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The Honourable George Cadogan, for cruelty and tyranny used to Richard Badcock, late midshipman on board the same ship [1].

So, in the great cabin of the Gladiator began the third court martial to touch the life of George Cadogan, and the one which is least reported and written about. There is hardly any trace of it to be found compared to accounts  of other instances in his life. For example, to take the research facility of the British Library’s newspaper database,  a search for references to George Cadogan and or Crocodile  brings up articles mentioning the sale of a ship captured by the Crocodile shortly before the run up to the trial. But a similar search for Cadogan and court martial but outside a printing of the brief minute of the verdict etc in an Edinburgh paper and an edition of a gentleman’s magazine, there are no  references found. Both of these papers  have clearly picked up, as was their habit, the official minutes as issued of the verdict. The incident is omitted entirely from The Cadogans at War [2]. In fact, almost the only reference to the story presently to come up in an internet search is one which is a kind of side line to a genealogical website and which relies on an account which is less than accurate. There are several books published over recent years which repeat a variation on a theme by casting Cadogan in the mould of Hugh Pigot and therefore as an out and out tyrant and gratuitously cruel captain.

As we shall see later, George Cadogan himself thought that his fate might well be that, even if exonerated, something of the emotive language and wilder accusations might live on as after echoes and be what was remembered of him from this occasion.

Cadogan had faced a court martial for the loss of the Cyane to the enemy, though that had been something of a formality since it was evident to everyone that he had been outgunned and outmanned.

He had then been the prosecutor of the mutinous group aboard the Ferret who had attempted, and briefly almost succeeded, in taking the ship in the West Indies.

And now he stood accused, in the highly  emotional language of a civilian and playwright of “cruelty and tyranny”. Those are the words in the indictment and they  are  taken from the memorial sent by Richard Cumberland after the death of his grandson Richard, who was serving on the Crocodile at the time  Cadogan became captain, and continued until he transferred to the Stately in the June of 1809. He died of some kind of serious and severe  infection in the December of that year half way to his 17th birthday, but he had been at sea since he was 11 years old.

The trial in April was preceded by a number of aggravating incidents and logistical difficulties all now to be found in the correspondence between the Admiralty and the main protagonists, and in letters from commanders in chief at Portsmouth and Spithead and other stations briefly involved.

The papers of the court martial itself, which are in the volume for April of ADM1/5395 and consist, as one would expect, of the written record of the questions asked and answered by various witnesses together with the usual minuted summary of those who preside. There is a record of which captains were present  and the eventual verdict and sentence signed by the captains and the deputy Judge Advocate General. In the case of Cadogan’s court martial there are also statements made by both Badcock and Cadogan presumably for the original court of inquiry, judging by the date on Cadogan’s document, and also the vast foolscap pages of Cumberland’s memorial, nine of them in all. Lastly there is the text of a statement made to the court by George Cadogan in his defence. All these are bound in with the court martial papers.

Almost immediately after William Badcock’s burial service on 11th December at St Andrew Holborn [3], Cumberland swung into action, and something of his state of mind can be gathered from his own literary output at that time. He was in the midst of writing a novel which was being published in several volumes and went so far as to include in the preface to part four part of William’s story and an address to the readers which promised his grandson’s case should be heard despite his death [4].  The Admiralty had already ordered a court martial for Captain Cadogan based on the much less detailed and plainer complaint of Badcock himself and it is likely perhaps that the matter would have ended with the former Crocodile midshipman’s  death, given the  constant desirability of washing as little dirty linen as possible in public, and had Badcock been without powerful and determined family. However it is unlikely that the Admiralty could or would ignore something as strongly worded and by such a public figure as Cumberland. So, and it was by this time Christmas Eve, they wrote to acknowledge the receipt of Cumberland’s memorial and they also replied to inform him that the court martial would go ahead and he would be advised when to attend.

