Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1866 – Landing Party

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 The Sublej.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1866 – Landing Party

Charles Beresford
Charles Beresford

So the British and American fleets steamed out to sea, while the Spaniards fired upon Valparaiso from eight in the morning until four in the afternoon, setting the place on fire, and then retired to their anchorage outside. The British and American fleets then returned to the Bay, and I accompanied a landing-party to help to extinguish the conflagration.

Five of us were standing on the top of the high wall of a building whose roof had fallen in, so that the whole interior was a mass of burning wreckage, upon which we were directing the hose, when the men below shouted that the wall was falling. We slid down the ladder, and no sooner had we touched the ground than the whole wall tottered and fell inwards.

We put the fires out, but the inhabitants were so angry with us because we had not prevented the bombardment, that they requested that the landing-party should be sent back to their ships. Then the flames broke out afresh. For years the resentment of the Valparaisians remained so hot that it was inadvisable to land in the town men from British ships.

The meeting of the British and American seamen gave rise to much discussion concerning the respective merits of the British and American theories of gunnery. The Americans advocated the use of round shot to deliver a “racking blow”; the British preferred firing a pointed projectile which would penetrate the target instead of merely striking it. When an American bluejacket asked his British friend to explain the new English system of shell-fire, the British bluejacket said: “We casts our shot for the new gun so many fathoms long, and then, d’ye see, we cuts off a length at a time, regulatin’ the length required according to the ship we uses it against. For your ship, I reckon we should cut off about three and a half inches.”

The Spanish fleet was afflicted with scurvy; and we used to pull over to the Spanish ships in the evenings, bringing the officers presents of chicken, fresh meat and fruit.

Having done with Valparaiso, the Spaniards went to Callao; but there they had a more difficult job; for Callao was fortified, and the Spaniards were considerably damaged by the gun-fire from the forts.

During the progress of hostilities between the Chilians and the Spaniards, the Chilians constructed one of the first submarines. It was an American invention worked by hand and ballasted with water. The Chilians intended, or hoped, to sink the Spanish fleet with it. The submarine started from the beach on this enterprise; but it was never seen again. It simply plunged into the sea, and in the sea it remains to this day.

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