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.


Further Reading and External Links

Lord Charles Beresford on Wikipedia

Lord Charles Beresford on The Dreadnought Project