Captain Sir William Hoste, 1st Baronet KCB RN (26 August 1780 – 6
Royal Navy captain. He was best known as one of Lord
Nelson's protégés, Hoste was one of the great frigate captains of
the Napoleonic wars, taking part in six major actions including the
capture of a heavily fortified port. He was however absent from
Trafalgar having been sent with gifts to the Dey of Algiers.
1 Childhood and education
2 Early career
2.1 HMS Agamemnon
2.2 HMS Captain and the battle of Cape St Vincent
2.3 HMS Theseus
2.4 The battle of the Nile
4 Notable actions
4.1 Battle of Lissa
4.2 Cattaro, Spalato and Ragusa
5 Later life
6 Personal life
10 Further reading
11 External links
Childhood and education
He was the second of eight children of Reverend Dixon Hoste (1750 -
1805) and Margaret Stanforth. At the time of his birth his father
was rector of
Tittleshall in Norfolk. He was born at
Ingoldisthorpe, and the family later moved to
Godwick Hall, east of
Tittleshall, which was leased from Thomas Coke, who later became the
1st Earl of Leicester, of Holkham Hall.
Hoste was educated for a time at
King's Lynn and later at the Paston
School in North Walsham, where
Horatio Nelson himself had been to
school some years previously. Dixon Hoste had arranged for Hoste's
name to be entered in the books of HMS Europa as a Captain's
servant when he was just 5 years old, although he would not actually
go to sea until he reached the age of 12 or 13.
That time coincided with the outbreak of war with
France in February
1793. Lacking any influence or naval contacts himself, Dixon Hoste
asked his landlord, Thomas Coke, for assistance and was introduced to
Nelson, then living nearby in
Burnham Thorpe and who had recently been
appointed as Captain of HMS Agamemnon a 64-gun third-rate, which
was being fitted out at Chatham Dockyard.
Nelson accepted Hoste to join him as a captain's servant on
HMS Agamemnon, which he boarded at
Portsmouth at the end of April
1793. The ship joined the
Mediterranean Fleet under Lord Hood, and it
was in the Mediterranean and Adriatic that Hoste saw most of his naval
service. Extracts from Nelson's letters to his wife mention Hoste
frequently; for example: ‘without exception one of the finest boys I
ever met with’ and ‘his gallantry never can be exceeded, and each
day rivets him stronger to my heart’. Another captain's servant on
Agamemnon was Josiah Nisbet, Nelson's stepson, but the letters suggest
that Hoste quickly became a favourite and that Josiah compared badly
with him in many respects. Hoste was promoted to midshipman by Nelson
on 1 February 1794 and served with him during the blockade of and
subsequent assault on
Corsica on 7 February.
Battle of Cape St Vincent by Robert Cleveley
HMS Captain and the battle of Cape St Vincent
Hoste moved with Nelson to HMS Captain in 1796 and was with him
at the Battle of Cape St Vincent, When a British fleet under Admiral
Sir John Jervis defeated a Spanish fleet almost twice its size.
Captain was heavily involved in the fighting and captured the larger
San Josef and San Nicolas of 112 and 80 guns, respectively.
Captain started the battle towards the rear of the British line.
Instead of continuing to follow the line, Nelson disobeyed orders and
wore ship, and made for the Spanish van, which consisted of the
112-gun San Josef, the 80-gun San Nicolas and the 130-gun Santísima
Trinidad. Captain engaged all three, assisted by HMS Culloden
which had come to her aid. After an hour of exchanging broadsides
which left both Captain and Culloden heavily damaged, Nelson found
himself alongside the San Nicolas which he boarded and forced her
surrender. San Josef attempted to come to the San Nicolas’s aid,
but became entangled with her compatriot and was left immobile. Nelson
led his party from the deck of the San Nicolas onto the San Josef and
captured her as well.
In June 1797, he transferred to HMS Theseus a
Theseus was a 'troubled' ship, and Nelson and a few handpicked
officers, including Hoste, Captain
Ralph Willett Miller
Ralph Willett Miller and Lieutenant
John Weatherhead, were sent aboard to restore order. The tactic was
successful and Nelson received a letter from the would-be mutineers
which stated, "We thank the Admiral (Nelson) for the Officers he has
placed over us".
In July, Theseus was present at the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife,
although Hoste remained aboard and took no part in the assault.
Following the death of a Lieutenant Weatherhead in the battle, Nelson
promoted Hoste to lieutenant to fill the vacancy, his position being
confirmed, thanks to his 'book time' in Europa, in February 1798.
