William Bligh

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Vice Admiral William Bligh FRS RN (9 September 1754 – 7 December 1817) was an officer of the British Royal Navy and a colonial administrator. A notorious mutiny occurred during his command of HMS Bounty in 1789; Bligh and his loyal men made a remarkable voyage to Timor, after being set adrift in the Bounty's launch by the mutineers . Fifteen years after the Bounty mutiny, he was appointed Governor of New South Wales in Australia, with orders to clean up the corrupt rum trade of the New South Wales Corps, resulting in the so-called Rum Rebellion.


Early life

Bligh was born in St Tudy near Bodmin[1] in Cornwall to Francis and Jane Bligh (née Balsam).[2] He was signed up for the Royal Navy in 1761, at the age of seven, in the same town. It was common practice to sign on a "young gentleman" simply in order to acquire the necessary experience at sea required for promotion. In 1770, at the age of 16, he joined HMS Hunter as an able seaman, the term being used only because there was no vacancy for a midshipman. He became a midshipman early in the following year of 1771. In September 1771, Bligh was transferred to the Crescent and remained on that ship for three years.

In 1776, Bligh was selected by Captain James Cook for the position of sailing master on the Resolution and accompanied Captain Cook in July 1776 on Cook's third and fatal voyage to the Pacific. He reached England again at the end of 1780 and was able to give further details of Cook's last voyage.

Bligh married Elizabeth Betham, the daughter of a Customs Collector (stationed in Douglas, Isle of Man), on 4 February 1781, at the age of 26. The wedding took place at nearby Onchan.[3] A few days later, he was appointed to serve on HMS Belle Poule as its master. Soon after this, in August 1781, he fought in the Battle of Dogger Bank under Admiral Parker. For the next 18 months, he was a lieutenant on various ships. He also fought with Lord Howe at Gibraltar in 1782.

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