Royal Naval Museum

 

Heroes of the Squadron

Sir Robert Mends

NAME

Sir Robert Mends

LIVED

1767 - 1823

POSITION

Commodore of the West Africa Squadron

WHEN DID HE JOIN THE SQUADRON?

Sir Robert succeeded Sir George Collier as Commodore of the Squadron in 1821.

TELL ME MORE ABOUT HIM

He entered the Navy as a Midshipman in 1779 and had a highly active career, in which he risked his life many times.  He was taken prisoner during the American War of Independence and had his arm shot off by a cannon-ball.  In 1795, he narrowly escaped death again when a gun backfired.  Mends was so severely burnt, it was reported at the time that hardly any skin remained on his body. Despite these early flirtations with death, Mends career continued to flourish and, in 1815, he was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of Charles III for his service on the coast of Spain.

In 1821, the Admiralty appointed Mends as Commodore and Senior Officer on the West coast of Africa, to be employed in the suppression of the slave trade.  He commissioned HMS Owen Glendower at Chatham in 1823 and formally submitted a request to the Admiralty to remain on the coast for the whole period of his command. 

WHAT IS HE BEST REMEMBERED FOR?

On return to Africa following an outbreak of yellow fever, Mends defended the Cape Coast against the threatened attack of the Ashantis.  It was during this operation that he fell ill with cholera.  He died three days later, after a successful Naval career spanning 44 years.

Tragically, Mends eldest son, Robert Butler Mends, who was also serving in the Squadron off Sierra Leone, died some three months later, of an illness caught whilst employed in detached boat service in the Bight of Biafra.

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