Charles Howe Fremantle
A young Captain Fremantle
Fremantle in later years as an admiral.


Charles Fremantle was the son of Admiral Sir Thomas Francis Fremantle and was part of a family with a long tradition of serving in the British navy.


His Father was well known to Admiral Nelson and Charles' middle name, 'Howe' relates to the Glorious First of June when Admiral Lord Richard Howe defeated the French in battle.


Fremantle got his first command at the age of 24 when he took over the Jasper.


He was awarded the Royal National Lifeboat Institutions gold medal for bravery when he was involved in the rescue of crew from a wrecked Spanish (one source says Swedish) ship but he was later to be involved in controversy when he was accused of the rape of a serving maid but was not brought to trial when witnesses 'decided' not to testify after being spoken to by Fremantle's powerful friends.


He was given command of HMS Challenger in 1828 but was less than impressed when orders arrived for him to take his war ship (stuffed with supplies), to the site of the new colony in Western Australia. He saw no chance of glory or promotion in such a posting but if he had not been part of the first fleet his name would in all likelihood have been long forgotten.


Captain (later Admiral) Charles Howe Fremantle claimed possession of the whole west coast in the name of His Britannic Majesty on the 2nd of May 1829.


Captain Fremantle had arrived aboard the Challenger on April 27th 1829, shortly before the other two ships bringing the first colonists. Small boats were sent out to find a safe passage through the reefs and the task was supervised by the ship's Master (Mr. Bradshaw) who proceeded to lay a series of marker buoys and then took the ship in ON THE WRONG SIDE of the markers he had just finished laying! Captain Fremantle wrote some very uncomplimentary things about the ship's Master in his journal:


'Never since I have been at sea have I witnessed anything to equal the carelessness and stupidity of the Master; he placed a buoy on a rock and then steered for the buoy and ran the ship immediately on it. It was a thousand chances that we escaped being knocked to pieces, which must have been the case had it not been beautiful weather. The Master deserves to be hanged immediately... ...Nothing has annoyed me so much since I entered the service.'


Fremantle was also less than impressed with the anchorage outside the river mouth and stated, 'I do not like the appearance of the Anchorage, and if there is no nearer secure mooring for merchant ships it will be inconvenient for establishing a colony.'


On August 28 1829 (1), Captain Fremantle sailed for a British naval base in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and while he was in the area he visited Kowloon. He recommended this as a good site for a base to the Admiralty and Britain established a settlement at Hong Kong in 1841. On his return to Western Australia in 1832 he seemed disappointed with what he saw when he returned to Perth:


'I was much disappointed at the appearance of the capital as it does not appear to have made much progress. Very few houses having been built, and many of those scarcely worthy of the name, being mostly of wood and very small. Perth has not kept pace with Fremantle as the latter has many pretty tolerable houses.'


Fremantle never returned to Western Australia again. He went back to England, married a rich widow (Isabella Wedderburn) in 1836 and the couple had 3 children (2). Fremantle went on to serve aboard the 90 gun HMS Albion and took part in the Crimean war.


He was awarded night Commander of the Bath in 1857 and Knight Grand Cross of the Bath in 1867.


There is some evidence suggesting that Fremantle had a son out of wedlock with a woman named Elizabeth Cronin. It is said that she gave birth to a boy who was named Cornelius Edwin Cronin and that the father's name was not recorded on the birth certificate. Cornelius was adopted by Thomas and Elizabeth Farris who moved first to Brisbane and later to Kalgoorlie.


Charles Fremantle died in London aged 69 in 1869.




1800 - Born on June 1st 1800.

1812 - Joined the Royal Navy on December 12th.

1819 - Became a Lieutenant November 11th.

1822 - Became a Commander April 23rd.

1826 - Charged with rape but never brought to trial.

1826 - Promoted to captain August 4th.

1828 - Given command of HMS Challenger.

1829 - Arrives at Cockburn Sound in preparation for the arrival of the first settlers to the colony.

1829 - August 5th. Leaves for service in Ceylon (Sri Lanka).

1832 - Returns to Swan River on his way back to England.

1833 - Lands on Pitcairn Island.

1836 - 8 October. Married Isabella Wedderburn.

1843 - Given command of HMS Inconstant.

1847 - Given command of HMS Albion.

1853 - Made Captain of HMS Juno.

1854 - Made Rear Admiral April 15th.

1855 - Superintendent of Balaclava June 18th.

1857 - K.C.B. (Knight Commander of the Bath).

1858 - Became Commander-in-Chief of the Channel Squadron.

1860 - Made Vice Admiral September 9th.

1863 - Became Commander-in-Chief at Plymouth.

1864 - Made Admiral February 9th.

1867 - G.C.B. (Knight Grand Cross of the Bath).

1869 - Died December 19th. (3)


(1) - One source says August 25th.
(2) - Emily Caroline Alexander (14 April 1838 - 10 February 1929). Celia Elizabeth McNeil (8 October 1840 - 15 February 1929). Louisa Frances Fremantle (23 February 1843 - 20 March 1909).
(3) - Once source says May 25th.


Links to more information:


Charles Fremantle




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