On the evening of the 9th of June, 1796, the Southampton was stationed with the fleet under Sir John Jervis, off Toulon, when a French cruizer was discovered working up to Hieres Bay. The commander-in-chief called the captain of the Southampton on board the Victory, and pointing out the ship, directed him to make a dash at her through the Grand Pas. Accordingly, the Southampton weighed, and, in order to delude the French into the supposition that the ship was either a neutral or a French frigate, hauled up under easy sail close to the batteries at the north-east of Porquerol. The stratagem succeeded; for before the enemy were aware of the approach of the Southampton, the ship was alongside of the French cruizer. Captain Macnamara cautioned her commander not to make a fruitless resistance; but he replied by snapping his pistol, and pouring in a broadside. In a moment, the English boarded, led on by Lieutenant Lydiard, with an impetuosity that nothing could withstand. After ten minutes’ spirited resistance on the part of the French captain and a hundred of his men under arms, the ‘Utile’ surrendered, but not before the death of her gallant commander, who fell at the beginning of the onset.
Lydiard was instantly promoted, and appointed to the command of the ship he had so gallantly captured. In the year 1801, he was advanced to the rank of post-captain, and though frequently soliciting employment did not succeed in obtaining a command until 1805, when he was appointed to the Anson.
These pages will not admit of our recounting the many instances in which this officer’s gallantry was conspicuous. Before concluding, however, we cannot refrain from laying before our readers the following account of the last enterprise in which Captain Lydiard was engaged, and which is related by his biographer in The Naval Chronicle.
’No sooner had the Anson been refitted, than she was again selected, with three other frigates, under the command of Captain Brisbane (as Commodore), of the Arethusa, to reconnoitre, and, if possible, to sound the minds of the inhabitants of Curacoa upon the suggestion of an alliance with this country; but the gallant Brisbane, and his equally gallant partner in this expedition, soon formed a plan for curtailing this mode of proceeding, and determined, at all risks, by a coup de main, either to capture the island, or to perish in the attempt.
’With this resolution, having arranged their plan of attack, they proceeded in their course for the island, and they reached the entrance of the harbour just at the dawn of day, on the 1st of January, 1807.
’In order to inform the reader, who may not be acquainted with the amazing strength of Curacoa on the sea face, we will give some account of the difficulties which they had to contend with; and, at the same time, shall avail ourselves of such statements of the facts as the different official and other communications upon the subject will furnish us with.