During early January there were exchanges between the Admiralty and Cumberland through his agent, William Crutchley of Bedford Row, in which queries were raised as to who the prosecution would be led by; the Admiralty’s counsel or one chosen by Cumberland but at the Admiralty’ s expense! [5] The exchange of letters is perhaps indicative of one feature of the whole episode for Cumberland and his cause. For a start, the letter from Crutchley is headed with reference to the case as Rex v Cadogan as if it were a criminal prosecution in the civil courts. The terminology sounds strange in the world of courts martial where it is not used in this way and may indicate how Cumberland, who was known as a litigious man in the civil courts, viewed the proceedings.  At this stage Cumberland also gave notice of witnesses whom he wished to call, and there was a flurry of activity determining whether they were all on board the Crocodile still, which proved not to be the case. Four witnesses were mentioned by Cumberland’s memorial in December, they were Lieutenant Cockell of the marines, Sergeant John Gillham of the marines and Joseph Stoker the former ship’s cook who was now serving in another ship, and Henry Rhymer, purser of the Crocodile.

And on January 16th another list of witnesses was sent to the Admiralty with a request that they be required to attend to give evidence “for the crown” as Crutchley put it, again adopting the more common land based terminology. They were three midshipmen; Edward Percival, George Norris and Mr Hamilton, William Price the captain’s clerk and John Davies, boatswain’s mate [6].

George Cadogan was also calling witnesses in his defence and some of them, unsurprisingly, were the same people.  His letter of March 1st, sent  via Admiral Curtis to request the court martial be postponed until the witnesses could be available,  mentioned Edward Percival and George Norris, two of the midshipmen already listed by Cumberland, and William Price and Henry Rhymer, both of whom were also on the prosecution’s list [7]. As we shall see the witnesses eventually called at the court martial included some of these people, but not all, and also others were called who are not named in the correspondence. In that same letter it is Cadogan who requests the presence of Captain William Cumberland as a witness and that at least is one aspect of the arrangements which happened speedily, since on March 4th Vice Admiral Douglas is writing to the Admiralty to confirm that he has ordered Captain Cumberland to Portsmouth [8].

There was, however, a lengthy delay in the end because of the problem of waiting for four of the witnesses to arrive from Goteborg, where they had gone in a prize ship that the Crocodile had taken and from whence they had to arrange a passage home.

There were many awkward and frustrating  moments for all parties concerned in the period from Cadogan’s arrest to the court martial. Richard Cumberland  petitioned finally on 17th March, having spent time  between 26th  February and the 17th of March waiting around at his own expense in Portsmouth. He had been requested to go Portsmouth, but no court martial had yet begun. He wished  to have permission to go home and wait there rather than for an indeteminate period in Portsmouth.He asked to  be given three days notice to attend once the date was set [9]. This the Admiralty had concurred in and he had gone back to London to continue with his affairs. George Cadogan, possibly pushing his luck, or being so frustrated that he did not think it through well enough, made an appeal he might have known would be denied; he applied for like permission, citing like Cumberland urgent personal business. (He certainly did have urgent personal concerns relating to his sister and the scandal of her affair and elopement with Lord Paget.) William Wellesley Pole’s response to Admiral Curtis who had of course submitted the request on behalf of Cadogan was nothing if not to the point:

Acquaint him that since Captain Cadogan  is under arrest  he cannot be granted leave of absence [10].

The letter Cadogan wrote making the request was written from the Crocodile, rather than from lodgings or another place onshore, so it may be assumed that he was in effect confined to quarters and to walking the main deck for exercise. The latter privilege would normally be allowed in such circumstances, usually on the honour of the officer that they would do nothing to escape. The quarterdeck would have been ruled out for him because of his suspension, and indeed his own proud high value of naval tradition would have meant he would respect that it was now Lieutenant Devon’s privilege and responsibility.

For some long weeks that Spring Cadogan lived in this limbo state and one can only guess his feelings of frustration and shame and anger. His writing style is always precise and mostly formal to the fullest extent, at least in the few letters he wrote at the time of the court martial and, as with so many parts of his life we have no personal letters from him which appear to have survived.

