged to pay some £20,000 compensation which he probably was quite unable to do. In other words, the remedy would be nugatory. Indeed in that very Act which enabled the officer to destroy a slave ship, there is a clause (s. 73) to the effect that the Crown may recompense or reinstate an officer to the value lost in damages which he might incur by committing a mistake. But such instance on the part of the Crown would have been a pure act of grace.



DOUGLAS, Sholto, Admiral (on Retired List),
C.B. 1881
; b. 1833; s. of late Commander H. R. Douglas ;
m. 1st, 1864, Maria Louisa (d. 1882), d. of late William Bickford of Stonehouse, Devon ;
2nd, 1883, Harriet Emilie (d. 1894), widow of D. R. Catterson.
Educ. : R.N. School, Newcross.
Entered R.N. 1847 ;
served in China, then in Baltic (Russian War); China, 1857-58; West Coast of Africa, 1860-64; Slave Trade Blockade; captured and liberated over 2000 slaves;
commanded Indian troopship "Malabar," frigate "Aurora," and ironclads "Achilles" and "Resistance";
not served as Admiral.
Baltic medal, Burmah medal, S.A. medal, China medal (3 clasps).
Address : Wilton Lodge, Southsea. Club : R.N. Portsmouth.

Died 26 Dec. 1913.


Extracts from the Times newspaper


Sa 21 December 187:
The detached squadron, comprising the following ships, put into Plymouth Sound yesterday for shelter from the southerly gale blowing in the Channel :- The wood-built unarmoured screw frigates Narcissus, 28, Capt. J.O. Hopkins, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral F.A. Campbell, commanding-in-chief the squadron; the Aurora, 23, Capt. Sholto Douglas; the Immortalité, 23, Capt. W. Graham; the Doris, 24, Capt. W.H. Edye, and the Topaze, 31, Capt. E. Hardinge; the Narcissus has started her cutwater and the Aurora her bowsprit, which, with other defects, will necessitate their going into the harbour at Devonport to repair.

Tu 24 December 1872:
The screw frigates Topaze, 31, Capt. Hardinge, and Doris, 24, Capt. W.H. Edye, proceeded from Plymouth Sound to the westward yesterday morning, to relieve homeward bound vessels.
The screw frigate Aurora, 28, Capt. Sholto Douglas, moved from the Sound into the harbour at Devonport yesterday, to have defects remedied; the two other ships of the detached squadron, the Narcissus, flagship of Rear-Admiral F.A. Campbell, and the Immortalité, remain in Plymouth Sound.

We 26 February 1873:
Private letters received at Woolwich from Vigo report the arrival at that port of the Flying Squadron, under the command of Rear-Admiral F.A. Campbell, consisting of the Narcissus, 28, flagship, Capt. J.O. Hopkins; the Aurora, 23, Capt. S. Douglas ; the Doris, 24, Capt. W.H. Edye; the Endymion, 22, Capt. E. Maddon; the Topaze, 31, Capt. E. Hardinge. The passage from Plymouth was very boisterous, the whole of the ships of the squadron having encountered tremendous weather in the Bay of Biscay, the hurricane lasting from the forenoon of the 18th to the 27th ult. The Aurora, the Narcissus, and the Topaze each lost a man overboard, The Aurora was battened down for three days, leaking much from her continued labouring, and the Topaze encountered such a succession of tremendous seas as rendered it doubtful whether she would be able to recover herself. The whole of the vessels sailed for Barbadoes on the 6th inst, where they will be joined by the Immortalité, 28, Capt A.M'L. Lyons.

Th 26 November 1874:
The following particulars in reference to the cruise of the Detached Squadron under the command of Rear-Admiral G.G. Randolph have just been published. The vessels composing the squadron are the screw frigate Narcissus, 28, Capt. N. Bowden-Smith, the flagship; the screw frigate Doris, 24, Capt. The Hon. G.R. Fremantle, C.B.; the screw frigate Immortalité, 28, Capt, F.A. Hume; the Newcastle, 28, screw frigate. Capt, R.G. Douglas; the iron screw frigate Raleigh, 22, Capt. George Tryon, C.B.; and the screw frigate Topaze, 28, Capt. Arthur T. Thrupp. The squadron first visited Madeira, where they remained until the 21st ult., proceeding thence to St. Vincent, where they were timed to arrive on the 29th inst. They will remain there until the 3d of December, when they will proceed to Montevideo, which they will reach about the 2d of January, 1875. After remaining there until the 20th of that month, the squadron will go to the Falkland Islands, where they will arrive in ten days. They will stay there about 13 days, when they will leave for the Cape of Good Hope, where they are expected to arrive about the 9th of March. The squadron will leave the Cape on the 30th of March for St. Helena, which port they will make on the 11th of April. They will remain there till the 17th, thence proceeding to Ascension, where they are to arrive on the 23d of April. They will leave for Gibraltar on the 26th of April, reaching the Rock on the 3d of June next, and leaving again for England after a short stay. Letters to meet the squadron at the various places of call should be posted in time to leave London by the following mails:- For Montevideo, December 1 and 15; Falkland Islands, December 19; Cape of Good Hope; January 25, February 5 and 15; St. Helena, March 15; and Gibraltar, May 26.

