Brett, Sir Piercy, Knt

, admiral of the blue, an elder brother of the Trinity-house, and one of the | directors of Greenwich hospital, born in 1709, was the son of Piercy Brett, many years a master in the royal navy, and afterwards master attendant of his majesty’s yards at Sheerness and Chatham, at which last place he died June 4$ 1752. Of Piercy’s early years we have no exact account; but he served either as midshipman, or as some say, as lieutenant in the Gloucester, of 50 guns, one of the small squadron ordered into the South Sea under Mr. (afterwards lord) Anson. He was afterwards appointed by Anson, who had a high opinion of him, to be second lieutenant in, his own ship, the Centurion, and he confided to him the attack on the town of Paita, a service which he executed with the greatest skill, promptitude, and exactness. After the capture of the Manilla galleon, and the arrival of the Centurion at Macao, Mr. Brett was promoted by commodore Anson to the command of that ship, under him, as captain, he being, as he supposed, authorised by his instructions, to issue such a commission. The lords of the admiralty, however, having refused to confirm it, Mr. Anson retired from the service, and would not return until Mr. Brett’s rank was allowed, with which another board of admiralty thought proper to comply, and Mr. Brett ranked as captain from Sept. 30, 1743.

In April 1745, he was appointed captain of the Lion, of 60 guns. After capturing the Mediator sloop of war, and a privateer which had long infested the channel, on Tuesday, July 9, he gave a more distinguished proof of his courage, in engaging a French man of war of 64 guns, and another ship of 16, both which, after a most desperate battle, he obliged to sheer off: the 64 gun ship got into Brest, quite disabled, having the captain and sixty-four men killed, and one hundred and thirty-six dangerously wounded. Of the Lion’s men, forty-five were killed, and one hundred and seven wounded; among the latter was capt. Brett, his master, and all his lieutenants. The bravery manifested by him on this occasion was the more important to his country, from the circumstance of the ship which he engaged being convoy to the frigate in which the son of the Pretender, then on his passage to Scotland, had embarked; and thus the money and arms intended for Scotland did not reach it in time to be of any service.

In 1747 he commanded the Yarmouth, of 64 guns, one of the squadron under Mr. Anson, which, in the month of | May, defeated and captured that of France, commanded by De la Jonquiere. He was one of the captains sent after the conclusion of the action in pursuit of the convoy, of which, Dr. Campbell and other historians assert, two only were captured, but we find it peremptorily asserted in the periodical publications of the time, that five more French ships were brought into Portsmouth, and three into Plymouth. On Jan. 3, 1753, he received the honour of knighthood from his majesty, in consequence of his having carried him to Holland; and towards the end of the year he was appointed captain of the Caroline yacht, as successor to Sir C. Molloy. In 1758, he was commodore in the Downs, having his pendant on board the Norfolk, and was in the same year appointed first captain to lord Anson, in the Royal George, who commanded in the channel, the covering-fleet to the squadron employed under lord Howe on the coast of France. On the conclusion of this expedition he returned to his command in the Downs. In March 1760 he was appointed colonel of the Portsmouth division of marines. In 1761, still continuing to hold the Downs command, we find him frequently and actively employed in reconnoitering the opposite coast and ports of France. In December, having hoisted his pendant on board the Newark, he was ordered for the Mediterranean with seven ships of war, as second in command to sir Charles Saunders, and shared, as a flag, in the rich Spanish prize, the Hermione. In the course of the same year he was advanced to the rank of rear-admiral of the red. From this time he appears never to have accepted any command, but Dec. 13, 1766, was appointed one of the lords of the admiralty, an office which he held until Feb. 24, 1770. In October of that year he was promoted to be vice-admiral of the blue, and on the 28th of the same month, to be vice-admiral of the white; March 1775, was admiral of the red, and finally, in Jan. 1778, admiral of the blue. He died Oct. 12, 1781, and was buried at Beckenham church, in Kent. His biographer adds, that “whether living or dead, the vice of slander and malevolence was abashed at his manifold virtues, ever silent, not only at his approach, but even at the bare mention of his name.” In the last parliament of George II. and the first of George III. he sat as member for Queenborough, in Kent. In 1745, after his return from the South Seas with Anson, he married Henrietta, daughter | of Thomas Colby, esq. clerk of the cheque at Chatham; by whom he had two sons, who died young, and a daughter who survived him. 1


Charnock’s Biog. Navalis. —Gent. Mag. vol. LVI.