Richard Vesey Hamilton

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Admiral SIR Richard Vesey Hamilton, G.C.B., Royal Navy (28 May, 1829 – 17 September, 1912) was an officer of the Royal Navy.

Early Life & Career

This article may temporarily contain text from an edition of the Dictionary of National Biography which is in the Public Domain.

Hamilton was born at Sandwich, Kent, 28 May 1829, the younger son of the Rev. John Vesey Hamilton, vicar of St. Mary's church, Sandwich, by his wife, Frances Agnes Malone. He was educated at the Royal Naval School, Camberwell, and entered the royal navy in 1843, proceeding in the Virago to the Mediterranean. In 1850 he volunteered for service in one of the expeditions fitted out by the Admiralty in that year to search for the Arctic explorer, Sir John Franklin [q.v.] . He proceeded to the Arctic as mate in the Assistance, Captain (Sir) Erasmus Ommanney [q.v.] ; and on his return was promoted lieutenant (1851). He at once volunteered for the next search expedition and was appointed to the Resolute, Captain (Sir) Henry Kellett [q.v.] . In charge of a sledge he was absent from the base for fifty-four days, traversed 663 miles, and discovered the northern end of Melville Island. When he once more reached England (1854), the Crimean War had broken out, and he served with the Baltic fleet from January 1855 to February 1856 in the steam sloop Desperate. He was then appointed to command the gunboat Haughty, and reached the Far East in time to participate in the second Chinese War. He played a brilliant part in the battle of Fatshan Creek on 1 June 1857, and Sir Michael Seymour affixed his name to a blank commander's commission which the Admiralty had sent out in recognition of that affair.

In June 1858 Hamilton commissioned the Hydra for service off the west coast of Africa, but was ordered to the other side of the Atlantic, where he served in one ship or another almost continuously until 1868. On paying off the Hydra in 1862 he was promoted post-captain, and married in the same year. From 1868 onwards Hamilton saw service in home waters, and in 1875 was appointed captain superintendent of Pembroke dockyard, where he remained till promoted to his flag (1877). On the occasion of the Queen's birthday he was appointed an Ordinary Member of the Military Division of the Third Class, or Companion, of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (C.B.) on 29 May, 1875.[1]

Flag Rank

In 1878 he became Director of Naval Ordnance. On 6 April, 1880, he was appointed Senior Officer on the Coast of Ireland.[2] He was promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral on 17 February, 1884,[3] and he returned the next year to the China Station as commander-in-chief. On the occasion of Queen Victoria's golden jubilee, he was appointed an Ordinary Member of the Second Class, or Knight Commander, in the Military Division of the Order of the Bath (K.C.B.) on 21 June, 1887.[4]

He was promoted to the rank of Admiral on 18 October, 1887, vice Jones.[5] On his return from China in 1888 he was appointed one of a committee of three whose report not only prepared the way for Lord George Hamilton's Naval Defence Act of 1889, but may be taken as the starting-point of modern naval policy. At the close of the year he joined the Board of Admiralty as second sea lord, and on the retirement of Baron Hood of Avalon a few months later, succeeded that officer as first sea lord (1889–1891). The most important transaction during Hamilton's term of office was the cession of Heligoland to Germany. Against this he entered an emphatic protest, but found that the Cabinet, before consulting him, had committed itself too far to draw back. In 1891 Hamilton became admiral president of the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, where he served until 1894. In accordance with the provisions of the Order in Council of 22 February, 1870, he was placed on the Retired List on 28 May, 1894.[6] On the occasion of the Queen's birthday he was appointed an Ordinary Member of the First Class, or Knight Grand Cross, in the Military Division of the Order of the Bath (G.C.B.) on 25 May, 1895.[7]

During his retirement Hamilton devoted himself to literary pursuits. In 1896 he completed his book on Naval Administration, and between 1898 and 1903 edited for the Navy Records Society the Letters and Papers of Admiral Sir Thomas Byam Martin in three volumes. He died at his house at Chalfont St. Peter, near Uxbridge, 17 September 1912, and was buried at Eltham. By his wife, Julia Frances Delmé (died 1897), daughter of Vice-Admiral James Arthur Murray, and great-granddaughter of John, third Duke of Atholl, he had two sons and two daughters.


  • "Admiral Sir Vesey Hamilton" (Obituaries). The Times. Thursday, 19 September, 1912. Issue 40008, col C, p. 9.
  • Hamilton, Admiral Sir R. Vesey, G.C.B. (1896). Naval Administration: The Constitution, Character and Function of the Board of Admiralty and of the Civil Departments it Directs. London: George Bell and Sons.
  • Hamilton, Admiral Sir R. Vesey, G.C.B. (11 December, 1896). "Arctic Reminiscences". The Navy & Army Illustrated Vol. II (No. 26). pp. 309-310.


Service Records


  1. The London Gazette: no. 24213. p. 2851. 29 May, 1875.
  2. The Navy List. (June, 1881). p. 235.
  3. The London Gazette: no. 25320. p. 895. 22 February, 1884.
  4. The London Gazette: no. 25712. p. 3361. 21 June, 1887.
  5. The London Gazette: no. 25749. p. 5653. 21 October, 1887.
  6. The London Gazette: no. 26517. p. 3121. 29 May, 1894.
  7. The London Gazette: no. 26628. p. 3079. 25 May, 1895.
  8. The Navy List. (December, 1871). p. 135.
  9. Hamilton service record. The National Archives. ADM 196/36. f. 390.
  10. The Navy List. (June, 1881). p. 235.
  11. The Naval Staff of the Admiralty. p. 119.
  12. The Naval Staff of the Admiralty. p. 118.
  13. Hamilton Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/36. f. 563.