Cuthbert Collingwood, 1st Baron Collingwood
(26 September 1750 – 7 March 1810) was an admiral of the Royal Navy,
notable as a partner with Horatio Nelson in several of the British victories of
the Napoleonic Wars, and frequently as Nelson's successor in commands.
Collingwood was born in Newcastle upon Tyne and had his early education at
the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle. At the age of eleven, he went to sea as a
volunteer on board the frigate HMS Shannon under the command of his cousin
Captain (later Admiral) Richard Brathwaite, who took charge of his nautical
education. After several years of service under Captain Brathwaite and Captain
(later Admiral) Robert Roddam, Collingwood sailed to Boston in 1774 with Admiral
Samuel Graves, where he fought in the British naval brigade at the battle of
Bunker Hill (June 1775), and was afterwards commissioned as a lieutenant. In
1779 Collingwood succeeded Nelson as commander of the HMS Badger, and the next
year he again succeeded Nelson as Post-Captain of the Hinchinbrook, a
small frigate. Nelson had been the captain of a failed expedition to cross
Central America from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean by navigating boats
along the San Juan River, Lake Nicaragua, and Lake Leon. Nelson was debilitated
by disease and had to recover before being promoted to a larger vessel, and
Collingwood succeeded him in command of the Hinchinbrook and brought the
remainder of the expedition back to Jamaica.
First major command
After commanding in another small frigate, Collingwood was promoted to 64 gun
ship of the line HMS Sampson, and in 1783 he was appointed to HMS Mediator and
posted to the West Indies, where he remained until the end of 1786, again,
together with Nelson, preventing American ships from trading with the West
In 1786 Collingwood returned to England, where, with the exception of a
voyage to the West Indies, he remained until 1793. In that year, he was
appointed captain of HMS Prince, the flagship of Rear Admiral George Bowyer in
the Channel Fleet. Around 1791, Collingwood married Sarah Blackett,
granddaughter of his former commander Robert Roddam.
As captain of the HMS Barfleur, Collingwood was present at the Glorious First
of June. On board the Excellent he participated in the victory of the
Battle of Cape St. Vincent (1797), establishing a good reputation in the fleet
for his conduct during the battle. After blockading Cadiz, he returned for a few
weeks to Portsmouth to repair. At the beginning of 1799 Collingwood was raised
to the rank of vice-admiral, and hoisting his flag in the Triumph, he
joined the Channel Fleet, with which he proceeded to the Mediterranean, where
the principal naval forces of France and Spain were assembled. Collingwood
continued to be actively employed in blockading the enemy, until the peace of
Amiens allowed him to return to England.
With the resumption of hostilities with France in the spring of 1803 he left
home, never again to return. First he blockaded the French fleet off Brest.
Nearly two years were spent here but with Napoleon planning and equipping his
armed forces for an invasion of Britain, the campaign which was to decide the
fate of Europe and the command of the sea was starting. The French fleet having
sailed from Toulon, Admiral Collingwood was appointed to command a squadron,
with orders to pursue them. The combined fleets of France and Spain, after
sailing to the West Indies, returned to Cadiz. On their way they encountered
Collingwood's small squadron off Cadiz. He only had three ships with him; but he
succeeded in avoiding the pursuit, although chased by sixteen ships of the line.
Before half of the enemy's force had entered the harbour he resumed the
blockade, using false signals to disguise the small size of his squadron. He was
shortly joined by Nelson who hoped to lure the combined fleet into a major
Battle of Trafalgar
The combined fleet, at last, sailed from Cadiz in October 1805. The Battle of
Trafalgar immediately followed. Villeneuve, the French admiral, drew up his
fleet in the form of a crescent. The British fleet bore down in two separate
lines, the one led by Nelson in the Victory, and the other by Collingwood
in the Royal Sovereign. The Royal Sovereignwas the swifter sailor,
and having drawn considerably ahead of the rest of the fleet, was the first
engaged. "See," said Nelson, pointing to the Royal Sovereign as she
penetrated the centre of the enemy's line, "see how that noble fellow
Collingwood carries his ship into action!" Probably it was at the same moment
that Collingwood, as if in response to the observation of his great commander,
remarked to his captain, "What would Nelson give to be here?"
The Royal Sovereign closed with the Spanish admiral's ship and fired
her broadsides with such rapidity and precision at the Santa Anna, that
the Spanish ship was on the verge of striking almost before another British ship
had fired a gun. Several other vessels came to her assistance, and hemmed in the
Royal Sovereign on all sides; but the latter, after being severely
damaged, was relieved by the arrival of the rest of the British squadron. Not
long afterwards the Santa Anna struck her colours. On the death of
Nelson, Collingwood assumed the supreme command. Despite Nelson's dying command
that the fleet should anchor, Collingwood did not issue the order. In the
ensuing storm, many of the captured prizes were lost.
Collingwood was raised to the peerage as Baron Collingwood of Coldburne and
Heathpool, and received the thanks of both Houses of Parliament, with a pension
of £2000 per annum.
From Trafalgar until his death, no great naval action was fought; but
Collingwood was occupied in important political and diplomatic transactions in
the Mediterranean, in which he displayed tact and judgment. He was appointed to
the command of the Mediterranean fleet. His health, however, which had begun to
decline prior to Trafalgar in 1805, seemed entirely to fail, and he repeatedly
requested to be relieved of his command, that he might return home However the
government urgently requested him to remain, on the ground that his country
could not dispense with his services. This treatment has been regarded as harsh.
After many fruitless attempts to induce the French fleet to put to sea in the
attempt to complete the destruction of the enemy ships, he died of cancer on
board the Ville de Paris, off Port Mahon, on 7 March 1810.
Collingwood's merits as a naval officer were in many respects of the first
order. He was considered inferior to Nelson in original genius and romantic
daring. However he was Nelson's equal or even superior in seamanship, in general
talent, and strategic thinking. His political judgement was remarkable and he
was consulted on questions of general policy, of regulation, and even of trade.
He was opposed to impressment and to flogging and was considered so kind and
generous that he was called "father" by the common sailors. Between Nelson and
Collingwood a close friendship existed, from their first acquaintance in early
life till the Nelson's death at Trafalgar; and they lie side by side in St
Paul's Cathedral. As Lord Collingwood died without male issue, his barony became
extinct at his death.
The suburb of Collingwood in the Australian city of Melbourne is named in
Collingwood's honour. The town of Collingwood, Ontario on Georgian Bay is also
named after him.
A statue erected in his honour overlooks the River Tyne in the town of
Tynemouth, at the foot of which are some of the cannon from the Royal