MATHEWS, THOMAS (1676-1751), British admiral, was born at Llandaff Court, Llandaff. He entered the navy about 1690 and after various appointments during the war with Spain (1718-20) commanded the "Kent" in the fleet of Sir George Byng (Lord Torrington). From 1722 to 1724 he had the command of a small squadron sent to repress the pirates of the coast of Malabar. He settled down at Llandaff until March 1741, when he was appointed to the command in the Mediterranean, and plenipotentiary to the king of Sardinia and the States of Italy. His unfortunate engagement with a Spanish squadron of line-of battleships near Hyeres in Feb. 1744 marked the lowest pitch reached in discipline and fighting by the fleet in the 18th century. The British fleet followed the enemy in light winds on Feb. 1o, and became scattered. Mathews hoisted the signal to form the line, and then when night fell, to lie to. Lestock, who com manded in the rear, was at some distance from the body of the fleet, and obeyed the second order, with the result, apparently desired, that in the morning he was far away from Mathews. The
enemy were within striking distance of the van and centre of the British fleet, and Mathews attacked their rear. Lestock never came into action at all. Several captains behaved very badly, and Mathews in anger bore down on the enemy out of his line, while the signal to keep the line was still flying at his mast head. The French and Spaniards got away, and were not pursued, though they were of inferior strength. The battle led to more than twenty courts-martial and a parliamentary inquiry. Lestock was brought to trial, and acquitted on the ground that he had obeyed orders. Mathews was condemned to be dismissed from the service on the ground that he had not only failed to pursue the enemy but had taken his fleet into action in a confused manner. Mathews died in London on Oct. 2, 1751.
See Beatson, Naval and Military Memoirs, vol. i. (179o; 2nd ed., 1804) ; Montagu Burrows, Life of Hawke (3rd ed., 1904). The charges and findings at the courts-martial on both Lestock and Mathews were published at the time.