William Albany Otway

1755-1815. The son of George Otway, he was born on 26 July 1755 and was christened in St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster . His family originated from the Yorkshire-Westmoreland border.

Otway entered the navy in 1765 aboard the Africa 64, Captain Hon. John Leveson-Gower, which ship saw service in the West Indies, and was further employed aboard the Dreadnought 60, Captain Thomas Lee, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral Sir William Burnaby at Jamaica prior to returning in December 1766. In 1770 he went out to the Mediterranean aboard the Niger 32, Captain Francis Banks, and having sailed for the East Indies in April 1772 aboard the Prudent 64, Captain John Clarke Searle, he was commissioned lieutenant of the Dolphin 24, Captain Gideon Johnstone, on that station on 25 August 1773.

Whilst he was serving as the second lieutenant of the frigate Lark 32, Captain Richard Smith, Otway was captured by American rebels when hunting in the Potomac during August 1777, but he had returned to his ship by the end of the following month. During the defence of Rhode Island in August 1778 he commanded a battery on Goat’s Island after his ship has been destroyed to prevent her capture by the French. Upon returning to England he was appointed first lieutenant of the Triumph 74, Captain Philip Affleck, serving in the Channel fleet and later in the Leeward Islands, and participating in the action with the French fleet from 15 to 21 May 1780, and in the capture of St. Eustatius on 3 February 1781.

Whilst still at St. Eustatius he was promoted commander on 29 March 1781 by Admiral Sir George Rodney and appointed to the Vesuvius 8, later serving in the Downs prior to this vessel being refitted and coppered from July until the following January.

In May 1783 Otway commissioned the new King’s Fisher 18, retaining her for the next three years on the Mediterranean station before paying her off at Deptford, and during February 1787 he commissioned the new Scorpion 16, retaining her at Portsmouth until he was posted captain on 1 December 1787. He then briefly commanded the Pegasus 28 on the Newfoundland station in 1788 before recommissioning the Centurion 50 in February 1789 and becoming flag-captain to Rear-Admiral Phillip Affleck at Jamaica. He retained this vessel until he came home and paid her off in August 1792.

In April 1793 he was appointed to the Boyne 98, in which he sailed under the orders of Rear-Admiral John Gell when that officer took the East India convoy out to Cape Finisterre, and in which he captured the French privateer Guidelon 20 in the Channel during June. At the end of the year the Boyne became the flagship of Vice-Admiral Sir John Jervis, and having been initially assigned to the Belliqueux 64, Otway was appointed to the Powerful 74. After going out to Jamaica in January 1794 he returned to pay her off at Portsmouth later in the year having lost scores of men, including all but two of his officers, to yellow fever. He was then briefly in command of the Flora 36 at Portsmouth from the autumn of 1794 until January 1795.

640px-Evacuation_de_Walcheren_par_les_Anglais_-_30_août_1809_-_Composition_de_PHILIPPOTEAUX

An image of troops being evacuated with the Walcheren fever, an illness which brought about Otway’s early death

Otway became one of five commissioners of the newly appointed Transport Board in September 1795, retaining this post for many years, and he was commissioner of the dockyard at Gibraltar from 1803 until coming home in the following year to sit on the Board of Naval Inquiry.

From the late summer of 1806 he commanded the Glory 98, going out to Cadiz in January, and seeing duty during the following year in the Channel. He was advanced to the rank of rear-admiral on 2 October 1807, briefly retaining the Glory as his flagship with Captain Donald M’Leod as his flag captain, and in January 1808 he took passage out to the Tagus aboard the Lively 38, Captain George M’Kinley, where he flew his flag aboard the Ganges 74, Captain Peter Halkett, and thereafter the Barfleur 98 Captain M’Leod, as second-in-command to Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Cotton. He returned home at the beginning of 1809 on account of his ill health and became second in command at Portsmouth to Admiral George Montagu aboard the Gladiator 44, Lieutenant John Price.

Shifting his flag to the Caesar 80, Otway was second-in-command to Rear-Admiral Sir Richard Strachan during the Walcheren Expedition of July 1809, having special responsibility for the conveyance of Major-General Sir Eyre Coote’s division of seventeen thousand troops. He was left in command when Strachan returned to England on 21 August, and directed the withdrawal from Flushing in December. For a short while he flew his flag aboard the Monarch 74, Captain Richard Lee.

In the course of1810 he was employed as the commander-in-chief in the Thames with his flag aboard the Thisbe 38, Commander William Rogers, and from 1810-13 was commander-in-chief at Leith with his flag in the Adamant 50, Captain Matthew Buckle, transferring with this officer to the Latona 38 on 14 September 1813 and coming ashore for the last time in November.

He was advanced to the rank of vice-admiral on 1 August 1811 and died at Ryde on the Isle of Wight on 30 July 1815, having suffered several years of ill-health as a result of contracting the Walcheren Fever during 1809.

Otway married Hannah Burdon of Hartford Bridge, Northumberland, on 24 November 1788 in Newcastle and had issue six children of whom just three daughters were alive in 1810. He was the father-in-law of Rear-Admiral Samuel Hood Inglefield, and his flag-lieutenant from 1808-13 was Matthew Popplewell.

He was regarded as modest with a dry sense of humour.