We 23 May 1877:
The Immortalité, 28, Acting Capt. Noel, which, with the Newcastle, 31, Capt. Douglas (which one?), arrived at Portsmouth a few days ago on the termination of the cruise of the Detached Squadron, was paid off, all standing, on Monday morning.
The Immortalité was commissioned at Portsmouth on the 14th of October, 1872, by Capt. Algernon M'L. Lyons, and on the 8th of December arrived at Portland, the rendezvous of Admiral Campbell's squadron. A few days later, the squadron, which consisted of the Narcissus (flagship), Immortalité, Aurora, Endymion, and Doris, anchored at Plymouth. After a short stay, the Immortalité was despatched to the Irish Channel in search of a derelict, the Margaret Pollock, which Captain Lyons succeeded in finding. Owing, however, to a continuance of heavy gales, he was unable to keep in company with her, and as his ship had started a serious leak it was deemed advisable to return to port, and she accordingly put back to Portsmouth on the 6th of January, 1873. The necessary repairs took more than a month to complete. In the meantime Admiral Campbell left with the other ships of the squadron for Madeira and the West Indies, the Immortalité joining company with them at Barbadoes on the l1th of March. The squadron then proceeded to Trinidad, thence to Jamaica, touching at several ports in the Windward Islands and at St. Domingo, and onward to Halifax, where orders reached them to proceed to Gibraltar, which port they reached on August 8, 1873. The squadron was then employed for some months on the coast of Spain in consequence of certain difficulties arising out of the Civil War in that country, and more particularly on account of the Intransigentes, who, having possessed themselves of several Spanish men-of-war, were behaving in a somewhat novel and irregular manner. The squadron cruised about from port to port, sometimes singly and sometimes in company, the officers taking the opportunity offered by their stay at Malaga to visit Granada, Seville, and Cordova. On the 17th of November the Immortalité was detached on a cruise to the coast of Morocco, as the bearer of the usual congratulations to the new Emperor on his accession to the Throne; and having first called at Tangier to embark the Moorish Minister, Seyd Mahomed Bargash, family, and suite, she proceeded to Rabat, where the Emperor was residing with a large following of motley, but picturesque, troops. Capt. Lyons and some of his officers were presented to the Emperor. After this incident the squadron was ordered to Malta, and, after refitting, cruised on the station until June, when it returned to Gibraltar, having visited Corfu, Athens, Smyrna, Candia, Palermo, Sardinia, and other places. The Doris was then ordered to Halifax, but the remainder of the ships returned to England, where they were paid down and new captains and several officers appointed, Rear-Admiral Randolph being placed in command. On the 20th of September, l874, the squadron, which now consisted of the Narcissus, Immortalité, Topaze, Newcastle, Raleigh, and Doris, the Immortalité being commanded by Capt. Hume, again left England, and, after touching at various places, arrived at the Cape of Good Hope on the 3d of April, 1875, where they remained a mouth to refit. The vessels returned to Gibraltar by St. Helena, Ascension, and St. Vincent, and shortly afterwards received orders to repair to Bombay to await the arrival of his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales; Rear-Admiral Rowley Lambert, C.B., being at the same time appointed to the command. The squadron arrived at Bombay on the 6th of September, after a tedious passage of 91 days, and one week at the Cape, which was not more than sufficient for the performance of all necessary duties. Everybody in the squadron had opportunities of visiting famous places, seeing wonderful sights, and receiving Indian hospitality. After a considerable stay at Bombay the squadron visited Colombo, Trincomalee, and Calcutta, and then returned to Bombay. The orders were out, and the ships were to have sailed in a week for the Suez Canal, when, owing to Chinese troubles, a telegram arrived in time to arrest their return and to despatch four ships - the Narcissus, Immortalité, Topaze, and Newcastle - to Singapore and Hongkong, where they arrived on the 7th of April, 1876. The squadron remained in Chinese waters during the negotiations between the two Governments, and visited Shanghai, Amoy, Japan, Chefoo, and Talien. When at Chefoo Admiral Lambert hoisted his flag on board the Immortalité, and proceeded to the Taku Forts, at the mouth, of the Peiho River. Here the Commander-in-Chief, Admiral Ryder, and Staff, accompanied by Sir Thomas Wade and Admiral Lambert and Staff, proceeded up the river in the Vigilant and Mosquito to Tientsin, and thence to Pekin. Several officers of the Immortalité also visited Pekin and the great wall of China. Affairs having by this time been satisfactorily settled by diplomatic means, the squadron returned to Hongkong in November, 1876, and, having refitted, proceeded home, via the Mauritius, Cape of Good Hope, St. Helena, Ascension, and St. Vincent, arriving at Plymouth on the 11th inst.
In the first year of her commission the Immortalité sailed over 12,309 miles, and was 109 days at sea; in the second; 10,309 miles and 106 days; in the third, 32,423 miles and 228 days; in the fourth, 14,491 miles and 134 days; and in the fifth, 16,824 miles and 120 days. During the whole commission, therefore, she had sailed over 86,356 miles, and been 897 days at sea, and 975 days in harbour, including 175 days fitting out, docking for repairs on her return from the Irish Channel, paying down and fitting out the second time at Portsmouth. In the five years she was 111 times in port, and visited 76 different ports, of which 69 were foreign and colonial. The following are the names of the officers who have served in the Immortalité the whole of her commission, from October, 1872 :- Commander Alan B. Thomas, Lieut. of Marines T.K. Byam, Chaplain, the Rev. A. Nicholls, B.A.; Paymaster, W. Warburton; Sub-Lieuts. J. W. Litle and Montgomerie; Surgeons C.G. Wodsworth and I.H. Anderson; Engineer, G.F. Greaves; boatswain, John Mahoney; acting Sub-Lieut. Haswell, and Navigating Sub-Lieut. Scott. Fleet Surg. J.C. Ingles served from the 4th of February, 1873. The Immortalité will be paid off into the 4th Division of the Steam Reserve, and, as her hull is sadly out of repair, she will not probably be again called upon for service at sea.



The Coromandel was also the name of a ship used for convict transport.  See item on convicts shipped to Australia.



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