Ryves, George Frederick (1759 - 1826)

Ryves, George Frederick

Ryves, George Frederick


Father: Thomas Ryves
Mother: Anna Maria Graham

Birth: 1759
Birth Source: Dorset Monumental Inscriptions

Death: 20 May 1826
Death Source: Dorset Monumental Inscriptions

Spouse1: Catherine Elizabeth Arundell
Spouse2: Emma Graham


Children of George Frederick Ryves and Catherine Elizabeth Arundell:
  1. George Frederick Ryves, b. 25 Sep 1792
  2. Harriet Ryves, b. 1794; d. an infant.
  3. Henry Wyndham Ryves, b. ‎28 Jul 1795, of the Royal Artillery.
  4. Catherine Elizabeth Ryves, b. 1801 ; m. Capt. George F. Seymer of the East India Company's Artillery.

Children of George Frederick Ryves and Emma Graham:
  1. Charles Graham Ryves, bap. 13 July 1807
  2. Walter Robert Ryves, bap. 29 July 1808; of the Royal Navy; drowned.
  3. Edward Augustus Ryves, bap. 30 Aug 1809 ; of the Royal Navy; d. at sea.
  4. Herbert Thomas Ryves, bap. 1 Jan 1813; of the Royal Navy.
  5. Mary Emma Ryves, bap. 6 Jan 1815.
  6. William Henry Graham Ryves, bap. 14 April 1819; died at sea.
  7. Laura Matilda Ryves, m. William Grey Pitt, 20 June 1845
  8. George Arundell Ryves, bap. 19 Jan 1827

George Frederick the eldest son of Thomas Ryves by his second wife Anna Maria Graham. He was Educated at Harrow School had an illustrious naval career rising to become a Rear Admiral of The Blue.

In February 1774 was entered on board the Plymouth guard ship HMS Kent. Whilst serving on the Kent as a Junior Lieutenant he had what was described as a miraculous escape when a chest containing 400lbs of gunpowder exploded on the larboard side of the poop deck, killing 11 and wounding 45. George, who was standing on the opposite side of the deck escaped uninjured. His own escape was however, less miraculous than that of a marine drummer who had actually been sitting on the chest when it exploded and who was thrown overboard by the blast. The drummer was rescued from the sea; wet but unharmed.

In April 1775, George joined HMS Portland, going out to the West Indies as flagship of Vice-Admiral James Young, and shortly after arriving on the station was appointed to command the tender Tartar, carrying eight guns and a crew of thirty-three men. In her he captured more than fifty prizes, some of them privateers of superior force. Whilst commanding this tender, George rescued a seaman who had dived overboard in an attempt to retrieve his hat which had blown into the sea. Although the seaman reached his hat, the exertion had apparently sapped his strength to the extent that he was in danger of drowning. George dived in after the man, swam to his assistance and brought him safely back to the ship.

In May 1778 the Portland returned to England, and in May 1779 Ryves joined HMS Europe, the flagship of Vice-Admiral Mariot Arbuthnot, who in September appointed him acting-lieutenant of the armed store-ship HMS Pacific. On this vessel he suffered 'hard service'; it was nearly ship-wrecked when passing through Hell's Gate on the way to Huntington Bay, Long Island and experienced appalling weather whilst engaged cutting wood for troops with temperatures of below minus 15°F. The ice surrounding the ship was sufficiently strong that American troops attempted to attack it by marching across the ice. Fortunately the attack failed because of the arrival of a providential snow storm. While serving on the Pacific, George performed another act of personal bravery similar to that which took place on the Portland's tender. Shortly before leaving Huntington Bay, the ship's cook, who only had one arm, fell overboard and would certainly have not survived had George not dived in and rescued him.

George's lieutenant's commission was confirmed on 18 November 1780, and in December he was appointed to HMS Fox on the Jamaica station. A further act of bravery followed, when George once again rescued a seaman, this time a Marine Centinel, who had fallen overboard from his post in the fore-castle. George had been alerted to the incident by the sound of the seaman's musket striking against the anchor and jumped off the gunwale, rope in hand, to rescue the man who was on the 'verge of sinking'; which he did by catching man's head between his feet. Although he was successful in his rescue, George suffered severe rope burns to his hands as the rope, being short, had 'brought him up' before he reached the water.

He returned to England on the Fox in 1782, and early in 1783 he was appointed to HMS Grafton, which sailed for the East Indies. However, having been dismasted in a gale in the Bay of Biscay, was obliged to put back and, consequent on the peace, George was paid off and he was placed on half-pay.

