SMITH.....THE HEROIC SAILOR
Kenneth H Light
historians have heard of Admiral Sir Sidney Smith principally and, almost
exclusively, because of his participation in the journey of the Royal Family of
Portugal to Brazil, in 1807-08. During that period he led the squadron that kept
station off the coast of Portugal. Subsequent to the arrival of the Royal Family,
he became the first commander-in-chief, during two years, of the naval base
established in Rio de Janeiro. Whilst in Brazil he became interested in helping
D. Carlota Joaquina in her ambition to rule a country of her own - Argentina.
Abundant correspondence in the Imperial Museum, from him in French and from her
in Spanish, testifies to this ambition.
But this period of a little over two years was, perhaps, the quietest in his
A national hero in England whilst still alive, his accomplishments were the
theme for many productions in the variety theatres of that time. His name was
sung and recited in verse, in numerous pamphlets published in London, and
distributed throughout the land.
No other naval commander, with the exception of Nelson killed at the Battle of
Trafalgar, received so much glory so soon.
Yet, whilst the hero Nelson was recognized as such on a scale never before or
afterwards seen, the same did not happen to Sidney Smith. Nelson was remembered
by a statue on a majestic pedestal in one of London's most important squares.
His mortal remains were buried in St. Paul's Cathedral - a rare honour. His
funeral procession was led by the six royal dukes and thirty two admirals! As he
had no legitimate descendents, the honours and pecuniary reward went to his
brother, William; in addition to being created an earl, he was given £99,000 to
buy a suitable estate and an annual pension of £5,000 in perpetuity. These
values today would be £4 million and £200,000 respectively.
England was slow to officially recognize Sidney Smith's triumphs. Other
countries - Portugal, the Ottoman Empire, the Kingdom of Two Sicilies and
Sweden - recognized his contribution and decorated him. Only in 1838, at the
age of 74 and two years before his death, the young Queen Victoria made him
Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath - at last he was an English knight!! The
last few years of his life were spent in Paris, where he died and was buried in
aa simple grave in the Père Lachaise cemetery.
Why these so evident differences?
We hope that, in describing his life, filled with many victories and a few
defeats, and his complex character, we may contribute to answer this enigma.
The little known history of this hero, who so much contributed in the fight
against Napoleon and who was closely connected with Brazil during the years
1807-1810, began in London, in 1764, where he was born.
His first few years were very complicated. His father, Cornelius Smith, was
considered an adventurer and a libertine. He met Sidney's mother, daughter of a
rich City merchant, when she was over 30 - well past the age for arranging a
husband, especially as life-spans, at that time, were much shorter than today.
They eloped and her father, Pinkney Wilson, promptly disinherited her and
renounced any contact with her and the three children that she bore.
The intervention of an aunt was needed in order to persuade the grandfather to
pay for the education of his grandson. His parents were separated, but even then,
Cornelius Smith did not give up writing to his father-in-law begging for money -
many times young Sidney was the bearer of this correspondence, in the hope of
obtaining a favourable decision.
His naval career began at the age of thirteen. Today, this method of entering
the royal navy appears strange; at that time, however, it was considered the
most convenient way.
Every naval captain had the right to 4 servants for each 100 men, crew of the
ship he commanded. In order for one to have a clearer idea, the most popular
ship of the line, a 74 (gun) had a compliment of 600 men - so 24 servants! In
practice the majority of these posts were kept for the captain's friends, who
wanted to start off their sons in a naval career.
His first posting was to the Tortoise, a 32 gun store ship. Her captain acted as
if he was in command of a frigate - on his first day they stopped three ships,
firing across their bows. Three months later they left for America, escorting
There Smith was transferred to the Unicorn for the return trip. Whilst still off
the American coast, he had his first exposure to battle. Whilst sailing in
company with the Experiment, they sighted the American frigate Raleigh and gave
chase. Unicorn, arriving first, faced the Raleigh alone during three hours,
until the Experiment could reach them.
