James Lempriere

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James Lempriere (1654- ) Captain RN

The son of Clement Lempriere and Elizabeth Bandinel, daughter of the Rector of St Mary, Jacques Bandinel, James Lempriere was a naval officer who was honoured by Queen Anne for his services against the French with a gold medal and a chain, with a letter of instructions signed by her majesty. The medal has an effigy of the Queen on the obverse, and on the reverse the arms of, and an eulogy on, the recipient, together with a characteristic portrait.

Attack on French fleet

Two episodes in Lempriere's life, both in nearby France, are recorded in his biography in George Balleine's A Biographical Dictionary of Jersey. The first is taken from Lediard's Naval History of 1734:

"Rear-Admiral Dilkes on 22 July 1703 received orders from the Council to look for a Grand Partie said to lie in Cancale Bay. The 25th he anchored off the south west port of Jersey, and sent Captain Chamberlain of the Spry to the Governor that he might learn the best intelligence. The Governor sent him Captain James Lempriere and Captain Thomas Pipon who were well acquainted with that coast; by whom being informed of a fleet of 40 sail plying to windward to get to Granville, the Rear-Admiral upon consultation with the pilots decided to sail immediately, that he might attack the enemy by break of day next morning. Accordingly, 26th July by daylight, perceived the enemy at anchor about a league to the westward of Granville, who upon their approach set sail and stood for the shore. The Rear-Admiral followed them as far as the pilots would venture, and found them to consist of 25 merchant vessels and three men of war. He then manned all his boats, and his ships did the same. By noon he had taken 15 sail, burnt six and sunk three. The rest stood so far ito a bay between Avranches and Mont St Michel, that the ships could not attack them. Thereupon, the 27th, it was resolved to go into the Bay with the Hector, the Mermaid fireship, the Spry, and a ship of six guns taken the day before from the enemy, and all the boats of the squadron. This was performed between 10 and 11 in the morning, the Rear-Admiral being present accompanied by Captains Fairfax and Legg, also Captains Lempriere and Pipon. The enemy had three men of war, one of 18 guns, which they burned themselves, one of 14 guns, which Mr Paul of the Kent set on fire, and a third of six guns which was brought off. Seventeen more of the merchantships were destroyed, so that of the whole fleet only four escaped".

It was for this incident that Captain Lempriere was awarded the Queen's gold medal "for his zeal in her service and his successful conducting ye Squadron commanded by Rear-Admiral Dilkes, who destroyed a considerable number of ye enemy's merchantships under convoy of men-of-war on their own coast. True to my trust".

Intelligence

As intelligence officer for the French coast near Jersey Lempriere had the following orders:

"Instructions for our trusty and well-beloved Captain Lempriere, given at our Court at St James the first day of February 1704. As soon as you have received instructions from our Commissioners for the Exchange of Prisoners you shall with all expedition prepare some vessel proper for the transporting of prisoners, and, that you may have frequent occasions to repair to St Malo for the particular service we expect from you, you must use such a vessel as is not capable of carrying many prisoners at one time. You are to give notice to our Lieut-Governor of either of our islands immediately on your return, desiring his assistance to foward with all expedition to one of our principal Secretaries of State such intelligence as you may have gotten at St Malo, and in case there be an opportunity of annoying the enemy by any of our ships of war or privateers, you are to give notice thereof to our Lieut-GOvernor that he may give such instructions thereon as he may judge proper. You are to endeavour to get intelligence on all matters at St Malo or elsewhere on the coasts of France, particularly what ships are fitting out there, when they will be ready to sail, and what the design may be on which they are to proceed. In case there be any expense in procuring the same intelligence, you shall be allowed the same."

Family

Captain Lempriere and his wife Ann Durell, had five children: James, who became Constable of St Helier and Jurat; John, George, Clement and Elizabeth.

Full biography

From A Biographical Dictionary of Jersey James Lempriere (1654- ), Captain RN, was the son of Clement Lempriere and Elizabeth Bandinel, daughter of Jacques, the Rector of St Mary, who died from injuries received when escaping from Mont Orgueil with his father.

Granville battle

Only two events in his life are on record. Lediard's Naval History, written in 1734, records:

"Rear-Admiral Dales on 22 July 1703 received orders from the Council to look for a Grand Partie said to lie in Cancale Bay. The 25th he anchored off the south-west port of Jersey, and sent Captain Chamberlain of the Spry to the Governor that he might learn the best intelligence. The Governor sent him Captain James Lempriere and Captain Thomas Pipon, who were well acquainted with that coast; by whom being informed of a fleet of 40 sail plying to windward to get to Granville, the Rear-Admiral upon consultation with the pilots decided to sail immediately, that he might attack the enemy by break of day next morning.
”Accordingly, 26 July by daylight, perceived the enemy at anchor about a league to the westward of Granville, who upon their approach set sail and stood for the shore. The Rear-Admiral followed them as far as the pilots would venture, and found them to consist of 25 merchant vessels and three men of war. He then manned all his boats, and his ships did the same. By noon he had taken 15 sail, burnt six and sunk five. The rest stood so far into a bay between Avranches and Mont St Michel that the ships could not attack them.
”Thereupon, the 27th, it was resolved to go into the Bay with the Hector, the Mermaid fireship, the Spry, and a ship of six guns taken the day before from the enemy, and all the boats of the squadron. This was performed between 10 and 11 in the morning, the Rear-Admiral being present accompanied by Captains Fairfax and Legg, also Captains Lempriere and Pipon. The enemy had three men of war, one of 18 guns, which they burned themselves, one of 14 guns, which Mr Paul of the Kent set on fire, and a third of six guns which was brought off.
”Seventeen more of the merchantships were destroyed, so that of the whole fleet only four escaped".

Medal

For his work on this occasion the Queen presented Lempriere with a special gold medal inscribed: "Her Majesty's award to Captain James Lempriere for his zeal in her service and his successful conducting ye Squadron commanded by Rear-Admiral Dilkes, who destroyed a considerable number of ye enemy's merchantships under convoy of men-of-war on their own coast. True to my trust”.

Appointment

Lempriere was then appointed Intelligence Officer for the French coast near Jersey. His orders ran:

"Instructions for our trusty and well-beloved Captain Lempriere, given at our Court at St James the first day of February 1704. As soon as you have received instructions from our Commissioners for the exchange of prisoners you shall with all expedition prepare some vessel proper for the transporting of prisoners, and, that you may have frequent occasions to repair to St Malo for the particular service we expect from you, you must use such a vessel as is not capable of carrying many prisoners at one time. You are to give notice to our Lieut-Governor of either of our islands immediately on your return, desiring his assistance to forward with all expedition to one of our principal Secretaries of State such intelligence as you may have gotten at St Malo, and in case there be an opportunity of annoying the enemy by any of our ships of war or privateers, you are to give notice thereof to our Lieut-Governor, that he may give such instructions thereon as he may judge proper. You are to endeavour to get intelligence on all matters at St Malo or elsewhere on the coasts of France, particularly what ships are fitting out there, when they will be ready to sail, and what the design may be on which they are to proceed. In case there be any expense in procuring the same intelligence, you shall be allowed the same".

He married Ann Durell and had five children, James, who became Constable of St. Helier and Jurat, John, George, Clement, and Elizabeth, who married Philip Nicolle, Rector of St Clement.

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