Charles Fremantle

Admiral Sir Charles Howe Fremantle GCB RN (1 June 1800 – 25 May 1869) was a British Royal Navy officer. The city of Fremantle in Western Australia is named after him.

Sir Charles Fremantle
Sir Charles Fremantle
Born1 June 1800 (1800-06)
Died25 May 1869 (1869-05-26) (aged 68)
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch Royal Navy
Commands heldHMS Challenger
HMS Inconstant
HMS Albion
HMS Juno
Channel Squadron
Plymouth Command
Battles/warsCrimean War
AwardsKnight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath

Early life

Fremantle was the son of Admiral Thomas Fremantle,[1] a close associate of Nelson, and his wife Elizabeth, the diarist, and a nephew of William Henry Fremantle. His elder brother was Thomas Fremantle, 1st Baron Cottesloe. His middle name, Howe, is a consequence of his birth date, the anniversary of Lord Howe's victory over the French on the Glorious First of June in 1794. He joined the Royal Navy in 1812.[1]

In 1824 he was awarded the gold first gallantry medal of the newly formed Royal National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck, later the Royal National Lifeboat Institution for an attempted rescue carried out by Fremantle in Whitepit near Christchurch, Dorset.[2] However, according to Graeme Henderson, former director of the Western Australian Maritime Museum, Fremantle was charged with raping a 15-year-old girl in April 1826. To avoid a scandal, his family paid off witnesses and leant on the judiciary.[3] In August 1826 he was promoted to captain,[1] and in 1828, given command of the 26-gun frigate HMS Challenger,[1] and sent to claim the west coast of Australia for the United Kingdom.


HMS Challenger was despatched by the Admiralty from the Cape of Good Hope on 20 March 1829,[4]:p11 anchored in Cockburn Sound on 2 May and landing on Garden Island. One week later, he hoisted the British flag on the south head of the mouth of the Swan River and took formal possession in the name of His Majesty King George IV of "all that part of New Holland (Australia) which is not included within the territory of New South Wales".[4]:p11

The appointed Lieutenant Governor James Stirling arrived in Cockburn Sound on 2 June aboard the hired transport barque Parmelia with his family and other intending settlers, numbering 69 in all, to establish a colony at the Swan River in Western Australia. On 8 June they were joined by a military detachment of some 56 officers and men who disembarked from the consort ship HMS Sulphur. On 17 June, a proxy proclamation was read by Stirling confirming Fremantle's earlier proclamation. The landing of those immigrants marked the beginning of the history of Western Australia as a British colony, and later as a state of federal Australia.

Fremantle left the Swan River Colony on 25 August 1829, heading towards the British base at Trincomalee, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), where he was based for the next couple of years. While there he visited many locations, including Kowloon in China, which he recommended as a good site for a British settlement. The British government agreed and Hong Kong was settled in 1841.

Fremantle was only in Ceylon for a couple of years. On his way back to England in September 1832 he visited the Swan River Colony for a week, but never returned again. In 1833 he stopped at Pitcairn Island, where he attempted to make peace in the leadership dispute between Joshua Hill and George Hunn Nobbs.[5] He was given command of HMS Inconstant in the Mediterranean Fleet in 1843 and command of HMS Albion (also in the Mediterranean) in 1847.[1] Then in 1853 he became Captain of HMS Juno on the Australia Station.[1]

Fremantle served as Rear-Admiral controlling the naval transport service from Balaklava on the Crimean Peninsula during the Crimean War.[1] He went on to be Commander-in-Chief of the Channel Squadron in July 1858 and Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth in 1863.[1]

Personal life

According to Graeme Henderson, former director of the Western Australian Maritime Museum, Fremantle was charged with raping a 15-year-old girl in April 1826. To avoid a scandal, his family paid off witnesses and leant on the judiciary.

Fremantle married Isabella Wedderburn on 8 October 1836. They had three children:

  • Emily Caroline Alexander (14 April 1838 – 10 February 1929), who married Reverend C. L. Alexander, Rector of Sturton-by-Bridge, Derbyshire
  • Celia Elizabeth McNeil (8 October 1840 – 15 February 1929), who married Canon E. A. McNeile, Vicar of St Paul's, Princes Park, Liverpool
  • Louisa Frances Fremantle (23 February 1843 – 20 March 1909)

Fremantle died in 1869 and is buried in Brompton Cemetery, London. The grave lies against the east wall, towards the north end, near the more distinctive monument to the politician David Lyon.

See also

  • O'Byrne, William Richard (1849). "Fremantle, Charles Howe" . A Naval Biographical Dictionary. John Murray via Wikisource.


  1. William Loney RN
  2. Cox, Barry (1998). Lifeboat Gallantry.
  3. d'Anger, Jenny (25 August 2007). "Captain Cad: Fremantle a 'sadistic rapist'". Fremantle Herald. 18 (34). p. 1.
  4. The Western Australian Year Book No. 17, 1979. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Western Australian Office, 1979. ISSN 0083-8772.
  5. Silverman, David (1967). Pitcairn Island. Cleveland, Ohio: World Publishing Company. p. 119. Retrieved 11 August 2012.

Further reading

  • R. T. Appleyard and Toby Manford, The Beginning: European Discovery and Early Settlement of Swan River Western Australia, University of Western Australia Press. ISBN 0-85564-146-0.
Military offices
Preceded by
New Post
Commander-in-Chief, Channel Fleet
Succeeded by
Robert Stopford
Preceded by
Sir Houston Stewart
Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth
Succeeded by
Sir William Martin
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