George Blagdon Westcott
c1753-98. The eldest of seven children of Benjamin Westcott, a Honiton baker, and of his wife Susanna Bampfield, he was baptised in the Devonshire town on 24 April 1753.
Westcott entered the Navy in 1768 aboard the Solebay 28, Captain Lucius O’Bryen, serving on this ship as cabin boy, able seaman and a midshipman for five years, in which time Captain George Vandeput succeeded to the command in the summer of 1770. From 1773-6 he served on the home-based guardship Albion 74 as a midshipman to Captain Hon. Samuel Barrington and thereafter Captain Hon. John Leveson-Gower, and after passing his lieutenant’s examination on 1 January 1776 he was commissioned lieutenant of the Valiant 74 on 6 August 1777, again serving under Captain Leveson-Gower.
He subsequently fought at the Battle of Ushant on 27 July 1778 and continued in the Valiant under the command of Captain Samuel Goodall during the Channel fleet retreat of August 1779, and in Vice-Admiral George Darby’s relief of Gibraltar on 12 April 1781. In November that year he moved to Rear-Admiral Richard Kempenfelt’s flagship Victory 100, Captain Henry Cromwell, and was present in that officer’s brilliant attack on a French convoy on 12 December. Remaining with the Victory when she accepted Admiral Lord Howe’s flag and the captaincy of Henry Duncan in April 1782, he was present at the relief of Gibraltar on 18 October and at the subsequent engagement with the Spanish fleet off Cape Spartel.
Westcott apparently saw a brief period of duty aboard the Medway 60 following the peace, which vessel was fitted for the Ordinary at Plymouth during the summer of 1783, and he returned to active duty when serving from 1786-7 as the first lieutenant of the Salisbury 50, Captain Erasmus Gower, flying the broad pennant of Commodore John Elliott at Newfoundland.
On 1 December 1787 he was promoted to the rank of commander, and from August 1789 he commanded the sloop Fortune 16. During the Spanish Armament he was posted captain on 1 October 1790 to the London 90, flagship of Rear-Admiral Samuel Granston Goodall, which having also been in commission during the Russian Armament was paid off at the end of 1791.
Westcott remained on half-pay until September 1793 when he joined the Impregnable 98, on which vessel he raised the flag of Rear-Admiral Benjamin Caldwell in April 1794. After participating in the Battle of the Glorious First of June, when his ship lost seven men killed and twenty-four wounded despite fighting from too far to windward, he exchanged with Captain Charles Cotton into the Majestic 74 in October. Next taking Caldwell out to the West Indies, he returned with Admiral Sir John Laforey in June 1796, but sadly the admiral died two days before the ship reached home.
Westcott subsequently joined the squadron commanded by Vice-Admiral John Colpoys off Brest and had the misfortune to be present during the mutiny at Plymouth from 26 April 1797. At the end of the year the Majestic was one of the ships sent out to reinforce Admiral Lord St. Vincent in the Mediterranean Fleet, and she quickly captured the Spanish corvette Bocador 16 off Lisbon on 14 November.
In May 1798 the Majestic was despatched under the orders of Captain Thomas Troubridge to join Rear-Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson’s detached squadron in the Mediterranean. The Majestic was the tenth ship in the British line at the Battle of the Nile on 1 August 1798, and upon coming into the action Wescott was killed by a musket shot to the throat. He was one of fifty men killed and one hundred and forty-three wounded aboard the Majestic, the heavy casualties being second only to those of the Bellerophon. His first lieutenant, Robert Cuthbert, commanded the ship for the remainder of the action and was accordingly promoted for his efforts.
Captain Westcott was buried at sea on the morning after the Battle of the Nile. He left a mother, several sisters, a widow and a daughter, whose straitened circumstances were brought to the attention of the House of Commons in November 1798 by Whitshed Keene, the M.P. for Montgomery, who asked that provision be made for them.
He was accorded a public monument in St. Paul’s Cathedral. In January 1801 Lord Nelson visited his mother and widow who were living in near poverty at Honiton, and presented them with his own Nile medal as Westcott’s had not been received. A protégé of Admiral Samuel Goodall, he was viewed as a good officer and a good man.