Monument Honors Captain John Ralph Moss, Hero of the Battle of St. George’s Caye
For some, the Battle of St. Georges Caye is viewed as one of the most important events in Belize’s history, but little is known about the people involved in the iconic battle. Over the weekend, however, an instrumental figure who led the HMS Merlin, the flagship of the fleet that defeated the Spanish, was honored. On Sunday, the National Institute for Culture and History and businessman, John Searle unveiled a monument on St. George’s Caye in memory of Captain John Ralph Moss. The British buccaneer led his crew to victory and became victorious in the Battle at St George’s Caye in 1798. History buff and Commandant of the Belize Coast Guard, Rear Admiral Elton Bennett, has spent years researching Moss and was present at the event. Bennett spoke to Love News about the significance of the monument, which mirrored Moss’ brass monumental plate.
RADM Elton Bennett, BCG Commandant: “What we unveiled was really organized by Mr. John Searle from St. George’s Caye. He is the person that was really pushing to preserve this very important part of our history. I mean, he was able to get a replica of what was placed on Moss’s tombstone in Cayman Islands. So he has been working to preserve some of those history and he asked us to go there and perform this very noble or honorable duty in unveiling this monument in memory of Captain Moss. You know, every year the Belize Coast Guard takes up this responsibility to go to St. George’s Caye to do the flag raising. It’s not an official ceremony. There are only a few people out there, just the islanders and those who hold true to the St. George’s Caye activities. So we would normally go out there every year. But this year was very special in that we were able to erect this monument in memory of a very important military officer in their history. Moss was definitely a strategist. He is the one who took the battle out to St.George’s Caye. History tells us that we had coastal defenses in Belize City and along the Haulover River. Those were battery positions that were strategically laid out along the coastal limits of Belize City and then going up north. But now Captain Moss being a true strategist decided to take the battle out to the approaching Spanish Armada and that’s what he did. He marshaled a fleet of his, that comprised of his naval vessel, the Merlin, along with a few others to go out there and they met the Spanish out just off St.George’s Caye and he was able to prevent them from reaching St.George’s Caye and onwards to Belize City. He took advantage of the area, he knew it very well. He understood the limits in between the reefs and the cayes, he understood the channel. He had a real good understanding of the environment which gave him the advantage against the approaching Spaniards.”
In 2021, Rear Admiral Bennett wrote a report on the strategic naval planning by Captain Moss against the Spanish. He explained the importance of the battle’s naval history and the need to learn more about the historic figure.
RADM Elton Bennett, BCG Commandant: “Indeed, I did some research on him. I certainly learned a lot of what he was doing in preparing the settlement for a defense. He was very aggressive as a matter of fact. At one point, he wrote to the magistrates and informed them that if anyone would dare desert or run away from defending that he would point his ship towards their direction and open fire. So he was very aggressive and he truly believed in what he was doing. He came here with a mission and he executed that mission. So there’s a lot that I admire about him. He understood the importance of conducting reconnaissance. He was updating his charts in preparation of this naval defense. So all of that came to play at the Battle of St. George’s Caye. He wasn’t here well in advance you know he was brought over from Jamaica on a special request from the governor in Jamaica. He was deployed here to Belize and he spent a short time and in that short time he had a very good contribution to developing our naval defenses here. So there’s a lot to learn from him even though it’s very historic. I mean it’s 225 years ago but there’s a lot that can be gathered from such a brilliant mind. He was able to maneuver his vessel to ensure that it was in a good defensive position whilst he was able to inflict naval gunfire on an approaching enemy fleet. So there’s a lot to learn from him. My research followed him to Cayman where he died one year later after the Battle of St.George’s Caye.”
Commandant’s Report can be found on The Watchstander Newsletter.////