George Camocke (c. 1666 – 1732) was an Irish Royal Navy captain. Camocke was a Jacobite renegade who became an admiral for Spain. He served under William III, Queen Anne, and George I. After his dismissal from the English service for disciplinary breaches, Camocke joined the Spanish Navy. He died in exile after his dismissal from the Spanish Navy. Camocke is often considered a political martyr.
Early life and rise
A member of the Essex family, George Camocke was born in Ireland, 1666. He entered the Navy in 1682 and became a lieutenant after eight years of service, after he safely brought a French privateer with twelve guns back to England.
Service to England
Camocke was made a Commander of the Lion, a 60-gun ship where he was on her in the Battle of Barfleur and in the Battle of Beachy Head (1690). Camocke was later wounded while setting fire to a three-deck French ship at La Hogue.
Camocke was made commander of the Owner's Goodwill Fireship in 1695, before a promotion to the Intelligence brigantine followed afterward. After his promotion to the Intelligence brigantine, Camocke bombarded Calais aboard his new vessels. In December 1687, the Intelligence brigatine was decommissioned, whereby Camocke was in dire straights. He was made first lieutenant of guardianship Admiralty, minutes after he spent some time memorializing it. Camocke appealed before the lords of the admiralty when he complained about being stationed on an uncommissioned ship, praying that he did not have to work elsewhere for his bread.
On 11 September, Camocke began commanding the Bonetta sloop in the North Sea and northern coast of Ireland. Starting in June 1702, Camocke took command of the Speedwell frigate along the coasts of Ireland. Over the course of eight years, Camocke and the Speedwell frigate had success against their enemy's privateers along Ireland's coasts. Camocke became commander of the Monck of 60 guns in the spring of 1711 at the same station as the Speedwell frigate, once again capturing troublesome privateers. Camocke put into Kinsale in May 1712, where he claimed he had a promise of vice admiralship in Tsar of Muscovy's service if he decided to leave the Royal Navy. Camocke also suggested that the King should pardon the West Indies pirates whom were in possession of several ships. Camocke wanted the Royal Navy sent to the Bahamas, which would reduce the trade between the West Indies and Guinea, and he had considered a 50-gun Cadiz ship for this task.
Camocke embarked to Palermo via the Mediterranean in February 1713, on orders from the commander in chief Sir John Jennings to go to Port Mahon. This order included instructions for Camocke to transport soldiers to Britain. Instead of following these orders, Camocke had other plans and transported Spanish soldiers from Palermo to Alicante via Madrid. He eventually took the English soldiers on board at Port Mahon before putting into Cadiz and Lisbon. These actions were considered violations of his duty and were cited as the reason why he was suspended. Camocke's explanation for his actions was considered unsatisfactory, and he was told that he was suspended until he could be cleared by a court-martial.
A letter Camocke wrote in January 1714–15 to the secretary of the admiralty stated that the late Queen had approved of his actions and had given orders to call off Camocke's suspension. These statements by Camocke were a decline of his court-martial offer thus leaving the matter in the admiralty's hands. Camocke wanted to please the lordships with his zest for his Majesty King George's service and acquit himself. However, Camocke was struck out of the list of captains soon after.
After once again considering joining the Russian Navy, Camocke became a rear admiral in the Spanish navy three years later. This was once intended for him by the King of Britain. Camocke held a junior command in the fleet that Sir George Byng destroyed near Cape Passaro on 31 July 1718. Camocke escaped and went back to Messina. In mid-August, Byng wrote to Craggs relaying his (Byng's) orders to ignore Camocke when he came ashore due to his (Camocke's) rebellion. This refusal by Byng to engage Camocke notwithstanding, Camocke still wrote, offering him in King James's name, 100,000 L and the title of Duke of Albemarle if the fleet could be taken into Messina or any Spanish port by him. A similar letter to Captain Walton from Camocke followed later, this time offering a commission as Admiral of the Blue and an English peerage.
During the Atterbury Plot, Camocke negotiated with the King of Sweden to provide 12,000 Swedish troops for Ormonde as opposed to a loan reimbursal that was made to Charles XII from the English Jacobites.
While Messina was blockaded, several ships were captured trying to leave port. One such captured ship, a small frigate sailed by Camocke was captured in January 1718–19 while attempting to run this blockade. On January 26, the Royal Oak took her but Camocke escape to Catania. He was so scared and he left behind his King's commission for making admiral of the white along with his treasonable papers.
Later life and death
Once back in Spain, Camocke's favour had run out. Camocke was banished to Ceuta, dying there a few years later in degradation.
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