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George Anson, 1st Baron Anson

George Anson, 1st Baron Anson of Soverton (April 23 1697 - 1762) was a British admiral, circumnavigator and a wealthy aristocrat.

George's father was of William Anson of Shugborough in Staffordshire, and his wife Isabella Carrier, who was the sister-in-law of Thomas Parker, 1st Earl of Macclesfield, the Lord Chancellor, a relationship which proved very useful to the future admiral.

George Anson entered the navy in February 1712, and by rapid steps became lieutenant in 1716, commander in 1722, and post-captain in 1724. In this rank he served twice on the North American station as captain of the HMS Scarborough and of HMS Squirrel from 1724 to 1730 and from 1733 to 1735. In 1737 gained the command of the sixty-gun vessel HMS Centurion. In 1740, on the eve of War of Austrian Succession (1740 - 1748), he became commander (with the rank of commodore) of the squadron sent to attack Spanish possessions in South America.

The expedition failed to carry out its original ambitious scheme. Anson’s ill-equipped squadron that sailed later than intended, consisted of six ships, which successive disasters reduced to just his flagship the Centurion. The lateness of the season forced him to round Cape Horn in very stormy weather, and the navigating instruments of the time did not allow of exact observations.

Two of his vessels failed to round the Horn, another, the Wager suffered shipwreck off the coast of Chile. By the time Anton reached the island of Juan Fernandez in June 1741, only three of his six ships remained, while the strength of his crews had fallen from 961 to 335. In the absence any effective Spanish force on the coast he was able to harass the enemy and to sack the small port city of Paita in Peru (13 - 15 November 1741). The steady diminution of his crew by sickness, and the worn-out state of his remaining consorts, compelled him to at last to collect all the remaining survivors in the Centurion. He rested at the island of Tinian, and then made his way to Macao in November 1742. After considerable difficulties with the Chinese, he sailed again with his one remaining vessel to cruise in search of one of the richly laden galleons which conducted the trade between Mexico and the Philippines. The indomitable perseverance he had shown during one of the most arduous voyages the history of sea adventure gained the reward of the capture of an immensely rich prize, the Nuestra Seńora de Covadonga, which he encountered off Cape Espiritu Santo on June 20, 1743. Anson took his prize back to Macao, sold her cargo to the Chinese, and sailed for England, which he reached via the Cape of Good Hope on 15 June 1744. The prize money earned by the capture of the galleon had made him a rich man for life.

In 1747 Anson won the Battle of Cape Finisterre and in consequence became very popular and Baron Anson of Soverton.

Anson subsequently continued his naval career with distinction as an administrator, becoming First Lord of the Admiralty (1757 - 1762).

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This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica.