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Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – The Old Navy

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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 Old Navy

Another old topmate, Mr. S.D. Sharp, writing to me in [1909], when I hauled down my flag, says:- “I was proud of the old Marlborough and her successor up the Straits, the Victoria. They were a noble sight in full sail with a stiff breeze. No doubt the present fleet far excels the old wooden walls, but the old wooden walls made sailors. But sailors today have to stand aside for engine-men. Going round Portsmouth dockyard some few years since, I was very sad to see the noble old Marlborough a hulk” (she is now part of H.M.S. Vernon Torpedo School), “laid aside, as I expect we all shall be in time” (Mr. Sharp is only between seventy and eighty years of age). “I am doubtful if there are many men in the Navy today who would stand bolt upright upon the royal truck of a line-of-battle ship. I was one of those who did so. Perhaps a foolish practice. But in those days fear never came our way.”

There speaks the Old Navy.

When a ship was paid off out of Malta Harbour, it was the custom that there should be a man standing erect on each of the trucks, main, mizen and fore. Many a time have I seen these men, balanced more than 200 feet in the air, strip off their shirts and wave them. And once I saw a man holding to the vane-spindle set in the truck, and I saw the spindle break in his hand, and the man fall…

In the course of my experience, I have seen a man fall off the main-royal yard, be caught in the belly of the mainsail, slip down the sail, catch the second reef-line with his legs, and hold on until a topmate ran aloft with a bowline and saved him.

I have seen a man fall off the maintopsail yard, and be caught in the bight of the mainsheet in the main rigging, and run aloft again. And this was at sea.

And several times I have seen a man fall from aloft to be dashed to pieces upon the deck.

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 – Gunnery

 

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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 – Gunnery

 We were very particular about our gunnery in the Marlborough; although at the same time gunnery was regarded as quite a secondary art. It was considered that anyone could fire a gun, and that the whole credit of successful gunnery depended upon the seamanship of the sailors who brought the ship into the requisite position. The greater number of the guns in the Marlborough were the same as those used in the time of Nelson, with their wooden trucks, handspikes, sponges, rammers, worms and all gear complete. The Marlborough was fitted with a cupola for heating roundshot, which were carried red-hot to the gun in an iron bucket. I know of no other ship which was thus equipped. The gunnery lieutenant of the Marlborough, Charles Inglis, was gifted with so great and splendid a voice, that, when he gave his orders from the middle deck, they were heard at every gun in the ship. We used to practise firing at a cliff in Malta Harbour, at a range of a hundred yards or so. I used to be sent on shore to collect the round-shot and bring them on board for future use. I remember that when, in the course of a lecture delivered to my men on board the Bulwark more than forty years afterwards, I related the incident, I could see by their faces that my audience did not believe me; though I showed to them the shot-holes in the face of the cliff, which remain to this day.

On gunnery days, all fires were extinguished, in case a spark should ignite the loose powder spilt by the boys who brought the cartridges to the guns, making a trail to the magazines. At “night quarters,” we were turned out of our hammocks, which were lashed up. The mess-tables were triced up overhead. The lower-deck ports being closed, there was no room to wield the wooden rammer; so that the charges for the muzzle-loading guns were rammed home with rope rammers. Before the order to fire was given, the ports were triced up. Upon one occasion, so anxious was a bluejacket to be first in loading and firing, that he cherished a charge hidden in his hammock since the last night quarters, a period of nearly three months, and, firing before the port was triced up, blew it into the next ship.

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

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Lord Charles Beresford – 1861 – Bare Feet

 

 

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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.  This is the ninth installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

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

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1861 – Bare Feet

In my early days, the small-arm companies used to drill with bare feet. Indeed, boots were never worn on board. It was of course impossible to wear boots going aloft, for a sailor going aloft in boots would injure the heads and hands of his topmates. Occasionally the midshipmen went aloft barefooted like the men. So indurated did the feet of the sailors become, that they were unable to wear boots without discomfort, and often carried them when they were ashore.

A sailor’s offences were hardly ever crimes against honour. They rather arose from the character induced by his calling. Its conditions were hard, dangerous and often intensely exciting. The sailor’s view was devil-may-care. He was free with his language, handy with his fists and afraid of nothing. A smart man might receive four dozen for some violence, and be rated petty officer six months afterwards. Condemnation was then the rule. Personally, I endeavoured to substitute for it, commendation. For if there are two men, one of whom takes a pride in (say) keeping his rifle clean, and the other neglects it, to ignore the efficiency of the one is both to discourage him and to encourage the other.

Before the system of silence was introduced by the Marlborough the tumult on deck during an evolution or exercise was tremendous. The shouting in the ships in Malta Harbour could be heard all over Valetta.

The Marlborough introduced the “Still” bugle-call. At the bugle-call “Still” every man stood motionless and looked at the officer. For in order to have an order understood, the men must be looking at the officer who gives it.

During the Soudan war, I used the “Still” at several critical moments. Silence and attention are the first necessities for discipline. About this time the bugle superseded the drum in many ships for routine orders.

There were few punishments, the chief punishment being the cat. The first time I saw the cat applied, I fainted. But men were constantly being flogged. I have seen six men flogged in one morning. Even upon these painful occasions, the crew were not fallen in. They were merely summoned aft “for punishment” – “clear lower deck lay aft for punishment” was piped – and grouped themselves as they would, sitting in the boats and standing about, nor did they even keep silence while the flogging was being inflicted. The officers stood within three sides of a square formed by the Marines. Another punishment was “putting the admiral in his barge and the general in his helmet,” when one man was stood in a bucket and the other had a bucket on his head.

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

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Lord Charles Beresford – 1861 – The Nature of Discipline

 

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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.  This is the eighth installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

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

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1861 – The Marlborough

The Nature of Discipline

Among the ship’s company were several negroes. At that time, it was often the case that the captain of the hold and the cooper were coloured men.

An instance of the rapidity and efficiency of the organisation of the Marlborough occurred upon the night before she sailed for the Mediterranean. She was newly commissioned, and she carried a large number of supernumeraries on passage. We took out 1500 all told, A fire broke out on the orlop deck; the drum beat to quarters; every man instantly went to his station, to which he had previously been told of; and the fire was speedily extinguished. The event was my first experience of discipline in a big ship.

The nature of the discipline which was then in force, I learned on the way out to the Mediterranean. In the modern sense of the word, discipline was exemplified by the Royal Marines alone. I cannot better convey an idea of the old system than by means of an illustration. Supposing that a Marine and a bluejacket had each committed an offence. The Marine was brought up on the quarter-deck before the commander, and the charge was read to him. The commander asked him what he had to say. The prisoner, standing rigidly to attention, embarked upon a long rambling explanation. If his defence were invalid, the commander cut him short, and the sergeant gave his order. “Right turn. Quick march.” The Marine, although continuing to protest, obeyed automatically, and away he went. He continued to talk until he was out of hearing, but he went. Not so the bluejacket. He did not stand to attention, not he. He shifted from one foot to the other, he hitched his breeches, fiddled with his cap, scratched his head.

“Well, sir,” said he , “it was like this here, sir,” … and he began to spin an interminable yarn.  “That’ll do, my man,” quoth the commander. But, not at all. “No, sir, look here, sir, what I wants to say is this” – and so on, until the commander had to order a file of Marines to march him below.

But both Marine and bluejacket had this in common: each would ask the commander to settle the matter rather than let it go before the captain; and the captain, to sentence him rather than hold a court-martial.

The explanation of the difference between the old system of discipline and the new is that in the sailing days it was of the first importance that the seaman should be capable of instant independent action. The soldier’s uniformity and military precision were wholly unsuited to the sailor, who, at any moment, might have to tackle an emergency on his own initiative. If a seaman of the old days noticed anything wrong aloft, up he would run to put it right, without waiting for orders. Life and death often hung upon his promptitude of resource.

In the old days, we would often overhear such a conversation as the following:-

Officer: “Why the blank dash didn’t you blank well do so-and-so when I told you?”

Man: “Why didn’t I? Because if I had I should have been blank well killed and so would you.”

Officer: “Damn you, sir, don’t you answer me! I shall put you in the report”

Man: “Put me in the ruddy report, then.”

