Peircy Brett

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Sir Peircy Brett

Sir Peircy Brett (1709 – 14 October 1781) was an officer in the Royal Navy who served on George Anson's voyage around the world, and later rose to the rank of Admiral and lord commissioner of the Admiralty. He was also a Member of Parliament, representing the constituency of Queenborough from 1754 until 1774.

Naval career[edit]

Brett was first lieutenant aboard the HMS Centurion, which became the only vessel to return from Admiral Anson's circumnavigation of the earth between 1740 and 1744.

In late 1738 he had been transferred to Gloucester, one of the ships which sailed under the then Commodore George Anson for the Pacific in September 1740.

On 18 February 1741 Brett was transferred to Anson's own ship, the Centurion, as second lieutenant, and in this capacity on 13 November 1741 he commanded the landing party which sacked and burned the town of Paita. After the capture of the Spanish treasure ship "Nuestra Señora de Covadonga", and following the promotion of Philip Saumarez,[1] Brett became first lieutenant.

Burning the town of Paita, probably drawn by Brett himself

Later on 30 September 1743, Anson made him Captain of the Centurion when the commodore had to leave the ship for a time in Canton. Once the party returned to England, on the arrival of the Centurion at Spithead on 15 June 1744 the Admiralty refused to confirm Brett's promotion, though they did give Brett a new commission as captain dated the day the ship anchored. However, on 29 December 1744 the original commission date was confirmed under a new Admiralty of which Anson was a member.

During the Jacobite rising he saw action on the 9 July 1745, when as Captain of HMS Lion he exchanged fire with the French ships Elizabeth and the Du Teillay.[2] The Du Teillay at the time was carrying Charles Edward Stuart to Scotland with supplies and funds to support his cause. The Lion suffered severe damage and had to give up the pursuit and Charles eventually landed at Eriskay.

In 1748, Anson's official version of his Voyage Round the World in the Years MDCCXL, I, II, III, IV[22] was published. It was a vast popular and commercial success. As well as detailing the adventures of the expedition, it contained a huge amount of useful information for future navigators and with 42 detailed charts and engravings, most based on drawings by Piercy Brett, it laid the basis for later scientific and survey expeditions.

In 1752 he commanded the Royal Yacht Royal Caroline for a voyage conveying King George II to Germany, for which he was awarded a knighthood.[3] He was appointed captain responsible for all Royal yachts in 1754, and elected as MP for Queensborough in the same year.

A new 80-gun ship of the line, HMS Cambridge, was commissioned in January 1756. Brett was named as her first captain, bringing with him his choice of petty officers and foretopmen from the Royal yacht fleet. Despite her commissioning Cambridge required several months of fitting out for sea service and was still unseaworthy when war with France was declared in May 1756. Brett was forced to wait until December for Cambridge to be declared fit to put to sea, and then it was not until February 1757 that she was equipped with her full complement of cannon.[3]

Brett's orders were to join Admiral Edward Boscawen's Western Squadron protecting British interests on the North America and West Indies Station. Having finally put to sea he found that his ship was slow and top-heavy, with a tendency to heel over in strong winds. He was also forced to deal with widespread sickness among his crew. Disease spread so fast among the crew that Cambridge was forced to return to Plymouth after only one year at sea so that the sick could be discharged to local hospitals. On 5 November 1758 Brett was granted a new position as flag captain for Admiral Anson aboard the 100-gun HMS Royal George. He resigned this commission ten days later and returned to his previous role as captain of the Royal yachts.[3]

Brett reached the rank of rear admiral in 1762. When peace was declared in 1764 Brett returned to service aboard Anson's old vessel Centurion, and was stationed in the Mediterranean.[3] On 11 December 1766 he was named a lord commissioner of the Admiralty, under Sir Edward Hawke, holding office until 28 February 1770.[4] He resigned his constituency of Queensborough in 1774, and on 29 January 1778 was named Admiral of the Blue.

Brett died on 14 October 1781 and is buried in Beckenham Church, Kent.


  1. ^ "Saumarez, Philip (DNB00)". DNB. Retrieved 10 December 2016. 
  2. ^ National Maritime Museum
  3. ^ a b c d McLeod, A. B.; Mcleod, A. M. G. (November 2014). "John Cleveley the Elder's "The Floating out of the Cambridge" - Problems and patrons". The Mariner's Mirror. The Society for Nautical Research. 100 (4): 452–453. Retrieved 6 March 2016. 
  4. ^ Sainty 1975, p. 112


Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Richard Evans
Thomas Newnham
Member of Parliament for Queenborough
with Sir Charles Frederick

Succeeded by
Sir Charles Frederick
Walter Rawlinson