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February 1

In 1771, succeeding Lord Hawke today, 242 years ago, as First Lord of Admiralty, Welbore Ellis, Lord Dover, not only kept on the good work of his predecessor in reforming the Royal Navy but surpassed him - mostly by being one of the few upright persons in the otherwise chaotic and corrupt government of Lord North.
This post was written by Dirk Puehl the highly recommended author of #onthisday #history Google+ posts.

Lord Dover, Saviour of the Royal Navy"I have neither intrigued nor caballed; I have in a great degree secluded myself from company to avoid all suspicion and misrepresentation, and have rested with a most resigned confidence in your Majesty's goodness to me, and having assured your Majesty that I was only your's, I have carefully avoided every other connexion and support". (Welbore Ellis, Lord Dover)

Dirk writes - With the growing problems in Britain's American Colonies, Dover's reform of the naval yards and especially naval suppliers saw the Royal Navy well prepared, when troubles became all-out war and the European powers joined in.

Dover's reforms did not only cut costs for fleet maintenance by more than 25%, allowing for a sufficient number of ships-of-the-line in European waters as well as on the North American station but had a lasting effect on the virulent nepotism up to then prevailing in the promotional system of the Navy.

Cashiering an able admiral like Rodney for his favouritisms in 1781 after his relieving of the Great Siege of Gibraltar did not exactly make Dover a popular figure, neither with the public nor the fleet. Lord Howe though, the victor of the Battle of Chesapeake Bay who ensured the British dominance off the coast of North America and the Caribbean, celebrated Dover as the Saviour of the Navy.

Dover's fall came a short time after the end of the war in 1782 when he was accused of sodomy and forced to retire. Lord North finally had the leeway to make the infamous John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, First Lord for a third spell until his government fell in 1784.