Captain Richard Dawkins of Stoke Gabriel
H.M.S. "IRON DUKE"
Off the Kish Light Ship,
1st September, 1875.
It is with the greatest regret that I have to report the foundering of H.M.S. "Vanguard" caused by a collision, at about 12.50 p.m this day, with H.M.S. "Iron Duke" in a dense fog off Wicklow Head.
Signed: Richard Dawkins.
To: The Secretary to the Admiralty, Whitehall S.W.
So ended the naval career of Admiral Dawkins; the veteran of two China Wars, the Baltic Expedition and the Crimean War
Richard Dawkins who was born in the year 1828, entered the Navy at the age of 13 years as a cadet. He quickly volunteered for foreign service and served aboard H.M.S. Harlequin and saw action during operations in Yang-tse-Kiang during the course of the 1st China War. In the year 1844 he was involved in boat attacks upon pirates at Quallo, Battoo and Murdoo in Sumatra.
His superiors were suitably impressed by his efforts as in 1847 he was promoted to sub-lieutenant and swiftly thereafter to full lieutenant in March, 1848. In the year 1854 he was serving aboard H.M.S. Modeste and was awarded the Baltic Medal for his services. The able Lieutenant was then transferred to the Glatton and in the following year was in the Crimean and took part in the naval bomdardment of Sebastapol.
The second Chinese War broke out in the year 1857 and Ricard was again in the thick of the action. He was serving on H.M.S. Calcutta. He was present at the storming of Canton. He was mentioned in dispatches. He was awarded the China Medal of 1879 with the clasp 'Canton'. He was also promoted to the rank of Commander.
The gallant Admiral continued his naval career until that fateful day in 1875 when his ship, the "Vanguard", sank after colliding with H.M.S. Iron Duke in dense fog. Richard Dawkins was thereafter tried by Court Martial and was sentenced to be reprimanded and dismissed his ship.
He retired thereafter and came to Stoke Gabriel to live out his days at the imposing residence of Maisonette. He took an active interest in local affairs. He was appointed a Justice of the Peace and became Chairman of the Paignton Bench. He was also active in Stoke as the Totnes Times records that on 6th June, 1885 the Liberal candidate addressed an open air meeting. Admiral Dawkins was said to have presided over a good attendance of fisherman and others.
On the 20th March, 1896, the Admiral died at Maisonette at the age of 67 years. The funeral took place at Stoke Gabriel where the coffin was borne by sixteen bearers (fisherman and others belonging to the village) from Maisonette to the Church. He was duly buried with a large number of persons present at the interment.
A handsone stome was erected over the grave which remains to this day.
Brian Randell, 29 Jul 2001