Born in 1822, John Corbett entered the Royal Navy in 1835. In 1851, serving on HMS Penelope on the west coast of Africa, he took part in the storming of Lagos in 1851. Rising through the ranks he became a Commander in 1852 and Captain in 1857. In 1875 he was promoted to Rear-Admiral, and became naval ADC to Queen Victoria. From 1877-79 he was commander-in-chief on the East Indies station. In October 1884 he became Commander-in-chief at the Nore, with responsibility for protecting the North Sea and approaches to the port of London. In 1886 he became a full Admiral, and in 1886 a Knight Commander of the Bath; he retired the following year.