Edward Sneyd Clay
1768-1846. He was a younger of four sons of William Clay, a Nottinghamshire attorney, and of his wife Jemima Pelham. An elder brother was Major-General William Waldegrave Pelham Clay, with one other brother entering the army and the other the clergy.
Clay entered the Navy on 15 April 1783 aboard the Hector 74, Captain Sir John Hamilton, and saw further service aboard the Europa 50, Captain Hon. Michael De Courcy, flying the flag of Vice-Admiral James Gambier at Jamaica from 1783. He then spent some time on the yacht Catherine, Captain Sir George Young, and from the end of 1786 saw duty in the Mediterranean with the Phaeton 38, Captain George Dawson. From 1790-1 he was aboard the Solebay 32, Captain Matthew Squire, serving in the Leeward Islands.
At the start of the French Revolutionary War he was employed aboard the Alcide 74, Captain Robert Linzee, seeing service in the Mediterranean and participating in the occupation of Toulon from August 1793 and the campaign to capture Corsica from February 1794.
Clay was commissioned lieutenant on 19 March 1794 and saw service in this rank aboard the Toulon-prize Mulette 20, Captains Joseph Bullen and Richard Goddard, before in 1795 joining the Magnificent 74, Captain Matthew Squire, and during the following year the Montagu 74, Captain John Knight. Later removing to the Venerable 74, Captain William Fairfax, which ship flew the flag of Admiral Adam Duncan in the North Sea, he was severely wounded when serving as her fifth lieutenant at the Battle of Camperdown on 11 October 1797. He later transferred with Duncan to the Kent 74, Captain William Johnstone Hope, which vessel supported the Netherlands campaign from August to October 1799.
Having been given the honour of taking home Admiral Duncan?s despatches, Clay arrived at the Admiralty on 31 August 1799 and within days it was reported that he had been promoted commander. On 3 December he was appointed to the sloop Zebra 16 in the North Sea, joining Vice-Admiral Archibald Dickson?s expedition to Elsinore, and being present at the Battle of Copenhagen on 2 April 1801, following which his command was paid off and he entered a four year period of unemployment. Nevertheless, he was posted captain along with a host of other officers on 29 April 1802.
From July 1805 until May 1808 Clay was the regulating officer at Belfast, and he returned to active employment flying the flag of Rear-Admiral Eliab Harvey aboard the St George 98 in the Channel Fleet, with which he returned to Plymouth from Ushant at the end of August. He subsequently commanded the T?m?raire 98 from February 1809 in the Baltic with the flag of Rear-Admiral Manley Dixon, spending three months of the summer an anchor off Nargen Island near Revel where the officers and crew helped themselves to Russian timber and even spent time living ashore. After arriving back in England in November 1809 Clay was presented to the King at a levee at the beginning of May 1810.
He next joined the Nymphe 36 on 14 May 1810, ferrying over 500,000 dollars out to Portugal in July, and returning to Portsmouth on 7 August. On 26 October he captured the Danish privateer schooner Norwegian Girl 2 off Walbert?s Head, Scotland, but on 18 December his frigate was wrecked along with the Pallas 32, Captain George Paris Monke, in the Firth of Forth with nine men losing their lives. Clay was acquitted of any blame for the disaster at the resultant court martial aboard the Bellerophon 74 in the Downs on 26 January 1811, but the sailing master and pilot were found guilty of misidentifying the light of a kiln for that on May Island and thereby causing the shipwreck.
On 16 July 1812 he joined the guard ship Raisonnable 64 at Sheerness, and he went ashore for the last time in June 1814.
In 1815 Clay was granted a 250 guinea pension on account of the wounds he had suffered at the Battle of Camperdown, and in retirement he visited Bath and was presented to the King on at least two occasions, one of these being to celebrate his son?s promotion to lieutenant. He was advanced to rear-admiral on the retired list on 10 January 1837, and was reinstated to the serving list on 17 August 1840.
Admiral Clay died at Southwell in Nottinghamshire aged 78 on 3 February 1846.
His wife, Elizabeth Mary Knight, the daughter of Admiral Sir John Knight, whom he had married on 26 December 1797 at Rochester, Kent, predeceased him after a long illness at Exmouth on 20 April 1837. They had a son, William Noble Clay, who entered the Navy with his father aboard the Raisonnable in 1813, was promoted lieutenant in 1822, and later served in the Coast Guard. A second son, James Bertie Clay, died in February 1835 at the age of 34.
In his 1799 despatch Admiral Duncan described Clay as ?an intelligent and deserving officer?.