John Benbow

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Benbow, John (1653–1702). Admiral. Of the ‘tarpaulin’ rather than ‘gentleman’ breed of naval commander, Benbow was born in Shrewsbury. Entering the navy he showed diligence in navigation which a later, and enforced, spell in the merchant service only enhanced. In the Mediterranean he entered the circle of those favoured by Arthur Herbert and, after the revolution, such valuable patronage brought him dockyard posts and naval commands. Benbow was master of the fleet at Beachy Head in 1690, and prominent at Barfleur in 1692, when he also bombarded St Malo. Promoted admiral in 1696 Benbow then commanded a squadron before Dunkirk, and in the western Channel. His chief claim to fame was his West Indies command 1701–2, of great consequence at the start of the Spanish Succession War. In May 1702, in action against a French force under Du Casse, Benbow was mortally wounded, at the same time being deserted by his captains, two of whom were shot after trial. He died at Port Royal (Jamaica), but lived on in a celebrated sea-song as ‘Brave Benbow’.

David Denis Aldridge

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John Benbow (bĕn´bō), 1653–1702, English admiral. Some of the stories of his exploits seem to be legendary, but he did command the fleet and successfully fight the French at La Hogue (1692), Saint-Malo (1693), and Dunkirk (1696) and the Spanish in the West Indies (1698). In 1702 he engaged in a four-day running fight with a French fleet in the Caribbean off Santa Marta. During this battle his flagship, the Breda, was deserted by all but one of his fleet, and Benbow himself was fatally wounded. Two of the disobedient captains were later court-martialed and shot.