The Story of... 'The plucky naval officer who helped Britain rule the waves'


A Lloyds Patriotic Fund sword awarded to Arthur Farquhar will be offered by Bonhams at Knightsbridge, London, on 30 November with an estimate £60,000 to £80,000.

Farquhar, Commander of HMS Acheron, survived the ultimate Royal Navy catastrophe of losing his ship to a French man of war. But in the subsequent court martial he was acquitted of any wrongdoing and complimented for his actions.

In a naval action off Malta while on convoy duty to 35 ships, Farquhar took on a much larger French adversary. A stiff fight was overcome by a ship with many times the firepower of his own.

Farquhar's Lloyd's Patriotic Fund sword

"Farquhar is the living embodiment of the plucky naval officer who helped Britain to rule the waves by his willingness to take on overwhelming odds, typical of many men of his time," said David Williams, Director the Antique Arms and Armour Department at Bonhams.

Arthur Farquhar was born in 1772 and joined the Navy at the age of 15. He served as lieutenant on various ships until promoted to commander in 1802 and, in January 1804, he took command of the Acheron.

'Highly meritorious and deserving imitation'

At dawn on the 3rd February 1805, in the company of the sloop Arrow, he was escorting a convoy of 35 merchant ships from Malta to England when two large ships were sighted.

After a series of manoeuvres and signals the ships were identified as two French frigates, the Hortense (40 guns) and Incorruptible (38 guns).

After an exchange of fire which considerably damaged the Acheron's rigging and sails, night fell.

Dawn the following day saw the action continue and by 8.30 a.m. the Arrow, which had been totally disabled, struck her colours to the Incorruptible, twenty minutes later the badly damaged Acheron hauled down her colours to the French warship Hortense.  

The action of these two greatly out-gunned and out-manned ships allowed all but three of the convoy to avoid capture and proceed safely to England. At his court-martial on the 28th March 1805 Farquhar was honourably acquitted and the action was described as 'highly meritorious and deserving imitation'.

On the 8 April, he was promoted to post-captain and later awarded a sword by the Patriotic Fund and a piece of plate by the Merchants of Malta.

Farquhar continued to see active service in the Baltic and North Sea, capturing numerous privateers and commanded naval operations in the Weser, the Ems and the Elbe and at the capture of Glückstadt in 1814.

For these services he was made a Knight of the Sword of Sweden and also of the Hanoverian Guelphic Order. In 1815 he was made a C.B.

'A stiff fight was overcome by a ship with many times the firepower of his own'

From 1830 to 1833 he commanded the Blanche (48 guns) in the West Indies as Commodore and for his services there during the slave revolt received the thanks of the House of Assembly of Jamaica and a sword of £150 value. Farquhar was knighted on his return to England, attained the rank of rear-admiral in 1837 and died in 1843.

Sword in the auction block

Farquhar's Lloyd's Patriotic Fund sword of £100 value (estimated at £60,000-80,000)m and his sword of £150 value awarded to him by the House of Assembly of Jamaica in 1832 (£5,000-7,000), will be offered in Bonhams' next sale of Antique Arms and Armour.

The auction is being held at Knightsbridge on November 30. In an earlier sale, Farquhar's medals will be offered in Bonhams' next 'For Valour and Gallantry' auctionto be held at Knightsbridge on 28 September.

Watch this space for more news on both auctions.


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