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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.
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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 , 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 , 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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