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Sir Thomas Symonds
Born 15 July 1813
Died 14 November 1894
Place of death Sunny Hill, Higher Warberry, Torquay
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom Royal Navy
Years of service 1825 - 1879
Rank Admiral of the Fleet
Commands held HMS Rover
HMS Spartan
HMS Arethusa
Channel Fleet
Plymouth Command
Awards Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Thomas Matthew Charles Symonds, GCB (15 July 1813 – 14 November 1894) was a British naval commander. The second son of William Symonds, he came from a naval dynasty - his grandfather was Thomas Symonds, and his elder brother William Cornwallis Symonds.

Naval careerEdit

Entering the navy on 25 April 1825,[1] he passed his examination for lieutenant in 1831,[1] being given that promotion the following year.[1] As lieutenant he served on HMS Vestal, HMS Endymion (in the Mediterranean Fleet, HMS Britannia, and (from December 1834) HMS Rattlesnake.[1] Rattlesnake was ordered from the Mediterranean to the East Indies, and there Symonds was made Commander on 21 October 1837,[1] just before returning home, where he was put in command of the 18 gun sloop HMS Rover[1] in North America and West Indies station, being promoted to captain on 22 February 1841.[1] Both these promotions (to captain and to commander) were favours from his fathers' Whig friends in the Admiralty, in return for William's services to them.

From 1846 to 1849 he commanded the 26 gun HMS Spartan[1] in the Mediterranean, which was also where he commanded the new 50-gun frigate HMS Arethusa[1] (commissioned under his command in England in 1850) from 1852. He was orderd to the Black Sea in 1854 during the Crimean War, participating in the bombardment of Fort Constantine, Sevastopol before being recalled and retired early in 1855.[1] Later in 1855 he was made Commander of the Order of the Bath and member of the order of the Mejidiye (third class).[1]

Symonds was promoted to rear-admiral on 1 November 1860,[1] vice-admiral on 2 April 1866,[1] and admiral on 14 July 1871.[1] In the meantime he led the Channel Fleet (December 1868-July 1870),[1] where he invented the scalene triangle formation (replacing the older isosceles triangle formation) and thus became of note as a tactician, and became Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath on 13 March 1867.[1] His final post was from November 1875 to November 1878, as Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth,[1] after which he was made an admiral of the fleet on 15 July 1879,[1] and a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath on 23 April the following year.[1]

He led an active retirement, writing letters and pamphlets to The Times in favour of a stronger navy and changes in ship design. On 20 October 1890, he wrote an open letter to the British press regarding the naval armour tests by the US Navy at Annapolis,[2] and in 1892 made a nine-column, eleven-point statement as a Christmas supplement to all the service papers entitled "The Truly Perilous State of Great Britain Should War Occur between France and Ourselves".[3]


In 1845 he married Anna Maria, daughter of Captain Edmund Heywood RN.[1] In 1856 he married Prestwood Mary, daughter of Captain Thomas Wolrige RN.[1]



  • A. J. Marder, The anatomy of British sea power, American edn (1940)
  • A. D. Lambert, The last sailing battlefleet: maintaining naval mastery, 1815–1850 (1991)
  • S. M. Eardley-Wilmot, Life of Vice-Admiral Edmund, Lord Lyons (1898)
  • William Richard O'Byrne, Naval Biographical Dictionary
  • The Times (15 Nov 1894)
  • Army and Navy Gazette (17 Nov 1894)
  • A. D. Lambert, The Crimean War: British grand strategy, 1853–56 (1990)
  • Eng. & Wales Calendars of the grants of probate … made in … HM court of probate [England and Wales]
  • F. Boase, Modern English biography: containing many thousand concise memoirs of persons who have died since the year 1850, 6 vols. (privately printed, Truro, 1892–1921); repr.(1965)
  • J.Burke, A general [later edns A genealogical] and heraldic dictionary of the peerage and baronetage of the United Kingdom [later edns the British empire](1829–)
  • The upper ten thousand: an alphabetical list of all members of noble families, 3 vols.(1875–7); continued as Kelly's handbook of the upper ten thousand for 1878, 2 vols.(1878–9); continued asKelly's handbook to the titled, landed and official classes, 94 vols.(1880–1973)
  • W. R.O'Byrne, A naval biographical dictionary(1849); repr.(1990); [2nd edn], 2 vols.(1861)
Military offices
Preceded by
Frederick Warden
Commander-in-Chief, Channel Fleet
Succeeded by
Sir Hastings Yelverton
Preceded by
Sir Henry Keppel
Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth
Succeeded by
Sir Arthur Farquhar

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