George Anson ( 1697 - 1762)

Admiral of the Fleet George Anson, 1st Baron Anson, PC, FRS, was a Royal Navy officer who served during the War of the Spanish Succession, the War of the Quadruple Alliance, and the War of Jenkins’ Ear. He commanded the fleet that defeated the French Admiral de la Jonquière at the First Battle of Cape Finisterre during the War of the Austrian Succession.

Anson became the First Lord of the Admiralty during the Seven Years’ War and initiated several reforms, including improved medical care, uniforms for commissioned officers, and the rating of ships according to their number of guns. Anson was born on 23 April 1697 in Shugborough Manor, Staffordshire, and entered the navy at the age of 15 during the War of the Spanish Succession. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1716 and to post-captain in 1723. Anson’s command of the 60-gun third-rate HMS Centurion in the West Africa Squadron in 1737 allowed him to take command of a squadron that attacked Spanish possessions in South America at the beginning of the War of Jenkins’ Ear. Anson’s circumnavigation of the world began in 1740 and encountered several disasters before he captured the Manila galleon Nuestra Señora de Covadonga in 1743. Anson returned to England in 1744 and was created a baron the following year.

Anson’s squadron had faced a series of disasters due to their delayed departure, including stormy weather as they rounded Cape Horn. Two of his vessels were unable to round the Cape and returned home, while another ship was wrecked off the coast of Chile, leading to a mutiny among the crew. By the time Anson reached the Juan Fernández Islands in June 1741, only three of his six ships remained, and the strength of his crews had fallen drastically due to scurvy. Despite this, he was able to harass the Spanish and sack the small port city of Paita in Peru. The decrease in his crews and the worn-out state of his remaining ships forced him to collect all the remaining survivors in the Centurion. After resting at the island of Tinian, Anson sailed to Macao in November 1742, where he encountered difficulties with the Chinese before capturing the Nuestra Señora de Covadonga. Anson sold the cargo to the Chinese, kept the specie, and sailed for England via the Cape of Good Hope. He reached England on 15 June 1744, and the prize money from the capture of the galleon made him a wealthy man and earned him considerable political influence. Although he initially refused promotion to Rear-Admiral of the Blue, he eventually accepted it after the admiralty refused to sanction a captain’s commission he had given to one of his officers.

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