O'Byrnes 1849 'Naval Biographical Dictionary'
O'Byrnes 1849 'Naval Biographical Dictionary'

Royal NavyO'Byrne

The following is the entry for Henry John Leeke in William O'Byrnes 1849 'Naval Biographical Dictionary'.

LEEKE, Kt., K.H. (Captain, 1826. f-p., 17; h-p., 27.)

Sir Henry John Leeke is son of Sam. Leeke; Esq., a Magistrate and Deputy-Lieutenant for co. Hants, who lost his life from the effects of overexertion in the suppression of a riot; and brother-in-law of Rear-Admiral Sir Edw. Tucker, K.C.B., and of Capt. W. B. Bigland, R.N., K.H. One of his brothers was killed in command of a gun-boat at the defence of Cadiz; and another carried the colours of the 52nd Light Infantry at the battle of Waterloo.
This officer entered the Navy, 28 Sept. 1803. (under the auspices of his godfather Lord Henry Paulet), as Fst.-cl. Vol., on board the Royal William, Capt. John Wainwright, bearing the flag of Admiral Montagu at Spithead. In the course of 1806 he successively joined the Iris 32, Capt. John Tower, Ville de Paris and Royal Sovereign, both commanded by Capt. Henry Garrett, and Terrible 74, Capt. Lord Henry Paulet; as Midshipman of which latter ship, and the Volontaire 38 Capt. Chas. Bullen, we find him continuously employed off Cadiz and in the Mediterranean until January, 1810. Previously to leaving the Volontaire, he had an opportunity, besides commanding one of her boats at the destruction of a French vessel near Marseilles, of serving with those of a squadron which, on the night of 31 Oct. 1809, captured and destroyed, after a fearful struggle and a loss to the British of 15 men killed and 55 wounded, the French store-ship Lamproie of 16 guns and 116 men, bombards Victoire and Grondeur, and armed xebec Normamde with a convoy of seven merchant-vessels, lying under the protection of numerous strong batteries in the Bay of Rosas. Between the period of his advancement to the rank of Lieutenant, which took place while he was serving with Capt. Sam. Martin Colquitt on board the Persian sloop, 24 Nov. 1810, and the receipt of his second promotal commission, bearing date 15 June, 1814, he was again employed in the Mediterranean, and also at the Cape of Good Hope, in the Volontaire and Cambrian frigates, each under the orders of Capt. Chas. Bullen, Lion 64, flag-ship of the late Sir Chas. Tyler, Harpy sloop, Capt. Allen, and Medway 74, bearing the flag of Sir C. Tyler. On one occasion, while the Persian, with a host of French prisoners on board, was off Cape Trafalgar on her passage home, the latter, availing themselves of the absence of the crew (who, worn out by fatigue, had all, with the exception of Mr. Leeke, the Quartermaster, and two men, gone below), assembled on the deck, and were in the act of making a rush aft, when Mr. Leeke seized a cutlass, threw another to the Quartermaster, and with much gallantry succeeded in keeping them off until the alarm had brought the ship’s company to his assistance. On 26 March, 1819, after he had had the command for about six months of the Alert sloop, and had served as the senior officer of a small squadron ordered to escort the Grand Duke Michael to Calais, Capt. Leeke was appointed to the Myrmidon 20, on the western coast of Africa, where he cruized with great activity against the slave-trade, and either liberated, or contributed to the release of, upwards of 3000 human beings. In May, 1820, having the command at the time of H.M. ships Myrmidon, Morgiana, Thistle, and Snapper, he landed at the Pongas, in the neighbourhood of Sierra Leone, and, at the head of only 170 seamen and marines, added to 180 black soldiers of the 2nd West India Regt., contrived to burn eight towns, to demolish a battery, and to effect the utter defeat of a barbarian force of 5000 men, commanded by King Munga-Brama, a ruffian who had murdered an officer, and several men belonging to the Thistle, and had retained three others as prisoners. The combination, indeed, of skill, perseverance, prudence, and bravery exhibited by Capt. Leeke, proved the means of not only recovering the captives, but of saving the colony itself from much anarchy and bloodshed. Correspondent, therefore, with the importance of the exploit were the terms of gratitude on the one hand, and of admiration on the other, with which its achievement was hailed by Brigadier-General Sir Chas. M‘Carthy, the Governor of Sierra Leone, and Sir Geo. Ralph Collier, the Commodore of the squadron employed on that station. In Sept. 1820 Capt. Leeke suppressed a mutiny which had broken out on board a Brazilian sloop-of-war, Les Trois Royaumes Unis, and then restored the vessel to her Commander. He next succeeded by his exertions in saving a Portuguese schooner from being wrecked in the Sierra Leone river; and on a subsequent occasion he carried the Myrmidon over the fearful bar of the river Bonny for the purpose of attacking two slave-vessels who had beaten off his boats and had wounded two officers and several men. After he had accomplished their capture, he compelled the King of that part of the country to enter into a treaty fixing the duty to be paid by British merchants trading to the river for palm-oil – an arrangement which in particular saved many thousands per annum to the importers of Liverpool. During the three years that he remained on the African station, Capt. Leeke surveyed the coast to the extent of 600 miles. When afterwards in the Herald yacht, to which vessel he was appointed 31 May, 1824, he made a voyage to St. Petersburg, conveyed the Bishops of Jamaica and Barbadoes to their respective sees, brought upwards of a million of dollars home from the Havana, took the Earl of Dalhousie out to Quebec, and landed the Marquess of Hastings at Malta. He attained his present rank 27 May, 1826; and, on 18 Oct. 1845, after having held for a short period the command of the Calliope 26, was appointed to the Queen 110, in which ship, now bearing the flag of Sir John West, Commander-in-Chief at Devonport, he has repeatedly cruized with experimental squadrons.
Sir H. J. Leeke, a Magistrate for cos. Hants and Sussex, and a Deputy-Lieutenant for the former, received the honour of Knighthood, as a reward for his eminent services on the coast of Africa, 1 April, 1835, and was nominated a K.H. 25 Jan. 1836. In acknowledgment of some good offices he had the fortune to render the King of the French when a Midshipman, he has been presented by that monarch with a gold medal; as he has also been by the King of Prussia. Sir Henry married, 13 Nov. 1818, the second daughter of Jas. Dashwood, Esq., of Parkhurst, co. Surrey. Agents – Messrs. Stilwell.

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