Sydney Gazette

25 July 1840

Death of Captain CROKER, of H. M. Ship "Favourite"

  It is with feelings of the most heartfelt regret, that we announce the death, or rather the murder, of this veteran and gallant officer, which took place on Wednesday, the 24th of June last, while attempting to take the Heathen Stockade of Bea, in the Island of Tongataboo, in the south seas. In former publications we have given the greater part of this gentleman's history — we have expatiated on his slow advance, which advance was so well deserved from his long and arduous services – and now it is our menancholy task to record his death while in the gallant performance of his duty. We have at least one pleasure in the performance of our melancholy task, which is to inform the world that Captain CROKER died as he lived —a true British sailor— his sword in his hand, and his heart where a Briton's ought to be (we mean, in the right place), while with his last expiring gasp he commanded his men to advance their duty. The following is an account of the particulars as full and true as the hurried in which we had to collect.   On the arrival of H. M. S. Favourite at the Island of Tangataboo, a letter war sent on board to the commander, Captain CROKER, from the Missionaries residing on the island, informing him that the Heathen natives were at war with them, and soliciting his assistance. On receipt of which information he mustered the hands on board the Favourite, and told them that he had not the power to command them to go ashore, butr would leave it to themselves to volunteer, which of them would accompany him. A great number of the crew at once volunteered, and three guns, consisting of two six pounders and one twelve pounder were taken on shore, and conveyed to a short distance in the interior, on the rise of a hill which commanded a full view of the Heathen Stockade. On their arrival at the place a female messenger was dispatched to the Stockade for the purpose of effecting a truce with the natives within the Stockade. During her absence, King George, accompanied by about three hundred of his soldiers (Missionary tribe, as they call themselves) arrived at the spot for the purpose of assisting the British. On the return of the woman, the flag of truce was hoisted within the stockade, and a few minutes afterwards a Welshman who goes under the the name 'Jemmy the Devil," and who, thouggh a white man and a British subject, is the ruler and ringleader of these unfortunate Heathens, made his appearance, and was hailed by Captain CROKER with "Well, Jemmy, I am glad to find that you are willing to come to amicable terms— What can I do for you?" "Oh!" says Jemmy in return, "You can do a deal for me if you like;" evidently meaning that it would have been all over with him if he got into the clutched of Captain CROKER. That gentleman then informed him that the only terms of peace that he could make, would be to level both the Heathen and Missionary forts to the ground. The Welshman then said that he could not consent to that until he had consulted several of the Chiefs, whose answer he would return in half an hour. To This Captain CROKER acceded, and waited with patients the time appointed at the gate of the Heathen Fort. At length having waited past the appointed time, and getting impatient, he knocked at the gate with the hilt of his sword several times, and received no answer to his repeated summons; he then struck through the door with his sword, which, on withdrawing, he found covered with blood. Captain CROKER then flourished his sword over his head, and ordered his men to advance with their guns. They immediately advanced within the distance of one hundred yards from the gate of the stockade, thinking that they would frighten the inmates by doing so, instead of which they immediately commenced firing a volly of musketry through numerous loop-holes of the fortification. As soon as the firing commenced, 'King George' and his army decamped, saying that they were going round to beseige the fort on the other side. Captain CROKER finding the musketry too strong to enable his men stand at their guns, ordered them to advance with their bridges and scaling ladders for the purpose of crossing the trench and beseiging the fort. Immediately after giving this order Captain CROKER received a shot in his leg, and staggered a few paces to the rear, at the same time calling on his men to behave themselves like British seamen. At this time several of his party were wounded and two men killed, when a shot struck him in the left breast, and he staggered into the arms of one of his crew, exclaiming "Fight on, and do your duty as British seamen." As the person into whose arms he had fallen was carrying him to the rear, he said feebly, "Lay me down, and go and fight." Having uttered these words, this gallant officer fell back and expired. The survivors finding the musketry so strong, and having lost their commander, were obliged at last to retreat, and leave their guns, carrying with them their dead and wounded, the former of which they afterwards interred. In the evening the savages from the fort issued out, and took possession of the guns and ammunition left behind by the crew of the Favourite, which they have erected for the defence of their stockade. Our space will not allow us to prolong our report at present; the following is a list of teh killed and wounded:
Killed— Walter CROKER, Esq., Commander; the Quartermaster, and the Gunner's mate. —
Wounded — Mr. Dunlop, first Lieutenant, and 19 of the crew.

© Nick Reddan 2005

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