Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – Fair Play

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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 Marlborough (The Ship of Happiest Memory) as a naval cadet from the age of 14.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here or search our library here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – Fair Play

One of the closest escapes I have ever had occurred aloft in the Marlborough. Being midshipman of the mizenroyal, I was furling the sail, leaning forward upon the yard, gathering in the canvas, my feet braced backward upon the footrope, when another midshipman, leaping upon the footrope, accidentally knocked it from under my feet. For two or three seconds I hung by the tips of my fingers, which were pressed against the jackstay of the mizen-royal yard (the rope running taut along the top of the yard to which the sail is bent) under which I could not push my fingers, and then, at the last moment I found the footrope again. I have never forgotten my feelings, when I saw certain death approaching while my feet were clawing about for the footrope.

When the hands were turned out to bathe, John Glanville, chief boatswain’s mate, would go up to the main-yard, stand with one foot on the yard and the other on the preventive braceblock, and thence take a header. The height was between 50 and 60 feet. Once he struck the sea sideways, and was injured, so that he was never quite the same man afterwards. But any other man would have been killed.

On another occasion, when the ship was hove-to for the hands to bathe, the captain of the forecastle hauled the jib sheet aft, and the ship began to glide away from the officers and men, myself among them, in the water. Luckily all got on board again.

In the spirit of emulation, I fell into deserved disgrace at sail-drill. In order to be first in the evolution, I secretly unbent the foretopgallant sheet before the men arrived at the masthead. Another midshipman did likewise at the main. He was Arthur Gresley, one of the smartest midshipmen aloft, and one of the best oars in the Service, a splendid, cheery, chivalrous, noble-minded lad. We were discovered; and, before all the men, we were ordered down on deck, and were severely reprimanded for having endeavoured to gain an unfair advantage, thereby staining the character of a ship justly noted for her scrupulous fair play. I was taken out of my top, deprived of the command of my boat, and disrated to cadet; and I had serious thoughts of ending a ruined career by jumping overboard. I have never been so genuinely unhappy before or since. But upon the following day I was rated up again, and replaced in my top and my boat.

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