Back to Devon and Cornwall

Biography of Captain John Conn

Abstracted from "The Trafalgar Captains" by Colin White.

1764. Baptised in Stoke Damerel near Plymouth, Devon.
1778. Entered the Navy as a volunteer in HMS Weazle.
1782. Midshipman and master's mate in HMS Arrogant. At the Battle of the Saintes (12 April 1782).
1788. Passed as lieutenant.
1792. Married Margaret Nelson, daughter of the Revd Isaac Nelson at Stoke Damerel.
1794. Lieutenant in HMS Royal Sovereign at Admiral Howe's victory at the Glorious First of June.
1798. In HMS Foudroyant at the defeat of the French Squadron off Dnegal.
1800. Promoted master and commander.
1801. Commanded the Discovery, one of the bomb vessels at Nelson's victory at Copenhagen (2 April)
1801. Commanded a division of howitzer boats at Nelson's attack on Boulogne (15/16 August).
1802. Made post captain and later took command of HMS Culloden accompanied by his son Henry aged 9.
1803. Captain of HMS Canopus and spent two years with Nelson in the Mediteranean.
1805.Returning to England in the summer, he became acting captain of HMS Victory whilst Nelson and Hardy were on leave. He was ordered to take the Victory out to Cornwallis's Channel fleet This was countermanded when the French/Spanish fleet arrived at Cadiz. Instead he was to take HMS Royal Sovereign out to Collingwood's Mediteranean Fleet and then assume command of HMS Dreadnought, which had been Collingwood's previous flagship. On the 21 October 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar the Dreadnought under the command of John Conn engaged the San Juan with such crippling effect that within 15 minutes the Spanish ship surrendered.
1806.He subsequently commanded HMS San Josef and then HMS Hibernia
before taking up his fianl command in HMS Swiftsure. Whilst giving
chase off the Bermuda Islands on 4 May 1810 he fell overboard and drowned.

His will, dated 1803, was written on board HMS Canopus, and can be seen in the National Archives.

It is said that Conn was one of Nelson's close professional colleagues.

Note. John Conn was not the only Conn to fight at Trafalgar. David Conn, 24, a landsman (a volunteer) from Stratford in London served in HMS Victory.