The brig lost thirteen men and many wounded - including Smith whose forehead
was opened by a splinter.
Smith's luck was only just beginning - during the journey, with a hard gale
blowing, a squall laid the brig on her side. Smith, below in the sail locker,
managed to scramble up to the top deck and help jettison the guns to right the
His next transfer to the line-of-battle ship Sandwich, in September 1779, was
very important - she was the flagship of the Channel Squadron, under the
command of one of England's most famous admirals, Rodney. In January they
captured a convoy of 23 merchant ships together with her escorting Spanish
battle ship. A week later, near Cape St. Vincent, in an action that lasted a
whole night in a gale, they captured 5 Spanish ships of the line leaving another
on fire, which subsequently blew up. The behaviour, during action, of the young
Sidney Smith did not go unnoticed.
In September 1780 he successfully passed the examination for lieutenant. He must
have lied about his age, as the legal lower age limit for 19; in addition 6
years of service were required. He was 16 and had had but 3 years of service.
Now, as an officer, he was on the first rung of the ladder that would lead him
to the post of admiral.
Next he participated, near Dominica, in an engagement known as 'All Saints',
against 34 French ships of the line. This battle was important as, for the first
time, the line attacked at an angle of 90°, instead of parallel lines. Smith's
behaviour must again have been noted as he was given the command of the schooner
Fury and the task of carrying dispatches with the news of the victory.
In February of 1784 he returned to England, now in command of the frigate
Alcmene, 32 guns and a crew of 300. He was still short of his 20th birthday by 4
months! How would a 19 years old son of ours behave with that kind of
A peace treaty had been signed in 1783; with hindsight we know that it would
only be temporarily. The need for officers was greatly reduced. However, those
who so desired could continue with their careers, even though they would be
temporarily laid off. They could place themselves at the disposal of the
admiralty and, in exchange, receive half-pay. Not surprisingly Sidney Smith,
whose heart was in the navy, did so. He thought that this would be a good
opportunity to better his knowledge of the French language and try his hand as
an amateur spy!
Whilst visiting Normandy he made notes of the coastline and of its defences. He
verified that France was proposing to develop the port of Cherbourg as a naval
base 'on the scale pf Portsmouth' the main English base. He described, in detail,
the method being used to construct a breakwater. His observations were sent to
the admiralty. His French, that was already fairly good, became excellent.
Extending his activities as an amateur spy, he moved on to Morocco. There, in
addition to reporting on the coastline and shipping, he suggested a change in
strategy. No squadron based in Gibraltar, he wrote, could control both sides to
the entrance of the Mediterranean. A second squadron was needed based, for
instance, in Lagos (Portugal). In fact he was right - even today the wind blows
alternatively from the East or from the West; and in those days of sailing ships,
with a strong wind blowing, they could either not enter or not leave the
But hiss overbearing manner, that was to be his 'Achilles heel', was already
beginning to show itself. He wrote to the Admiralty that he, Sidney Smith, with
his unrivalled knowledge of Morocco's Atlantic coastline, would be the ideal
person to command such a squadron. He did not mention that he was only 23 years
Always restless, his next target was Sweden. That country was at war with Russia
but , due to winter and its frozen seas, their squadrons were temporarily
I won't describe the battles in which he participated as I would like to
concentrate on his character. I would only say that his help, in defeating
Russia, earned him - from King Gustavus - a knighthood in the Order of the
Sword and, with permission from the British government, he was allowed to use
the title 'sir'. His style of acting, described below, reflected his character,
it was repeated on numerous occasions, throughout his career, with highly
With great difficulty he managed to reach the main naval base of Kartskrona and
present himself to the commanding officer, the Duke of Söderland. Reports
indicate that he did not spare praise for himself, when offering his services!
