William Bligh was an eighteenth century naval captain caught up in the Mutiny on the Bounty
When and Where was he Born?
9th September 1754, St Tudy, Cornwall, England. (possibly Plymouth Devon).
William Bligh came from a local Devon family.
Local Schools. He went to sea at the age of fifteen.
Timeline/Biography of William Bligh:
1754: Bligh was baptised at St Andrew’s Church, Plymouth, the church where his parents had got married a year previously.
1770: He joined Royal Navy as an Able Seaman on 27th July one the ship HMS Hunter.
1776-79: His first major appointment was on James Cook’s third and last voyage when he served as Master of HMS Resolution.
1781: William Bligh was promoted to Lieutenant on 5th August after action after the Battle of Dogger Bank against the Dutch. (the Dutch republic had been supplying the American colonists with French and Dutch supplies during the War of American Independence)
1782: He took part in the relief of Gibraltar on 13th October against the French and the Spanish.
1783-87: Bligh entered the Merchant service after the declaration of peace.
1787: He commanded HMS Britannia where Midshipman Fletcher Christian sailed with him. On 16th August he was appointed to command H.M.S. Bounty on an expedition organised by Sir Joseph Banks and the Admiralty. He was to sail to Tahiti to collect breadfruit plants for transplantation in the West Indies to feed the slave population. The ship left Spithead ion the Solent near Portsmouth on 23rd December but failed to round Cape Horn due to storms and went instead via the Cape of Good Hope off southern Africa.
1788: William Bligh finally arrived in Tahiti on 26th October.
1789: He left Tahiti on 4th April with his cargo. On 28th April a mutiny led by Fletcher Christian was staged. The revolt came to a head when Christian was accused by Bligh of stealing his coconuts and stopped the rum ration of the entire crew in retaliation. Many of the crew were already not happy that they had had to leave their easy life with the Tahitians behind. Bligh and 18 loyal members of the crew were cast adrift in the Bounty’s launch. They reached the Dutch Island of Timor on 12th June after 41 hazardous days at sea, a journey of 6,705 kilometres. Once there he bought a Dutch Schooner and sailed for Jakarta (modern day Indonesia) and then home to England.
1790: Bligh reached Portsmouth on 13th March with only 11 crew members surviving.
1791: On 3rd August he embarked on a second breadfruit voyage in H.M.S. Providence taking another ship with him.
1793: Returned to England on 7th August after a successful voyage.
1797: Bligh commanded a ship at the Battle of Camperdown on 11th October against the Batavian (Dutch) fleet off the Dutch coast.
1801: He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London. He commanded a ship at the Battle of Copenhagen with Lord Nelson against a combined Danish and Norwegian force.
1806: He was offered post as Captain General and Governor of New South Wales, Australia and set sail in February. His wife was too ill to travel but his daughter Mary and her husband Lieutenant John Putland (who became his aide-de-camp) accompanied him. Bligh arrived at Port Jackson on 6th August.
1808: Bligh’s reforms in New South Wales brought him into conflict with the leading men of the colony, notably John MacArthur. On 26th January MacArthur sent Major George Johnston to arrest Bligh and assumed control of the colony.
1811: Johnston was subsequently arrested and tried for this offence. Bligh was promoted to Rear Admiral.
1812: On 15th April his wife died. Bligh and unmarried daughters moved from London to a Manor House in Farningham, near Maidstone, Kent.
1814: Bligh was promoted to Vice Admiral but did not again take command of a ship.
4th February 1781 to Elizabeth Betham, the daughter of a customs collector at Orchan Paris Church, near Douglas, Isle of Man.
When and Where did he Die?
7th December 1817, on visit to London, England.
Age at Death:
Site of Grave:
St. Mary’s Church, Lambeth, London, England next to his wife. This is now the site of the National Garden Museum.
Places of Interest:
Garden Museum, Lambeth. See article on Topiary in the United Kingdom.
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.
Mansion where Bligh retired to still stands, Farningham, near Maidstone. (See more here)