But one very mundane piece of ship’s business occurring in the Admiralty correspondence at this time acts as a sidelight on what it must have felt like to be so impotent in the limbo of waiting.

On 13th March Admiral Curtis forwarded a letter from Lieutenant Devon, written from the Crocodile and signed “Barker Devon, Lieutenant and commanding officer”, with a question about problems with the masts of the Crocodile and some alterations that he knew Captain Cadogan had intended to have seen to and asking if the matter could be progressed. The admiralty replied swiftly that they saw no need for any changes to be made [11].

But for Cadogan, confined to the ship more than likely and unable even to transact the  most regular ship’s business as well as aware of the scandal and stress caused by his sister’s actions elsewhere, those must have been long weeks indeed. From what we are aware of Cadogan’s character so far it seems likely, that he would have held on tenaciously to a belief that the court martial would clear him and that he would redeem his honour one way or another.

The ship on which the court martial took place, the Gladiator, was a large fifth-rate built in Buckler’s Hard in 1783, which had the curious fate of never going to sea but remained in Portsmouth to serve the administrative functions for the navy.

As a result the Gladiator was to become the venue for some courts martial which are rather better known  than that of the Crocodile’s captain, including the trial of one of  the mutineers from Pigot’s Hermione who was caught, tried and executed years after the offence. Another notable trial, later, was  the controversial court martial of Admiral Lord Gambier.

The president of the court martial assembled aboard the Gladiator was William Albany Otway, Rear Admiral of the Red, who was second in command in Portsmouth and Spithead at that time. He had been at sea since he was nine years old and had a distinguished career if not an outstandingly famous one, though he had been known for his bravery and skill in the American war and at the Battle of Copenhagen amongst others.

The judge avocate, who is the person charged with advising the court and the parties on matters of legal process, was in this case a man called Moses Greetham junior, an experienced solicitor who was Deputy Judge Advocate of the fleet and indeed held that office for about 30 years or more.

The court martial system did not of course make use of a jury as did land courts, at least not constituted in the same way: the jurists were made up of no fewer than five  and no more than twelve of the most senior captains on the station which, with the president, gave a maximum of thirteen.

Byrn has noted that the seriousness of the offence is not necessarily related to the number of captains  present [12]. In fact all qualifying post captains and commanders were obliged to attend unless they had been confirmed as unwell by a doctor, or if they were on official leave. Quite often, the opening  section of the transcript records officers not participating for these reasons, though there are none listed in Cadogan’s case. They were by law meant not to have any vested interest in, and not to have had contact with the case  previously, so those captains who had constituted the court of inquiry for instance would not be present. And although the use  of officers meant that seamen and warrant officers did not get a jury of their peers, a fact which was commented upon even at the time, it has to be said that the Hon George Cadogan got as near to a jury of peers as anyone might. Two of the twelve hearing his case, the Hon Arthur Haye Legge  and the Hon Courtney Boyle, were the sons of earls!  The minutes list the captains in order of seniority, which was indeed the order in which they would be asked their verdict and so reveal that the most junior present was Hugh Cook, son of the famous explorer -captain. Also of interest is that one of them was Donald McLeod, who had been Badcock’s first commanding officer in the Sulfur  [13].