And the next day the commander, having heard both sides, would say to the officer,

“Why, the man was quite right” And to the man,”You had no right to argue with the officer. Don’t do it again. Now get away with you to hell.”

And everyone would part the best of friends.

The change came with the improvement and progress in gunnery, which involved, first, the better drilling of the smallarm companies.

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

Lord Charles Beresford – 1861 – Manning the Ships

 

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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.  This is the seventh installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

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

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1861 – The Marlborough     

HMS Marlborough

Manning the Ships

Ships in those days were manned according to the number of guns they carried. The theory was that if the boats’ crews were absent from the ship, there should always be sufficient men on board to work the sails and the guns. The watch-bills were made out upon this principle, the men being distributed among what were called the “parts of the ship.”

In the case of a newly commissioned ship, the making out of the watch-bills and assigning his place to each man, was the first thing to be done. It was no small task, especially as no printed forms were supplied for the purpose. The watch-bills were ruled and entered by the officers on paper supplied by themselves, and were arranged upon the tradition handed down for centuries. Even the signalmen supplied their own pencils and paper. Each ship made its own arrangement. It was not until [1860] that uniform watch-bills, quarter-bills and station-bills were instituted.

The men were classed in the following categories, each “part of the ship” being divided into port watch and starboard watch.

The Forecastlemen
The Foretopmen
The Maintopmen
The Mizentopmen
The Gunners
The Afterguard
The Royal Marines
The Idlers

The Forecastlemen were most experienced seamen. They wore their caps a little differently from the others. They manned the foreyard, and worked the foresail, staysail, jib, flying jib, jibboom, flying jibboom and lower studdingsails.

The Foretopmen worked the foretopsail, foretopgallant and foreroyal yards, foretopgallantmast, foretopmast and topgallant studding-sails.

The Maintopmen worked the maintopsail, maintopgallant and main-royal yards and maintopgallantmast, maintopmast and topgallant studding-sails.

The Mizentopmen worked the mizentopsail, mizentopgallant and mizen-royal yards, and mizentopgallantmast, mizentopmast and mizencourse (if there was one), also the driver.

The upper-yard men were the smartest in the ship, whose character largely depended upon them.

The Gunners, assisted by the Afterguard, worked the mainsail and mainyard. These were generally old and steady men, who were not very quick aloft. The gunners were also responsible for the care and maintenance of the gun gear, side tackles, train tackles and the ammunition. The senior warrant officer was the gunner.

There were only three warrant officers:- gunner, boatswain and carpenter.

The Royal Marines were divided between fore and aft, working on forecastle and quarterdeck. I remember seeing a detachment of Marines, upon coming aboard, fallen in while the blacksmith, lifting up each man’s foot behind him, wrenched off and dropped into a bucket the metal on the heel of his boot, lest it should mark the deck.

The Afterguard worked on the quarterdeck and helped with the mainyard. They were the less efficient men and were therefore employed under the eye of the commander.

The Idlers were not idlers. They were so called because (theoretically) they had their nights in, although actually they turned out at four o’clock a.m. They were artificers, such as carpenters, caulkers, plumbers, blacksmiths, etc. They worked all day at their several trades until their suppertime. They were nearly all old petty officers, steady and respectable. It was part of their duty to man the pumps every morning for washing decks. I made up my mind that, if ever I was in a position to do so, I would relieve them of an irksome and an inappropriate duty.

In action, the carpenters worked below decks, stopping holes with shot-plugs, while many of the other Idlers worked in the magazines. Among the Idlers was the ship’s musician; unless the ship carried a band; who was a fiddler. He used to play to the men on the forecastle after working hours and when they manned the capstan. Personally I always considered the name of Idlers to be anomalous. They are now called Daymen.

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

Lord Charles Beresford – 1861 – The Marlborough

 

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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.  This is the sixth installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

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

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1861 – The Marlborough

The Ship of Happiest Memory

HMS Marlborough 1861ON the 28th of March, [1861], I was appointed naval cadet in the Marlborough. As I climbed up her side by the hand-rungs, while my chest was being hoisted in over all, I perceived two huge men looking down upon me, and I heard one say to the other:-

              “That white-faced little beggar ain’t long for this world, Dick.”

