The History of Leith

October 25, 2011

Edward Vernon

Edward Vernon (“Old Grog”) (12 November 1684 – 30 October 1757) was an English naval officer. Vernon was born in Westminster, England and went to Westminster School. He joined the Navy in 1700 and was promoted to Lieutenant in 1702 and served on several different ships for the next five years. He was appointed Captain in 1706, taking command of HMS Rye, part of the fleet of Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell. With HMS Rye he narrowly escaped the Scilly naval disaster of 1707 in which Shovell and nearly 2,000 sailors were lost. In the next ten years Vernon was on half pay for half of this time. In May 1728 he took up parliamentary duties and the case of Robert Jenkins, who was alleged to have had his ear cut off by Spanish coastguards in the Caribbean. This led to the War of Jenkin’s Ear in 1739 in which Vice Admiral Vernon led a fleet along with Major General Thomas Wentworth. Vernon captured Porto Bello a Spanish colonial possession, as a result of which, he was granted the Freedom of the City of London. However, Vernon’s next campaign against the Spanish, a large-scale assault on Cartagena de Indias in 1741 ended in disaster. This was the biggest amphibious attack until the Invasion of Normandy in 1944[1]: in Cartagena the British fleet of 186 ships and almost 27,000 men was defeated by a garrison of 3,500 men and 6 ships of the line commanded by the one-eyed, one-armed and lame, admiral Blas de Lezo. The strategic defense of the colonial port of Cartagena, together with weather and disease led to heavy British casualties and eventually a retreat to Jamaica. Following the disease outbreak and quarrels with Wentworth, Vernon returned to the UK to find he had been elected MP for Ipswich. However, the news of the Cartagena defeat eventually led to the collapse of Robert Walpole’s government. Vernon maintained his Naval career for another four years before retiring in 1746. In an active Parliamentary career Vernon advocated an improvement in naval procedures and he continued to hold an interest in naval affairs until his death in 1757. for more click here

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