Unlike some other courts martial transcripts, the one for the Cadogan trial does not reveal at what point the first day ended and the second  day began, nor does it describe the witnesses as being for the prosecution or for the defence, though the standard legal precedent of defence after prosecution was followed. The witnesses are questioned by Richard Cumberland first and then cross questioned by Cadogan with “the court“ – in the person of the judge advocate, examining the witnesses [14], able to intervene at any point, and in this case they did so quite often. The reverse is then the case with the defence’s witnesses. This court martial is very unusual in having a civilian prosecutor. The minutes record this phrase “the prosecutor, the said Richard Cumberland, asked ..” confirming that Cumberland took this role himself, despite his earlier letters about a lawyer in this role. Unfortunately it has not yet  been possible to locate the reply of the Admiralty solicitor to the question about this issue that was posed  to him in  by the Admiralty in a letter dated………. [15] which might have offered some precedents. The advice on procedure in the relevant section of the 1806 regulations does allow for these categories of questioner “the accuser, if any, the court, the judge advocate and afterwards by the party on trial” [16].  The most common person in such a role would be the judge advocate for a commander tried for the loss of his ship, or a commander himself in the prosecution of mutineers. In Bryn’s detailed survey of courts martial in the years 1793-1815, where more than 100 trials are covered, there is not a single example of another civilian prosecutor [17].

The  trial began with the judge advocate and all court officers taking the oath and with the reading of Richard Cumberland’s lengthy memorial. Curiously almost half of it concerns events which  had really very little if anything to do with George Cadogan at all [18]. The memorial begins with a description of Badcock’s service since joining the Sulfur, Captain Donald McLeod, before his 11th birthday in 1803. It then continues with an account of Badcock’s attempt to put his case against Captain Cadogan  but is in effect detailing the struggles he had to reach the flag ship, his treatment in the hospital ship, the bureaucracy of getting him released to his grandfather’s London home and his treatment, decline and death, in none of which George Cadogan was  really concerned at all.  Perhaps there was something of a sense that Cumberland was trying the whole navy, not just his bête noire Cadogan. It is difficult to imagine what were the emotions of many of the court at hearing the really quite harrowing account of the young mans’ last days.  No one could be unaware of what a tragic waste of a young life it was.  The remainder of the memorial uses strongly worded language  about both Captain Cadogan  and Lieutenant Devon the Crocodile’s first lieutenant. Indeed it remains a puzzle why Devon was not accused along with his captain; there are certainly other instances of two officers being tried together for some ill action towards a crew member. In fact it emerges in the course of the testimonies given, that the most hated villain of the piece, for Badcock, was  Lieutenant Devon, and not Captain Cadogan.  However for Cumberland it was Cadogan who was the focus for his hatred ,fired by grief at his grandsons death. The language is dramatic in the extreme, he speaks of Cadogan and Devon “systematically following to destruction their already injured victim” and continues:

he (the memorialist) finds them determined to carry their threat into execution  and that  the  ill-treatment he received from Captain Cadogan and Lieutenant Devon on board the Crocodile ……seem to have  materially contributed to his dissolution

This was the first statement heard, and it sounds to our ears now  very highly charged and emotional in tone. It is of course impossible to tell what the original hearers made of it, but it is hard to believe that it did not cause some stir.  Cumberland was after all a master of pathos.

Letters from Admiral Montague, Captain Cumberland and William Badcock himself were read next, including his statement from his original complaint. It contrasts strongly with his grandfather’s rather hyperbolic memorial.

At Richard Cumberland’s insistence, the 13th and 42nd Articles of the “new” naval instructions were also read out. These were the revised Regulations and Instructions  relating to His Majesty’s Service at Sea, which had been very heavily revised in 1806 and so were still relatively new.  The 13th Article concerned discharging men from a ships muster and the 42nd related to the duty of a captain to provide for all the men under his command, for their wellbeing in food and clothing and that their wages were duly administered etc.

Two of Richard Cumberland’s accusations were based on his understanding of these clauses; one that Badcock had been “illegally” discharged when he left the Crocodile, and the second concerning the alleged circumstances of the threat to put him ashore at St Helena.

The prosecution called the following witnesses:

William Price, the captain’s clerk, John Davies and John Johnson, boatswain’s mates, Joseph Stokes, formerly cook on the Crocodile, and William Cumberland, captain of the Stately.

The witnesses called by Captain Cadogan were  Captain Cumberland, Lieutenant Barnett Devon, Lieutenant William Hamley, David Glegg, the Master, Charles Hughes Rymer , purser, Marfleet King, captain’s cook.