King Gustavus then invited 'Colonel Smith', as he became known, to join his
forces. But, before accepting, he had to obtain permission from the admiralty.
In peace times this permission was usually given for a period of six months,
provided the navy in question was not that of a potential enemy. Next, he
persuaded the British Minister in Stockholm to appoint him 'King's Messenger'
and so set off for London. He imagined that he was the bearer of important
documents, but on arrival the authorities virtually ignored him.
After 6 frustrating weeks of unsuccessfully trying to obtain permission and,
fearing that the ice would be melting, so that hostilities would soon commence,
he set off to return to Sweden. To the minister in Stockholm he wrote that he
was the bearer of information - only for the ears of the king; which was untrue.
Well impressed by the young British officer, the king appointed him chief
advisor as well as commander of the flotilla of smaller ships. This appointment,
as can be imagined, greatly upset Swedish officers. He then wrote another lie to
the minister - he was following the king's ship onboard a small yacht and hoped
that this did not constitute emplyment, for which he had no permission.
Even though his contribution had been recognized by the king, on his return to
London he was strongly criticized - for disobeying the admiralty and for the
death of 6 British naval officers that had sought employment in the Russian navy.
When war was renewed, in 1793, Smith was serving as a volunteer with the Turkish
navy; a pretext for continuing his activities as an amateur spy in that corner
of the Mediterranean Sea.
The news reached him when he was in the port of Smyrna. His immediate reaction,
on noting that many unemployed British seamen were at the quay side, was typical.
He purchased, with his own money, a small lateen sail boat, renamed her Swallow
and, hiring a crew of 40 English sailors, set sail.
In December they reached the outskirts of Toulon, the principal French naval
base in the Mediterranean. Under the command of Admiral Hood a British squadron
was blockading the port. Smith was an unemployed naval officer on half-pay and,
for this reason, his plan was to make his way to London, present himself to the
admiralty and eventually be given the command of a ship. Whist outside the bay,
waiting to start on this last lap of his journey, Hood invited him to
participate at a meeting onboard his flagship, the Victory. The captains present
were greatly offended by his presence. Not only was he unpopular but, as
unemployed, he had no right to be there. He defended himself saying that whereas
they commanded ships of the navy with sailors paid by that institution, he owned
the ship he command and his sailors were paid from his own pocket.
Even though he was officially unemployed, Hood appointed him commander of a
small flotilla; he would have under him 2 captains, 14 lieutenants and 7
midshipmen. His orders, in writing, were to enter the harbour and set fire to as
many French ships as possible. I won't describe the details of this operation,
just its results. Hood and the monarchists on shore managed to capture and cut
out 4 line-of-battle ships, 8 frigates and 7 corvettes. Smith destroyed 10
line-of-battle ships, 2 frigates and 2 corvettes. The squadron in the hands of
republicans was now reduced to 18 line-of-battle ships, 4 frigates and 3
The number of ships destroyed by forces under Smith's command was greater than
at any battle up to then; battles that had brought honours and riches to the
admirals involved. Although Hood wrote that Smith had distinguished himself,
many criticized him for not having destroyed all the ships.
In reality it was but a reflex of his immense unpopularity, his Swedish title,
his disobedience of orders and his habit of corresponding direct with the most
important person in the admiralty or in government, thus passing over the head
of his superiors.
In London Spencer, the first lord of the admiralty, pronounced himself satisfied
with Smith's actions. He recognized his exceptional qualities but, at the same
time, the difficulties of managing an individual with an almost insane desire to
promote himself, that believed that only his opinion was correct and to have the
conviction of implementing it, even though it meant disobeying orders from his
superiors. Smith was proclaimed, by the people, the hero of the new war.
Smith, always alive with new ideas, now argued that the North coast of France
should be attacked and, in order to be successful, boats of shallow draught
should be employed. In this way they could get close to areas which were but
Spencer accepted his suggestions; Smith, during the nest two years, in command
of a flotilla of shallow vessels and fire ships (boats that were set on fire and
then, without a crew, directed at the enemy), constantly harassed the enemy.
