Admiral of the Fleet Sir Provo William Parry Wallis, (12 April 1791 – 13 February 1892) was a Royal Navy officer and naval war hero. He was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and was 100 years old when he died.
His father, Provo Featherstone Wallis, was a clerk at the Royal Navy’s Halifax Naval Yard. The older Wallis wanted a naval career for his son and, knowing the rules for officers’ entry into the navy, managed to get his son officially registered in 1795 as an able seaman on the 36-gun frigate HMS Oiseau at the age of four, by convincing her captain, Robert Murray to list him on the ship’s books as an able seaman. In 1796 young Provo became a volunteer in the 40-gun frigate Prévoyante where he remained (on paper at least) for two years before returning in the 64-gun Asia where he served until 1800, then was promoted as a midshipman into the 32-gun frigate Cleopatra. The Cleopatra was the first ship he physically served aboard, but by now he has amassed nearly a decade of seniority.
He was a lieutenant aboard the sloop-of-war HMS Curieux when on 22 September 1809, while under the temporary command of Lt. Henry George Moysey, she ran aground and was wrecked on the coast of Guadaloupe. Fortunately all the crew were saved. A court martial board found Lt. John Felton, the Officer of the Watch, guilty of negligence and dismissed him from the service.
War of 1812
Wallis was then commissioned as a lieutenant on the 38-gun frigate Shannon in 1811. It was here that Wallis gained most of his notability. The Shannon captured the USS Chesapeake near Boston on 1 June 1813, during the War of 1812. The Shannon’s Captain, Philip Bowes Vere Broke, was badly wounded during the action and the Shannon’s first lieutenant was killed. Wallis served as the temporary captain of the British frigate for a period of exactly six days as she made her way back to Halifax, Nova Scotia, with the Chesapeake flying the Blue Ensign above the Stars and Stripes. For this action, he was promoted commander on 9 July 1813.
In 1819 he was promoted to captain but was without a ship until he commanded Niemen on the Halifax station from 1824–1826, and Madagascar in the West Indies from 1838–1839. Later, he commanded Warspite in the Mediterranean from 1843–1846.
He was promoted Rear-admiral on 27 August 1851 and appointed Commander-in-Chief on the southeast coast of South America in 1857, but was promoted to Vice-admiral and recalled after a few months. He was made a KCB on 18 May 1860 and promoted Admiral on 2 March 1863. To prevent two admirals from dying as paupers, a special clause in the retirement scheme of 1870 provided that those officers who had commanded a ship during the French war should be retained on the active list. The few days Wallis was in command of the Shannon qualified him to remain on the active list until he died. He was made GCB on 24 May 1873 and Admiral of the Fleet on 11 December 1877. The Admiralty suggested he retire when he reached his late nineties, as being on the active list meant he was liable for calling up for a seagoing command. Wallis instead replied he was ready to accept one.
Admiral Wallis died in 1892 at his country home in Funtington, England, not far from Portsmouth and was buried in the village church yard. He was only a few months shy of his 101st birthday with a combined service from the time his name first appeared on the books of a Royal Navy Ship of 96 years. He was both the last surviving commanding officer from the Napoleonic Wars and the last veteran of the conflict to serve as Admiral of the Fleet.
Wallis House in Ottawa is named after him.
CCGS Provo Wallis was named for him, having served in the Canadian Coast Guard from 1969–2011.
Provo Wallis Street, CFB Halifax is named after him
Namesake of Wallace Heights, Nova Scotia