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Lord Howe, and cruised with him during the winter of 1794. In the following spring, the Robust was one of the squadron under the command of Rear-Admiral Colpoys; after which she joined the broad pendant of Commodore Sir J. B. Warren, to co-operate with the French royalists in Quiberon Bay, in company with two other sail of the line, six frigates, several smaller vessels of war, and fifty transports.
The expedition for this object sailed in June, protected by Lord Bridport and the Channel fleet, who accompanied the Commodore off Belleisle, and there parted company to resume his station in the offing. Scarcely had he quitted, however, before the Brest fleet, under M. Vaillant, was discerned coming from under the land. Sir J. B. Warren immediately made the best dispositions for the safety of his charge, and despatched a fast-sailing vessel after Lord Bridport with the intelligence. On the following morning the Robust arrived within signal distance of his Lordship; but, in spite of all his endeavours to join, got up too late to have any share in the battle which ensued, and which left three sail of the line in the hands of the conquerors.
The remainder of the French Aeet being driven into L'Orient, the expedition to Quiberon proceeded to its destination, and the emigrant troops were landed on the 27th.
From this service the Robust joined Admiral Duncan's •squadron off the Texel, and was variously employed on the Channel station, but without any affair of moment to signalise her Captain ; for, he, being a favourite with Lord Bridport, had been summoned to join the fleet off Brest, and thus missed being in the action of the 11th of October, 1797. The same month, however, of the following year, afforded Captain Thornborough an opportunity of adding to his former professional character. In the autumn of 1798, the Robust had been again placed under Sir J. B. Warren's orders, that he might act against the expedition which had been fitted out at Brest for the invasion of Ireland. On the 11th the squadron of M. Bompart, consisting of a line-of-battle ship, eight frigates, and a schooner, were de
scried off Lough Swilly, and immediate chase was given by the Commodore, whose force consisted of three sail of the line and five frigates. Owing to the boisterous state of the weather, the enemy were not neared till the morning of the 12th ; and the approach was favoured by the two-decker having lost her maintop-mast. Finding he could not escape, M. Bompart formed in close order, and brought-to for action. In the mean time our ships had become so much spread, that the signal to engage was not thrown out till seven a. M., when the Robust was directed to lead; a command obeyed with such alacrity, that in twenty minutes afterwards that ship was throwing her fire into two French frigates in her pro-, gress towards their Commodore. At fifty minutes past eight she got alongside her opponent; and a furious action commenced, in which she was ably seconded by the Magnanime, and some occasional shots from the other ships. Bompart made a gallant defence; but the steady broadsides of the Robust compelled him to strike his colours, after an action of two hours. The prize proved to be the Hoche, of 78 guns, one of the most superb ships of her class; having lost in killed and wounded 270 men.
In the Robust there were 10 seamen slain, and 2 officers and 38 seamen and marines wounded.
Seeing the fate of their Commodore, the French frigates made an effort to escape ; but after a running action three of them were taken in the course of the day, and a fourth surrendered to Captain Graham Moore at midnight. Two others were captured shortly afterwards, and the remaining two, of which one was Thornborough's old friend the Sémillante, effected their escape, with the schooner. All the prizes were found full of troops, arms, stores, and necessaries for their designs upon Ireland; and the decisive success of the British squadron was deemed of such importamce to the nation as to deserve the thanks of Parliament.
The Hoche did not strike till her gear was cut to pieces, her masts wounded, and her hull riddled, with five-feet water in her hold, and twenty-five of her guns dismounted. The
Robust had also suffered severely in her close conflict ; yet, crippled as she was, her signal was made to take the Hoche in tow. The order was obeyed with the zeal which ever distinguished Captain Thornborough, and away he steered for Lough Swilly; but on the afternoon of the 13th a squall carried away the masts of the prize, and in the evening, the tow-rope stranding, she broke adrift.
A stormy night followed, and but for the French prisoners joining their utmost exertions to those of the English, as a common cause of danger, she must inevitably have been lost. On the 15th, the Doris frigate, Captain Lord Ranelagh, fortunately joined the disabled ships, took the Hoche in tow, and at length anchored her in safety. To the ability and gallantry of Captain Thornborough was attributed the success of the day; and the Admiralty, who had already promoted the Commodore's Lieutenant, soon afterwards presented Mr. Colby, first of the Robust, who lost his arm in the action, with a commander's commission.