This was not a trial in which there was much to establish in terms of disputed facts. George Cadogan did not deny that he had ordered Badcock to be punished twice, nor that he had disrated him or indeed that he had acted as if he were minded to put him ashore when the ship was at St Helena. The  facts only varied  in some small degree but the interpretation of them was crucial to the whole picture. This was already a changed navy from the days of George Cadogan’s service as a volunteer. Many events, not least the Spithead and Nore mutinies of 1797, were bringing about a change in attitudes.   The practice of “starting”, which the Ferret mutineers had complained of, was abolished in the year of this court martial 1809, and atttitudes to punishment were also changing gradually. Shortly after this, while Commander in Chief in India, it was Sir Edward Pellew who pioneered a system of quarterly returns of punishments, which of course meant it was much easier to detect the captains  who were excessively strict and the system was  soon universally adopted.  So there is a sense in which this court martial did come at a time of increased concern for ways in which discipline  was administered. However as Cadogan himself comemnts, in his remarks  to the court, all of his actions were consonant with the practice of the service as he had grown up in it.

The first witness called by the prosecutor was William Price the captain’s clerk who was asked briefly about the entries concerning Badcock in the ships’ muster. Then the certificates that Badcock had received from his previous captains  on leaving their ship or, in Captain Maitland’s case, on his leaving his command were introduced as evidence. It is interesting that this is said to have required Captain Cadogan’s permission to be done. The certificates, though important in Cumberland’s eyes, were possibly not of great significance to the assembled captains. As the evidence of William Price was to show soon enough, a captain might well sign such a certificate and still have serious misgivings about the young gentleman in question.

The first main witness then was John Davies, the boatswain’s mate who had administered one of the two punishments given to Badcock, of 24 lashes. These were delivered with a “boys cat” which was similar in type to the cat o’ nine tails, but had only six tails and fewer knots. The main part of Davies’ evidence is in answer to questions from the court, and confirmed that Badcock in fact did not receive the full 24 lashes, because during the second dozen he begged the pardon of the first lieutenant, who immediately had ordered the punishment to stop making it about 15 lashes in all. The court’s questions check whether there was much damage to Badcock’s skin and are told there was nothing very serious.  Davies states that he did not use any especial severity and is also clear that he was not told to do so.

Cumberland also asked two questions more, one of which  was to be asked of every witness in turn.  This was whether the boatswain’s mate had ever seen Badcock turn the spit in the galley, to which the reply was that he has seen this happen but was not certain whether it was as part of his duty or of his own volition. He also answered that he had never seen Badcock holystoning the deck nor had ever been instructed to put him to work doing so.

A second Boatswain’s Mate, John Johnstone, was the next witness as he had administered the other punishment, stating this time that a cat o’ nine tails was used but still identifying it as a boys cat, in that it was a good deal lighter and had less knots. He did testify that he was ordered more than once to  use severity but claims he did not do so.

The third witness, William Price, recalled who was present at the first flogging in the cabin. He does not mention the flogging having been cut short but describes Badcock as being remarkably unaffected apparently and certainly hardened if anything. The prosecutor then asked whether Price had had opportunity to know the young man well and what he could say of his character. This may have been a question he regretted asking, for it is Price, who had been Captain Bettesworth’s clerk too, who was the first to reveal another side to Badcock than the innocent persecuted victim presented in the memorial.

Perhaps the most significant part of the clerk’s evidence is that he confirmed George Cadogan allegation that Captain Bettesworth had regarded Badcock as difficult. He says that there were several incidents involving the former captain and the first lieutenant in the later part of Bettesworth’s command and that the captain had sent for Badcock to disrate him for a general inattention to duty. In a somewhat odd sequel to this Bettesworth had told Price not to enter the lower rating in the muster  at that moment but to keep this from Badcock in the hopes that this discipline would take effect. Significantly he also paints a picture of a captain already  finding this particular midshipman very difficult

He said he had a great deal of trouble with him and was quite at a loss in what way to manage him.

