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Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – Impiety

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Lord Charles Beresford (1846-1919) was a British Admiral and Member of Parliament, he was a hero in battle and a champion of the Navy in Parliament.  Below is another installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

This excerpt covers his time onboard HMS Marlborough (The Ship of Happiest Memory) as a naval cadet from the age of 14.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here or search our library here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – Impiety

Wisdom spoken by babes was not approved in the Marlborough. I ventured to remark a thing I had observed, which was that the masts of men-of-war were out of proportion tall as compared with the sails they carried; or, in technical language, that the masts were very taunt, whereas the sails were not proportionately square. I said that the masts ought to be lower and the sails squarer, thus increasing the sailing power.

D—n it! Listen to this youngster laying down the law as if he knew better than Nelson!” cried an old mate. I was instantly sentenced to be cobbed; and received twelve strokes with a dirk scabbard.

It was true that the rig had been inherited from the men of Nelson’s day; but it was not true that I had pretended to know better than the late admiral; for, since his death, the ships had become longer; so that, whereas in Nelson’s time the masts, being closer together, were made taller, with relatively narrow sails, in order that in going about the yards should not lock, in my time the reason for the disproportion had ceased to exist. Very shortly after I had been beaten for the impiety of thinking for myself, the merchant clippers adopted the very plan I had in mind, lowering masts and increasing the size of sails and thereby gaining a speed which was unrivalled.

Excerpt from The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford written by himself and published in 1914.

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Further Reading and External Links

Lord Charles Beresford on Wikipedia

Lord Charles Beresford on The Dreadnought Project

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Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – Civita Vecchia

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Lord Charles Beresford (1846-1919) was a British Admiral and Member of Parliament, he was a hero in battle and a champion of the Navy in Parliament.  Below is another installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

This excerpt covers his time onboard HMS Marlborough (The Ship of Happiest Memory) as a naval cadet from the age of 14.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – Civita Vecchia

There used to be very bad feeling between English and Maltese. Both sailors and soldiers frequently lost their lives on shore. The seamen used to be stabbed, and the soldiers were sometimes thrown over the fortifications at night. I have seen a dead soldier lying on the rocks where he was thrown. A party of Marlborough officers drove out in “go-carts” (two-wheeled vehicles in which passengers lay on cushions) to Civita Vecchia, to hear the celebrated Mass on New Year’s Eve. The Cathedral was the richest church in Europe until Napoleon confiscated its treasure. Somehow or other, there was a row, and we were fighting fiercely with crowd of Maltese. A clerk of our party, a very stout person, was stabbed in the belly, so that his entrails protruded. We got him away, laid him in a go-cart, drove back to Malta, a two-hours’ drive, and put him on board, and he recovered.

At nine o’clock p.m. the seniors in the gunroom stuck a fork in the beam overhead, the signal for the youngsters to leave their elders in peace; too often to drink. Sobriety; to put it delicately; was not reckoned a virtue. I remember visiting a ship at Bermuda (never mind her name) to find every member of the mess intoxicated. Two were suffering from delirium tremens; and one of them was picking the bodies of imaginary rats from the floor with a stick. His case was worse than that of the eminent member of a certain club in London, who, when a real rat ran across the carpet, looked solemnly round upon the expectant faces of his friends, and said, “Aha! You thought I saw a rat. But I didn’t!”

There was no rank of sub-lieutenant, the corresponding grade being a “mate.” Many of the mates were men of thirty or more, who had never gained promotion and who never would gain it. I remember an old mate who used to earn his living by rowing a wherry in Portsmouth Harbour. He was then [1862] on half-pay, with seniority of [1820]. His name was Peter B. Stagg, as you may see in the Navy Lists of the period. In the Navy List of [1862], Stagg is rated sub-lieutenant the rank of mate having been abolished in the previous year.

Excerpt from The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford written by himself and published in 1914.

