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John Wheelock - Cook's Fifth Naval Captain


John Wheelock took over as captain of HMS Pembroke in mid May 1759 following the death of the previous captain, John Simcoe. The Pembroke was part of the British fleet advancing up the St. Lawrence River to attack the French stronghold of Quebec. On board the Pembroke as master was James Cook.

Wheelock had been made a lieutenant on 26 June 1741 during the War of Austrian Succession. He served on the Duke, a fireship, between 1746 and 1751, even taking charge in the absence of Captain Coleman for several months in 1746. Following several years of peace and near the beginning of the Seven Years War, he was promoted to commander on 19 February 1756. He had command of the Fly sloop during 1756 and into 1757. Wheelock was made captain on 21 December 1757 and was given command of HMS Squirrel.

Wheelock left the Squirrel to take over Pembroke in 1759. He remained with the ship after the fall of Quebec when Cook moved to HMS Northumberland. The Pembroke sailed to the West Indies and Wheelock was still in Jamaica and Cuba in 1763. In February 1764, they were back at Portsmouth.

In 1769, Wheelock had command of HMS Achilles, at that time, a guard-ship at Portsmouth. From there he moved in 1771 to HMS Modeste. In 1778, Wheelock and HMS Sultan, his latest ship, were part of Admiral Byron’s fleet that left Plymouth on 9 June bound for New York. In December, the British sailed south to the West Indies following d’Estaing and the French fleet.

Wheelock died in early 1779, and his will was proved in London on 20 March 1779. His brother, Anthony Wheelock of Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight, was executor and one of the beneficiaries. The other beneficiary, in a codicil to the will, was Mary Davis from Alverstoke, next to Gosport, near Portsmouth. Anthony Wheelock died in London two years later. The brothers were descendants of Abraham Wheelock. They may have been the sons of Bryan Wheelock, who worked at the Board of Trade in London. He was a clerk from 1700 to 1714 and then deputy secretary to the Board until his death in 1735.

John Wheelock’s Will

John Robson


Originally published in Cook's Log, page 25, volume 30, number 1 (2007).

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