Spencer, knowing well his character, maintained him as a direct subordinate to
the admiralty, rather than attaching him to the Channel Squadron.
I would like to relate just three of the many actions that took place during
this period. The first, in 1796, occurred when the admiralty received
confidential information that the French Squadron had sailed from their home
base, Brest. Smith received orders to check this information. As the harbour was
not visible from the open sea, he would have to first sail through a narrow,
well protected, channel before entering the port. Preparations included
disguising the Diamond, so that she looked like a French frigate and likewise
the officer's uniforms. Her identity suspected and then confirmed, whilst still
in the port, it was through his excellent command of French and his extreme
self-confidence, which enabled him escape from being captured.
The following year Smith followed a convoy of 9 French ships into the port of
Herqui, on the Brittany coast. He captured and then burnt them; then he captured
the forts that protected the harbour and spiked their guns. The lieutenant who
had led the capture of the forts sailed for London with dispatches describing
the victory and, as a present for the admiralty, the captured ensign. People in
the streets of London went wild with excitement, Convent Garden put on an
Operetta, 'The Point in Herqui or The Triumph of British Courage'.
The third episode occurred because Smith believed that it would be possible to
sail up the Seine and attack Bonaparte in his own capital. In April of that year
he decided to enter the port of Le Havre, the estuary of the Seine. His plan was
to reconnoiter the area - it would come in useful later should his plan to
attack Paris reach maturity - and capture the Vengeur - a lugger privateer
that occasionally attacked British merchant ships. During the night, in 4 small
boats rowing silently, he led several officers and 24 seamen into the port. The
lugger was quickly taken, but the lack of wind prevented them sailing her out of
the harbour. Worse, her anchor cable had been cut and no spare anchor was to be
found onboard. In spite of their best efforts to tow her against the current,
she was drifting to an area where various other French boats lay at anchor. The
same lack of wind prevented the Diamond coming in to help. When daylight came,
it was obvious to all what had happened. As several vessels moved to attack the
Vengeur, Smith put the crew on shore and prepared his defence. After an hour of
firing, Smith decided that there was no way out; following a short speech to his
crew, he took down the ensign. Smith was now a prisoner of war.
The next two
years were, as far as Smith was concerned, a total waste of time. Imprisoned in
Paris he ran the risk of going to the guillotine. Whereas as a naval officer he
could expect to be treated decently and even be exchanged for one of the French
officers held in England, as a spy, as was being claimed, his life was at risk.
In France, at that time, many royalists carried out a guerilla fight against the
republican regime. A small group began preparations to spring the 'Lion of the
Seas', as he was known on both sides of the Channel, from his jail. They even
rented a house that overlooked the window of Smith's cell; signal language had
to be invented - and was used to communicate with him.
Depending on the warder of the jail, Smith had, at times, certain liberties. He
was allowed out into the town, during daylight hours, without being accompanied.
He had given his word, as an officer, that he would not escape - and that was
more secure than handcuffs!
One day, news reached him that he was going to be moved from his jail; this did
not surprise him as he had already been moved several times. Once in the
carriage his guards revealed that they were, in fact, monarchists. The haste to
get away was very nearly their downfall; their carriage overturned in an
accident that led to their discovery. Chased across Northern France to the coast,
they managed to put him onboard a boat for the short crossing.
'The Lion has returned', the crowds shouted excitedly in the streets of London;
once again his popularity was with the common people. Spencer received him in
the admiralty, Prime Minister William Pitt in Parliament and, at last, he was
called to the presence of the King.
various ports in the Mediterranean, Bonaparte was collecting together a sizable
army, whose destiny was unknown. There was, of course, much speculation, but
nothing definite. Mystery deepened when 'intelligence' was received that 167 'savants',
as scientists were then known, were gathered ready to embark. Yes, this was the
force with which Bonaparte planned to establish an empire in the East - first
occupying Egypt and then taking the rich colony of India away from Britain.