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Further Reading and External Links

Lord Charles Beresford on Wikipedia

Lord Charles Beresford on The Dreadnought Project

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – Leave Stopped

 

Lord Charles Beresford (1846-1919) was a British Admiral and Member of Parliament, he was a hero in battle and a champion of the Navy in Parliament.  Below is another installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

This excerpt covers his time onboard HMS Marlborough (The Ship of Happiest Memory) as a naval cadet from the age of 14.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – Leave Stopped

The Author as Naval CadetWhen we lay in Corfu Harbour, the Marlborough was challenged by a crew of artillerymen. It was I think on this occasion that John Glanville headed a deputation to me, asking me to be the coxswain.

“Well, sir,” he said, “it’s like this here, sir, if you’ll pardon me. Yew be young-like, and what we was thinking was whether you have the power of language that du be required.”

I said I would do my best. I did. I astonished myself. As for the artillerymen, they rowed themselves right under. There was a little seaway, and they rowed the boat under and there they were struggling in the water.

“What! Yew bain’t never going to pick ‘em up?” cried John Glanville, in the heat of his excitement.

I also rowed bow-oar in the officers’ boat the second cutter. I was young and small, but I had great staying power. I could go on rowing for ever.

When my leave was stopped; which did occur occasionally; I had a system by means of which I went ashore at night I lashed a hammock-lashing round the port sternring, crawled out of the stern port, lowered myself to the water, and swam to a shore boat, waiting for me by arrangement. Maltese boats are partly covered in, and I dressed in a spare suit of clothes. On one occasion, upon landing, I nearly; but not quite; ran into the arms of the commander.

One night I went ashore, taking a painter and two men. We lowered the painter over the edge of the cliff, and he inscribed on the cliff in immense letters, ” ‘Marlborough,’ Star of the Mediterranean.” Next morning the whole Fleet, not without emotion, beheld the legend. Another brilliant wit went ashore on the following night and altered the word “Star ” into “Turtle” My reply was the addition “Until the ‘Queen’ comes out.” After this exploit I was sent ashore to clean the cliff.

There were numerous horses in Malta, and the midshipmen and bluejackets used to hire them for half-a-crown a day. When the horses had had enough of their riders, they used to gallop down to the Florian Gate, kick them off, and return to their stable. I heard one sailor remark to another, who, sticking to his horse, was bounding up and down in his saddle:

“Get off that there ‘orse, Jack, ‘e’s a beast!”

“He aint no beast at all,” retorted Jack. “‘E’s the cleverest ‘orse I ever see. He chucks me up and he catches me, he chucks me up and he catches me; why, ‘e’s only missed me three times in a hour!”

Excerpt from The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford written by himself and published in 1914.

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Further Reading and External Links

Lord Charles Beresford on Wikipedia

Lord Charles Beresford on The Dreadnought Project

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – The Boat Races

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Lord Charles Beresford (1846-1919) was a British Admiral and Member of Parliament, he was a hero in battle and a champion of the Navy in Parliament.  Below is another installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

This excerpt covers his time onboard HMS Marlborough (The Ship of Happiest Memory) as a naval cadet from the age of 14.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here or search our library here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – The Boat Races

Among the most delightful incidents were the boatraces. It was before the time when fleet regattas were instituted. What happened was that a boat would row round from their ship, to the ship they wished to race, and toss oars under her bows in sign of a challenge. Then the boat’s crew of the challenged ship would practise with intense assiduity until they felt they were fit to meet the enemy. The bitterest feeling was aroused. Even the crews of “chummy ships” could not meet without fighting. Hundreds of pounds were wagered on the event. In the Marlborough we had the cutter, Black Bess, specially built for racing. Her stroke was John Glanville, the gigantic boatswain’s mate, who, when I joined the ship, told Dicky Horne, the quartermaster, that I was not likely to live long. He was the son of Ann Glanville, the redoubtable West country woman who pulled stroke in the crew of Saltash women that raced and beat a crew of Frenchmen at Cherbourg, under the eyes of the Queen, the Prince Consort, the Emperor Napoleon III., and the British and French navies. That notable victory was won in [1858], when Queen Victoria, accompanied by the Prince Consort, visited Napoleon III. The Queen and the Prince sailed in H.M.S. Victoria and Albert, escorted by a squadron of men-of-war. They were received by the French Navy. After the race, the Queen invited the Saltash women on board the Royal yacht. Later in life, it was my privilege to remove anxiety concerning her livelihood from fine old Mrs. Glanville.