The speaker was John Glanville (called Clamfy Glanville), boatswain’s mate (of whom more anon), and he addressed this lugubrious remark to Dicky Home, the quartermaster, a very fat man. It was a far from encouraging welcome to the sea; but the fact was that I had been ill, and was feeling very cold as I climbed up the side of the ship. At first, I was much disappointed at having been sent to a large ship, for we youngsters had a notion that there were more freedom and independence in a small ship; and besides, I wanted to go to China. But I went to China all in good time.

The Marlborough was the flagship of the Mediterranean station. She was a wooden line of battleship, three-decker, launched in [1835], 4000 tons burthen old measure, 6390 displacement new measure, fitted with single screw horizontal Maudslay engines. The length of her gundeck was 245 feet 6 inches, her extreme beam was 61 feet, her maximum draught was 26 feet Her complement was 950, and she always carried 100 or more supernumeraries. She was pierced for 131 guns and she carried 121 guns. She was one of the first ships to be fitted with wire lower rigging. In the Marlborough the old 24-inch hemp cable was used for laying out anchor at drill. It was the same class of cable as that which was used in Nelson’s time; it was superseded by the chain cable.

The vice-admiral in command of the Mediterranean station was Sir William Fanshawe Martin (called “Fly” Martin); the captain, William H. Stewart; the commander, Thomas Brandreth: three of the finest officers that ever lived. The captain of the Fleet was Rear-Admiral Sydney C. Dacres, C.B. His duties were those of what we should now call a chief of staff. The office was subsequently abolished; and it was always my desire to see it restored.

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

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Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1861 – The Britannia

 

 

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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.  This is the fifth installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

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

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1861 – The Britannia

My chest on board the Britannia stood between the chests of poor “Andy” Wauchope and Henry John Thoroton Hildyard. Both subsequently left the Navy for the Army. The late Major-General Andrew Gilbert Wauchope, [D.S.O.], was fatally wounded at Magersfontein during the South African war. General Sir Henry J.T. Hildyard, [G.C.B.], [K.C.B.], retired in [1911], after long and distinguished service. I was strongly inclined to follow the example of my comrades and to join the Army; and I have since occasionally regretted that I remained in the Navy, in which Service there is less opportunity for attaining the highest rank.

I was raised to the rank of “captain” in the Britannia; but I regret to say that my enjoyment of that dignity was singularly brief, for I was disrated upon the same day, even before I had time to put on the stripe. For my delight at my promotion so exhilarated me, that I forgot to resist the temptation to empty a bread-barge upon the head of the old master-at-arms as he was coming up the hatchway, and the spectacle was so amusing that I stayed to laugh at it.

When I entered the Service, the system of training young seamen, as well as cadets, was in operation. To Sir James Graham, First Lord of the Admiralty, is due the credit of introducing the training of seamen. In [1854], he caused the Illustrious, two-decker, to be commissioned for that purpose, under the command of Captain Robert Harris. The fact was that as sails gave place to steam and as the science of gunnery progressed, it became necessary to enter seamen as boys and to train them for continuous service. For some time the short service and long service systems were concurrent. When I went to sea, captains still entered men direct from the merchant service, and very good seamen they were. They were engaged for a commission, at the end of which they could re-engage or not as they pleased. But in the meantime, under the admirable administration of Captain Harris, “Jimmy Graham’s novices,” as they were called, earned an excellent reputation in the Fleet; and continuous service gradually replaced intermittent service. In the continuous service system resided our chief superiority over foreign Navies. The objection to it on the part of the Government was (and is) the increasing permanent charge of pensions. But in the interests of the Service and of the country, it cannot be too clearly understood that the system is well worth the cost, and that the revival of the short service system is profoundly to be regretted.

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

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Lord Charles Beresford on The Dreadnought Project

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1861

 

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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.  This is the fourth installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

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

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1861 – School Curriculum

In addition to the ordinary school curriculum on board the Britannia, the cadets were taught seamanship, gunnery and navigation. Book-work did not interest me, but I took great pains to become proficient in seamanship, in which I always secured a high place.

