Sir John Mennes
Portrait of Vice Admiral Sir John Mennes
|Born||1 March 1599|
Sandwich, Kent, England
|Died||18 February 1671|
|Allegiance||Kingdom of England|
|Service Branch||Navy Royal/Royal Navy|
|Years Active||1619-1671 (51 yrs)|
|Commands held||HMS Adventure (1594)|
HMS Garland (1620)
HMS Red Lion (1557)
HMS Vanguard (1631)
HMS Convertine (1620)
HMS Nonsuch (1605)
HMS Victory (1620)
HMS Rainbow (1617)
HMS Swallow (1634)
HMS Henry (1656)
Narrow Seas Squadron
Comptroller of the Navy
Vice-Admiral Sir John Mennes (also spelled Mennis) (1 March 1599 – 18 February 1671) was an English Navy Royal then later Royal Navy flag officer, who went on to be Commander-in-Chief, the Downs, then Vice-Admiral in the Narrow Seas and finally Comptroller of the Navy.
Mennes joined the then Navy Royal around 1619. In 1620 he took part in a six-hour battle off Dominica in the West Indies. As a young man he established himself as a reliable officer. On 23 November 1628 he was appointed Captain of the HMS Adventure (1594) a 26 gun fourth rate galleon and convoyed a fleet to Gluckstadt, Schleswig and Holstein. On his return with a prize he was instructed to cruise the channel looking for further ships to capture. He was frequently employed in taking ambassadors and other distinguished travellers across the channel. Mennes was suggested for another command by Rear-Admiral Sir Henry Mervyn in 1630, it was in the hope of having a captain who had passed.
In the Autumn of 1630 he was on fishery protections of the port of Yarmouth. On 11 December 1630 he was appointed captain of HMS Garland (1620) a 28 gun third rate middling ship on patrol in the English Channel. On 30 March 1635 he was given appointed captain of HMS Red Lion (1557) a 40 gun second rate great ship. On 7 October he was given command of HMS Vanguard (1631) a 56 gun second rate great ship. On the 14th October 1635 was nominally appointed acting Rear-Admiral in the Channel. On 13 March 1636 he was made commanding officer of HMS Convertine (1620) a 34 gun third rate. In March 1637 was appointed captain of HMS Vanguard for the second time. In November 1637 he was appointed Captain of Walmer Castle. On 15 April 1638 he was appointed captain of HMS Nonsuch (1605) a 32 gun second rate Galleon and in May 1638 was deputed to carry an ambassador to Spain. On 5 March 1639 he was appointed to the command of HMS Victory (1620) a 42 gun second rate Great Ship, in which he continued in that role till September 1638. In 1640 was appointed captain of HMS Rainbow (1617) a 63 gun second rate great ship.
In 1640 he temporarily left the Navy Royal, being appointed on 22 February to command a troop of Carabiniers in the war against the Scots. In early 1642 he was back in the navy and on 23 February, as Captain of HMS Red Lion (1557), was entrusted with taking the Queen Henrietta Maria over to the Netherlands. On 25 February 1642 he was knighted by King Charles I of England. On 26 April he had orders to press men for the summer guard.
- Flag Rank Appointments
On 1 May 1642 was promoted to Rear-Admiral. He had originally been posted to the HMS St George (1622) a 42-gun Great ship, but it was as captain of the Victory that he refused to acquiesce in the parliamentary takeover of the Navy Royal on 2 July 1642 just before the start of the English Civil War in August that year. In May 1645 Mennes replaced Vice-Admiral Sir John Pennington as the king's acting vice-admiral and appointed Commander-in-Chief, the Downs. With the revolt of 1648 the king had a fighting fleet once more and Mennes resumed service afloat, though losing his flag rank. He also lost his estates—chiefly property in Bedfordshire inherited from his recently dead elder brother—sequestered by parliament. When Prince Rupert's Royalist squadron left Helvoetsluys in January 1649 Mennes was appointed captain of HMS Swallow (1634) a 36 gun third rate, in which he led a successful detachment in search of prizes. He then sailed with the rest of the royalist fleet to Lisbon. In 1650, while the ships were still in the river Tagus, Mennes left to attach himself to the exiled court, with which he remained until the Restoration of Monarchy. He served principally as a secret agent (and since little is known of his activities he would seem to have been effective); in March 1655 he was sent from Cologne, Electorate of Cologne where the king was, then onto to Flushing, Dutch Republic to monitor the posts. Mennes also acted as medical adviser to the exiled cavaliers..
At the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 Mennes was appointed by King Charles II of England a gentleman of the privy chamber. He petitioned for and received the return of the captaincy of Walmer, though he resigned that role April 1663 because of the costs involved. On 10 April 1661 Mennes was at Chatham Royal Dockyard to inspect HMS Henry (1656) a 64 gun second rate ship of the line, already designated his flagship. On 18 May 1661 he was formally commissioned as Vice-Admiral in the Narrow Seas to command the Narrow Seas Squadron for the summer of that yaer. While serving as commanding officer of the narrow seas squadron he was named as successor to Sir Robert Slingsby, 1st Baronet as comptroller of the navy on 30 October 1661. He then took his seat at the Navy Board in London as the newly appointed Comptroller of the Navy. On 16 November he delegated some of that offices work to fellow navy board commissioner Vice-Admiral of the White Sir William Penn. He assumed his role on 28 November 1661 but Mennes lacked the qualities of mind and application which duties of the comptroller demanded. On 15 January 1662 set sail for Tangier with Henry Mordaunt, 2nd Earl of Peterborough, who had been appointed Governor and Captain General of all the forces in Tangier, they arrived there on 29 Janaury 1662. He then joined up with Edward Montagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich to Lisbon, Portugal to escort Princess Catherine of Braganza back to England to be crowned Queen Consort of England, Scotland and Ireland. In May 1662 returned to the Downs in May, having completed his last voyage.
Mennes died, whilst still comptroller of the navy, on 18 February 1671 in London and was buried in St Olave, Hart Street, where a memorial was erected.
- "Mennes, Sir John (1599–1671), naval officer". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-18561.
- C. S. Knighton, "Mennes, Sir John (1599–1671), naval officer". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.