Commander Griffith Grismond Philipps RN -the last survivor of the battle of Navarino, and his part in Greece’s Independence.


Griffith Grismond Philipps 1811 -1891 was a most remarkable Naval Hero, on a par with that of the fictional Horatio Hornblower. His family pedigree in the true naval tradition is unparalleled and this very small article about his life is but one chapter in what was a truly remarkable life.

The restored memorial to the Philipps family

It would take many volumes to tell you his full story here but at least his memorial, from being destroyed and dilapidated to being restored and becoming a place of dignity and honour is now a fitting tribute to his name thanks to the Thomas & Elizabeth Mayhook Charity. His elder brother Grismond Philipps fought in the Peninsular Wars in Spain and the great battle of Waterloo in 1815 as a Captain in the Royal Welch Fusiliers.

Commander Philipps’ brother – Captain Grismond Philipps in the uniform of a Captain in the Royal Welch Fusiliers, wearing his Waterloo Medal. This picture is taken from a miniature in the families collection.

Commander Philipps’ father John George Philipps of Cwmgwili, Bronwydd Arms, was also an accomplished seaman and Captain in the Royal Navy, having served with great distinction at the battle of the Nile in 1798 as a Midshipman on HMS MINATOUR which fought alongside Nelsons Flagship HMS VANGUARD. As a fellow officer he was also a great friend and confidante of Horatio Nelson.

Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson. Friend of the Philipps family





The funeral of Commander Griffith Grismond Philipps, who was said to be the sole survivor of the Battle of Navarino, took place in St. David’s Churchyard, Carmarthen, on Friday morning. His death removes a familiar and interesting figure from Carmarthen. He was the second son of Captain John George Philipps, R.N., J.P., D.L., of the Parade, Carmarthen, and was born on the 28th November, 1811; so that had he lived until the end of the present month he would have attained his 80th birthday. He received his early education at Shrewsbury. Commander Philipps showed an unmistakable liking for the sea, and in 1825, when he was only 14 years of age he entered the Naval Service as a first class volunteer, on board the “Dartmouth”** then under the command of Captain Thomas Fellowes, C.B. While serving under that officer, young Philipps exhibited excellent seamanship and no small amount of intrepidity. On the 20th October 1827, two years after he entered the service, he experienced what most young officers so much desire- a brush with the enemy. He took part in the battle of Navarino, and received the medal and clasp for the engagement.

The battle of Navarino

After this, Commander Philipps rapidly rose in favour, and, a few years after, was promoted to the rank of lieutenant. He was afterwards appointed to the “Hecate,” a steam sloop, and in that vessel proceeded to the west coast of Africa, where he was engaged for some time in the suppression of the slave trade. Here he took part in many exciting adventures with Arab dhows and was specially mentioned for his zeal and sagacity. On his return from Africa, Commander Philipps was commissioned to the “Acheron,” commanded by Captain John Lord Stokes, a native of Pembrokeshire. Commander Philipps afterwards saw service in the Crimea, and was present at the landing of the British troops at Kalimite. He took part in the siege of Sebastopol, and received the Crimean medal with the Sebastopol clasp.

The actual medals still held in the families possession.
Commander Philipps’ Crimea Medal with clasp Sebastopol

In 1856 he retired from the service, being granted the rank of Commander. Commander “Captain” Philipps, as he was most familiarly known among his friends, then returned to his native town, and there spent the remainder of his days. He was placed on the Commission of the Peace for the county nearly thirty years ago, and, until some four or five years back, was a pretty regular attendant at the Carmarthen county petty sessions. It should be added that in 1852 Commander Philipps married, at Barbados, Miss Wilkinson, and there have been five children of the marriage. The eldest son, Griffith Grismond Philipps, is a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, and thus the family has been represented in the service for three successive generations. Deceased was a great favorite in his native town, and his death is deeply deplored.
(Carmarthen Journal Page 8 – 20th November 1891)

** On the 20th October 1827, at the entrance to the bay, Capt. Thomas Fellowes on the frigate Dartmouth had been detailed, with six smaller vessels (2 brigs and 4 schooners) to keep watch on the group of Ottoman corvettes and fire ships on the left flank of the Ottoman line.

Captain Thomas Fellowes who commanded the “Dartmouth”

As the Allied ships continued moving into the bay, Fellowes noticed that an Ottoman crew was preparing a fire ship and sent a boat to instruct them to desist. The Ottomans fired on the boat and lighted the fire ship. Fellowes sent a cutter to tow the fire ship to a safe distance, but the Ottomans fired on the cutter, inflicting casualties. The young Grismond Philipps was on board the cutter but was not injured himself, though six of his shipmates were killed and 8 wounded. Fellowes opened musket fire on the fire ship crew to cover his men. At this point the French flagship Sirène, which was just then entering the bay on the tail of the British-French line, opened fire with muskets to support Dartmouth. An Ottoman corvette then attacked Sirène with its guns. This chain reaction spread along the line, so that within a short time, there was general engagement. This small but significant event caused the battle of Navarino, but led to the ultimate independence of Greece from the Ottoman Empire and in a quiet and unassuming cemetery in Carmarthen lays a naval hero long since forgotten….until now. May he rest in peace.

The Philipps’ memorial and grounds before restoration began.
The memorial during restoration, before it was re engraved and gilded
Translate »