A cadet entering the Britannia under 14 years of age, would be rejected from the Service if he failed to pass the fourth quarterly examination after his entrance. Having entered the Britannia in December, [1859], I was sent to sea in March, [1861]. I was very happy during my time in the Britannia. Out of school time, we did a great deal of boatpulling. My boat was called the Gazelle. I remember that one day, when I borrowed a private boat to put off to the Gazelle, my comrades pushed me out into the stream, and I drifted out to Spithead, without oars. There was nothing in the boat but a painter, which I considered it to be my duty neatly to coil down. Then I sat still and waited until a boat came to fetch me.

Seamanship was taught by the use of models, and saildrill was taught upon the mizen-mast. I remember being haunted by a doubt lest the handling of small models, and going aloft in a stationary ship, might not enable me to practise the knowledge thus acquired when I came to deal with the real full-size objects and to go aloft in a ship at sea. My prevision was largely justified; and when I came to command a ship, I made the youngsters learn their business by handling real things and not the models of them. For if anything goes wrong while teaching a youngster, for instance, to lay out a 6-ton anchor upon a model, he puts it right with his finger and thumb and thinks he can do the same with the real anchor.

The captain of the Britannia was Robert Harris, to whom the Service owes the inestimable benefit of cadet training ships. The first lieutenant was George S. Nares (now Vice-Admiral Sir George S. Nares, K.C.B.). He commanded the Challenger in her voyage of scientific discovery of [1872], during which he was recalled to proceed upon his celebrated voyage of Arctic exploration. Another lieutenant was William H. Heaton, whose long whiskers afforded the cadets much innocent amusement. On a windy day his whiskers used to stream backwards over his shoulders. Lieutenant Heaton chose to wear his stripes running longitudinally up his arm, a peculiarity which exemplifies the prevailing latitude with regard to uniform. There was no rule prescribing the pattern of cap or greatcoat worn in the Service. Officers might wear the mohair band and badge on any kind of cap that took their fancy. Some of them used to transfer plain clothes buttons to a uniform coat or greatcoat, if they were going ashore, for the sake of economy; for we were nearly all poor in those days. The chaplain and naval instructor was the Rev. Robert M. Inskip.

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

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Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1859

 

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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.  This is the third installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

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

The Beginning of Service – 1859

Lord Charles BeresfordI was sent to sea for the somewhat vague reasons which so often determine a boy’s future. There was a belief that I was of a delicate constitution, and an impression; perhaps justified; that I needed discipline. I was sent to Bayford School in England when I was very young, together with two of my three brothers. We were known as the three “wild Irish.” Among my schoolfellows were the present Lord Rosebery, James Lowther, Lord Newport, Lord Claud Hamilton and Lord George Hamilton, Lord Worcester, and Lord Methuen. From Bayford I went to the educational establishment of the Rev. David Bruce Payne (afterwards Canon) at Deal, where I first saw the ships of the Royal Navy, as already related. Canon Payne was a splendid type of the best British clergyman, and I had a great respect and affection for him. I was afterwards a pupil of the Rev. Mr. Foster, of Stubbington, Fareham.

I received my nomination from Captain Charles Eden, [C.B.], and qualified as a naval cadet on 12th December, [1859]. The qualifying certificate must be signed by the candidate; a regulation which, simple as it seems, was nearly my undoing. “Do you always sign your Christian name William with one ‘l’?” asked the examiner. It was a critical moment Irish resource supplied the answer. I said, “Only sometimes, sir.” The examiner smiled grimly. But he passed me. It was my first narrow escape in the Navy.

I have the faded blue paper before me as I write. The signature, laboriously written in a round hand, is “Charles Wiliam Delapoer Beresford.” The qualifying examination was not very formidable in those easy days. The knowledge required consisted of a little “English,” less French or Latin (with the “aid of a dictionary”), a “satisfactory knowledge of the leading facts of Scripture and English History,” a certain amount of geography, and an elementary knowledge of arithmetic, algebra and Euclid. The preliminary course of education afforded to “Volunteers,” as the naval cadets used to be called, at the Royal Naval College, Portsmouth, had been abolished in [1837], and for the next twenty years cadets were sent straight to sea. In [1857], cadets were entered for training in the Illustrious, Captain Robert Harris. The number of cadets exceeding the accommodation in the ship, the Britannia was commissioned on 1st January, 1859 by Captain Harris. But not for many years did the entrance examination become the competitive ordeal for which cramming is the only preparation, known to the present generation. But I remember Admiral William Bowles, commander-in-chief of Portsmouth, taking me kindly by the shoulder and saying, “Well, my little man, you are very small for your age. Why are you being sent to sea?”  I said that I wanted to go to sea. “Are you good at your books?” asked the admiral. “Bless me, I know many an admiral who could not pass the examination you have passed. Good Heavens, what they expect boys to do nowadays!”
 
