The start of a tradition
Vice-Admiral Sir Hyde Parker I, 5th Baronet, (1713-83), Sir Harry’s father, began his career as a merchant seaman. He joined the Royal Navy aged 24 and took his first command at the age of 29. In 1744, at the age of just 31, he sailed with Anson on his voyage around the world.
Following the outbreak of the Seven Years' War in 1756, he was sent to the Indian Ocean. There he took part in the capture of Manila from the Spanish. He was promoted to rear-admiral in 1778.
After naval victories against the French in the Caribbean, he returned home and engaged the Dutch fleet near the Dogger Bank in 1781. In the following year he was appointed to the East Indies command.
A tragic end
In December 1782 Sir Hyde Parker set sail in H.M.S. Cato to take up a posting in Bombay. The Cato was never heard of again. It is thought to have sunk off the Maldives. Among those lost with Admiral Parker was his young grandson, who was serving with him as a midshipman.
The American War of Independence
Sir Harry’s brother was Admiral Sir Hyde Parker II (1739-1807) who made his name fighting in the American War of Independence. He was knighted for his part in the Hudson River campaign. In 1780 his ship, the Phoenix, was wrecked by a hurricane on the coast of Cuba. He and the crew managed to reach the shore safely.
The prize money he won while serving in the West Indies during the 1790s made him a wealthy man.
Disobeyed by Nelson
In 1801, at the age of 61, he commanded the British fleet during the bombardment of Copenhagen. His second-in-command was Horatio Nelson, who led the attack. At the height of the battle, he hoisted the flag to discontinue the action. Famously, Nelson ignored the order from his commander by raising his telescope to his blind eye and exclaiming, ‘I really do not see the signal’. He pressed on with the action and won victory against the Danish forces.
The naval tradition continues
Sir Harry’s nephew was Vice-Admiral Hyde Parker III (1786-1854) who also served in the Napoleonic Wars and was appointed Senior Naval Lord in 1852. His son, Captain Hyde Parker (1824-54), commanded a steam warship in the Royal Navy, H.M.S. Firebrand. He was killed storming a Russian fort at Sulina in the Crimea in 1854. His grandson, Edmund Hyde Parker (1868-1951), who later became an Admiral, commanded the battleship H.M.S. Superb at the Battle of Jutland in 1916.