Green, William (1725-1811) (DNB00)

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GREEN, Sir WILLIAM (1725–1811), general, was the eldest son of Godfrey Green, an Irish gentleman who married, at Aberdeen, Helen, sister of Adam Smith. Godfrey settled at Durham, but his son William was educated at Aberdeen by his mother's sisters. On 1 Jan. 1737 he received the warrant of a cadet gunner, and joined at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich Warren. On 12 March 1743 he was appointed a practitioner engineer, and stationed at Portsmouth. Early in 1745 he joined the engineer brigade in Flanders, took part in all the operations of the campaign, and was present at the battle of Fontenoy. In 1746 he embarked with the expedition under St. Clair to the coast of Brittany, and was at the siege of L'Orient and the descent on Quiberon. On 2 Jan. 1747 he was promoted to be sub-engineer, and was again in the field in Flanders with local rank of engineer-in-ordinary. During the campaign he was present in the action of Sandberg, near Hulst, at the battle of Val, where he was wounded and taken prisoner, and at the siege of Bergen-op-Zoom from 13 July to 16 Sept. He drew four plans of this fortress, dated 1751, now in the British Museum. When the army left Flanders he remained with some other engineers to make a survey of the Austrian Netherlands. He, with a brother officer, made plans of the district between Bois-le-Duc and Geertruidenberg, showing the inundation, and also careful drawings of the galleries and mines of the fortress of Luxemburg. These are now in the King's Library, British Museum. On 2 Jan. 1748 Green obtained the warrant of engineer-extraordinary. On his recall from the Netherlands he was sent to Portsmouth to push on the fortifications of the dockyard, and remained there until the summer of 1750, when he was removed to Landguard Fort under Justly Watson.

In 1752 Green was sent to Newfoundland, where he completed the survey and made a report on the defences. In 1755 he was appointed chief engineer at Newfoundland, and made a reconnaissance of Louisberg, sending a plan of the town and harbour to the king. In 1757 he was attached to the expedition commanded by the Earl of Loudoun. Green joined the army of which Dugal Campbell was chief engineer at Halifax, Nova Scotia, on 14 May. On the previous 14 May the engineers for the first time received ordinary military titles, and Green was commissioned as captain-lieutenant in the army. At Halifax he was employed in instructing the troops in military engineering work. He accompanied the fleet in its reconnaissance of Cape Breton and Louisberg. On 4 Jan. 1758 he was promoted engineer-in-ordinary and captain He was present in the action of 8 June on landing at Cape Breton, and at the siege and capture of Louisberg. He was next sent to the Lake country for duty under Major-general James Abercromby, and detached to the Oneida station to build a fort. In the campaign of 1759 Green was attached to the division of the army under Wolfe, and was present at the repulse at Montmorenci on 31 July, at the siege of Quebec, and at the battle on the plains of Abraham on 13 Sept. At the latter he was wounded in the forehead by a splinter from a shell. While before Quebec he was promoted (10 Sept.) to be sub-director and major of the corps. He was engaged in the final operations for the subjugation of Canada, and in the capture of Montreal. In. 1760 he was present at the battle of Sillery, 28 April, and afterwards engaged in the defence of Quebec during the French siege.

On the conclusion of the Canadian campaign Green returned to England and joined for duty at Plymouth. He was shortly afterwards appointed senior engineer at Gibraltar. On 8 Feb. 1762 he was promoted lieutenant-colonel. In 1769 he came home to explain to the board of ordnance his projects for improving the defence of the Rock. He brought with him some osseous breccia which he presented to Mr. Boddington, the corps' agent, and an account was read by Dr. Hunter, F.R.S., on 17 Feb. 1770, to the Royal Society. In 1770 Green was back again at Gibraltar, and made his valuable report on the defence works of this fortress, and his proposals to render the Rock impregnable at an estimate of over 50,000l. This report is in the British Museum. On the recommendation of the chief engineer of Great Britain, General Skinner, the king sanctioned the expenditure, and the works were carried out in accordance with Green's plans. On 7 Nov. 1770 he was promoted chief engineer at Gibraltar, with extra pay of 30s. a day, derivable from the revenues of the place. In 1771 he designed the general hospital. In 1772, on Green's strong recommendation, the king granted him a warrant to raise a company of military artificers, which was the germ of the rank and file of the corps of royal engineers. On 29 Aug. 1777 Green was promoted colonel in the army, and was sent by the governor, Sir George Eliott (afterwards Lord Heathfield) to England to induce Lord Townshend to give additional money to perfect the works at Gibraltar. He had several personal interviews with the king, to whom he explained his plans (now in the British Museum), and he returned to Gibraltar in May 1778 with full powers to go on with the proposed new works. On 18 Dec. 1778 he was promoted to the engineer rank of director. Throughout the famous siege, which began in June 1779, he was prominent as chief engineer. On 17 April 1781 he was appointed brigadier-general. His house was so exposed to the fire of the enemy that he had to move his family into a bombproof shelter, where his wife caught a chill, from which, although sent to England in July, she never recovered. At the affair of 18 July, when the Queen's battery at Willis's was broken up by the enemy's fire, Green had it completely reconstructed during the night. In December Green received his commission as major-general, dated 19 Oct. 1781. In May 1782 he constructed the celebrated subterranean galleries in the north front, including St. George's Hall. On 13 Sept. he was conspicuous in his exertions during the combined attack by the land forces and the fleets, and the success of his kilns for heating shot was complete. The red-hot shot were supplied uninterruptedly throughout the day and night, destroying many ships. In Copley's picture of this day's work Green is depicted in the group round the governor. In November the enemy opened the cave on the precipitous side of the Rock, which Green had closed up before the siege, and, although fifty-seven years of age, he had himself lowered down the face of the Rock many hundred feet to ascertain what was being done. He rebuilt the Orange bastion on the sea face—a heavy piece of masonry—during a continuous cannonade. The siege was raised in February 1783, after it had lasted three and a half years.

Green embarked for England on 7 June 1783, after twenty-two years' service at Gibraltar. On arrival in London he had an audience with the king, and received the thanks of both houses of parliament. In 1784 he was appointed a member of the board on the fortifications of Plymouth and Portsmouth, presided over by the Duke of Richmond. On 10 June 1786 he was created a baronet, and on 15 Nov. following presented with the patent of chief engineer of Great Britain, in the room of General Bramham, deceased. In 1787 he succeeded in carrying out an extension of the artificer companies, and was appointed commandant of the corps in addition to his duties as chief engineer of Great Britain. In 1788 he was appointed president of the defence committee, a position he held for the next nine years. On 12 Oct. 1793 he was promoted lieutenant-general, and on 1 Jan. 1798 full general, and in 1802 retired on a pension, and lived in retirement at Brambleberry House, Plumstead, Kent. He died on 10 Jan. 1811 at Bifrons, near Canterbury, while on a visit to his daughter Miriam, the wife of General Nicolls, commanding the Kent district. He was buried at Plumstead, where there is a tombstone with inscription, and there is also a tablet to his memory in Plumstead Church. He married, on 26 Feb. 1754, Miriam, daughter of Colonel Justly Watson. His son Justly Watson succeeded to the baronetcy. He was an officer of the 1st royals, and was selected to attend Prince Edward (afterwards Duke of Kent) in his travels. He died without issue in 1862, and the baronetcy became extinct.

[Conolly Papers; Corps Records; Siege of Gibraltar, see Drinkwater, Ancell, and Heriot.]

R. H. V.