I steered the Black Bess, and we beat the two best boats in the Fleet; and then we were challenged by the St. George. The St. George had taken the upper strake off her boat to make her row easier. Now the stroke of the St. George was George Glanville, brother to John, and of the same formidable weight and size. The race was rowed in Malta Harbour, over a 3-mile course, and we were beaten. We could not understand it; but beaten we were. That night George Glanville came aboard the Marlborough with a bag containing some £300, the money put up to cover the stakes. George came to receive the stakes, and according to custom he brought the cover-money to show that all was above-board. To him came John his brother; and scarce a word was said ere the two big men were fighting furiously, the bag of gold on the deck beside them. They were torn apart with difficulty. Nor could the respective crews be landed together for a long time afterwards. Next year we beat the St. George.

Excerpt from The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford written by himself and published in 1914.

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Further Reading and External Links

Lord Charles Beresford on Wikipedia

Lord Charles Beresford on The Dreadnought Project

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Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – Midshipman

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Lord Charles Beresford (1846-1919) was a British Admiral and Member of Parliament, he was a hero in battle and a champion of the Navy in Parliament.  Below is another installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

This excerpt covers his time onboard HMS Marlborough (The Ship of Happiest Memory) as a naval cadet from the age of 14.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here or search our library here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – Midshipman

At first in the Marlborough I was midshipman of the mizentop, and in charge of the jolly-boat. The midshipman in charge of a boat learned how to handle men. As he was away from the ship with them for long periods, he was forced to understand them and to discover how to treat them, thus learning the essential elements of administration. As all my delight was in seamanship, I contrived to miss a good deal of school. It was not difficult, when the naval instructor desired my presence, to find a good reason for duty with my boat. I was afterwards midshipman of the foretop, and when I was promoted from the jolly-boat to the second pinnace, and to the command of the first subdivision of the three-pounder division of field-guns for landing, being placed in charge of one three-pounder gun, I thought I was an emperor.

We used to land with the guns for field-battery exercises, setting Marine sentries all round to prevent the men getting away to drink. Returning on board, we used to race down the Calcara Hill at Malta to the harbour. On one occasion, we were going so fast that we couldn’t turn the gun round the corner, and gun and all toppled over the wharf into the water.

I fell into another scrape in excess of zeal for marksmanship. We used to practise aiming with rifles and muzzle-loading Enfields, the Service rifle of that day. We fired percussion caps without charges, at little bull’s-eyes painted on a strip of canvas, which was stretched along the bulwarks below the hammock-nettings. The marksman stood on the opposite side of the deck. Another midshipman and myself contrived to fire a couple of caps as projectiles, which of course entered the woodwork behind the targets, making dreadful holes. This appalling desecration, involving the fitting in of new planking, was discovered by the commander, Brandreth. His rage was justifiable. We were stood on the bitts, and also mastheaded.

Captain Houston Stewart used to fish from the stern gallery when the ship was at anchor. He tied his line to the rail, and went back into his cabin, returning every few minutes to see if he had a fish. Beneath the stern gallery opened the ports of the gunroom. With a hooked stick I drew in his line, attached a red herring to the hook, dropped it in again, and when the captain came to feel his line I jerked it. He hauled it up in a hurry. Instantly after, he sent for all the midshipmen; and, for some reason or other, he picked me out at once.

“You did that, Beresford,” he said. “Most impertinent! Your leave will be stopped.”

Next day, however, he let me off.

Excerpt from The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford written by himself and published in 1914.

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Further Reading and External Links

Lord Charles Beresford on Wikipedia

Lord Charles Beresford on The Dreadnought Project