Price was especially charged with oversight of the midshipmen’s berth and frequently he says found Badcock both rude and directly neglectful, being absent from the deck when he was on watch, a particularly serious offence and of course one which easily angered one’s fellow officers. There were other difficulties such as Badcock’s tormenting of the dog belonging to the first lieutenant causing it to bark frequently and disturb the rest of off duty officers. Price is the first to use the language that Badcock treated orders and those giving them with contempt. He states that George Cadogan did not use the expression about “the utmost severity.”

The sergeant of marines evidence changes the perspective a little as he recalls Badcock in his experience as apparently a well behaved boy and provides a curious vignette of hearing him “at music” on a fife or flute. Otherwise the question is raised again about the turning of the spit and its place in the duties of the mizzen top boys, among whom Badcock was placed when he had been disrated. This issue, which seems in the court record to preoccupy Cumberland a great deal, in that he sees it as a great insult to  Badcock’s status and age, is the sole topic explored with the next witness, Joseph Stokes, who was the former cook of the Crocodile. In the course of that examination Richard Cumberland makes his questions on that head more specific:

And  are the boys gentlemen and the sons of gentlemen supposed to be?

The last witness called by the prosecution is Captain William Cumberland, one of Richard Cumberland’s sons and Badcock’s captain at the time of his death. His evidence concerns the arrival of Badcock into his ship, about which he seems curiously vague, and two very fraught interviews he had with George Cadogan in Portsmouth where he says he was trying to find out why Cadogan had not issued Badcock with the usual certificate. He quotes Cadogan as telling the young man that “his heart was a black as his hat” and speaks of the boy’s distress in this interview.

Captain Cumberland also seems vague about whether he applied for Badcock, or at least how he did this. He describes Badcock as behaving with every degree of attention and respect towards him and then a curious exchange follows with George Cadogan about Badcock’s role in Captain Cumberland’s own boat on the Stately where Cadogan seems to be trying to dig out whether Badcock had in fact had special treatment, which of course Cumberland for his part strenuously denies.

The witness who is the first for the defence and whose evidence is by far the most detailed is Lieutenant Devon, first lieutenant of the Crocodile.

In answer to a generic question from Captain Cadogan, he gives a catalogue of the many vexed dealings he had with William Badcock and one can hear, in some of the wording, an officer realising how much trouble one young man, though only still 16 years old, was causing. The first lieutenant had to face the ship’s officers all coming to him one after another, often at the ends of their tethers and bringing complaints against Badcock. The master, for instance, is quoted as saying he would rather be without any midshipman on his watch at all rather than have Badcock, too many instances of his failing to report for duty or to remain at his post having rendered the master unable to tolerate working with him. This kind of problem would put more pressure on the first lieutenant, since it is impossible to sail and fight a ship with any degree of success unless officers can rely on and trust one another in all circumstances and Badcock’s apparent combination of inattention to his duty, resentment at being reminded of it, and overall contemptuous attitude was by degrees undermining the whole of the wardroom.

There is a tension that communicates itself, even from the relatively distancing effect that official court minutes have, where Devon describes what happened on a particular instance when he had to reprimand Badcock following a serious complaint by an officer. On the occasion Lieutenant Devon recalls in the court martial, Badcock remains silent in terms of any apology or explanation and when dismissed, stares his senior officer full in the face.

He is questioned upon it by both defence and prosecutor, and the bare text still gives a sense of the insolence of the young man. The picture offered by the evidence is of a strong willed young man doing all he can to ridicule the system of quarter deck respect and discipline.  Things in themselves not apparently so very bad but in the context  undermining the ability of the officers to do their duty.  Badcock’s behaviour included total silence and a contemptuous failure to answer questions put to him, combined with daring to stare rather than keep ones eyes foreward at attention, and hanging from the ropes of the quarterdeck pulling faces.