Nelson, who was subordinate to Admiral Jervis and based in Lisbon, received
orders to investigate what was being planned for these French forces. He arrived
too late - they had already sailed! The next two months were spent looking for
them. No mean task in such a wide area.
At last, on August 1st, 1798, he found them. The squadron lay in the Bay of
Aboukir, between Alexandria and the Nile delta. In what must rank as one of the
most extraordinary battles in all of naval history, combining the highest degree
of daring, courage and seamanship, Nelson annihilated the squadron that had
taken the troops to Egypt.
Now, they had no option. To reach India they must march up the coast through
Syria (now Israel), and attack Constantinople then, turning eastward, cross
Persia and so reach India.
In London, Smith's name was remembered as someone who had good connections with
the Sublime Porte, as the Ottoman Empire was then known, because he had served
in their navy.
Gathering together a crew, including seamen from the Diamond, French royalist
friends and many others, Smith sailed in the line-of-battle ship Tigre. His
orders were to put himself under the command of Admiral St. Vincent, off Cadiz
or in Gibraltar. Before leaving, the Foreign Minister nominated him joint
Minister Plenipotentiary to the Ottoman Empire (the other minister was his
younger brother, Spencer).
The strategy was to take advantage that French forces had invaded Egypt, part of
the Ottoman Empire, and so make the Sultan an ally. Hopefully his forces would
then become available to fight the French invaders.
In normal times the two functions, captain in the navy and minister
plenipotentiary, would be complicated to manage. With Smith's character it was
foreseeable that confusion on a grand scale was inevitable.
And so it happened! Everyone complained of Sidney Smith. Some, like Nelson,
complained that he did not show, when writing, the respect required fro a junior
officer to an Admiral; but Smith believed that as a senior diplomat, he was of a
higher rank than admiral! Others, that he did not respect the central command,
that he took over ships that belonged to other squadrons, that he flew the
ensign of a commodore - without having received the appointment. He wrote
directly to the admiralty when, within the Mediterranean, there were officers
two ranks above him.
But his relationship with the Turkish authorities was a complete success.
Wearing the typical clothes, complete with turban and long moustaches, he
participated as an elected member of their highest council - the Divan.
Meanwhile Bonaparte, after an easy victory over the Mamelukes, proceeded to
occupy Egypt. It was not long before his original plan began to be implemented.
An army comprising some 10.000 infantry, 800 horses, and several hundred
dromedaries set off, marching east and then north. As towns were captured -
Gaza, Jaffa, El Arish - their inhabitants were put to the sword. The next town
that stood in their way was Acre (today near the frontier between Israel and
Lebanon). They expected to take it easily, in the same way that they had
captured other towns.
It was here in this fortress town of 15.000 souls that Sidney Smith decided to
make his stand. Commanding in person - many times during the day and at night
on the fortified walls of the town - he led Turkish troops, Albanese
mercenaries, Syrians, Kurds, British sailors and marines, and managed to halt
the advance of the French.
Cannons, gun powder and shot were landed from the ships, to reinforce the
defences of this town, dating back to the crusades. At sea, ships under his
command destroyed reinforcements and provisions, for the French troops, and
equipment being brought up to breach the town's walls.
The siege lasted two months. At first long-distance shots were fired to try and
breach the walls so that infantry could get into the town. When this proved
unsuccessful, a more direct approach was tried, digging adjacent to and under
the walls, to place explosives. Many times this led to hand-to-hand fighting
outside the walls and, when these were breached, even inside the first line of
defence. Bonaparte watched and gave his orders from a distance. Ain the end,
having lost half the army, in the fighting and through disease, he gave up and
started the march back. It was the greatest feat in Sidney Smith's career. Many
compare this victory with that of Nelson, at Trafalgar!
