Captain Frank Abney-Hastings
Frank Abney Hastings was born at Willesley, Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire on 14th February 1794. He was the second son of General Sir Charles Hastings & Parnell Abney, and the grandson of the 10th Earl of Huntingdon, Francis Hastings. His antecedents on both the paternal & maternal sides have their own colourful histories.
Hastings joined the British Royal Navy in 1805 as a Volunteer First Class – a normal route for young gentlemen aiming to become officers. His first experience of naval warfare was at The Battle of Trafalgar on HMS Neptune. He rose through the ranks, took part in fighting at the battle of New Orleans & took temporary command of a couple of ships. In 1818, as Lieutenant on HMS Kangaroo, he experienced an unfortunate incident while sailing into Port Royal, Jamaica. The outcome of the incident was contentious & led to his discharge from the Navy in 1819.
He subsequently spent time in France increasing his knowledge of armaments & becoming interested in the Philhellenic cause supporting the independence of Greece from Ottoman rule. He believed his naval experience would be of value to the Greeks & arrived on the island of Hydra in 1822 to offer his services.
Hastings proved his worth in several distinguished naval actions but became increasingly frustrated by the disorganisation and fragmentation of the Greek forces, which were represented by different factions frequently arguing amongst each other rather than working together for the Greek cause.
In 1824, Hastings returned to London at the invitation of the London Greek Committee to oversee the construction of a new revolutionary, steam-ship. The ‘Perseverance’ was designed and built at the Brent Shipyard at Rotherhithe. Frank Abney Hastings contributed substantially from his personal funds towards the cost of building the ship. ‘Perseverance’ eventually arrived in Greece in November 1826. She was renamed Karteria &, under the command of Hastings, took part in several famous actions against the Turks & Egyptians. During this time, Hastings promoted the formation of an Hellenic Navy & also wrote extensively about the use of gunnery in naval warfare. He used & promoted the use of hot shot rather than fire ships. He became highly respected not only by the Greek national leaders but also by the commanders of the English, French & Russian force who were supporting the Greeks. The Karteria became the first ship of the Greek Navy & the first steamship in the world to go into battle. Her figurehead can still be seen at the National Historical Museum, Athens along with a portrait of Frank Abney-Hastings.
Hastings died tragically after being wounded off Mesalongi in 1828. Capodistrias, the Greek President, ordered a national funeral ceremony for Hastings & he was buried on the island of Poros. His heart is immured in the Anglican Church in Athens. He is regarded as one of the founders of the modern Hellenic Navy. His memorial on Poros is on the site of the old battery, part of the current
One hundred years after his death, Greece honoured his memory. Messalongi erected a large monument in the Garden of Heroes. The government issued a commemorative medallion. Two roads have been named after him in Athens and in Piraeus. He is regarded as a hero of the Greek War of Independence.
Byron described him as “intelligent and scientific”..who “unites great courage & coolness as well as enterprise”.
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