A squadron of four French frigates, under M. Savary, followed Bompart's expedition, which arrived in the vicinity of Killala Bay, on the 27th of October, where he learned the results which sealed the fate of the French arms; and, apprehensive of being caught also, he steered home again with the melancholy tidings. The coast of Ireland being thus free, the Robust again joined the Channel fleet, under Lord Bridport, who expressed himself particularly pleased at her return. At the flag promotion which took place on the 14th of February, 1799, Captain Thornborough was nominated a Colonel of Marines, and shifted his pendant from the Robust to the Formidable, of 98 guns. In this ship he served under Admiral Sir A. Gardner, Earl St. Vincent, Sir C. Cotton, Lord Keith, and Lord Bridport, on the Channel and Mediterranean stations, till the 1st of January, 1801, when the promotion consequent on establishing the Union between Great Britain and Ireland taking place, he was advanced to the rank of Rear-Admiral of the Blue, and hoisted his flag on board the Mars, 74, Captain R.
Lloyd, and during the remainder of the war he was employed in the arduous but monotonous duty of watching Brest.
The Admiral rejoined his family and friends on the peace taking place, but was not long to enjoy repose, for the renewal of hostilities recalled him; and after commanding in the Downs, he was appointed to a division of the North Sea fleet, under Lord Keith, with his flag hoisted on board the Defence, 74. The blockade of the Texel was now managed with success, on a system at once economical of anxiety and labour. The ports of Holland admit of the ingress and egress of large ships only during the spring tides; two days before which, Thornborough's squadron regularly took its station off the Texel, and remained as many days after the full and change of the moon, so that the Dutch lost all the advantages of the high tides, their heavy ships being effectually detained within their harbours.
In April, 1804, the Atalante, a Dutch brig of war, was gallantly cut out of Vlie Passage by the boats of the Scorpion and Beaver, after being bravely defended. Her Commander, A. Von Karpe, who refused quarter, being slain, was buried by Captain Hardinge, the conqueror, with every honour he could bestow, even to hauling down the English colours, hoisting Dutch, and liberating the prisoners during the interment. This incident afforded the Admiral an opportunity of displaying that generous humanity for which he was ever remarkable, and gave a proper finish to the honourable affair. After recommending Captains Hardinge and Pelly, and Lieutenant Bluett, for promotion, he sent a flag of truce to Kilkert, the Batavian Admiral, with the purser and pilot of the Atalante, and the deceased Captain's servant, with the whole of his late master's private property, in order that it might be delivered to his relations.
Early in 1805 Admiral Thornborough assumed the important station of Captain of the Channel fleet, under Lord Gardner. In June he was promoted to the rank of ViceAdmiral, hoisted his flag in the Kent, and was nominated to command a squadron of fast-sailing line-of-battle ships, des
tined to reinforce Lord Nelson, but which, from the battle of Trafalgar occurring, did not take place. In the following year he commanded in the Pertuis d'Antioche, with his flag on board the Prince of Wales, of 98 guns, and maintained the blockade of Rochefort, until he was relieved by Sir Samuel Hood. In February, 1807, he removed into the Royal Sovereign, of 100 guns, and proceeded to the Mediterranean, where he remained executing various services until the end of 1809. In October of the next year he was appointed Commander-in-Chief on the Irish station, where he continued until he attained the rank of Admiral, in December, 1813. He afterwards held the office of Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth, from 1815 till May 1818, and with that appointment closed his public services, though he was subsequently raised to the commission of Vice-Admiral of the United Kingdom.
On the extension of the Order of the Bath, in January, 1815, Admiral Thornborough was made a Knight Commander, and in January, 1825, raised to a Grand Cross. He was twice married, and died a widower, on the 3d of April, 1834, at his seat, Bishopsteignton Lodge, in Devonshire, at the age of 80. By his first wife, who died at Exeter in 1801, he had several children, of whom one, Edward Le Cras Thornborough, is now a Captain in the Royal Navy.
Abridged from a Memoir in the United Service Journal.