Famous names in Rio’s English Cemetery

One of the more distinguished officers of the British Navy buried in the English cemetery at Gamboa is Sir Michael Seymour, 1st Baronet, KCB. After a long career in the navy, he became Commissioner of Portsmouth Dockyard, but after the post was abolished, was promoted to Rear-Admiral, and appointed to command the South America Station. He received a pension of £300 for the loss of his arm (see below). He died in Rio en route to the station, which was not based in Rio, in fact it handled matters for the Royal Navy on the other side of the continent. The South America Station was one of the geographical divisions into which the Royal Navy divided its worldwide responsibilities. It was established in the early nineteenth century to support British interests along the eastern shores of the Pacific Ocean at Valparaíso, Chile. In 1834 the Station hosted a visit by the survey ship HMS Beagle on her second voyage. In 1837 the South America Station was renamed the Pacific Station, often referred to as the Pacific Squadron.


Seymour was already in poor health on his departure from England, and died at Rio de Janeiro on 9 July 1834. He was buried at Cemiterio Dos Ingleses, Gamboa on 15 July in a large funeral attended by English, French, American and Spanish officers, and other civilian officials. As a gesture of respect, the national flags on the ships in the harbour were flown at half-mast, and salutes were fired. A memorial was later erected in his memory at St Ann’s Church, Portsmouth.

Seymour was born in Palace, County Limerick on 8 November 1768, the second son of Reverend John Seymour and his wife Griselda. He joined the navy at the age of 12, serving as a midshipman aboard the sloop-of-war HMS Merlin, in the English Channel, under Captain James Luttrell. Seymour moved with Luttrell to HMS Portland in 1781. The Portland was then serving as the flagship of Rear-Admiral Richard Edwards, then the commander-in-chief at Newfoundland. Edwards was replaced by Vice-Admiral John Campbell in 1782, and both Luttrell and Seymour moved aboard HMS Mediator. The Mediator then returned to Britain to cruise off the French coast.

On 12 December 1782 the Mediator pursued five French frigates in the Bay of Biscay. The French formed a line of battle, confident in their superior numbers, but Luttrell engaged them, breaking their line. He overhauled one and captured her, the 24-gun Alexander, with 120 crew aboard. The remainder then fled, pursued by Luttrell. They then split up, forcing Luttrell to choose to remain with the largest. He eventually caught up with her and brought her to battle. The enemy, the 34-gun Menegere with 212 men aboard, was forced to surrender. Luttrell began the return voyage to England with his prizes, having to deal with an attempted uprising amongst his French prisoners part way through the voyage on 14 December. Despite having only 190 men to deal with 340 prisoners, the rising was quashed without bloodshed. Seymour remained aboard the Mediator until 1783, when he moved to HMS Ganges. He eventually served on a number of different ships, before receiving his commission as a lieutenant in 1790. He joined HMS Magnificent that year, but left when she was paid off in 1791.

Seymour returned to service with the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1793, serving aboard HMS Marlborough under George Cranfield-Berkeley. The Marlborough formed part of the fleet under Lord Howe, and Seymour was thus present at the Glorious First of June, 1794. During the battle, the Marlborough came under attack from three French warships, the 78-gun Impétueux, the 74-gun Mucius and the 120-gun Montagne. The Marlborough was heavily damaged but resisted French attempts to capture her. During the battle Seymour’s left arm was shot off.

Seymour recovered from his wound, and was promoted to commander. He received his first command in mid 1796, that of the sloop HMS Spitfire. He spent the next several years cruising in the Channel and off the French coast, before being promoted to Post-Captain on 11 August 1800. On 10 November 1808 he came across the 40-gun French frigate Thetis, and after a hard fought battle, captured her. In recognition of this act Seymour received a medal from King George III, a 100 guinea piece of plate from the Lloyd’s Patriotic Fund, and the Freedom of the Cities of Cork and Limerick. On 6 April 1809 he engaged and captured the 44-gun frigate Niemen. For this he was created a baronet the following month.

Seymour then served on the Walcheren Campaign, and on its conclusion was appointed to command his prize, HMS Niemen, which had subsequently been taken into the navy. He then commanded the 74-gun HMS Hannibal, and on 26 May 1814 he captured the 44-gun Sultane. He was nominated a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in January 1815 and moved aboard the Royal Yacht several years later.

(Much of the information courtesy Google)