Thompson, Sir Thomas Boulden, first baronet
- J. K. Laughton
- , revised by Roger Morriss
Thompson, Sir Thomas Boulden, first baronet (1766–1828), naval officer, was born at Barham, Kent on 28 February 1766. His parentage is uncertain. He was the heir of Captain Edward Thompson RN (d. 17 Jan 1786) of Epsom, his patron in his early naval career. According to one account Edward Thompson was his father, and his mother was Sarah, née Boulden, of Kent; by another he was the son of an impecunious man named Boulden and his wife, Sarah, daughter of Richard Thompson and sister of Edward Thompson. Known in his youth as Boulden, in Edward Thompson's will he was referred to as Boulden alias Thompson. He assumed the name Thompson presumably as a compliment to his uncle and patron, or because Edward Thompson was his father. Borne on the books of different ships, he first went to sea in 1778 in the Hyaena with Captain Edward Thompson, who was principally responsible for his early education. He was promoted to lieutenant on 14 January 1782 and in 1783 appointed to the Grampus, in which Edward Thompson was commodore, on the west coast of Africa. On Edward Thompson's death in January 1786 he was promoted to command the sloop Nautilus, a promotion confirmed on 27 March 1786. He brought the Nautilus home in 1787 when he went on half-pay and, though advanced to post rank on 22 November 1790, had no employment until autumn 1796. He was then appointed to the 50-gun ship Leander, in which during spring 1797 he joined Lord St Vincent off Cadiz, to be shortly afterwards detached with the squadron under Nelson, against Tenerife, where he was wounded in the attack on Santa Cruz. The following summer, he was again detached with the squadron sent into the Mediterranean to reinforce Nelson, and eventually to fight the battle of the Nile on 1–2 August 1798 [see Nelson's band of brothers]. Although not a ship of the line, by taking up a position between two of the French ships, the Leander was able to rake these French ships and the ships beyond them with terrible effect, while remaining herself in comparative safety. Thompson was afterwards ordered by Nelson to carry home Captain Edward Berry with his dispatches; but encountering the French 74-gun ship Généreux, near the west end of Crete on 18 August the Leander, after a defence of six-and-a-half hours, was captured and taken to Corfu. Both Thompson and Berry were severely wounded and were allowed to return overland to England. Thompson was tried by court martial for the loss of his ship but acquitted and praised for the length and determination of Leander's resistance to so superior a force. He was knighted in 1799 and awarded a pension of £200 per annum.
On 25 February 1799 Thompson married Anne (d. 9 Sept 1846), eldest daughter of Robert Raikes of Gloucester; they had three sons and three daughters. In spring 1799 he was appointed to the 74-gun ship Bellona, one of the fleet off Brest under Lord Bridport. In March 1801 the Bellona was one of the ships attached to the fleet for the Baltic under Sir Hyde Parker, and was selected for the attack on the Danish fleet and the defences of Copenhagen, but in entering the channel on the morning of 2 April she stuck fast on the edge of the shoal within long range of the Danish guns. She had eleven killed and sixty-three wounded, among whom was Thompson, who lost a leg. His pension was raised to £500 (£700 from 27 November 1815), and he was appointed to the command of the yacht Mary. On 20 June 1806 he was appointed comptroller of the navy, an office which he held until 24 February 1816, when he was appointed treasurer of Greenwich Hospital and director of the Chatham Chest. He was created a baronet on 11 November 1806, became a rear-admiral on 25 October 1809, vice-admiral on 4 June 1814, KCB on 2 January 1815, and GCB on 14 September 1822. From May 1807 to June 1816 he was a tory MP for the freeman-franchise borough of Rochester, Kent, on the Admiralty interest. He supported the government, voted against criminal-law and parliamentary reform, and Roman Catholic relief, and supported Christian missions to India. He died at his residence, Hartsbourne Manor Place, Hertfordshire, on 3 March 1828. He was succeeded by his son Thomas Raikes Trigge Thompson (1804–1865).
- BL, papers, Add. MS 46119
- F. Engleheart, stipple, pubd 1799 (after G. Engleheart), BM
- W. Bromley, J. Landseer, and Leney, group portrait, line engraving, pubd 1803 (after Victors of the Nile by R. Smirke), BM, NPG
- G. Engleheart, miniature, exh. RA 1835