William Blair

1741-1782. He was the son of Daniel Blair of Edinburgh.

Having served in the merchant marine and then been employed at various times in the navy as a servant, able seaman and midshipman, Blair was commissioned lieutenant on 9 October 1760. From October 1765 until March 1766 he commanded the Deal Castle 24 for the sick Captain Digby Dent, and he briefly held the command of the Senegal from October 1771, taking her around from Spithead to Sheerness where she was docked.

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Captain Blair lost his life at the Battle of the Saintes in 1782

Her had to wait until 6 December 1777 for further advancement, being promoted to the rank of commander and joining the sloop Wasp 8. He was subsequently posted captain of the Princess Royal 90 on 18 April 1778, and he served as flag captain to Vice-Admiral Hon. John Byron in the fleet going out to North America on 9 June, encountering the horrific storms which scattered that force all over the Atlantic. After sailing for the Leeward Islands in December he subsequently fought at Byron’s badly directed Battle of Grenada on 6 July 1779. Having been superseded by Captain Harry Harmood when Rear-Admiral Hyde Parker succeeded Byron as the commander-in-chief in the late summer and took the Princess Royal as his flagship, Blair joined the Nonsuch 74 in order to bring her home, and she was paid off in December at Sheerness.

In March 1781 he commissioned the new Dolphin 44 for service in the North Sea, and on 5 August 1781 he commanded her at the Battle of the Doggersbank, his ship fighting in the line of battle and being roughly handled by the Dutch cannon. This display of courage earned him special praise from the Admiralty.

In September 1781 he was appointed to the new Anson 64, initially serving in the Channel fleet before going out to the Leeward Islands in January. He fought in the leading squadron of Rear-Admiral Francis Drake’s division at the Battle of the Saintes on 12 April 1782, and although the action was warm from the start Blair was one of but a few men killed on board the Anson.

A monument to Blair and Captains William Bayne and Lord Robert Manners who also lost their lives from wounds incurred at the Battle of the Saintes was erected in their memory in Westminster Abbey. His will stated that he resided in the City of London.