Open main menu

James Erskine (Royal Navy officer)

Admiral of the Fleet Sir James Elphinstone Erskine KCB DL JP (2 December 1838 – 25 July 1911) was a Royal Navy officer. As a junior officer he served on the North America and West Indies Station. This was a difficult time in relations between the United Kingdom and the United States following the Trent Affair, an international diplomatic incident that occurred during the American Civil War when the United States Navy frigate USS San Jacinto intercepted the British mail packet RMS Trent.

Sir James Erskine
James Elphinstone Erskine.jpg
Sir James Erskine
Born(1838-12-02)2 December 1838
Rajkot, Bombay Presidency
Died25 July 1911(1911-07-25) (aged 72)
Venlaw, Peeblesshire
AllegianceUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branchNaval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Navy
Years of service1852–1908
RankAdmiral of the Fleet
Commands heldHMS Speedwell
HMS Columbine
HMS Eclipse
HMS Boadicea
HMS Garnet
Australia Station
Coast of Ireland Station
North America and West Indies Station
AwardsKnight Commander of the Order of the Bath

Erskine went on to be Private Secretary to Lord Northbrook, First Lord of the Admiralty and then became Commodore on the Australia Station and in that capacity announced that, in order to provide support for the local people, the south coast of New Guinea would become a British protectorate. He went on to be Junior Naval Lord under the third Gladstone ministry and then Commander-in-Chief, North America and West Indies Station.

Early careerEdit

 
Venlaw, Erskine's home in Peeblesshire

Born the son of James Erskine and Mary Eliza Erskine (daughter of Lieutenant-General Christopher Fagan),[1] Erskine joined the Royal Navy in 1852.[2] He was appointed to the paddle frigate HMS Valorous on the North America and West Indies Station in January 1858.[2] Promoted to lieutenant on 28 June 1858, he became flag lieutenant to his uncle, Rear Admiral John Elphinstone Erskine, Second-in-Command of the Channel Squadron, in the second-rate HMS Edgar, in July 1859.[2]

Erskine transferred to the second-rate HMS Aboukir on the North America and West Indies Station in December 1860.[2] This was a difficult time in relations between the United Kingdom and the United States following the Trent Affair, an international diplomatic incident that occurred during the American Civil War when the United States Navy frigate USS San Jacinto intercepted the British mail packet RMS Trent and removed, as contraband of war, two Confederate diplomats who were bound for the United Kingdom and France to press the Confederacy's case for diplomatic recognition and financial support for the Confederacy.[2] In 1862 Erskine inherited Venlaw, a large Scottish Baronial style house in Peeblesshire.[3]

Promoted to commander on 4 August 1862, he became commanding officer of the gunboat HMS Speedwell on the West Coast of Africa Station in February 1865 and then commanding officer of the sloop HMS Columbine on the Pacific Station in January 1868.[2]

Promoted to captain on 4 November 1868,[4] Erskine went on to be commanding officer of the corvette HMS Eclipse on the North America and West Indies Station in November 1873, commanding officer of the corvette HMS Boadicea at Portsmouth in April 1878 and then commanding officer of the corvette HMS Garnet on the South East Coast of America Station in October 1878.[2]

 
The cruiser HMS Crescent, Erskine's flagship as Commander-in-Chief, North America and West Indies Station

Erskine was appointed Private Secretary to Lord Northbrook, First Lord of the Admiralty, in May 1880.[2] He then became Commodore on the Australia Station, with his broad pennant in the armoured cruiser HMS Nelson in January 1882 and in that capacity announced that, in order to provide support for the local people, the south coast of New Guinea would become a British protectorate.[5]

Senior commandEdit

Promoted to rear admiral on 18 January 1886,[6] Erskine became Junior Naval Lord under the third Gladstone ministry in February 1886 but left office six months later when the Government fell.[2] He became Senior Officer, Coast of Ireland Station, with his flag in the battleship HMS Triumph, in 1888.[2] Promoted to vice admiral on 14 February 1892,[7] he significantly extended Venlaw that year adding an extra storey and a large south wing and turret.[3]

Erskine became Commander-in-Chief, North America and West Indies Station, with his flag in the cruiser HMS Crescent, in May 1895.[2] Appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath on 22 June 1897[8] and promoted to full admiral on 23 August 1897,[9] he joined a commission established to deal with fishing claims on the French Islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon in August 1898.[10]

Erskine was appointed First and Principal Naval Aide-de-Camp to the King on 20 April 1901,[11] promoted to Admiral of the Fleet on 3 October 1902[12] and installed as Deputy Lieutenant of Peeblesshire on 25 February 1907.[13] He retired in December 1908[14] and died at his home, Venlaw in Peeblesshire, on 25 July 1911, aged 72.[15]

FamilyEdit

In 1885, Erskine married Margaret Eliza Constable, daughter of Reverend John Constable; they had one son and one daughter.[1]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b "Admiral Sir James Elphinstone Erskine". The Peerage.com. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Heathcote, p. 72
  3. ^ a b "Private couple new owners of historic Peebles hotel". Southern Reporter. 24 November 2011. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  4. ^ "No. 23438". The London Gazette. 6 November 1868. p. 5751.
  5. ^ "Admiral Sir James Elphinstone Erskine". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  6. ^ "No. 25551". The London Gazette. 22 January 1886. p. 329.
  7. ^ "No. 26263". The London Gazette. 1 March 1892. p. 1201.
  8. ^ "No. 26867". The London Gazette. 25 June 1897. p. 3568.
  9. ^ "No. 26885". The London Gazette. 24 August 1897. p. 4726.
  10. ^ "No. 27001". The London Gazette. 2 September 1898. p. 5259.
  11. ^ "No. 27307". The London Gazette. 23 April 1901. p. 2777.
  12. ^ "No. 27483". The London Gazette. 17 October 1902. p. 6569.
  13. ^ "No. 28001". The London Gazette. 5 March 1907. p. 1579.
  14. ^ "No. 28201". The London Gazette. 1 December 1908. p. 9182.
  15. ^ Heathcote, p. 73

SourcesEdit

  • Heathcote, Tony (2002). The British Admirals of the Fleet 1734 – 1995. Pen & Sword Ltd. ISBN 0-85052-835-6.

External linksEdit

Military offices
Preceded by
John Wilson
Commander-in-Chief, Australia Station
1882–1884
Succeeded by
George Tryon
Preceded by
William Codrington
Junior Naval Lord
1886
Succeeded by
Lord Charles Beresford
Preceded by
Walter Carpenter
Senior Officer, Coast of Ireland Station
1888–1892
Succeeded by
Henry St John
Preceded by
Sir John Hopkins
Commander-in-Chief, North America and West Indies Station
1895–1897
Succeeded by
Sir John Fisher
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Sir Michael Culme-Seymour
First and Principal Naval Aide-de-Camp
1901–1902
Succeeded by
Sir Edward Seymour