The Britannia was then moored at the entrance to Haslar Creek in Portsmouth Harbour, where the depot ships of the submarines are moored to-day. Alongside her, in the following year, lay the training frigate Eurydice, which was afterwards capsized off the Isle of Wight on 24th March, [1878], when 318 lives were lost out of a complement of 320. I learned to heave the lead from the chains of the Eurydice.

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

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Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1858

 

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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.  This is the second installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

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

I See The Fleet

Lord Charles BeresfordI SAW the Navy for the first time in the year [1858], when I was twelve years old. The Channel Squadron came into the Downs; the admiral, who was a friend of my father, invited me to visit his flagship. The admiral put off from Deal in a six-oared galley, and I was taken into a second boat. Both crews began to pull with all their might. I remember being intensely excited, beating with my hand on the gunwale and urging the men to row faster. We were overhauling the admiral, when the boat in which I was slackened her pace. “Row!” I shouted. “Why don’t you go on rowing?” “We can’t pass the admiral, sir,” said the coxswain.

And that was my first lesson in naval etiquette.

As we drew near to the ships, there arose a great tumult of shouting, and I could see the men running to and fro and racing aloft, and presently they stood in rows along the yards, manning yards in honour of the arrival of the admiral.

The neatness and order of the stately ships, the taut rigging, the snowy sails, the ropes coiled down neatly on deck: these things left an abiding impression upon my youthful mind.  

It was in the winter of the same year, [1858]-9, that a certain young soldier, who had fought throughout the Indian Mutiny with great gallantry and conspicuous ability, came to his home in County Waterford on his first furlough. He was Lieutenant Roberts, V.C.; now Field-Marshal Earl Roberts of Kandahar.

“During the winter months,” he writes, ” I hunted with the Curraghmore hounds, and was out with them the day before Lord Waterford was killed. We had no run, and at the end of the day, when wishing us good-bye, he said ‘I hope, gentlemen, we shall have better luck next time.’ ‘Next time’ there was ‘better luck’ as regarded the hunting, but the worst of all possible luck for Lord Waterford‘s numerous friends; in returning home after a good run, and having killed two foxes, his horse stumbled over quite a small ditch, throwing his rider on his head; the spinal cord was snapped, and the fine sportsman breathed his last in a few moments.” (Forty-one years in India. By Field-Marshal Lord Roberts of Kandahar. Bentley. [2 vols.] London, [1897 ], p. 451, vol 1.)

My father, the Rev. Lord John Beresford, succeeded to the marquisate. In the same year, [1859], I joined the Naval Service. I remember, some years afterwards, thinking with some degree of envy of my two younger brothers, each of whom had three hunters, while I was only the “blood-boat” (the jolly-boat bringing beef to the ship) midshipman of a man-of-war.

At that time the Navy consisted of both sailing ships and steamships. Steam was used as seldom as possible in those ships which were fitted with masts and yards. The flagships of the Cape of Good Hope, East Indies and China, Southeast Coast of America, Pacific and North America and West Indies stations were all sailing ships. The Navy List of [1859] gives the names of no less than 548 “effective” ships, together with a list of 185 “steam gunboats” and a list of 121 vessels employed in Harbour Service.

That there was so large a number of “steam gunboats” was the result of the Crimean war, during which very many were built for service in the Baltic. There is a story that an admiral returning from foreign service noticed eight gunboats aground on the Spit. Upon his inquiry, he was informed by one of his crew that they were “commanded by these old Baltic War mates and second masters, the sort what knows nothing and fears nothing.”

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