Early naval career
Arthur Morrell was born in 1788 in Stoke Damerel, Devon, the second son of a Royal Navy lieutenant, John Morrell. His father had been an able seaman, rising to the warrant officer's rank of gunner by the time his sons entered the Royal Navy.
Morrell's brother was John Arthur Morrell, who became a commander and served aboard HMS Eagle during an 1806 attack on Naples, then held by Napoleon's brother, Joseph Bonaparte.
Morrell joined the Royal Navy at the age of about twelve or thirteen as a first class volunteer. He served first on HMS Doris, a 38-gun fifth rate ship in the Channel fleet that took several French ships as prizes during the years Morrell served on her.
He then moved to the Caribbean on board HMS Pique, and was by now a Master's mate. It was aboard Pique, a captured French ship formerly named Pallas, that he would take part in the 1803 blockade of Saint-Domingue, serving off Cape Francois, at what is now Haiti. A boat from the Pique, commanded by Lieutenant Nesbit Josiah Willoughby, was dispatched to capture the French frigate Clorinde as she fled the rebellious Haitians led by Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Morrell was part of the crew that brought Clorinde under a British flag to Jamaica.
Pique later took part in an abortive attempt to capture Curaçao, which in 1804 had been retaken from Britain by a Dutch-French force.
After nine years in the Caribbean, Morrell found himself in the Mediterranean, in a succession of ships including HMS Termagant, from which he beheld the fall of Genoa in 1814, one of his last naval actions during the Napoleonic Wars.
At the end of hostilities, Britain turned to Arctic exploration to employ its navy and to attempt to discover a shorter route to the resource-rich Pacific.
In 1818, Morrell took part in a "perilous voyage of discovery" to Spitzbergen, in search of the Northwest Passage, in what was one of the earliest voyages of Arctic discovery. The voyage was unsuccessful, but Morrell would later be awarded the Arctic Medal (1818–1855).
Captain David Buchan commanded HMS Dorothea, while Morrell served as first lieutenant. The Dorothea was accompanied by HMS Trent, commanded by John Franklin.
As first lieutenant, Morrell kept a detailed log book which provided meteorological observations and navigational notes. The expedition eventually failed to penetrate thick pack ice.
The expedition returned to England without having achieved its goal. It would be nearly 40 years before Arctic exploration would be recognized, and in 1856 the Arctic Medal was struck and issued retroactively for various polar voyages starting with 1818, the year of Buchan's expedition.
In 1820, Morrell married Elizabeth Reid, daughter of the "first pay clerk of wages" at Devonport, William Reid.
Morrell was promoted to the rank of commander in 1821, but with peace, much of the Royal Navy was on half-pay. In between periods at sea, it seems that Morrell and Elizabeth lived in or near Devonport. But by 1830, the family had moved to Dinan, in France, where two of his sons were born, George Truman Morrell and another Arthur Morrell, both of whom would also serve in the Royal Navy.
Elizabeth later died aged 61 on 29 September 1862, by which time the family had settled in Dartford, Erith, Kent.
They had eight children together, of whom six would survive into adulthood.Anna Harriett Cumberland Pellew Morrell
Lucy Elizabeth Haynes Morrell, who later married Edward George Irving, Scottish surgeon and botanist
Charles Walter Morrell
Eliza Truman Morrell
George Truman Morrell, explorer and later a commander in the Royal Navy
Arthur Morrell, later a Rear-Admiral in the Royal Navy
Eliza Mary Anne Morrell
Isabella Cunard Morrell
Finally, Morrell returned to sea service in 1843, on being given command of HMS Espoir.
After a brief period commanding HMS Espoir, which included successfully interdicting slave ships off the west coast of Africa, Morrell, now a commander, was in 1844 appointed governor of Ascension Island, an island in the Atlantic that held strategic value to Britain, due to its proximity to both Africa and South America.
He served as the island's 16th administrator for nearly three years, during which time the Royal Navy continued to engage the slave trade, and would have used the island as a base of operations and victualling stop.1801: entered the Royal Navy as a first class volunteer aboard HMS Doris.
1803-1804: served on HMS Pique, 36
1806: Promoted to Master's Mate aboard HMS Redbridge, 12
1808: Served on board HMS Polyphemus, 64, (Captain William Pryce Cumby commanding)
1809: Confirmed to the rank of lieutenant.
1814: Served on board HMS Termagant, sloop, (Captain John Lampeu Manley commanding
1818: Appointed first lieutenant of HMHS Dorothea, under Commander David Buchan
1821: First lieutenant aboard HMS Revolutionnaire, 46, (Captain the Hon. Fleetwood Pellew
1823–1841: On half-pay.
1843: Commander of HMS Espoir, 10
1844–1846: Governor of Ascension Island. Although his appointment was to have been permanent, he was superseded and he returned to sea service.
1846: Commander of HMS Hydra
1856: Promoted to Captain and awarded the Arctic Medal (1818–1855) on retirement from the Royal Navy.