Memoirs of Sir Henry Keppel – A Great Shot – 1873

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Keppel, GCB, OM (14 June 1809 – 17 January 1904) was a British admiral and son of the 4th Earl of Albemarle. Below is an excerpt from his memoirs as published in one of the books in our library ‘Memoirs of Sir Henry Keppel – Admiral of the Fleet – by Sir Algernon Edward West’ -1905.  Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here.

Memoirs of Sir Henry Keppel  – A Great Shot – 1873

When Lieutenant Windham returned from the East Indies, in [1873], he was visiting his aunt, Mrs. Hare, at Devonport, who insisted on his going at once to pay his respects to the Admiral. Having no uniform, he apologised . ‘Dear boy’ said Harry, ‘I’m not __________,’ naming his predecessor.

One day the Admiral challenged the General at Mount Wise to a point-to-point race on Dartmoor. The course was mapped out with due formalities, and the Admiral won the race.

Harry was very keen about his hunting and shooting, and would often get secretly away in the mornings, before his secretary, with despatches from the Admiralty, could catch him. But one day he pursued the Admiral, after a long chase, at Colonel Coryton’s place, Pentillie, and made his back into a writing-table, on which many signatures were written. He would often hunt with Admiral Parker, master of the Dartmoor Hounds, and an old coachman there remembered Harry’s dancing a hornpipe on the ice on the occasion of a frost. He was a careless shot, and one day he came back to Mrs. Parker, saying, ‘I have had an excellent day’s sport. I have shot two woodcock, ten pheasants, a rabbit, and your son!’

On the first day’s shooting at Port Eliot the keeper surprised him by asking if he might look at his cartridges, explaining that his predecessor, Admiral Codrington, had used ball cartridges, which he had taken out of the store in the Dockyard.

Not contented with hunting on Dartmoor, he crossed over to Ireland with Lord Charles Beresford, to hunt with Lord Waterford, where, as usual, he had a bad fall and broke his collarbone. But his worst accident was when hunting with Lord Digby in Dorsetshire, when he fell on his head, and was laid up for a long time, being thereby prevented from joining the Embassy which was sent to Italy to present the King with the Garter.

Surely there never was a man who ‘came up smiling,’ as the prizefighters say, after so many accidents.

One day he tumbled from a ship, when visiting her with Admiral Commerell, on to the pigiron pavement in the Dockyard, about twenty feet below him, and was stunned. They gave him up for dead. However, he heard Admiral Commerell shouting for water, so he thought it was time to pull himself together, and cried out, ‘Put some whisky in it.’ He rallied and was put to bed, but insisted on going to Goodwood. When his doctor declared that he would not take the responsibility of his going: ‘Who the devil,’ he said, ‘asked you to take the responsibility?’

On one occasion he met Mr. Manley Sims, his doctor, who wanted to know how he was. He did not recognise him, and said: ‘Quite well, and all the better for not having seen that beast of a doctor of mine for some time.’

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Further Reading and External Links

Henry Keppel on Wikipedia