Greig, Samuel (DNB00)

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GREIG, Sir SAMUEL (1735–1788), admiral of the Russian navy, son of Charles Greig, shipowner of Inverkeithing in Fifeshire, and of his wife, Jane, daughter of the Rev. Samuel Charters of Inverkeithing, was born at Inverkeithing on 30 Nov. 1735. After serving some years at sea in merchant ships he entered the royal navy as master's mate on board the Firedrake bomb, in which he served at the reduction of Goree in 1758. He afterwards served in the Royal George during the blockade of Brest in 1759, and in her, carrying Sir Edward Hawke's flag, was present in the decisive action of Quiberon Bay. In 1761 he was acting lieutenant of the Albemarle armed ship, and was admitted to pass his examination on 25 Jan. 1762. His rank, however, was not confirmed, and he was still serving as a master's mate at the reduction of Havana in 1762. On the conclusion of the peace in 1763 he was one of a small number of officers permitted to take service in the navy of Russia, in which, in 1764, he was appointed a lieutenant. In a very short time he was promoted to the rank of captain, and in 1769 was appointed to command a division of the fleet which sailed for the Mediterranean under Count Orloff, and, being reinforced by a squadron which went out under Rear-admiral John Elphinston [q. v.], destroyed the Turkish fleet in the Bay of Chesme on 7-8 July 1770. Greig's share in this success was no doubt important; but it has been perhaps exaggerated in common report by his later celebrity. The British officers all did well, but the special command of the decisive operations was vested in Elphinston. Greig was at once promoted to be rear-admiral, and continued with Orloff, while Elphinston was detached on an independent expedition to the Dardanelles. During the following years the war by sea was for the most part limited to destroying Turkish magazines and stores; but on 10 Oct. 1773 a Turkish squadron of ten ships was met and completely defeated by a Russian squadron of slightly inferior force. At the end of 1773 Greig returned to St. Petersburg, in order to attend personally to the fitting out of reinforcements; in command of which, with the rank of vice-admiral, he sailed in February 1774, and joined Count Orloff at Leghorn, whence he pushed on to join the fleet in the Archipelago. Peace was, however, shortly afterwards concluded, and Greig returned to Russia, where, during the succeeding years, he devoted himself to the improvement and development of the Russian navy. His services were acknowledged by the empress, who appointed him grand admiral, governor of Cronstadt, and knight of the orders of St. Andrew, St. George, St. Vladimir, and St. Anne, and on 18 July 1776 paid him a state visit on board the flagship, dined in the cabin, reviewed the fleet, and returned after placing on the admiral's breast the star of St. Alexander Newski. At this time, and in his efforts for the improvement of the Russian navy, Greig drew into it a very considerable number of British officers, principally Scotchmen, with a result that was certainly of permanent benefit to the navy, but proved at the time the cause of some embarrassment to the country, as rendering its foreign policy dependent on the good will of the aliens in its service. In 1780 the ‘armed neutrality’ was reduced virtually to an ‘armed nullity’ by the fact that the navy was not available for service against England (Diaries and Correspondence of the First Earl of Malmesbury, i. 306). On the outbreak of the war with Sweden in 1788 Greig took command of the fleet in the Gulf of Finland, and on 17 July fought a very severe but indecisive action with the Swedes off the island of Hogland. Greig felt that he had not been properly seconded by the superior Russian officers under his command, and sent seventeen of them prisoners to St. Petersburg, charged with having shamefully abandoned the rear-admiral, and being thus guilty of the loss of his ship. They were all, it is said, condemned to the hulks. The force displayed by the Russians was, however, an unpleasant surprise to the Swedes, who had counted on having the command of the sea, and were now obliged to modify their plans, and to act solely on the defensive. Through the autumn Greig held them shut up in Sveaborg; but his health, already failing, gave way under the continued strain, and he died on board his ship on 15-26 Oct. His memory was honoured by a general mourning, and a state funeral in the cathedral at Reval, where ‘a magnificent monument has since been erected to mark the place where he lies.’

Greig's services to the Russian navy consisted in remodelling the discipline, civilising and educating the officers, and gradually forming a navy which enabled Russia to boast of some maritime strength. He left two sons: Alexis [q. v.], afterwards an admiral in the Russian service; and Samuel, who married his second cousin, Mary, daughter of Sir William George Fairfax [q. v.] and wife, by her second marriage, of Dr. William Somerville.

[Gent. Mag. 1788 pt. ii. p. 1125, 1789 pt. i. p. 165; Dublin Univ. Mag. xliv. 156.]

J. K. L.