Category Archives: Politician

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – The Defense – Sad Scrape

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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 Defense (The Ship of unHappyMemory) one of the first iron and steam driven ships of the ‘New Navy’ launched in 1861.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – The Defense – Sad Scrape

In the Defence, as in my other ships, my Service transgressions were few and venial, as in the case of the signal halliards. My troubles arose from my intervals of relaxation on shore. It is now so long ago that perhaps I may without imprudence relate a sad episode in which I fell under the condemnation of the law, with all that attendant publicity which – as one journalist rather unctuously remarked at the time – is so often worse than the penalty.

Defense, PLYMOUTH

“My DEAREST FATHER, – I am writing to you at once to tell you what a sad scrape I have just come out of. On Friday night I was with some other wild fellows on the outside of a cab, pea-shooting, myself the worst, when unfortunately I hit a lady who was leaning on a gentleman’s arm in the face. The man chased us and with a good deal of difficulty, caught us; we were then taken to the station-house, and given into custody. The hotel-keeper we always go to, very kindly bailed us for the night. In the morning we went to the station-house according to promise; and were tried; the result was my paying £2, 10s. and costs, or one month’s imprisonment, and another £1, or 7 days. The other two got off, no peas being found upon them. You will see all about it in the papers I am sending you. I am writing to you in such a hurry, as I am afraid you might believe the papers if you saw them before my letter. I most solemnly swear to you on my honour that I was quite sober the whole of the day that this took place. And as for behaving unbecoming a gentleman in the Court, I certainly did laugh, but the judge made me, and all did so, as he was chaffing all the time. The reason I did not apologise to the man was because he swore on his oath that I was drunk; which was a lie. I had been dining with Hutchinson (see in the paper), who was giving a dinner as he was leaving the ship. All I drank was two glasses of Moselle. The papers I sent you are Radical so of course they run me down. All that remains to be said is, I hope you will look upon it as a boyish lark and not as a disgraceful action; and will you send me 5 pounds as I have but 3 shillings left; and I must have some money to pay mess, wine, etc. etc. So now write soon to your prodigal son, “CHARLIE BERESFORD”

I received in reply a severe but affectionate reproof from my father. The gentlemen of the Press took upon themselves to improve the occasion, having first taken care, of course, to describe the affair as a great deal worse than it was. “Let this lesson be taken,” says one kind journalist, “it may be a guide and a warning for the future. The days are gone;  gone for ever; when the pranks of a Waterford would be tolerated; but while we would hope his follies are lost, we would likewise hope that his manly, frank, chivalrous nature is still inherited by his kinsmen.”

Another reporter did me the justice to record that, on being called on for my defence, I said: “I certainly do apologise if I did strike the lady, because it was not my intention to do so; but I certainly don’t apologise for striking Mr. Yates.” I trust he bears me no malice.

Yet Mother guardian of public morals observed that “his Worship, in announcing the penalties, called attention to the inequalities of the law, which exacted fines for the same offence alike from the man with whom sovereigns were plentiful as hours and the man whose night’s spree must cost him a week’s fasting.” Had his Worship taken the trouble to refer to the scale of pay granted by a generous country to midshipmen, comparing it with the scale of rations and the price we paid for them, and had he (in addition) enjoyed the privilege of perusing the financial clauses of the letter addressed to me more in sorrow than in anger by my father, he might perhaps have modified his exordium.

As an illustration of the strict supervision exercised by the senior officers, I may record that I received; in addition to my other penalties and visitations; a severe reproof from Captain Stewart, my old captain in the Marlborough.

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 – Saving Lives






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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 Defense (The Ship of unHappyMemory) one of the first iron and steam driven ships of the ‘New Navy’ launched in 1861.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – The Defense – Saving Lives

It was during my time in the Defence that I was so fortunate as to be enabled to save two lives. On one occasion, the ship was lying in the Mersey, and visitors were on board. A party of these was leaving the ship, when their boat was slewed round by the strong tide, and one of them, a big, heavy man, fell into the water. I dived after him. Luckily there was a boat-keeper in the galley secured astern of the ship. He held out a boat-hook, which I caught with one hand, holding up my man with the other.

I received the gold medal of the Liverpool Shipwreck Humane Society, and the bronze medal of the Royal Humane Society. The name of the man who fell overboard was Richardson. More than forty years afterwards, the son of Mr. Richardson sent me a kind letter, enclosing a photograph of his father, who had died in [1882], nineteen years after his rescue.

“My mother,” wrote Mr. J. Richardson, “was in very great terror, as my father could not swim a stroke. He was a very fine man, and this made your task you so quickly undertook not any the easier. The clothes he wore on that memorable occasion were, after their thorough wetting, too small for him to wear again, so they were cut down for my elder brothers, and were called by them their ‘Channel Fleet’ clothes, and jolly proud they were to wear them too.”

The boys’ sentiment is pleasing, whether it arose from the exciting fact that Mr. Richardson had fallen overboard in them; a thing which might happen to any gentleman;  or from his having in them been picked out by an officer (however junior) of the Channel Fleet.

The second occasion when I was successful in saving a man from drowning was in Plymouth Sound. A string of boats from the Fleet carrying liberty men was pulling ashore, when a shore-boat crossed their bows and was run down by the leading boat. I jumped in and held up one of the passengers; and was again awarded the bronze medal of the Royal Humane Society.

