John Lace & the Battle of Trafalgar

 
One of the most famous naval battles in history was the Battle of Trafalgar during which the British Navy under the command of Lord Horatio Nelson, defeated the combined fleets of France and Spain, off the coast of Spain in October, 1805. Napoleon was at the peak of his power and was preparing to launch an invasion of England. He had amassed his army along the English Channel ports, built hundreds of troop transport ships ready to cross the Channel. If he had landed, there is little doubt he would have succeeded and today’s world would be much different than it is.

While Napoleon had little use for the navies of the world, including his own, he also knew that if the British Navy was not defeated, there would be no chance of getting his army safely ashore in England. After several years of being hemmed in their own ports by the blockade of the British Navy, the combined fleet finally sailed to confront the British in hopes of disposing of them and allowing the invasion of England to proceed.
The almost complete victory of the British in this battle eliminated any chance that Napoleon could ever accomplish his goal. The battle is celebrated to this day in Britain on Trafalgar Day.

 Our family had a direct line ancestor who participated in this battle, as well as many other battles during an 8 year career in the Navy of Nelson’s time. John Lace was the Great Grandfather of our Grandmother Ruth Anne Stephen, who married James Bolton Smith our Grandfather.
 John Lace was born in Ramsey in 1779, the son of Daniel Lace and Mary Joughin. Daniel descended from a long line of oldest sons of the Lace family, who had lived on the Kerrowdhoo farm near the northern tip of the Isle of Man from at least 1485. As Daniel was not the oldest son, he moved to Ramsey to raise his family.

The Point of Ayre is the northernmost part of the Isle of Man and shown in the photo above left. The Lace Farm buildings can be seen at the very bottom of the photo and the buildings as they occur today shown above to the right. It was the home of the Lace Family for over 400 years.

Little is know of John’s life from the time of his birth until he appears on board HMS Thunderer in May of 1805. However, he had obviously been a sailor in merchant ships, because when he was prest by the RN in Salvador he was taken on the HMS Thunderer’s muster as an Able Bodied Seaman, which indicates he was an accomplished seaman.

The Thunderer, foreground to the left,  was a  3rd rate ship of the line with 74 guns and a crew of 650 men. Can you imagine spending several years on board with the live chickens, ducks and cows?


 John Lace was to serve for over 2 years on board the HMS Thunderer, and within 6 months of boarding the ship John had taken part in 2 significant naval battles including the historic Battle of Trafalgar.

 

In the following two years he visited many ports as part of the Royal Navy's Mediterranean Fleet. Included were many historic and romantic cities such as Alexandria, Malta,  Rhodes, the Adriatic Sea, and the port of Bayonne.

 

They had fought and captured several ships during this period. The Thunderer then became part of a flotilla that forced their way up the Dardanelles and bombarded Constantinople in 1806-1807. Over 100 years later the Royal Navy would attempt to force the Dardanelles again but were not successful, losing many warships and many sailors lives along with thousands of troops that attempted to take the peninsula by force of arms.

A painting depicting Admiral Nelson's flagship HMS Victory engaging two ships of the French-Spanish fleet, and probably at the time of Nelson's death.
John Lace was to serve for over 2 years on board the HMS Thunderer, and within 6 months of boarding the ship John had taken part in 2 significant naval battles including the historic Battle of Trafalgar.
 
In the following two years he had visited many ports as part of the Royal Navy's Mediterranean Fleet such as Alexandria, Malta,   Rhodes, the Adriatic Sea, and the port of Bayonne. (See Port of Malta above to the left)
 
They had fought and captured several ships during this period. The Thunderer then became part of a flotilla that forced their way up the Dardenells and bombarded the Constantinople in 1806-1807. over 100 years later the Royal Navy would attempt to force the Dardenells again and were not successful, losing many warships and many sailors lives. (See the entrance to the Dardenells above right.
In November 1808, John was given leave before re-signing and joining the crew of HMS Castor, a frigate and much smaller ship than Thunderer. John saw more action in the Caribbean in battles near Guadeloupe and Martinique. In July of 1813, Castor was cruising the Mediterranean off the coast of Spain when John and 9 others were wounded in the capture of a French privateer. He was taken to the British Naval Hospital in Port Mahon on the island of Minorca, where his arm was amputated 

On the left above;  Sketch of HMS Castor, a 5th rate ship with 38 guns and a crew of 220.

 On the right above;  The British Naval hospital was established in the early 1700 period in the harbour of Port Mahon on the island of MInorca, and the buildings exist to this day. John had his arm amputated here in 1813.
Invalided home to the Isle of Man, John married a lady Margaret Lace in 1815 and was the father of 8 children, including two of our direct line ancestors, Jane Lace and her brother Thomas Lace.
 
John served as a pilot to ships entering the port of Ramsey, and met his death in 1832 at the age of 53 while attempting to come to the assistance of two ships in distress during a heavy storm. John and three other men perished when their pilot boat was swamped. It is reported that his body washed ashore in Scotland, but this has never been verified.
 
A memoriam to John is engraved on the headstone of his Mother and Grandmother in the Maughold Cemetery on the outskirts of Ramsey.

From the Manx Advertiser, November 1832 PGE 3

FATAL ACCIDENT
 
We are sorry that it falls our lot this week to have to record one of those melancholy catastrophes, by which friends are not only thrown into trouble, but the widow and fatherless into the deepest of sorrows -
 
On Saturday, evening week, the Manly, Captain Bidzlie, of Aberdeen, last from the Dantzic, grain laden for Mr. Boscow, of Ramsey, came to anchor in that bay, all well. Sunday morning a fresh breeze sprung up from the northward, which in the evening very much increased, accompanied by heavy showers of hailstones and vivid flashes of lightning. The crew being, to all appearances, unfamiliar with the harbour and the vessel “riding heavy” in the bay, on Monday morning several individuals, anxious for the safety of the vessel, after several failures, succeeded in launching their boat over the angry element, and to the number of six individuals, proceeded alongside the brig, where they, with the greatest of difficulty, left a pilot. At this time observing a schooner close by, in distress, they exerted themselves and through perseverance also supplied her with a pilot. The ill fated men now had to encounter the most imminent danger, in their return to the shore, through the heavy breakers that lashed the strand, the boat being only weakly manned; they pulled for the land, which they had nearly succeeded in reaching, when alas! An unlucky sea struck the frail little bark and capsized her- whereby the unfortunate crew perished, in view, and but a short distance out of the reach of assistance of many anxious friends who lined the beach in dreadful suspense.
 
The sufferers were John Lace (an old and weather beaten tar), T. Corlett, John Kenyon, and Charles Crow – two of them leaving large families. The gale, still increasing upon a  lee shore, the Manly was obliged to slip anchor and seek refuge elsewhere. She came ashore about 11 o’clock on Monday, outside of Douglas pier-head, and was, with great difficulty, got into port at night. In consequence of the wind, veering to the eastward, it threw up a heavy sea upon the bar, which caused her to strike very heavy. The vessel since makes a quantity of water, and it is feared that the cargo will be damaged.

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John Lace’s Naval Battles

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