Admiral Sir Erasmus Gower (1742-1814)

Welcome fellow naval-gazers

My biography Champion of the Quarterdeck: Admiral Sir Erasmus Gower (1742-1814) was published in mid 2017, launched for sale in the UK on 14 September and in Australia on 12 October. Former test cricket captain, David Gower OBE, is descended from Sir Erasmus' brother James and he has graciously provided a Foreword.

The book is a comprehensive biography of a modest, faithful servant of the Royal Navy who served for over 50 years during a period of almost constant conflict.

Champion of the Quarterdeck

Erasmus Gower rose on his own ability from humble middle class beginnings, going to sea as a boy under the brief but careful tutelage of his uncle Captain John Donkley, to become a renowned navigator, full admiral and Governor of Newfoundland. While many Royal Navy officers found fame through acts of daring, great discoveries or battle honours, no other contemporary officer could claim to surpass Sir Erasmus Gower's accumulated Naval achievements.

Tracing his career has revealed a treasure trove of real-life experiences of eighteenth century naval life; privation, shipwreck, piracy, fleet warfare, near starvation, patronage bestowed and lost, prolonged illness and huge responsibility. Gower met these challenges with honour, loyalty, initiative, courage and honesty; all the very best qualities of a gentleman.

His bravery was never questioned and, despite severe and prolonged illness as a result of two world circumnavigations, shipwreck and many battles and skirmishes involving personal danger and long periods at sea, he remained devoted to naval service until the end.

Noted throughout his career for his generosity, integrity, and thirst for knowledge, he laid down a fine example to others which has not, until now, been adequately recognised. His recognition of talented young officers and his constant endeavours to train them and bring them forward in the service resulted in the development of some of the Royal Navy's finest officers of the early 19th century. Portrait Rear-admiral Sir Erasmus Gower circa 1800Rear-admiral Sir Erasmus Gower circa 1800. From The Naval Chronicle.

Many of Gower's associates and friends have been commemorated in published biographies, such as the Dictionary of National Biography, (DNB) or the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (ODNB) and these have been noted in footnotes in my book. It is the lesser-known, but often equally deserving, who are noted here on this web site.

Associated People

These web pages were created as an adjunct to my book. They list friends, associates and proteges of Admiral Sir Erasmus Gower, and are designed to be read in conjuction with the book.

My draft manuscript contained an Appendix running to over 25,000 words, revealing many little-known facts about Gower's associates. This was considered too long for publication but it referred to numerous officers whose later careers showed Gower's influence and support. As the lives of many of these officers are little known today, rather than delete this data, I offer it here for the benefit of readers of the book and for the wider naval history community.

Information about these people has been gathered together from diverse sources, many contemporary, including private correspondence; The Naval Chronicle; The Gentleman's Magazine; James The Naval History of Great Britain...; Marshall Royal naval biography...; Ralfe The Naval Biography of Great Britain; O'Byrne A Naval Biographical Dictionary..., newspapers and others.