Reproduced by kind
permission of Christie's, London
© Christie's Images Limited 2004
above entitled 'Narrative of a Voyage produced whilst on the Nautilus
for the purpose of investigating the Western Coast of South Africa, 1
February - 23 July 1786. It was written and signed by Thompson on the
title page and at end of text.
This was one of the earliest and
most important sources of information about the coast of Namibia and its
people. The voyage was undertaken to explore the possibility of
establishing a penal colony near a suitable harbour where ships of the
Royal Navy or British Indiamen could refit.
The loss of the American colonies
had forced the British Government to rethink its transportation policy.
Two localities were suggested for the establishment of new penal
colonies in strategically important situations: Das Voltas on the
south-western coast of Africa and Botany Bay.
The expedition to assess the
suitability of Das Voltas was disguised as an inspection of forts and
settlements but secret orders were issued by the Admiralty to survey the
south-western coast of Africa between 20° and 30° south latitudes.
Sir Thomas Boulden
Thompson, 1766?-1828, was born at Barham in Kent 28 February (probably
He first went to sea in
1778 on the Hyrena and served in the Hyrena throughout
her commission, on the home station in the West Indies and on the
coast of South America. In 1783 he was appointed to the Grampus
on the west coast of Africa and in 1786 to be commander of the Nautilus
(see image notes and image opposite).
In 1787 he brought Nautilus
home and went on half-pay. In 1796. He was appointed to the 50-gun
ship Leander, which in the spring of 1797, he joined off Cadiz.
He was shortly afterwards detached with the squadron under Sir Horatio
(later Viscount) Nelson, against Teneriffe, being specially included
on account of his 'local knowledge,' gained, presumably, while in the Grampus
or Nautilus. In
the attempt on Santa Cruz; Thompson received a minor wound, which
necessitated his going home.
following summer he was sent into the Mediterranean to reinforce Sir
Horatio Nelson, and eventually to fight the Battle of the Nile on 1-2
Aug. The Leander could not be counted as a "ship of the
line" but by taking up a position between two of the French
ships, she (while herself in relative safety) raked the two French
ships and the ships beyond. He was afterwards ordered by Nelson to
carry home Captain Edward Berry with his dispatches; but falling in
with the French 74-gun ship Genereux, near the west-end of
Crete, on 18 Aug., the Leander, in which both Thompson and
Berry were severely wounded, was captured and taken to Corfu. They
were, however, allowed to return overland to England where he was
specially complimented as deserving of every praise his country and
the Court could give. On his acquittal, Thompson was knighted and
awarded a pension of £200 per annum.
In the spring of 1799 he
was appointed to the 74-gun ship Bellona, one of the fleet off
Brest under Lord Bridport. He was shortly afterwards sent into the
Mediterranean; but a few months later he returned to the Channel and
took part in the blockade of Brest, till in March 1801 the Bellona was
attached to the fleet for the Baltic under Sir Hyde Parker. When it
was determined that Nelson should attack the Danish fleet and the
defences of Copenhagen, the Bellona was one of the ships
selected for the work. But on entering the channel on the morning of 2
April she ran aground on the edge of the shoal and stuck fast,
helpless, and within long range of the Danish guns. She thus suffered
severely, had eleven killed and sixty-three wounded; and among these
latter was Thompson, who lost a leg. His pension was raised to £500 ,
and some years later to £700. He was also appointed to the command of
the Mary yacht..
He married, in February
1799, Anne, eldest daughter of Robert Raikes of Gloucester, became a
rear-admiral on 25 October 1809, vice-admiral on 4 June 1814, was
nominated a K.C.B. on 2 January 1815, and a G.C.B. on 14 September
1822. He was Member of Parliament for Rochester from May 1807 to June
1818 and died at his house at Hartsbourne in Hertfordshire on 3 March