Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Kent, William George Carlile (1788–?)

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William George Carlile Kent (b.1788), naval officer, was born in Lanarkshire, Scotland, the second son of John Kent, who, after twenty years in the navy as a purser, in 1803 became steward of the Royal Naval Hospital, Plymouth. In July 1798 he entered the navy as a first-class volunteer in Le Tigre in which he served under Sir Sydney Smith in the eastern Mediterranean in 1799. In March 1800 he served in the Theseus at the blockade of Genoa. In 1802 he sailed to New South Wales in the Buffalo, commanded by his uncle Captain William Kent. He was appointed acting lieutenant in the Buffalo in August 1805 and in 1807 acting first lieutenant of the Porpoise. He commanded the Lady Nelson in 1807-08 when, with the Porpoise, she removed some of the people from Norfolk Island to the Derwent.

When the Lady Nelson returned to Sydney in March 1808 Governor William Bligh, who had been deposed in January, talked with Kent, 'conceived a favourable opinion of him' and handed Major George Johnston, the acting lieutenant-governor and leader of the rebels, a commission appointing Kent to the command of the Porpoise, vice Lieutenant Symons. When Johnston suspected that Symons was about to take the Porpoise to sea without bearing Johnston's dispatches to Lieutenant-Governor William Paterson at Port Dalrymple, on 12 April he delivered Bligh's commission to Kent. A week later Kent sailed for Van Diemen's Land but found Paterson unwilling to come to Sydney, so Kent returned without him. When Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Foveaux took over the government from Johnston, he permitted Bligh to communicate with the officers of the Porpoise. At his trial Kent said of Bligh that 'it is impossible for me to describe in adequate terms his Language, Tone and manner'. Bligh blamed Kent for not having reinstated him in his government and told him he 'should have blown down the town of Sydney about the ears of the Inhabitants'. In November Kent was sent to Port Dalrymple again and this time Paterson came back with him. On his return he was arrested, on Bligh's orders, by Captain Porteus, who had arrived from England to take command of Porpoise. Kent sought leave to go ashore because of his poor health, but Bligh would not trust him at large among the rebels. On 2 February Paterson granted the prisoner 1000 acres (405 ha) at Narellan, but Kent remained under arrest, though 'with the liberty of the ship', until released in November 1810 by the orders of the Admiralty, after Bligh had taken the Porpoise back to England. In January 1811 he was tried on the prosecution of Bligh for various actions contrary to or without Bligh's orders; the court found that Kent 'under the extreme and extraordinary difficulties in which he was placed … was actuated by a sincere wish to perform his duty for the good of His Majesty's service … was justified in the conduct he pursued', and acquitted him. He was paid as captain of the Porpoise up to the time of the court martial.

Kent served in the Union under his uncle's command for six months in 1812, when he became first lieutenant in the Sparrowhawk on the Mediterranean Station. There his eyesight was permanently injured, and in September 1814 he was promoted commander and put on half-pay. In 1816 he sought confirmation of the land grant made by Paterson, but this was refused.

On 30 December 1830 he married Susannah Elizabeth, third daughter of John Rankin, merchant, of Greenock, Scotland.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of New South Wales, vols 5-7
  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 6, 7, 9
  • W. R. O'Byrne, A Naval Biographical Dictionary (Lond, 1849)
  • CO 201/88.

Citation details

'Kent, William George Carlile (1788–?)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 3 December 2022.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (Melbourne University Press), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2022

Life Summary [details]


Lanarkshire, Scotland

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