The prosecutor can be heard using a little ridicule in getting Devon to go over the events again:

Cumberland (RC): You complained of his manner of going off the deck stating that he looked you full in the  face. What particular offence do you attach to the circumstance of his looking you full in the face?

Devon (BD): That  was only one part of my complaint it was the manner of his looking me in the face and the manner of his going off the deck.

RC: As I lost the description of his manner and am ignorant of the manner in which a person should adopt in going off the deck of a man of war I beg of you to described  it again.

BD: he was some time going off the deck hanging by the ropes and pausing at every step which was certainly an improper manner to quit a Man of War’s quarterdeck and during this time he was looking me in the face and grinning.

Cumberland was being ironic but revealed a genuine ignorance here. It seems he was unaware of the manner in which all officers were required to conduct themselves. He was also unimaginative if he could not conceive why this level of insolence on public display was at best unsuitable in a ship of war. But the listening captains would know only too well the potential for difficulty caused by such acts of open defiance as this. And the defence goes on to call as witnesses several men of the ship’s company with the aim of illustrating that their worst fears, those of insurrection or some kind of collective action, might not have been so far from the truth.

The later witnesses include the purser, Mr Rhymes, who had befriended Badcock and had been the one officer who persisted in trying to maintain a friendship and offer advice. Ultimately he too found that Badcock was incorrigible. Other witness appeared on recall including the captain’s cook and the boatswain’s mate, who both testified that Badcock wrote a letter of complaint  about the officers and men and then got one of the ships’ crew to copy it so  that it was not in his own hand. The convenient deniability of this strategy may have alerted the crew to the risks involved and they seem not to have been particularly determined to join in and the letter was subsequently destroyed.  Mr Rhymes was also involved on the day that Badcock was put into the boat of a privateer with his things as if he were going to be put ashore in St Helena.

According to the answers given by Rhymes and the others questioned about it, no one seems to have thought that there was ever any real intention on Captain Cadogan’s part to put Badcock ashore, it was just another attempt in the increasingly desperate catalogue of ways to control or curb his behaviour. Cadogan in his early days as midshipman no doubt had heard the oft-told tale of Pellew and his shipmate Frank Cole who were put ashore in Marseilles without any resources except when the ship’s lieutenants  took pity on them and gave them some money. This adventure passed into the record of the many daring exploits of the young Pellew and was often retold (for instance by his fiirst biographer Edward Osler) [19].  Even at the time it had been considered somewhat cavalier of the captain, John Stott, but it was no means an unheard of punishment.  By 1809 however, things had moved on and such actions were more likely to be frowned upon in naval circles, and indeed  in the month  of George Cadogan’s court martial news reached London of a case that was to become notorious and result in  political and jounrnalistic scandal and the dismissal of the perpetrator Captain Lake, from the service. That incident  involved the marooning of a young Cornish seaman Robert Jeffrey on Sombrero, an ‘island’ little more than a bare rock with  no real  means of sustaining life [20].  He was in fact rescued by a passing American ship and spent a couple of years living as a blacksmith in the United States before being discovered  and returned to his home country. Badcock’s potential abandonmnent in St Helena was much nearer in spirit  to the treatment of the young Pellew in that he would have been left in an inhabited place where there was a high likelihood that he could have worked a passage home on a ship, but in any case it seems highly unlikely that this was ever seriously the captain’s intention.

Like Captain Maitland’s earlier disrating of Badcock, which was not quite a disrating,  this action speaks of officers who had no more ideas left for curbing and controlling  the unruly midshipman.  An interesting variance does lie in the officers’ estimates of how long Badcock spent in the boat, ranging from a few minutes to three quarters of an hour, though none of them appears to consider it as a particularly serious incident.

