Baker's son who became one of Nelson's naval commanders
- Credit: Honiton Museum
Relatives of George Blagdon Westcott, in Canada, commissioned an artist to paint this portrait, and travelled to Honiton in May 2001 to present it to Allhallows Museum.
George was the eldest son of a Honiton baker, Benjamin and his wife Susanna, and he was baptised at St Michael's church on 24th April 1753.
Legend says that George was sent to a mill on an errand for his father. The miller's rope broke, and George offered to splice it. The job was so well done that the miller thought he was fit for the Navy and offered to get him a berth.
George entered the Navy as a cabin boy at the age of 13. He rose through the ranks by good conduct until he was commanding the Majestic which was one of the ships sent to the Mediterranean to join Sir Horatio Nelson in 1798. In the battle of the Nile, in Aboukir Bay, his ship's position in the rear of the line meant he was late in coming into action, and in the darkness, she ran into the main-rigging of the French ship Heureux. Westcott was killed by a musket ball in the throat.
Collingwood wrote of him: "A good officer and a worthy man but, if it was a part of our condition to choose a day to die on, where could he have found one so memorable, so eminently distinguished among great days?"
Lord Nelson on his way through Honiton in 1801, stopped to visit Westcott's mother and finding she did not have her son's Nile medal, gave her his own saying: "You will not value it less because Nelson has worn it."
Nelson wrote to Lady Hamilton: "At Honiton, I visited Captain Westcott's mother – poor thing, except from the bounty of the government and Lloyd's, in very low circumstances. The brother is a tailor, but had they been chimney sweepers, it was my duty to show them proper respect."
The King commanded that a pension of one hundred pounds a year be settled upon George’s mother Susannah Westcott. After her death the Nile medal passed to her daughter Mrs Margaret Lott who in turn bequeathed it to Mr George Westcott. In 2002 I talked to Mary and she told me that she remembered playing with the Nile medal as a child. Sadly, the medal was lost by a member of the family during the Second World War.