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Thomas Cochrane


Thomas Cochrane
(1775—1860)

Naval commander

A famed naval commander in the Napoleonic Wars. But his lack of political cunning made him enemies, and he was found guilty of a fraud charge he always denied.
Released from prison, he led the navies of Chile, Brazil and Greece before becoming Earl of Dundonald, succeeding his father and winning public rehabilitiation.

One of the most colourful characters of the era, Thomas Cochrane was courageous, forward-thinking and adventurous. Originally an infantry officer, Cochrane joined the Royal Navy and took command of a small brig, with which he harassed enemy shipping in the Mediterranean.

Nicknamed the Sea Wolf, Cochrane's audacity knew almost no bounds. On one occasion his small ship, the Speedy, took on and boarded a Spanish frigate - that had at least six times as many men - and forced its surrender.

As his naval reputation grew, Cochrane found himself more and more at odds with the political chiefs of his time. He was a Member of Parliament from 1807 and his outspoken criticism of naval corruption infuriated his commanders.

When his uncle was charged with being part of the great Stock Exchange Fraud in 1814, Cochrane's enemies ensured he would be implicated and the innocent Sea Wolf found himself languishing in prison. Released after a year, Cochrane then gave his services to the navies of Brazil, Chile and Greece.

His name was officially cleared in 1832 and he rejoined the Royal Navy, serving in North America and the West Indies. He was a firm believer in steamships and one of his pet projects was the idea of using toxic gas in combat.