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Hindmarsh, Sir John (bap. 1785, d. 1860), naval officer and colonial governor, was baptized on 22 May 1785, the son of John Hindmarsh, gunner on the Bellerophon, and his wife, Mary, née Roxburgh. He entered the navy in March 1793 as a volunteer on the Bellerophon, in which he remained for seven years, and was present at the battle in the north Atlantic on 1 June 1794, in Cornwallis's retreat (17 June 1795), at the battle of the Nile (1 August 1798), and at the capture of the forts at Gaeta in 1799. In the battle of the Nile the Bellerophon, while accidentally anchored, was exposed to the full weight of L'Orient's broadside, was dismasted and sustained exceptional loss. The captain, Darby, went below wounded, and for a few minutes Hindmarsh was the only officer on deck, just as L'Orient burst into flames. He ordered the cable to be cut, and, setting the spritsail, got the ship clear of the imminent danger in a manner that elicited the warm approval of Captain Darby, who afterwards personally introduced him to Nelson and Lord St Vincent as having saved the ship. He lost the sight of an eye. In May 1800 he followed Captain Darby to the Spencer (74 guns), and in her was present in the actions at Algeciras on 6 July and in the Strait of Gibraltar on 12 July 1801.

In 1803 Hindmarsh went out to the Mediterranean in the Victory (100 guns), and in August was promoted by Nelson to lieutenant of the Phoebe (36 guns), in which he was present at Trafalgar on 21 October 1805. In November he was moved into the sloop Beagle (18 guns) for four years' cruising against the French coasting privateers. In April 1809 the Beagle convoyed the fireships to the Basque Roads, and took part in the subsequent operations. On 4 November 1809 Hindmarsh married Susannah Wilson Edmeades: they had three daughters and a son.

Hindmarsh was appointed first lieutenant of the Nisus (38 guns) with Captain Philip Beaver, and in her took part in the capture of Mauritius and Java. In May 1813 he returned to England invalided, and was promoted commander on 15 June 1815. In March 1830 he was appointed to command the Scylla (18 guns), in the Mediterranean, and was posted from her on 3 September 1831. He went out to Alexandria in September 1834 in the hope (in the event unfulfilled) of assuming command of the Egyptian navy.

At his own request, and through influence, in February 1836 Hindmarsh was appointed first governor of South Australia (at a salary of £800), and in May was made KH. He sailed in the Buffalo (6 guns) for Australia in June. On 28 December he and his party landed at Holdfast Bay, where the orders in council creating South Australia a British colony and Hindmarsh's commission as governor were read. With its new capital, Adelaide, the settlement grew, and Hindmarsh made a large profit from selling land. Hindmarsh was associated with John Fisher, as commissioner for the sale of crown lands, but the dual government did not work well, and after disputes and controversy Hindmarsh was recalled in February 1838, and sailed for England on 14 July, hoping to be reinstated. In the event, although Fisher was removed, the new governor, George Gawler, was vested with sole authority.

From September 1840 until 1856 Hindmarsh was lieutenant-governor of Heligoland. On 31 January 1856 he was advanced to flag rank. Hindmarsh's wife died at Brighton on 2 April 1859, and he died at 11 Denbigh Terrace, Belgrave Road, London, on 29 July 1860. They had one son, John, a barrister, and three daughters, one of whom, Mary, married G. M. Stephen, brother of Sir Alfred Stephen, chief justice of New South Wales; another, Jane, married A. M. Mundy, colonial secretary for South Australia, and nephew of Admiral Sir George Mundy.

J. K. Laughton, rev. Roger Morriss


O'Byrne, Naval biog. dict. · Annual Register (1860), 448 · GM, 3rd ser., 9 (1860), 327 · J. Marshall, Royal naval biography, 4/2 (1835), 474 · AusDB · P. Mackesy, The war in the Mediterranean, 1803–1810 (1957) · C. N. Parkinson, War in the eastern seas, 1793–1815 (1954) · R. Muir, Britain and the defeat of Napoleon, 1807–1815 (1996) · Boase, Mod. Eng. biog. · CGPLA Eng. & Wales (1860)

Wealth at death  

under £4000: probate, 25 Sept 1860, CGPLA Eng. & Wales