Royal Navy obituary in the Times newspaper
Royal Navy obituary in the Times newspaper

Royal NavyObituaries

The following obituary for John Kennedy Erskine Baird appeared in the Times newspaper.

Obituary in the Times newspaper
9 December 1908

Sir John Baird.

We regret to announce that Admiral Sir John Kennedy Erskine Baird died at his residence, at Wootton, Isle of Wight, yesterday, after a short illness, from an attack of pneumonia.

Sir John Baird was the second son of Sir David Baird, second baronet, of Newbyth, by his marriage with Lady Anne Kennedy, eldest daughter of the first Marquis of Ailsa. He was a brother of the present baronet, and a great-nephew of that Sir David Baird who led the storming party at the taking of Seringapatam, in May, 1799. Born on September 16, 1832, Sir John Baird entered the naval service in December, 1845; and was promoted to lieutenant in February, 1854. In the following year, while acting as flag-lieutenant to Vice-Admiral the Hon. W. Gordon, Commander-in-Chief at the Nore, he was lent to the Duke of Wellington, the flagship of Rear-Admiral the Hon. R.S. Dundas, and in that vessel went through the second campaign in the Baltic during the war with Russia, and received the medal. After his return home he rejoined the Waterloo, flagship, at Sheerness, and in July, 1867, was promoted to commander when the vice-admiral hauled down his flag. In this rank he commanded the Devastation, sloop, on the North America and West Indies Station, and afterwards the Alacrity, a screw sloop, from December, 1859, to August 1863, in the Mediterranean, in February of the following year he was promoted to captain, and commanded the Juno in China from 1870 to 1873, and the Swiftsure in the Mediterranean from 1874 to 1877. His services in these ranks appear to have been of the usual routine character without opportunity of special distinction, but he was noted as a smart officer whose ships were always in a fine state of discipline. From February, 1878, to December, 1879, he was a naval aide-de-camp to Queen Victoria, and at the last-named date was advanced to flag rank.

As a rear-admiral he first hoisted his flag in the Swiftsure as commander-in-chief on the Pacific Station, but afterwards changed it to the Triumph; the period of his holding this command being from 1884 to 1885. On his return from the Pacific Station he was appointed admiral-superintendent of naval reserves, a post which at that time included the command of the reserve fleet; and during the two years he held the office he took the fleet to sea for its summer cruise, hoisting his flag in the Hercules, as a vice-admiral, having been advanced to this rank in January, 1886. His next appointment was that of the Channel Squadron, with his flag in the Northumberland; and in 1888 and 1889 he commanded one of the opposing fleets during the naval manoeuvres which had then not long been instituted. The general idea of the 1888 manoeuvres was to test the practicability or otherwise of a blockade of an enemy's ports with modern ships. The ports chosen for the experiment were Berehaven and Lough Swilly, and Baird blockaded the late Sir George Tryon in the former port. The latter admiral found no difficulty in breaking the blockade, and, Baird's position becoming untenable, he withdrew to the Channel in readiness to protect the mouth of the Thames. It was clearly shown that blockades under the old conditions were impossible in the circumstances and with the superiority of force supplied to Baird. In the following year the opposed admirals changed places, and Baird became the enemy. In this war game Tryon substituted masking for blockade, and was again successful by breaking up the detached squadron which had been sent to carry out raiding operations. It was generally acknowledged on both occasions that neither tactically nor strategically had Baird's dispositions been at fault, and the exercise afforded by the manoeuvres was held to have been of great benefit to all concerned. Incidentally it was brought home to the country by the result of the war games, and by an important report on that of 1888 by Sir William Dowell, Sir Vesey Hamilton, and Sir Frederick Richards, that a large increase of the naval forces of the country had become necessary, the outcome of which was the great Naval Defence Act of 1889. At the Naval Review on the occasion of Queen Victoria's Jubilee in 1887 Vice-Admiral Baird was one of the four flag officers in command of the Fleet. In 1888, when the Admiralty inspected the mobilized fleets, his flag was in the Northumberland, and in the following year was flying in the same ship when the German Emperor visited Spithead with a squadron of his ships and inspected the fleets moored there in preparation for the manoeuvres. When these were over Vice-Admiral Baird took the Channel Squadron to Kiel, where the Emperor paid it a visit and hoisted his flag as honorary admiral of the Fleet at the main of the Northumberland. The vice-admiral and his second in command, with a number of other officers of the squadron, afterwards went to Berlin as the guests of the Kaiser. After he relinquished the command of the Channel Squadron in 1890, Baird did not hoist his flag again, but in that year he was made a K.C.B., and two years later was promoted to admiral. He had in 1899 already been granted a good service pension, and in September, 1897, he retired on account of age from active service.

Sir John Baird, in 1905, married Constance Barbara, a daughter of Mr. Edward Clarke, of Avishays, Chard. He was particularly fond of sport, an enthusiastic yachtsman, and a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron. His interest in the Navy and in all service matters never flagged, as his letters to this paper on various topics of interest have frequently shown. He will be much regretted by a large circle of friends.

The funeral will take place at Wootton Church on Friday at 2 45 p.m.; the train which leaves Victoria Station, London, at 10 30 a.m., will be met at Ryde Esplanade Station.

Valid HTML 5.0