took one upon

George Collier

Sir George Collier (11 May 17386 April 1795) was a British admiral and, as commander of the frigate HMS Rainbow, was one of the most successful British naval commanders during the opening stages of the American War of Independence.

Early life

Born in London, England to a middle class family, Collier entered the Royal Navy seeing action in the West Indies and in Europe on the home station during the 1750s.

Collier and the American Revolution

By 1775, Collier was in command of the frigate HMS Rainbow at the time of the American Revolution and, after serving with distinction and success along the North American coast, received a knighthood from the Royal Family in early-1776.

Upon his return to the American colonies, Collier provided support for General William Howe's landing at Long Island, New York on 22 August 1776. Sent to Halifax, Nova Scotia as a senior officer by Admiral Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe, Collier would capture the American frigate USS Hancock after a long chase on 8 July 1777. Collier followed up on his success the following month by destroying supplies at Machias, Maine, thereby ruining American plans for an invasion of Nova Scotia.

One amusing anecdote of the Rainbow was written by Capt Alexander McDonald paymaster of the Royal Highland Emigrants Regiment, 20 Dec 1778:"...Flanking Companies. I am told they are a terror to All the Soldiers & Sailors about Halifax a few nights ago a boats Crew from the Rainbow was ashore & Comitting some disorders & Riots in One of the Houses w'ch the Grenadiers frequent a party of them came in immediately beat the Sailors damnably and each of them took one upon his back threw them into their boat like so many bags of wool lanched the boat & set them adrift."

Succeeding Admiral James Gambier as commodore and acting commander-in-chief of the North American station on 4 April 1779, Collier led a highly successful raid with General Edward Mathew on the Virginia coast on 29 May.

The following day, on 30 May, Collier joined the British assault on Stony Point, New York providing support for Sir Henry Clinton, managing to sink an American rebel ship carrying loot and supplies captured from the fort. One of the few naval commanders able to get along with Clinton, Collier also provided naval support for Clinton's raid into Connecticut in June before returning to New York in late-August. During this time he descisively defeated the largest rebel naval force of the war, inflicting what was the United States' worst defeat at sea until Pearl Harbour.

Replaced as commander-in-chief by Admiral Mariot Arbuthnot while at sea, Collier was recalled to Great Britain on 29 November, assuming command of the 74-gun HMS Canada in 1780.

Participating in the relief of Gibraltar on 12 April 1781, Collier captured the Spanish frigate Leocadia on his return to England.

Later years

Following the war's end, Collier resigned from the Royal Navy and was elected to Parliament for Honiton, serving from 1781 until 1790. Returning to active service, Collier was promoted to admiral in February 1793, and later vice-admiral of the blue on 12 July 1794. In January 1795, Collier would serve as commander of the Nore shipyard, however he soon resigned due to ill health and died in London on 6 April 1795.


  • Bicheno, Hugh. 2003. Rebels and Redcoats. The American Revolutionary War.
  • Boatner. Encyclopedia

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