The History Anorak

The History Anorak

Monday, 11 January 2016

Captain Vancouver

Captain Vancouver on Purfleet Quay, Kings Lynn
George Vancouver was a Royal Navy captain, born in Kings Lynn, Norfolk. He made a number of voyages in his life time but his most important was probably  the 1791-95 expedition to the Pacific coast of northern America. During the trip he visited Cape Town, New Zealand and China before heading to the American continent. He sailed along the coast of present day Oregon and Washington state and then onto Canada, mapping along the way and claiming new territory for Britain.

As well as naming the Canadian city of Vancouver after himself, he gave other landmarks names of his crew, including Mount Baker, Puget Sound, Mount Hood and Mount Rainier.

However, his travels did not make him popular with everyone. Crewman Thomas Pitt, 2nd Baron Camelford took offence after being disciplined for various infractions of Navy rules. When he returned home he persuaded his cousin William - who just happened to be Prime Minister - to help him bring Vancouver into dishonour. But Prime Minister Pitt (the younger) did not succeed fast enough for sailor Pitt, who challenged his former captain to a duel.

Vancouver refused to take part in a dual to answer for his actions as a serving naval officer so Pitt eventually attacked him in the street. Both were accompanied by friends and an unseemly brawl ensued, which led to a fight in the press, as both sides accused the other of being the instigator, among other crimes. The stress proved too much for Vancouver, who died aged only 40, worn out from his naval service and the legal battles.


  1. As a Canadian I should probably know more about this guy than I do. I live in the central area of Canada where they focus mostly on the Ontario/Quebec part of our history in school. I guess I have some reading to do to up my historic knowledge of my OWN nation!

  2. I have seen this guy only in pics


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