Elphinstone, George Keith

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Elphinstone, George Keith

ELPHINSTONE, GEORGE KEITH. (1746–1823). Viscount Keith, British naval officer and politician. George Keith Elphinstone, fourth son of the tenth Lord Elphinstone, was born near Stirling in Scotland, on 7 January 1746. He entered the navy in November 1761 and saw action in North American waters before moving to the Mediterranean in 1763. A voyage to China in 1767–1768 in his brother's Indiaman may have given him a modest financial independence. He was made lieutenant in 1770, commander in 1772, and post-captain in 1775.

In 1775 Elphinstone escorted a convoy to Newfoundland, and in 1776 he sailed in Perseus (twenty guns) with a convoy bound for New York. For three years, apart from four months in the West Indies, he harassed privateers and blockade runners, and assisted operations in support of the army. In September 1779 he took the French Therèse (twenty guns) off Charleston. In 1780 he was responsible for the transports on Clinton's Charleston expedition, winning Clinton's enthusiastic praise. When the city fell on 7 May, Elphinstone was sent home with Marriot Arbuthnot's despatches. Given Warwick (fifty guns), in January 1781 he took the Dutch Rotterdam (fifty guns) without losing a single man. In February he was returned to Parliament as a Whig, and on 27 March he again sailed for North America with a convoy. In September his ship was with the squadron that caught a French convoy off the Delaware. In November 1782, in poor health, he sailed for home.

Elphinstone returned to active service in 1793. He took part in Hood's occupation of Toulon and later supervised the evacuation. Knighted and promoted rear admiral in 1794, he served with distinction until 1815, rising to admiral of the Red, becoming Baron Keith in 1803 and Viscount Keith in 1814, and supervising Bonaparte's initial captivity in 1815. He died on 10 March 1823.

SEE ALSO Arbuthnot, Marriot; Charleston Expedition of Clinton in 1780.

                          revised by John Oliphant