In the armament of 1787 he was appointed first lieutenant of the frigate HMS Aurora, and in January 1795 to HMS Arethusa on the coast of France. On 4 July 1795 he was promoted to the command of HMS Bull-Dog, then in the West Indies, and went out to her as a passenger aboard HMS Colossus. On arriving at St. Lucia, in the absence of the Bull-Dog, George volunteered for service with the seamen who had landed under the command of Rear-Admiral Sir Hugh Cloberry Christian for the capture of the island, and assisted in the making of roads and the transporting of heavy guns.

He afterwards joined the Bulldog, in which he returned to England in September 1797. On 29 May 1798 he was advanced to post rank, and in April 1800 was appointed to the 64-gun HMS Agincourt, which during the summer carried the flag of Sir Charles Morice Pole on the Newfoundland Station.

In the following year the Agincourt was one of the fleet with Lord Keith on the coast of Egypt, and in March 1802 George was sent with a small squadron to receive the cession of Corfu. Afterwards, on intelligence that the French were preparing to seize on the island of La Madalena, he was sent there to prevent the encroachment. The intelligence proved to be incorrect; but while waiting there Ryves carried out a survey of the La Madalena and Barelino Islands, until then absolutely uncharted. George completed this survey single-handed, there being no additional person able to assist him. The following year Lord Nelson was able to use the resulting chart to make La Madalena his base, naming it, as a compliment to George, Agincourt Sound. In May 1803 George was moved to command HMS Gibraltar, in which he remained in the Mediterranean, under Nelson's command

The death of his first wife Catherine (d. 21 December 1803) took two months to filter through to George - eventually being broken to him, when he was in Naples by Lord Nelson, who in his dispatch to George of 10th February 1804 said: "It is with sincere sorrow that I am to be the bearer of such sad news, as will distress you very much, but, for the sake of your dear children, you must bear up against the heavy misfortune. To attempt consolation at such a time is, I know, out of the question: therefore, I can only assure you of my sincere condolence, and that I am, your most faithful friend. Nelson and Bronte"

In the summer of 1804, by which time the Gibraltar was nearing the end of its useful service life, George was sent home and paid off.

In 1810 Ryves commanded the 64-gun HMS Africa in the Baltic, from which he brought home a large convoy, notwithstanding the severity of the weather and the violence of the gales. After this, he had no further service, but was made up to Rear-Admiral on 27 May 1825.

George appears to have possessed outstanding leadership qualities. During his time assisting British troops on St Lucia he and his men achieved objectives that the troops considered impossible. This included mounting a 24 pounder cannon on the highest point of the island and its subsequent removal when the island had been taken on 25 May 1796. The removal was conducted after the rainy season had started and involved 'extreme fatigue' with the seamen having to sleep on the 'bare earth'. In his official report from St Lucia, Sir Hugh Christian wrote: "... the conduct of the officers and seamen equalled my most sanguine expectations, and it has been in every instance highly meritorious. Captain Ryves of the Bull-Dog will proceed immediately to join his ship; but I should be unjust to the merits of his exertion, were I to omit recommending him to their Lordships' notice and protection". At the same time, Christian wrote to George's wife, Catherine, in similar terms, also saying "I regret that more notice has not been taken of his conspicuous merit and exertions." George's appointment to the Gibraltar had also posed a leadership challenge in that he assumed command at a time when the crew were considered to be on the verge of mutiny and the previous commander had been dismissed as a consequence of court-martial. George was credited with having completely restored 'the subordination of the men' to the extent that 50 of them were frequently allowed ashore at one time without any complaints from the inhabitants and the crew's general conduct on board became considered to be exemplary, with any form of punishment being a rarity. It is said that during his time commanding the Agincourt when he was charged with conveying troops of the 25t Regiment to Aboukir Bay, Egypt "The harmony that prevailed between the Agincourt's crew and the troops has never been surpassed".

From Reliques of the Rives:
George, born in 1759, became Rear Admiral of the Blue and died 20 May 1826, aged 67. He married, 1st, Catherine Elizabeth Arundell, daughter of the Hon. James Everard Arundell of Ashcombe, Wilts, who died 21 December 1803, aged 43. He married, 2nd, Emma, daughter of Richard Robert Graham, Esq.


Marshall's Royal Navy Biographies iii (volume ii) p.136
O'Byrne's Naval Biography Dictionary p. 1017
Nicolas's Despatches of Lord Nelson
Service-book in the Public Record Office
Gentlemen's Magazine 1826, i. 640
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB), 23 Sep 2004
Hutchins History of Dorset (Ryves Pedigree)
Childs, James Rives. Reliques of the Rives, p39