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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.

Early Years

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 Indies.

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 engagement.

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.

Later Career

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.

Evaluation

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.

Memorials

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 Sovereign


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