The destruction of L'Orient at the
Battle of the Nile
Battle of the Nile by George Arnald
The battle of the Nile
Later that year, Hoste, still aboard HMS Theseus, was at the Battle of
the Nile. The
Royal Navy fleet was outnumbered, at least in firepower,
by the French fleet, which boasted the 118-gun ship-of-the-line
L'Orient, three 80-gun warships and nine of the popular
Royal Navy fleet in comparison had just thirteen
74-gun ships and
one 50-gun fourth-rate. Nevertheless, the battle was a decisive
victory for the British.
Following the battle, Nelson sent his report to London, taking the
precaution of sending a duplicate in the brig HMS Mutine,
commanded by Lieutenant Thomas Capel. At Naples, Capel was to carry on
with the dispatch, handing command of Mutine to Hoste. Upon taking
command, Hoste became an acting-captain at the age of 18. Hoste,
carrying news of the victory, first sailed to Gibraltar, before
rejoining the fleet, under St Vincent, off Cadiz. His promotion was
confirmed in December 1798.
Hoste continued in command of the Mutine for the next three years,
Italy under Nelson, where in the autumn of 1799, he
took part in the capture of Rome. He later served under Lord Keith,
who knew little of him and his career appeared to have stalled until,
possibly at Nelson's prompting, he was promoted post-captain by Lord
St Vincent, First Lord of the Admiralty, in January 1802.
At this time, Hoste was in Alexandria, where he contracted malaria and
then a lung infection, which were to have a lasting effect on his
health. He convalesced with Lord and Lady Elgin in Athens, where he
began an education in classical antiquity, completed following his
appointment to the frigate HMS Greyhound in Florence, when his
ship was cruising on the Italian coast.
Hoste served almost continuously throughout the Peace of Amiens,
England briefly in April 1803 before being given command
of HMS Eurydice in October.
Nelson summoned him to
Cadiz in September 1805 and gave him command of
the 32-gun frigate HMS Amphion. Sent on a diplomatic mission to
Algiers, he missed the
Battle of Trafalgar
Battle of Trafalgar by a matter of days, and
only learned of Nelson's death on his return in November. He wrote
to his father - 'Not to have been in it is enough to make one mad, but
to have lost such a friend besides is really sufficient to almost
overwhelm me’ (Hoste's letters).
A number of successes while engaged on active service in the
Mediterranean over the following 18 months brought Hoste to the
attention of Lord Collingwood, who sent him into the Adriatic Sea.
Here he single-handedly conducted an aggressive campaign against enemy
shipping and coastal installations, bringing coastal trade with the
enemy more or less to a halt. By the end of 1809, Hoste and his
crew had captured or sunk over 200 enemy ships.
His endeavours were rewarded with command, as commodore, of a small
detachment of frigates, comprising HMS Amphion, HMS Active (36
guns), HMS Volage (22 guns) and HMS Cerberus (32 guns),
operations continued and by establishing a base at Lissa, now known as
Vis, Hoste was able to dominate the Adriatic with just four ships. In
March and April 1810 alone, they took or destroyed 46 vessels.
The French and their allies became so frustrated by the disruption to
their shipping that a Franco-Venetian squadron, under the command of
an aggressive frigate commander named Bernard Dubourdieu, was
dispatched and on 13 March 1811 they attacked Hoste's small force in
what became known as the Battle of Lissa.
Battle of Lissa
Main article: Battle of Lissa (1811)
Dubourdieu's squadron of seven frigates and four smaller warships
possessing a total of 276 guns and nearly 2,000 men significantly
outnumbered Hoste with his 4 frigates mounting only 124 guns and
manned by less than 900 men. The French officer imitated Nelson's
attack at Trafalgar by sailing down on the English line from windward
with his ships in two lines. However, signalling 'Remember Nelson' to
rally his men, Hoste used his superior seamanship and gunnery overcame
the larger enemy force, with the loss of 50 men killed and 132
wounded. Dubourdieu was killed, one of the French frigates was driven
on shore another captured, and two of the Venetian frigates were
Walls of Ragussa (
Dubrovnik today) which Hoste and his small force
managed to capture from the French in 1814
Hoste's signal had a profound effect on his men. It was universally
greeted with loud cheers and Captain Hornby of the Volage wrote of it
later: "Never again so long as I live shall I see so interesting or so
Cattaro, Spalato and Ragusa
Siege of Cattaro
Siege of Cattaro and Siege of Ragusa
Amphion was so badly damaged that she was obliged to return to
England, where Hoste was given the command of HMS Bacchante (38
guns), although he did not return to the Adriatic in her until 1812.