In fairness to Nelson, he heard of the results of the siege of Acre at the same
time ass he heard of Smith's diplomatic responsibilities (a failure in
communications). Now he understood that Smith was not lacking in respect when
writing to him. Nelson, as was his character, was extremely generous with his
praise - '…the immense fatigue you have had in defending Acre ... has never
been exceeded and the bravery shown by you and your companions merit every
encomium that the civilized world can bestow … Be assured, dear Sir Sidney of
my esteem and regard …'
The Sultan bestowed upon him thee chelengk (a cluster of feathers, covered in
diamonds, mounted on a rosette of diamonds that could be made to rotate by
winding a cloclwork motor, this, to be worn on a turban), and made him Companion
of The Imperial Ottoman Order of the Crescent.
The months that followed were the most confused in Sidney Smith's career. In the
unsuccessful fight to take Acre, Bonaparte lost so many men that he now realized
that Eastern Empire project would have to wait. In spite of Smith's warnings to
the admiralty, to be on the look-out, Bonaparte sailed in the frigate Murion and
Smith was again caught in a dilemma. Nelson, his naval commander, made it clear
that there was to be no negotiation and that not a single French soldier was to
be allowed to return to France; his instructions, as minister, from London and
reinforced by the Sultan, were to get the French out of Egypt and the Levant, by
any means possible.
After intense diplomatic activity, led by Smith, the treaty of El Arish was
agreed between France and Turkey - although not signed by Smith. The French
army would be allowed to return home.
When news reached the British government, it repudiated the treaty. Seen as the
only solution, troops were landed and, at the Battle of Alexandria, the British
army triumphed. It was their first land victory over the French. The cease-fire
then agreed was very similar to that negotiated by Smith and signed at El Arish
had it then been accepted, by Britain, countless lives would have been saved.
Smith now sailed home carrying the news of his victory.
Had he been an admiral, the defence of Acre would have warranted as earldom and
a substantial sum of money. As there were still 100 names in the official
seniority list for promotion to admiral, he had to be content with less. Both
Houses of Parliament formally recognized the greatness of his victory and voted
him an annual sum of £1,000 (some £20,000 at today's values). Smith and Nelson
were now firmly established as heroes of the war.
The following year he was invited to represent the town of Rochester, in
Parliament. Although it was not really what he enjoyed doing he took the
opportunity of defending, with much energy, the naval budget.
At this time Smith lived in Blackheath, a London suburb. Not far away lived the
estranged wife of the Prince of Wales and future King George IV, Princess
Caroline of Brunswick. Reports from her servants and those that frequented her
court appear to confirm that, in 1802, Sidney Smith became her lover. The
following year a child was born; not necessarily his as she entertained many men
He dedicated the next period of his life to inventions and inventors. Firstly
the catamaran, then a submarine developed by an American, Robert Fulton and,
finally, torpedoes and mines. As enthusiastic as ever, Smith tried to persuade
the admiralty to adopt these new instruments of war, but without success. The
time taken for an officer to reach the rank of admiral and then have a role in
the admiralty meant, in practice. That it was a very conservative body.
Finally, in 1805, whilst waiting to join Nelson to command one of the divisions
of his squadron, news was received of the Battle of Trafalgar and of his death.
Two days later his name reached the head of the list of captains and so he was
promoted to rear admiral of the blue.
In 1806 he was given the command of the inshore squadron in the Mediterranean,
under Lord Collinwood, with special responsibility for Sicily.
The Bourbon King, Ferdinand IV, and his wife Queen Maria Caroline (sister of
Marie Antoinette, who was beheaded in Paris) were under considerable pressure
from Bonaparte's troops. Their kingdom, Two Sicilies, was made up of an area on
the continent - south of Naples - and the island of Sicily. The mainland
portion of the kingdom had been invaded and Joseph, Bonaparte's brother, waas
preparing to be crowned King of Naples. British troops, aided by Sicilians and
Corsicans, were trying to prevent the invasion of the island.
