VADM Collingwood was born in Newcastle-on-Tyne some eight years before Nelson. His father was a prominent Northumberland merchant who encouraged his son to join the Royal Navy at age 11, as a volunteer in HMS Shannon, commanded by young Cuthbert’s cousin, CAPT Richard Braithwaite. He swiftly gained promotion to Midshipman and by 1767 he was a Masters Mate. After participating in the American Battle of Bunker Hill, he was appointed Lieutenant in 1775.
VADM Collingwood assumed command of the victorious British fleet at Trafalgar after the death of his friend, Nelson.
In HMS Hornet, serving in the Caribbean, Collingwood had little respect for his captain, who later accused him of disobedience and neglect of duty. Acquitted by court martial of these charges in 1777, he joined HMS Lowestoff as First Lieutenant. It was during this period that he became firm friends with fellow LEUT Horatio Nelson and as Post-Captain followed Nelson in command of HMS Hinchinbrook. In the spring of 1780 they fought alongside each other in the disease-ridden San Juan campaign. Of 200 in Collingwood’s company, only 20 survived.
Until about 1786 Collingwood, his brother Wilfred and Nelson intercepted and seized chiefly American ships that were illegally trading in the Caribbean. In 1791 he returned to Newcastle and married Sarah Blackett, a granddaughter of ADML Roddam, under whom he served when the latter commanded HMS Lennox.
Sarah and Collingwood had two daughters, born in 1792 and 1793.
Cape St Vincent
Later in 1793, Collingwood was appointed captain of HMS Barfluer, flying the flag of RADM Bowyer as part of Lord Howe’s Channel Fleet. In the Battle of the First of June, in 1794, Bowyer received a severe head wound, leaving Collingwood in command. He registered discomfort when he was overlooked for a Gold Medal presentation.
In command of HMS Excellent at Cape St Vincent in 1797, he captured the El Salvador del Mondo and the Santissima Trinidad, a large four-decker. For this and other work, he earned a Gold Medal and the formal thanks of CDRE Nelson.
Continuing chiefly in the Channel Fleet, he was promoted to VADM under Cornwallis in 1804. Off Cadiz, he was joined by VADM Nelson on 28 September after the latter’s fruitless chase of Villeneuve across the Atlantic. With his flag in Royal Sovereign, Collingwood was the second in command of British ships, leading the leeward column against the combined French and Spanish Fleet off Trafalgar. Collingwood’s brilliant service was at once acknowledged by his being raised to the peerage as Baron Collingwood of Caldburne and Hethpoole in Northumberland; by a pension of £2,000 a year for life, with, after his death, £1,000 a year to his widow and £500 to each of his daughters; by the Thanks of Parliament; by a valuable testimonial from Lloyds Patriotic Fund; by a sword from the Duke of Clarence, and another Gold Medal.
His subsequent career, mainly at sea, elicited little of interest, but this may have been due more to the thoroughness of Nelson’s work than anything else. Collingwood’s health started to fail and he died as he was returning to England, in 1810. His body was brought to England and buried alongside his brother-officer Nelson in St Paul’s.