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Rear Admiral Sir Philip Bowes Vere Broke, 1st Baronet KCB (9 September 1776 – 2 January 1841) was a distinguished officer in the Britishmarker Royal Navy.

Early life

Broke ( , like "brook") was born at Broke Hallmarker, Nactonmarker, near Ipswichmarker, the eldest son of Philip Bowes Broke. He attended Ipswich Schoolmarker where a house has now been named in his honour.

Naval career

Broke joined the Royal Naval Academy at Portsmouth Dockyardmarker in 1788, and began active service as a midshipman in 1792. It was rather unusual for him to receive formal naval education — most of his contemporaries had only "on the job" training. He served as Third Lieutenant on the frigate HMS Southampton during the Battle of Cape St. Vincent in February 1797. He was promoted to Commander in 1799 and Captain on 14 February 1801 .

He married Sarah Louisa Middleton on 25 November 1802. They had 11 children.

Capture of USS Chesapeake

His most notable accomplishment was his victory while commanding HMS Shannon, over the USS Chesapeake on 1 June 1813, during the War of 1812. Broke took command of the Shannon, a 38-gun frigate, on 31 August 1806. Broke was ordered to Halifax, Nova Scotiamarker in 1811 as the diplomatic position between America and Britain deteriorated. US President James Madison declared war on 18 June 1812. There were half a dozen naval battles between a Royal Naval and a United States Navy vessel of equivalent rate in 1812 and early 1813. The Americans won every time, primarily because although the British and American ships were of the same rate, they were not of the same size or power. In each case the American ships were substantially larger than the British vessels and had a heavier broadside (the Americans had a main battery of 24 pounder long guns compared with the smaller 18 pounders mounted on the British ships).

Matters changed when Shannon defeated Chesapeake as it attempted to evade the blockade of Boston, Massachusettsmarker. Although Chesapeake was a slightly larger craft and had a substantially larger crew, gunnery was Broke's area of expertise, and the crew of Shannon were exceptionally well drilled.Chesapeake was disabled by gunfire, boarded and captured within 15 minutes of opening fire. 56 sailors on Chesapeake were killed, including its Captain, James Lawrence, and 85 wounded. Lawrence's last words were reported to be the command, "Don't give up the ship". On the Shannon, 24 were killed and 59 wounded, including Broke who sustained a serious head wound while leading the boarding party.

Coin struck in Halifax honouring Broke's victory

Lt. Provo Wallis took command of Shannon as the frigate and her prize returned to Halifaxmarker as surgeons worked to save Broke. In Halifax, Broke recovered at the Commissioner's residence in the Halifax Naval Yard.

Shannon's victory created a sensation in the US and the UK. In recognition, Broke was created a Baronet on 25 September 1813. He became a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath on 3 January 1815. He was also awarded a Naval Gold Medal, one of only eight awarded for single ship actions between 1794 and 1816. While his wounds precluded further active service, Broke served as a naval gunnery specialist in the Royal Navy. He was promoted to Rear Admiral of the Red on 22 July 1830.

His younger brother, Charles Broke, later Charles Broke Vere, joined the British Army, serving under the Duke of Wellington, ending up as a Major General and was knighted.

Broke in Fiction

A fictionalized account of Shannon's battle with Chesapeake is featured prominently in Patrick O'Brian's novels The Fortune of War and The Surgeon's Mate. Broke, whom O'Brian makes a cousin to his protagonist Captain Jack Aubrey, is favorably portrayed as a character in the former work, and receives prominent mention in the second.

The novel the The Key to Honor by Ron Wattanja, features an account of the battle from the point of view of a young American midshipman. The young American midshipmen has a long conversation with Broke, after the battle, as one of the few surviving American officers who acquitted themselves well.



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