Once again Smith would have to deal with British generals and diplomats. The
King had named him Viceroy of Calabria and commander-in-chief of the armed
forces. Thus he would have to accumulate political and military responsibilities,
in addition to those of a rear admiral.
Smith had not bothered to obtain permission from his superiors or from
government in England, before accepting these appointments.
Contrary to the opinion of the British generals, but with the encouragement and
support of the Queen, Smith decided to attack the mainland. His opinion was that
an attack on the continent was the best way to defend Sicily.
He started by taking the Isle of Capri, next door to Naples. Then, embarking
5,000 British troops, from the Island's garrison, and Corsican irregulars, he
landed them in Calabria. The Calabrese mountain fighters, the Massi, were
waiting to help them. The battle produced the second British victory on land.
The British ambassador, Hugh Elliot, was livid; not only had he not been
informed of the landing, but the money he had given Smith for
intelligence-gathering had been used by him to arm the Massi.
In London innumerable complaints were received about his behaviour, his
independence and his disrespect for authority. The same complaints that had
arisen , in the Levant; where the Sultan had given him command of all Turkish
forces, both on land and at sea.
Finally the pressure became too great and he was recalled.
In the meantime Bonaparte had captured the Eastern border of the Adriatic Sea
and was actively negotiating permission, with the Sublime Porte, for his troops
to cross Turkey, Levant and Egypt. Again his final destination was India.
Smith's orders to return home were revoked; instead he should proceed
immediately to Constantinople and place himself under the command of Sir John
Duckworth. As he was the only senior officer who knew well that part of the
world and, in addition, was friendly with the Sultan, the command of the
squadron should have been his by right. However, he had so many enemies amongst
politicians and army commanders that it was highly unlikely that they should
give him overall command.
Whereas the policy of the Smith brothers, eight years previously, had been to
attract the Sultan with friendship and cooperation, Duckworth was in favour of
aggression. He threatened the Sultan with destruction of his navy and bombing
the capital, should he yield to Bonaparte's demands.
Their mission was a total fiasco. Firstly they sailed through the Dardanelles,
38km of canals between the Aegean and the Sea of Marmara. Then they entered the
Sea of Marmara on the Eastern instead of the Western side; ass a result of
strong currents, they could not approach Constantinople. Smith, in the rear of
the squadron, was still in the canal when the main force entered the Sea
otherwise he would certainly have intervened, as he knew those waters well.
After two months they abandoned the mission.
Smith now returned to England - it was June of 1807. His next step was to move
to Bath, to take the medicinal waters. Socially, he was much in demand; for his
extraordinary memory that enabled him to recite poems in English, French and
Latin, and his creative participation in charades.
This 'good life' however, was not to last. In November the Admiralty recalled
him, and on the 9th hoisted his flag on the London and on the 11th led a
squadron out of Plymouth. His instructions were to remain off the Tagus, until
further orders. The agreement to provide an escort, should the Royal family
decide to move to Brazil was being put into effect; alternatively, should the
move not take place, ships of the Portuguese navy would be taken to Britain,
until the end of the war.
Following the invasion of Portugal by the French, on November 29th the Royal
family and court, after months of preparation (this invasion had been foreseen
by D. João, the Prince Regent) and accompanied by some 12,000 citizens, sailed
for Brazil. Sidney Smith detached 4 line-of-battle ships to escort them, as
provided in the agreement.
On March 7th their final destination, Rio de Janeiro, was reached. All
passengers and ships had arrived safely.
Sidney Smith arrived shortly afterwards, on May 17th, to establish a naval
station which he would command.
On June 4th, to mark the anniversary of George III, Sidney Smith hosted a
banquet onboard the London. The Prince regent used this occasion to register the
gratitude he felt for the support he had received from the British navy.