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Richard Grindall (1751-1820)


Richard Grindall, who sailed on Cook’s Second Voyage, was born on 19 April 1751 and baptised on the 28th at St. Sepulchre, London.  He was the second of six sons of Rivers and Martha Grindall. 


Grindall joined the Royal Navy as captain’s servant to Henry St. John in HMS Tartar in early 1763.  He then followed St. John to HMS Garland, which was based at Halifax in Nova Scotia.  Grindall spent nearly five years in her, firstly as an AB and then as a midshipman.  A short spell in the Royal Charlotte yacht followed before he joined HMS Pearl for six months as an AB. 


In November 1769, Grindall passed his lieutenant’s examination but he would have to wait seven years before receiving his commission on 29 November 1776.  Grindall joined Resolution on 7 January 1772 as an AB.  He messed with the midshipmen during the voyage, and John Elliott described him as “a Steady Clever young man”.  Immediately, at the end of the voyage and to the great surprise of the rest of the crew, Grindall accompanied Cook from Portsmouth to London.  According to Elliott, “The same day Captn Cook with Mesrs Forster, Wales, Hodges, and my Messmate Grindal set out for London.  The latter we now found (and not till now) had Married a very handsome young Lady, and left her, within an hour after, on our leaving England.” 


Richard Grindall married Katharine Greene Marianne Nathanael Festing.  Whether it happened before he sailed with Cook or not remains a mystery.  She was baptised in 1759, and so was only thirteen at the time of the voyage, unless she was baptised some considerable time after she was born.  There is a marriage record for a Richard Grindall and a Latitia London for 27 March 1772 at Old Church, St. Pancras, in London, which ties in approximately with the story recounted by Elliott.  The name Latitia London sounds fabricated suggesting someone marrying without permission and pretending to be someone else.  Interestingly, the Grindalls called one of their daughters Catherine Latitiah Grindall.  No marriage record for Richard Grindall and Katherine Festing has been traced.


Katharine was the daughter of Michael and Katharine Festing, and was baptised on 17 February 1759 at Wyke Regis in Dorsetshire, where her father was the rector.  Katharine came from a musical background, both her grandfathers being famous musicians.  Michael Christian Festing was a violinist virtuoso and composer; and Maurice Greene was a composer and organist.


After his voyage with Cook and receiving his commission in 1776, Grindall was appointed to HMS Egmont in 1777 under Captain John Elphinston.  He moved to Princess Royal in 1778, the flagship of vice admiral John Byron and captained by William Blair.  Together they sailed to the West Indies and took part in the battle of Grenada in 1779.  He served in HMS Barfleur, Samuel Hood’s flagship in the West Indies during 1781 being promoted commander on 21 December.  


His first command was St. Vincent, a captured Spanish sloop of 14 guns, from December 1781 to early 1783, when he became a post-captain on 13 March.  Grindall was in command of HMS Thalia, 36 guns, from 1793 to 1795.  He captured the French ship Requin, off Dunkirk on 20 February 1795.  He was transferred to HMS Irresistible in 1795, taking part in the battle off Ile Croix and was wounded.  In 1796, at Plymouth, he took charge of HMS Carnatic, a 3rd rate guardship of 74 guns.


Grindall was in charge of HMS Colossus in late 1796, and then briefly HMS Russell in 1797.  He took command of HMS Ramillies in 1799, and was at Quiberon in 1800.  In 1801, he took command of HMS Formidable, a 2nd rate of 90 guns, in which he sailed in the Channel Fleet and off Ireland until 1802.  A mutiny occurred in the Irish port of Beerhaven at the end of 1801.  The crew of Formidable, to show their loyalty, wrote to Grindall distancing themselves totally from the mutiny and any crimes committed.


He was given command of HMS Prince, a 98 gun 1st rate, in 1803, and was in command at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.  The ship’s awful handling restricted her role in the battle.  Lloyds of London has a presentation Trafalgar £100 sword and scabbard inscribed “from the Patriotic Fund at Lloyd’s to Rich.d Grindall Esq.r Cap.tn of HMS Prince, for his meritorious services in contributing to the signal victory obtained over the combined fleets of France and Spain off Cape Trafalgar on 21st October 1805”.  After the battle on 9 November, he became a rear admiral.  However, his active career was over and after making vice admiral in 1810 he retired. 


Richard and Katherine Grindall had four sons and two daughters, but only Rivers Francis Grindall married and had children.  Rivers Grindall served in India.  He and his wife, Jane, had five children.  Another son, Festing Horatio Grindall, was a midshipman in Victory at Trafalgar, dying in 1812. 


Grindall became a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in 1815, and died at Wickham in Hampshire on 23 May 1820, leaving a will.1  Katherine survived him, dying in 1831.  Matthew Flinders named features in Northern Territory, Australia, after Grindall.  He wrote, “Blue-mud Bay was seen to reach further north than Mount Grindall, making it to be upon a long point, which I also named Point Grindall, from respect to the present vice-admiral of that name.”


George Vancouver named Grindall Point in Clarence Strait, Alaska, after Grindall (subsequently Grindall Passage and Grindall Island were also named).  Grindall is one of the real-life characters that C.S. Forester used to authenticate his book Hornblower and the Hotspur, set during the Napoleonic Wars.

John Robson


  1. PROB 11/1631.

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 30, volume 35, number 2 (2012).



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Interesting reading, I have a box full of artefacts that belonged to Grindall. They include two small water colours of the Resolution.i
By Alison Pearce on 2/17/2021 6:59:08 PM Like:0 DisLike:0

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