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William Bligh--born in Plymouth, England, on 9 September 1754--went to sea when only seven years old and won recognition as sailing master of HMS Resolution during Capt. James Cook's third and last exploratory voyage between 1776 and 1780. Appointed lieutenant in the Royal Navy soon thereafter, Bligh carried out "several important hydrographic surveys" and took part in the Battle of Dogger Bank on 5 August 1781. The following year, he fought under Lord Howe at Gibraltar.

Late in the decade, Bligh's reputation as a "skilful navigator" won him command of the 250 ton "armed transport" Bounty. Sailing from England in December 1787 to bring back breadfruit plants for cultivation in the British West Indies, Bounty arrived at Otaheite (Tahiti) 10 months later for what became a five month idyll. The visit, however, undermined discipline and morale in Bounty to such an extent that a mutiny occurred on 28 April 1789. Set adrift in a 23 foot, deeply laden boat, the intrepid Bligh and 18 other loyal men ultimately reached the Portuguese island of Timor, off Java, on 14 June after a perilous 3,618-mile voyage. Bligh reached England on 14 March 1790.

Promoted forthwith to post-captain, Bligh received command of HMS Providence for a second attempt at transporting breadfruit from the Society Islands. In recognition of the discoveries made during this voyage, Bligh received the Gold Medal from the Society of Arts in 1794. Later that year (1794), Bligh commanded the 74-gun HMS Warrior off Ushant, and, three years later, distinguished himself in the Battle of Camperdown, commanding the 64-gun HMS Director as she forced the Dutch flagship, Vreijheld, to strike her colors. Still later, Bligh commanded the 54-gun HMS Glatton during Lord Nelson's victorious action against the Danes and received the personal thanks of the famed admiral for his role in the Battle of Copenhagen on 21 May 1801. Later that year, Bligh was made a fellow of the Royal Society for his "distinguished services in navigation, botany, etc...."

Appointed Captain-General and Governor of New South Wales in 1805, to "prevent an unlimited importation of ardent spirits" (rum) into the colony, Bligh carried out his assignment with such zeal that he aroused the opposition of the vested interests and was "deposed" on 26 January 1808. Imprisoned for over two years, he was released in March 1810. The following year, the government cashiered the man who had overthrown him, Maj. George Johnston.

After his release, Bligh returned to England and, on 31 July 1811, was appointed a rear admiral of the blue. In June 1814, he received his last promotion, vice admiral of the blue, but never flew his flag at sea. In his twilight years, Bligh resided in Farningham, Kent, but died--apparently of cancer--at Bond Street, London, on 7 December 1817.


(DE-76: dp. 1,400; l. 306'0", b. 37'0"; dr. 13'6", s. 23.6 k. (tl.); cpl. 213; a. 3 3", 2 40mm., 10 20mm., 4 dcp., 1 dcp. (hh.), 2 dct.; cl. Buckley)

DE-76 was laid down on 10 May 1943 at Hingham, Mass., by the Bethlehem Steel Co.; named Liddle on 27 May 1943; reallocated to the Royal Navy under lend lease; launched on 31 July 1943; and commissioned as Bligh (K.467) by the Royal Navy on 22 October 1943.

Bligh's "battle honors" commemorated service in three areas: off Normandy during the invasion of France in the summer of 1944, in the north Atlantic in 1944 and 1945, and in the English Channel in 1945. She is credited with having taken part in the destruction of two German submarines. On 6 May 1944, while working with sister ships Bickerton (K.466) and Aylmer (K.463) and planes from the escort carrier Vindex, she helped to sink U-765. Then, on 27 January, she, together with Tyler (K.576) and Keats (K.482) put an end to U-1051.

Returned to the United States after the war, she reached the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 30 October 1945 and, retaining her British name, was commissioned as Bligh (DE-76) on 12 November 1945, Lt. Joseph N. Weaver, USNR, in command. However, she saw no active service before being decommissioned on 17 December 1945 at Philadelphia. Deemed "surplus to Navy needs," Bligh was struck from the Navy list on 17 April 1946. Sold to Hugo Neu, of New York, for scrapping, she was delivered on 13 June 1946. She was resold, however, later that same month to Northern Metals Corp., of Philadelphia and was broken up during the summer.

Robert J. Cressman

26 January 2006