Hoste continued to demonstrate the same kind of initiative and
aggression as before. He helped capture Spalato (Split) in November
1813 with the assistance from the 35th regiment of foot. Then working
with Montenegran forces, he attacked the mountain fortress of Cattaro,
hauling ships' cannon and mortars to positions above the fort using
block and tackle. The French garrison had no alternative but to
surrender, which it did on 5 January 1814. Hoste immediately repeated
these tactics at Ragusa (now Dubrovnik), which also surrendered later
on the 27th.
Hoste's health, compromised by his malaria and earlier lung infection,
worsened and he was forced to return to England. In 1814, he was made
a baronet, and in 1815 he was knighted KCB. In 1825, he was
appointed to the royal yacht Royal Sovereign.
In January 1828, he developed a cold which affected his already
weakened lungs, and he died of tuberculosis in
London on 6 December
1828. He was buried in St John's Chapel, London.
He married Lady Harriet Walpole (1 March 1792 - 18 April 1875) on 17
April 1817). She was the daughter of Horatio Walpole, 2nd Earl of
Orford and Sophia Churchill. They had the following children:
Caroline Harriet Clementina Hoste.
Priscilla Anne Hoste (Unknown - 21 October 1854).
Admiral Sir William Legge George Hoste (19 March 1818 - 10 Sept
Theodore Oxford Raphael Hoste (31 July 1819 - 1835).
Psyche Rose Elizabeth Hoste (4 April 1822 - 8 July 1904).
Horatio Nelson Hoste (2 Feb 1825 - ).
Hoste's actions at Cattaro and Ragusa were later immortalised in
fiction, where they are attributed to Captain Jack Aubrey, the
principal character in Patrick O'Brian's 20 novels of the
Aubrey–Maturin series. A small island in the entrance to the bay of
Vis town is named
Hoste Island after him, while the Sir William Hoste
Cricket Club in Vis was founded by the Croatian islanders after
learning that he had organised the game there during the British
occupation of the island.
The Hoste Hotel in Burnham Market, Norfolk, is such named after
William Hoste and features a Lord Nelson museum tribute.
Once, while in conversation with Hoste's father, Nelson remarked:
His worth as a man and an officer exceeds all which the most sincere
friend can say of him. I pray God to bless my dear William.
Lord Radstock once wrote:
I look at you (Hoste) as the truly worthy eleve of my incomparable and
ever to be lamented friend the late Lord Nelson.
^ "Person Page - 14633 - Reverend Dixon Hoste". The Peerage. Retrieved
December 8, 2017.
^ a b c d e f g h White (2002). The Nelson Encyclopaedia.
^ a b Coleman 2001, p. 128
^ a b Coleman 2001, p. 126
^ White (2005). Nelson the Admiral. p. 15.
^ Mostert (2007). The Line Upon the Wind. p. 266.
^ White (2005). Nelson the Admiral. p. 36.
^ a b c d e f g h i j White (2002). The Nelson Encyclopaedia.
^ a b c d e f g h "Person Page - 3833 - Lady Harriet Walpole". The
Peerage. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
Coleman, Terry (2001). Nelson: The man and the legend. Bloomsbury.
Mostert, Noel (2007). The Line Upon the Wind. W. W. Norton & Co.
White, Colin (2002). The Nelson Encyclopaedia. Rochester: Chatham
Publishing. ISBN 978-1-86176-185-9.
White, Colin (2005). Nelson the Admiral. Phoenix Mill, Stroud, Glos.:
Sutton Publishing Limited. ISBN 0-7509-3713-0.
Adkins, Roy; Adkins, Lesley (2007). The War for All Oceans
(Paperback)format= requires url= (help). London: Abacus.
James, William (1837). The naval history of Great Britain, from the
declaration of war by
France in 1793, to the accession of George IV
[3rd edn], 6 vols (Hardback)format= requires url= (help). London:
Richard Bentley & Son.
ed. Hoste, H (1833). Memoirs and letters of Captain Sir William Hoste,
Bart.2 vols (Hardback)format= requires url= (help). London:
Bentley. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
Marshall, John (1824). Royal naval biography (Hardback)format=
requires url= (help). London: Longman.
ed. Naish, G. P. B. (1958). Nelson's letters to his wife and other
documents, 1785–1831 (Hardback)format= requires url= (help).
London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. CS1 maint: Extra text:
authors list (link)
Pocock, Tom (1977). Remember Nelson: the life of Captain Sir William
Hoste (Hardback)format= requires url= (help). London: Harper
Collins. ISBN 978-0-002-11568-1.
Royal Navy portal
Island of Vis
William Hoste Cricket Club
The Hoste Arms Hotel
Hoste biography from ODNB 1891
William Hoste at Three Decks - Warships in the Age of Sail.