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Captain Cole, R.N. - H.M.S. Northumberland Snuff Box
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Captain Cole, R.N. - H.M.S. Northumberland Snuff Box

Measurements: Diameters: 11.5cm (4.5in) 8cm (3.25in)



Two turned wood snuff boxes, the first of mahogany, the lid inset with a silver roundel engraved W.J. / Cole /R.N.’. The second of oak, the interior of the lid applied with a manuscript label inscribed, ‘Part of H.M.S. / Northumberland 74 / which conveyed /Napoleon Bounaparte / to St Helena in 1815 / And in which ship / I served as Senior [Lieutenant] during / parts of the years / 1818, 19, 20, 21 22, 23 / W.I.Cole  Capt. R.N. K.H.’

H.M.S. Northumberland, a 74-gun third rate ship of the line, launched in 1798, famously transported Napoleon I into captivity on the Island of St. Helena. Napoleon had surrendered to Captain Frederick Maitland of the H.M.S. Bellerophon, on 15 July 1815 and was then transported to Plymouth. Napoleon, however, was transferred from the veteran ship Bellerophon to the newer Northumberland for the voyage into the South Atlantic due to concerns over the former’s seaworthiness.

Hitherto Northumberland served with distinction in the war with France. In April 1798 she led Nelson’s attack on the French supply fleet trying to reach the Malta garrison and shared in the capture of the French ship Vengeance off Valetta. Northumberland afterwards served in the Egyptian campaign (8 March to 8 September 1801). She was present in the West Indies in 1806 and participated in the Battle of San Domingo, where she was damaged, and suffered 21 killed and 74 wounded, the highest casualties of any British ship in the battle. On 22 November 1810, Northumberland, participated in the capture of the 14-gun French privateer La Glaneuse. Northumberland was converted to a hulk in February 1827, and returned to Deptford to be broken up in 1850.

Captain William John Cole, R.N., K.H. (1789-1857) entered the Navy in 1802. He became Midshipman in H.M.S. Medusa (32-guns) and sailed for South America, where he served in the boats at the capture of Maldonado. On the same station, in the Diadem (64-guns), he took part in the siege of Monte Video, dragging up guns for the advanced batteries and supplying them with ammunition. Between 1808 and 1810, while serving in H.M.S. Christian VII (80-guns), he was wounded at the cutting out of a convoy from under a heavy battery in Basque Roads. He served in the ship’s cutter at the capture of a large gun-boat off Ile d’Aix, and was wounded by the explosion of a fire-vessel, while endeavouring to lay her alongside a French frigate in the road of Ile d’Aix. In 1811 he was appointed First-Lieutenant of the frigate Crocodile (28-guns), and was actively employed on the Channel, Lisbon, Mediterranean, and Newfoundland stations. In July, 1812, he displayed further gallantry in attempting, to cut out a convoy and its escort from beneath the batteries in the Bay of Faros, during which the Crocodile’s cutter was sunk by a round shot from a French brig.

With the return of peace Cole continued as First Lieutenant chiefly on the Home station. He was brought to the notice of George the IV for his efforts during a storm while conveying the Queen of Wurtemberg to Holland in the yacht Royal Sovereign. Cole (who was nominated a Knight of Hanover in 1837) attained Post rank in 1838. Cole was also an expert swimmer, saving lives from drowning on four separate occasions, at considerable risk to himself.