The latter part of the testimony also concerns Badcock’s view of Devon which appears to be founded in class prejudice as much as anything and certainly it is Mr Devon whom Badcock seemed to have wanted to bring down had he lived. A short survey of Devon’s later career shows that he successfully commanded several small boat actions  amongst other activities on his way to becoming a post captain which does rather suggest he was an officer capable of commanding respect and loyalty. But the comments quoted by witnesses from the crew seem to reflect real resentment on Badcock’s half. For example, the boatswain’s mate and the captain’s cook both  gave evidence of statements of revenge:

He said he did not give a damn for the captain’s punishing him. The captain was a gentleman but that rascal Devon was no gentleman and it was all his blame and he would be avenged of him if possible.

George Cadogan’s address to the court largely concerns the difference between the original simple complaint made by Badcock and the much more extensive charges  which had been allowed to proceed. One of his regrets was that the nature  of the accusation levelled against him had forced him to bring to light Badcocks actions which otherwise would have been, as he puts it, “buried in oblivion”.  His anger with Cumberland bears the hallmarks of the naval insider wondering why such  a prosection of this kind had ever gone ahead.

The court martial verdict found that the charges were not proven and added that “many of the stsaments  in the memorial were unfouded.” The court was completely  clear that there had been no connection between the two beatings Badcock had received and the illneass which subsequently led to his death. They made this clear by using the phrase “not in the most remotest degree”. George Cadogan was  finally  acquitted some seven months or more after the first complaint has been made.

The court is of the opinion that the charges have not been proved against the said George Cadogan but that many of the observations stated in the memorial of the prosecutor were unfounded and that the death of the said William Richard Badcock can not in the most remote degree be ascribed to the punishment he received on board HM said ship Crocodile and doth adjudge the said Hon George Cadogan to be acquitted and he is hereby acquitted accordingly.


[1] ADM 1/5395 Courts martial papers April 1809.

[2]  A  full text search of the British Library’s database of 19th century newspapers produces no hits whatsoever for this event and in a comparable search on Google books only two references are found , in the  Edinburgh Annual Register  for April 1809 p 112 and in the Sporting Magazine  volume 34 pp6-7.

[3] Souce St Andrews Holborn burial registers, digitised by Ancestry.com

[4] John de Lancaster, Volume 4.

[5] ADM 1/4423  (Pro C 455a) William Crutchley to John Barrow Esq.

[6] ADM 1/4423 (Pro C457) William Cruchley to unnamed recipient at the Admiralty

[7] ADM 1/1135 (A 368) Admiral Sir Roger Curtis to William Wellesley Pole, inc letter of  Captain Cadogan, March 1st 1809.

[8] ADM 1/1428 (G123) Vice Admiral Sir William Douglas to WWP , March 4th 1809.

[9]  ADM 1/ 4423 Richard Cumberland to WWP, March 17, 1809.

[10] ADM1/1136 (A 173)  WWP note for reply to Roger Curtis.

[11] ADM1/1135 (A 441) Admiral Curtis to WWP inc letter of Lieutenant Barker Devon, 13th March 1809.

[12] Byrn, p39 n2.

[13] The others were : Charles Rowley, Donald Campbell, John Irwin, Edward Henry Columbine, Edward Galway John Terrrell, John Bowen and John Ayscough.

[14] As laid down  in Chapter 5 of the Regulations and Instructions of 1731 and in a slightly modified form in chapter 8 of the “new” regulations and instructions of 1806.

[15]  The ADM12/138  Index and Digest volumes for 1809 describe a letter from Bicknell, solicitor to the Navy, responding to a letter dated  from the Admiralty which  enclosed Cumberland ‘s query .However the document is not  in the correspondence  filed  under solicitor as the digest  suggests it is. (i section 23:1)

[16] Regulations 1806 quoted in Bryn  Naval courts martial 1793-1815

[17]  Ibid.

[18] All text relating  to the Court Martial from the transcript of the trial in ADM 1/5395

[19] Edward Osler  The life of Admiral Lord Exmouth, 1835

[20] this  event is described in  James Derriman Marooned , published by Kenneth Mason, 1991