Loftus Otway Bland

1771-1810. Descended from an old Yorkshire family, he was born in Ireland, the son of Captain Neville Bland of Dublin, and of his wife, Charlotte Smith.

Bland was commissioned lieutenant on 6 September 1794 whilst serving aboard the Lively 32, Acting-Captain George Burlton, and he was one of two men wounded when she forced the surrender of the French corvette Tourterelle 28 off Ushant on 13 March 1795. For some time, the sight of his left eye and possibly his naval career was despaired of, but happily he recovered sufficiently to resume employment. Remaining with the Lively, he served in the Mediterranean under Captain Benjamin Hallowell, and was one of three lieutenants who supported Lieutenant Thomas Masterman Hardy at the celebrated cutting out of the French brig Mutine 14 from Santa Cruz, Tenerife, on 29 May 1797, prior to Rear-Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson’s disastrous expedition against that island during July.

He was promoted commander of the bomb Thunder 10 on 11 August 1797, which vessel was attached to the Mediterranean Fleet, and in June 1798 he commissioned the French-built Espoir 14, a sloop he considered to be unseaworthy. Continuing his service on the same station, on 7 August his brig was attacked by the Genoese pirate vessel Liguria 26 off Gibraltar whilst engaged on convoy duty, yet following a four-hour engagement it was the enemy who surrendered, having suffered casualties of seven men killed and fourteen wounded in return for the Espoir losing one man killed and six wounded. In recognition of this victory, Bland was posted captain on 25 September; however, he was still aboard the Espoir when she captured the French cutter Fulminante 8 on 29 October between Tarifa and Tangiers after that vessel had also attacked his brig.

On 7 November 1798 he was appointed the acting-captain of the Nile prize Tonnant 80, relinquishing this position early in the following year having commissioned her for service. Returning home, in January 1799 he was presented to the King at a levee by Rear-Admiral Sir Robert Calder.

In August 1800 Bland commissioned the recently captured French privateer Heureuse as the Heureux 24, sailing to join the Channel Fleet from Plymouth in November. During February 1801 he took her out to the Leeward Islands with a convoy, and remaining on that station, he captured the swift French schooner Egypte 16 off Barbados on 28 May after a sixteen-hour chase and three-hour engagement. Not long afterwards, he lost a young midshipman by the name of Morin who fell to his death from aloft whilst skylarking at Martinique. Arriving at Barbados from Trinidad on 29 April 1803, Bland commanded the Heureux under Commodore Sir Samuel Hood during his Leeward Islands campaign from June-September. The Dutch schooner Serpent was captured on 26 August after the Heureux had formed part of a small squadron which, along with a body of troops under Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Nicholson, had been sent to complete the formality of taking Berbice on 26 September. A further capture on 26 February 1804 off Barbados, was the French armed schooner Flebustier 6.

Captain Bland’s early career was spent on HMS Lively, aboard which he was facially injured in her capture of a French corvette.

In the late summer of 1804, Bland transferred to the Blenheim 74, which on 17 September arrived off Portsmouth with a convoy from Barbados before proceeding to the Downs. Returning to Portsmouth, the Blenheim entered dock on 26 September to undergo a thorough repair. He did not long retain the command, for on 25 February 1805 Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Troubridge raised his flag aboard her prior to sailing for the East Indies, where the ship would be lost with all hands.

Bland’s next command was the twenty-six-year-old frigate Flora 36, which he commissioned in May 1805 at Deptford, prior to going down the Thames at the end of June and arriving at Yarmouth, on 11 July. She spent the next few months operating out of that port, and on 14 October sailed with livestock and vegetables for the fleet off the Texel, as she did once more at the end of November. In early December she was off the Texel when Bland first received intelligence that Austria had sued for peace with France, and at the instruction of Rear-Admiral Thomas Macnamara Russell, he returned to Yarmouth to deliver this news. On 18 December the Flora sailed for the Elbe to collect the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancashire, Lord Harrowby, who had been on a diplomatic mission to the courts of Austria, Russia, and Prussia. Whilst awaiting the diplomat, Bland commanded a small squadron in the Elbe guarding up to one hundred transports, although his dispositions were abruptly changed on the arrival of Commodore Edward Owen. The Flora eventually returned to Yarmouth with Lord Harrowby and his suite on 2 February 1806.

Bland continued to command the Flora in the North Sea thereafter, returning to Yarmouth from the Texel in early March 1806 to report that he had seen the Dutch squadron of seven sail of the line at anchor despite earlier reports that it had put to sea. During this service his frigate captured several merchant prizes. In early August she arrived at Portsmouth prior to joining the Channel Fleet, and in the course of this employment her boats took the Vigo-based Spanish cutter Espedarte 6 on 25 November. By early February 1807 she was back on the Downs station from Plymouth, whereupon she sailed for a cruise off Boulogne; however, on 21 February she entered Portsmouth having lost her mizzen and maintop masts in a gale. During March she sailed for the Downs, and she spent the remainder of the year in and out of Yarmouth and patrolling off the Texel with little incident, other than losing her topmasts in a gale at the end of November.

On 19 January 1808 the Flora was wrecked off the Terschelling reef on the Dutch coast during a gale, having initially got off but then been beached when it had become clear that she could not be saved. After supervising the construction of rafts, Bland got away in the barge and landed on the island of Ameland following an eighteen-hour row. About one hundred and thirty of his crew reached shore on the rafts at about the same time, and the majority of the remainder, who had initially decided to remain with the ship, got ashore four days later. Only nine men out of her crew of two hundred and fifty lost their lives, and the boats of the sloop Forester 16, Commander John Richards, later went in to burn the wreck. Taken prisoner, Bland was exchanged to arrive at Yarmouth on 12 May with several other officers aboard the sloop Zenobia 16, Commander Alexander Mackenzie.

He was next appointed to the sail of the line Africa 64, recommissioning her in March 1809 after she had undergone a thorough refit in the Thames, and arriving at Yarmouth on 24 April, prior to joining the Baltic Fleet. Whilst on this duty Bland evidently became ill, for he was removed to the hospital ship Gorgon in the Baltic on 31 October.

Captain Bland died at his lodgings in Exeter on 7 July 1810 at the age of thirty-nine.

He married Sarah Ashbourner, a widow and the daughter of Samuel Forte at Barbados on 15 February 1803, with whom he had two daughters and a son. Having amassed a good fortune, he was able to live in Bath, although his will gave his address at Dix’s Field, Southenhay, Exeter, Devon.