Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1864 – The Clio

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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 Clio.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1864 – The Clio

I began in the Clio by immediately assuming that responsibility of senior midshipman desired by Rear-Admiral Charles Eden. I purchased the stores for the gunroom mess, expending £67, accounting for every penny, with the most sedulous precision. We paid a shilling a day for messing, and the stores were to supplement our miserable rations. They were so bad that I wonder we kept our health; indeed, only the fittest survived.

We sailed from Portsmouth in August, [1864]. It was my first long voyage. It is curious that the first week of a long voyage goes very slowly, and the rest of the time very fast I used to keep the first dog watch and to relieve the officer in the morning watch. In the keen pleasure of handling the ship – loosing sails, sheeting them home, reefing, furling, and all the rest of the work of a sailor – I regained all my old delight in the sea which I had lost in the Defence. Keeping watch under sail required unremitting vigilance, perpetual activity, and constant readiness. The officer of the watch must be everywhere, with an eye to everything, forward and aft; while the helmsman handling the wheel under the break of the poop, keeps the weather leach just lifting.

The memory of the continuous hard work of the daily routine, makes the sober and pleasant background to the more lively recollection of events, which were after all but the natural reaction from the long monotony of sea life.

It was my duty to preserve order in the gun-room; and a lively lot I had in charge. One of the midshipmen, a big fellow, was something of a bully. He used to persecute a youngster smaller than himself, and one day the boy came to me and asked what he could do to end the tyranny. I thought that this particular bully was also a coward; by no means an inevitable combination; and I advised his victim, next time he was bullied, to hit the bully on the point of the nose as hard as he could, and I promised that I would support him in whatever came afterwards. He did as he was told; whereupon the bully came to me with a complaint that a junior midshipman had struck him. I formed a ring and put the two to settle the matter with their fists. The little boy was a plucky youngster, and clever with his fists. He knocked out his enemy, and had peace thereafter.

I crossed the Line for the first time. In going through the usual ceremonies, being ducked and held under in the big tank, I was as nearly drowned as ever in my life, being hauled out insensible. We towed out the Turtle, a Government vessel, bound for Ascension with stores. While towing, it is necessary to wear instead of tacking, for fear of coming on top of the tow. But the first lieutenant thought he would tack; so he tried to go about. There was a gale of wind; the ship missed stays, and came right on top of the unfortunate Turtle, dismasting and nearly sinking her. I was sent on board her to give assistance; and I made excellent use of the opportunity to collect from the Turtles stores many useful little ship’s fittings of which the Clio was in need. We took the Turtle into Ascension, where the midshipmen landed, collected the eggs of the “wide-awake” gulls, and bottled them for future consumption.

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

HMS Clio