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Adm Sir Edward Vernon - © Nash Ford PublishingSir Edward Vernon (1723-1794)
Born: 30th October 1723 probably at Hilton, Staffordshire
Admiral of the Blue
Died: 16th June 1794 at Binfield, Berkshire

Admiral Sir Edward Vernon was the fourth son of Henry Vernon (1663-1732) of Hilton, Staffordshire, born on 30th October 1723. Richard Vernon (1726-1800), the famous racehorse owner, was his younger brother. He should not be confused with Admiral Edward Vernon (1684-1757) who belonged to a widely different branch of the same family, their common ancestor in the male line having lived in the time of Henry III, though an intermar­riage in the time of Charles I had brought them a little closer together.

The younger Edward Vernon entered the Royal Academy at Portsmouth in November 1735, where he continued for three years and three months. He was then appointed as a volunteer per order to the ‘Portland’ with Captain John Byng, whom he followed to the ‘Sunderland,’ one of the fleet off Cadiz at the outbreak of the War of the Austrian Succession. In 1742, he was in the ‘Sutherland’ in the Mediterranean under Rear-Ad­miral Nicholas Haddock, and he passed his examination on 3rd March 1743. On 4th April, he was pro­moted to be lieutenant of the ‘Granada’ sloop and, in June 1743, was appointed to the ‘Berwick’, then commissioned by Captain Edward (afterwards Lord) Hawke, with whom he went out to the Mediterranean and was present at the Battle of Toulon on 11th February 1744. On 5th December 1747, he was promoted to be commander of the ‘Baltimore’ sloop and, on 3rd April 1753, to be captain of the ‘Mermaid’. In May 1755, he was ap­pointed to the ‘Lyme’ of twenty guns, attached to the fleet in the Bay of Biscay during 1755-6 when the Seven Years War began. He was then sent out to the Mediterranean with Admiral Henry Osborn in 1757. In November 1758, he was moved into the 64-gun ship ‘St. Albans’, one of the fleet with Admiral Edward Boscawen when he defeated and destroyed the French fleet on 18th-19th August 1759. In 1760, he com­manded the ‘Revenge’ under Hawke or Boscawen in the Bay of Biscay.

After the peace of 1763, he was for some time captain of the ‘Kent,’ flagship of Vice-Admiral Pye at Plymouth. In 1770, he successively commanded the ‘Yarmouth’ and ‘Bellona,’ guardships at Portsmouth, and, from March 1771, the ‘Barfleur,’ Pye’s flagship. When the King reviewed the Fleet in June 1773, he knighted Vernon, who remained in the ‘Barfleur,’ with Sir James Douglas, till, in May 1775, he was appointed to the ‘Ramillies’ as com­modore and commander-in-chief at the Nore. In May 1776, he was appointed commander-in-chief in the East Indies and went out with his broad pennant in the ‘Ripon’ of sixty guns. Besides the ‘Ripon,’ he had only two small frigates and a corvette under his orders. So, when war with France broke out in 1778 as an extension of the American Revolution, he naturally thought that he might be opposed by a very superior force. As it happened, the French commodore, M. de Tronjolly, was similarly impressed with a sense of his own weakness – his squadron being almost exactly the same strength as Vernon’s – and so neither of them sought out the other. An indecisive action off Pondicherry on 10th August led to the French squadron retiring to Mauritius and staying there. Vernon, who was pro­moted to be rear-admiral on 19th March 1779, returned to England early in 1781.

Sir Edward had no further service in the navy, and retired to his home in Binfield, Berkshire. However, in the spring and summer of 1785, he attracted some further notoriety by making two balloon ascents from Tottenham Court Road, the first time coming down in Horsham and, the second, in Colchester. He was made a vice-admiral on 24th September 1787, admiral on 12th April 1794, and died a few weeks later, on 16th June 1794. He was buried in Binfield Church and his arrears of pay were paid to his widow, Dame Hannah, who is not otherwise mentioned.

Edited from Sidney Lee's 'Dictionary of National Biography' (1899).

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