LIEUTENANT JOHN PASCO, NELSON'S SIGNAL OFFICER
Born 20th December 1774, Pasco joined the navy in 1784 as Captain’s Servant, on board HMS Druid. In 1786 he transferred to HMS Pegasus, and he later served on the Halifax station in HMS Penelope and from 1790-1795 he served on a number of ships in the Channel. In 1795 he returned to the West Indies and was promoted to Lieutenant of HMS Beaulieu on the 15th June. From 1796 to 1799 he served on HMS Raisonnable in the Channel and at the Cape of Good Hope, and from December 1799 to October 1802 in HMS Immortalite off the coast of France.
Pasco was appointed to HMS Victory in April 1803, and in May served in the Mediterranean under Nelson, where he contributed to the capture of the French frigate Embuscade. He was involved in the blockade of Toulon, in the chase of the French fleet to the West Indies, and the Battle of Trafalgar (1805). During Trafalgar he was serving as signal officer. According to Pasco, the signal that Nelson ordered him to make before the battle was ‘England confides that every man will do his duty’. He had pointed out that ‘confides’ was not in the vocabulary. Time would be saved by if ‘expects’ was substituted. Nelson accepted this suggestion. Early on in the battle Pasco was severely wounded in the right arm and was carried below. In consequence of his wound, Pasco received a grant from the Patriotic Fund, and was given a pension of £250 a year.
He was promoted Commander on 24th December 1805, but was then unemployed for nearly three years. He was then appointed to HMS Hindostan, a store-ship that he took to New South Wales. He next commanded HMS Tartarus on the North America station. He was promoted Captain and appointed to HMS Rota on 3rd April 1811, and served on the Lisbon station until 1815. After the end of the Napoleonic War in 1815, Pasco was given command of HMS Lee, a small frigate employed in the Channel for the suppression of smuggling. He held this position until 1818, and was then unemployed for thirty years. In 1846, he was appointed to command HMS Victory, then the flagship of the Port Admiral at Portsmouth, and on 22nd September 1847, was promoted to Rear Admiral.
Pasco died at Stonehouse on the 16th November 1853. Pasco married twice. His first marriage was to Rebecca Penfold on 1st September 1805, and they had two daughters and three sons. His second marriage was to Elizabeth Weaver in 1843.
© Royal Naval Museum Library, 2004
The information contained in this information sheet is correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for a bibliography of further reading materials, if available.