Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1861


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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 fourth 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.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1861 – School Curriculum

In addition to the ordinary school curriculum on board the Britannia, the cadets were taught seamanship, gunnery and navigation. Book-work did not interest me, but I took great pains to become proficient in seamanship, in which I always secured a high place.

A cadet entering the Britannia under 14 years of age, would be rejected from the Service if he failed to pass the fourth quarterly examination after his entrance. Having entered the Britannia in December, [1859], I was sent to sea in March, [1861]. I was very happy during my time in the Britannia. Out of school time, we did a great deal of boatpulling. My boat was called the Gazelle. I remember that one day, when I borrowed a private boat to put off to the Gazelle, my comrades pushed me out into the stream, and I drifted out to Spithead, without oars. There was nothing in the boat but a painter, which I considered it to be my duty neatly to coil down. Then I sat still and waited until a boat came to fetch me.

Seamanship was taught by the use of models, and saildrill was taught upon the mizen-mast. I remember being haunted by a doubt lest the handling of small models, and going aloft in a stationary ship, might not enable me to practise the knowledge thus acquired when I came to deal with the real full-size objects and to go aloft in a ship at sea. My prevision was largely justified; and when I came to command a ship, I made the youngsters learn their business by handling real things and not the models of them. For if anything goes wrong while teaching a youngster, for instance, to lay out a 6-ton anchor upon a model, he puts it right with his finger and thumb and thinks he can do the same with the real anchor.

The captain of the Britannia was Robert Harris, to whom the Service owes the inestimable benefit of cadet training ships. The first lieutenant was George S. Nares (now Vice-Admiral Sir George S. Nares, K.C.B.). He commanded the Challenger in her voyage of scientific discovery of [1872], during which he was recalled to proceed upon his celebrated voyage of Arctic exploration. Another lieutenant was William H. Heaton, whose long whiskers afforded the cadets much innocent amusement. On a windy day his whiskers used to stream backwards over his shoulders. Lieutenant Heaton chose to wear his stripes running longitudinally up his arm, a peculiarity which exemplifies the prevailing latitude with regard to uniform. There was no rule prescribing the pattern of cap or greatcoat worn in the Service. Officers might wear the mohair band and badge on any kind of cap that took their fancy. Some of them used to transfer plain clothes buttons to a uniform coat or greatcoat, if they were going ashore, for the sake of economy; for we were nearly all poor in those days. The chaplain and naval instructor was the Rev. Robert M. Inskip.

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