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 – 1861 – The Cutter






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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 Defense (The Ship of unHappy Memory) one of the first iron and steam driven ships of the ‘New Navy’ launched in 1861.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1861 – The Cutter

I was somewhat consoled in the Defence by being placed in charge of the cutter; in which I succeeded, by a small feat of seamanship, in earning the rare commendation of the first lieutenant. I was about to sail off to the Fleet from Devonport, when I discovered that the yard of the dipping lug was sprung. This was serious, as it was blowing fairly hard. Fortunately, I had one of those knives so dear to boyhood, containing a small saw and other implements; and with this weapon I shaped a batten and fitted it to the yard, woolded it with spun-yarn and wedged it tight I did not expect it to hold; but, double-reefing the sail, I put off. All the way to the ship I had an eye on the yard, and it held. Of coarse I was late on board; and the first lieutenant declined to believe my explanation of the delay until he had had the yard hoisted on deck. Then he was kind enough to say, “Well, my boy, if you can do a thing like that, there’s hope for you yet.” Every little ray of hope is worth having.

But by reason of my love for the cutter, I fell into trouble. In the dockyard at Devonport, there stood a mast newly fitted with beautiful new white signal halliards, the very thing for the cutter. I should explain that, as we were kept very short of stores, stealing in the Service from the Service for the Service, used to be a virtue. There was once an admiral who stole a whole ship’s propeller in order to melt the brass from it; and it was another admiral who boasted to me of his brother officer’s achievement. Of course, no one ever steals anything nowadays; nothing is ever missing out of store; and no midshipman would dream of attempting to convey signal halliards from the dockyard into his boat.

But I did. I brought an end of the halliard into an adjacent shed, concealed in which I revolved swiftly upon my axis, winding the rope about me. Then I put on an overcoat, borrowed for the purpose. But my figure presented an appearance so unnaturally rotund that a policeman experienced in diagnosing these sudden metamorphoses, compelled me to divest and to revolve, unwinding, in the public eye. He also reported me for stealing Government stores. “Zeal, all zeal, Mr. Easy!”

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 – 1861 – The Defense

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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 Defense (The Ship of unHappyMemory) one of the first iron and steam driven ships of the ‘New Navy’ launched in 1861.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1861 – The Defense

I did not like the Defence. I thought her a dreadful ship. After the immaculate decks, the glittering perfection, the spirit and fire and pride of the Marlborough, the “flagship of the world,” I was condemned to a slovenly, unhandy, tin kettle which could not sail without steam; which had not even any royal-masts; and which took minutes instead of seconds to cross topgallant yards, a disgusting spectacle to a midshipman of the Marlborough. Instead of the splendid sun and blue waters of the Mediterranean, there were the cold skies and the dirty seas of the Channel. I wrote to my father asking him to remove me from the Navy.

The Defence was one of the iron-built, or iron-cased, armoured, heavily rigged, steam-driven, broadside-fire vessels launched from [1860] to [1866]. They represented the transition from the Old Navy to the New, inasmuch as they retained large sailing powers and broadside fire, combining with these traditional elements, iron construction and steam propulsion. They were the Warrior, Black Prince, Defence, Resistance, Hector, Valiant, Achilles, Minotaur, Agincourt, and Northumberland. The Defence, launched in [1861], was (in modern terms) of 6270 tons displacement, 2540 h.p., 11.6 knots speed, carried 22 guns, and had a complement of 450 men. She was commanded by Captain Augustus Phillimore, and was one of the Channel Squadron, which, in the year [1863], was commanded by Rear-Admiral Robert Smart, K.H.

The Channel Squadron at that time was employed in cruising round the coasts of the British Isles, in order to familiarise people on shore with the Fleet. In later life it fell to me, as commander-in-chief, to conduct similar cruises, of whose object I thoroughly approve.

The Warrior and Black Prince, in particular, were stately and noble vessels whose beauty was a delight to behold. Their great spread of sail, their long hulls and yacht bows, the vast expanse of flush wooden decks, their solidity and grace, set them among the finest ships ever built.

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 – 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

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

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

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – Fair Play

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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 – Fair Play

One of the closest escapes I have ever had occurred aloft in the Marlborough. Being midshipman of the mizenroyal, I was furling the sail, leaning forward upon the yard, gathering in the canvas, my feet braced backward upon the footrope, when another midshipman, leaping upon the footrope, accidentally knocked it from under my feet. For two or three seconds I hung by the tips of my fingers, which were pressed against the jackstay of the mizen-royal yard (the rope running taut along the top of the yard to which the sail is bent) under which I could not push my fingers, and then, at the last moment I found the footrope again. I have never forgotten my feelings, when I saw certain death approaching while my feet were clawing about for the footrope.

When the hands were turned out to bathe, John Glanville, chief boatswain’s mate, would go up to the main-yard, stand with one foot on the yard and the other on the preventive braceblock, and thence take a header. The height was between 50 and 60 feet. Once he struck the sea sideways, and was injured, so that he was never quite the same man afterwards. But any other man would have been killed.

On another occasion, when the ship was hove-to for the hands to bathe, the captain of the forecastle hauled the jib sheet aft, and the ship began to glide away from the officers and men, myself among them, in the water. Luckily all got on board again.

In the spirit of emulation, I fell into deserved disgrace at sail-drill. In order to be first in the evolution, I secretly unbent the foretopgallant sheet before the men arrived at the masthead. Another midshipman did likewise at the main. He was Arthur Gresley, one of the smartest midshipmen aloft, and one of the best oars in the Service, a splendid, cheery, chivalrous, noble-minded lad. We were discovered; and, before all the men, we were ordered down on deck, and were severely reprimanded for having endeavoured to gain an unfair advantage, thereby staining the character of a ship justly noted for her scrupulous fair play. I was taken out of my top, deprived of the command of my boat, and disrated to cadet; and I had serious thoughts of ending a ruined career by jumping overboard. I have never been so genuinely unhappy before or since. But upon the following day I was rated up again, and replaced in my top and my boat.

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