Monday, 7 July 2014

July Meeting - Captain AD Blair & the Q ships in World War 1 presented by Harley Couper

AD Blair with Clan Line
Image courtesy of Harley Couper
Harley described the life of Otago born Andrew Dougall Blair, born 1872 into a thriving and growing Dunedin but becoming a merchant seaman after 4 years of indentured service. AD Blair was already a captain in his late 20s when he saw the Lusitania launched and by the outbreak of the first world war was already captaining ships in the middle east. Caught up in regional conflicts he was one of the last to be awarded the Fourth Order of Medjidie in 1912  for assisting the Ottomon Empire to put down a rebellion. That same year he was caught by the Italians running guns for the Ottomans after the collapse of their Navy.

Helgoland Q17
Image courtesy of Harley Couper
With the outbreak of war in 1914 Blair joined the Royal Naval Reserves and was commissioned as Lieutenant. He was placed in charge of fleet of trawlers hunting submarines for 18 months before being transferred into Special Service and trained to command of an experimental approach to submarines – the  Q-ship. Blair’s first command was supported by sub-lieutenant W.E. Sanders who later won the VC  and the two men corresponded by letter before Sanders was killed in action. Blair and Sanders engaged three submarines while becalmed and without steerage, an account recounted in detail.

AD Blair during WW1
Image courtesy of Harley Couper
After the War Blair worked as Naval Transport Officer in Cologne during the occupation of the Rhineland before returning to the Merchant Service in the Middle East. He lived an interesting life, meeting Arab Sultans and owning a pet lion. He died in March 1955.

Many thanks to Harley Couper for giving us a fascinating and extremely well presented account of his research, a much fuller version of which is presented on the Tauranga Memories kete.

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