Westcott, George Blagdon (DNB00)

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WESTCOTT, GEORGE BLAGDON (1745?–1798), captain in the navy, born about 1745, said to have been the son of a baker in Honiton, joined the 28-gun frigate Solebay, as master's mate, under the command of Captain Lucius O'Bryen, in 1768. As master's mate, able seaman, and midshipman, he continued in the Solebay for nearly five years under O'Bryen and George Vandeput [q. v.] . Afterwards he was for three years in the Albion as midshipman with Samuel Barrington [q. v.] and John Leveson-Gower [q. v.] , and passed his examination on 10 Jan. 1776, when he was described as ‘appearing’ to be ‘more than twenty-two.’ He can scarcely have been less than thirty at this time. On 6 Aug. 1777 he was promoted to be lieutenant of the Valiant, still with Gower, and afterwards with Samuel Granston Goodall [q. v.] ; was in her in the action off Ushant on 27 July 1778; in the fleet under Sir Charles Hardy the younger [q. v.] , in the summer of 1779; and under Vice-admiral George Darby at the relief of Gibraltar in April 1781. In November he was moved into the Victory, carrying the flag of Rear-admiral Richard Kempenfelt [q. v.] in his brilliant attack on the French convoy on 12 Dec., and of Richard, lord Howe [q. v.], in the relief of Gibraltar and the action off Cape Spartel in October 1782. In 1786–7 (after service in the Medway) he was first lieutenant of the Salisbury, carrying the broad pennant of Commodore John Elliot (d. 1808) [q. v.], commander-in-chief in Newfoundland, and on 1 Dec. 1787 was promoted to be commander. In 1789–90 he commanded the Fortune sloop, and from her was promoted to be captain on 1 Oct. 1790, and he was appointed to the London as flag-captain to his old chief Goodall.

The London was paid off in the end of 1791, and Westcott remained on half-pay till September 1793, when he joined the Impregnable as flag-captain to Rear-admiral Benjamin Caldwell [q. v.], with whom he took part in the battle of 1 June 1794. Afterwards he followed Caldwell to the Majestic, went with him to the West Indies, and remained there with Sir John Laforey [q. v.], whom he brought to England in June 1796. As a private ship the Majestic then joined the Channel fleet, was with Colpoys off Brest in December, and with Bridport during the mutiny at Spithead in April and May 1797. Towards the end of the year she joined the fleet off Cadiz under the Earl of St. Vincent, and in May 1798 was one of the ships sent up the Mediterranean [see Troubridge, Sir Thomas] to join Sir Horatio Nelson (Viscount Nelson) [q. v.]. In the battle of the Nile her position in the rear of the line made her rather late in coming into action, and in the darkness and smoke she ran her jibboom into the main-rigging of the French Heureux, in which position she remained caught for several minutes and suffered heavy loss. At this time Westcott was killed by a musket-ball in the throat, but the ship was gallantly fought through the battle by her first lieutenant, Cuthbert, who was promoted to the vacant command on the next day by Nelson.

It is as one of the celebrated ‘band of brothers’ and by his death in the hour of victory that Westcott is best known. Collingwood wrote of him: ‘A good officer and a worthy man; but, if it was a part of our condition to choose a day to die on, where could he have found one so memorable, so eminently distinguished among great days?’ And Goodall wrote: ‘He sleeps in the bed of honour, and in all probability will be immortalised among the heroes in the Abbey. Requiescat in pace. Never could he have died more honourably. I have him to lament among many deserving men whom I have patronised, that have passed away in the prime of their lives’ (Nicolas, Nelson Despatches, iii. 86–7). A monument to his memory was erected at the public expense in St. Paul's. At Honiton also a monument was erected by subscription.

Westcott left a widow and daughter. In January 1801, passing through Honiton, Nelson invited them to breakfast, and presented Mrs. Westcott with his own Nile medal, saying, ‘You will not value it less because Nelson has worn it.’ On 17 Jan. 1801 he wrote to Lady Hamilton: ‘At Honiton I visited Captain Westcott's mother — poor thing, except from the bounty of government and Lloyd's, in very low circumstances. The brother is a tailor, but had they been chimney-sweepers it was my duty to show them respect’ (Mrs. Gamlin's, Nelson's Friendships, i. 64).

[There is no record of Westcott's life beyond the logs and pay-books of the ships in which he served, in the Public Record Office. So far as it can be tested, the traditional anecdote (Naval Chronicle, xii. 453) is unworthy of credit; but it seems probable that, whether in a ship of war or a merchantman, Westcott's beginnings were very humble.]

J. K. L.