Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – Midshipman

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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 – Midshipman

At first in the Marlborough I was midshipman of the mizentop, and in charge of the jolly-boat. The midshipman in charge of a boat learned how to handle men. As he was away from the ship with them for long periods, he was forced to understand them and to discover how to treat them, thus learning the essential elements of administration. As all my delight was in seamanship, I contrived to miss a good deal of school. It was not difficult, when the naval instructor desired my presence, to find a good reason for duty with my boat. I was afterwards midshipman of the foretop, and when I was promoted from the jolly-boat to the second pinnace, and to the command of the first subdivision of the three-pounder division of field-guns for landing, being placed in charge of one three-pounder gun, I thought I was an emperor.

We used to land with the guns for field-battery exercises, setting Marine sentries all round to prevent the men getting away to drink. Returning on board, we used to race down the Calcara Hill at Malta to the harbour. On one occasion, we were going so fast that we couldn’t turn the gun round the corner, and gun and all toppled over the wharf into the water.

I fell into another scrape in excess of zeal for marksmanship. We used to practise aiming with rifles and muzzle-loading Enfields, the Service rifle of that day. We fired percussion caps without charges, at little bull’s-eyes painted on a strip of canvas, which was stretched along the bulwarks below the hammock-nettings. The marksman stood on the opposite side of the deck. Another midshipman and myself contrived to fire a couple of caps as projectiles, which of course entered the woodwork behind the targets, making dreadful holes. This appalling desecration, involving the fitting in of new planking, was discovered by the commander, Brandreth. His rage was justifiable. We were stood on the bitts, and also mastheaded.

Captain Houston Stewart used to fish from the stern gallery when the ship was at anchor. He tied his line to the rail, and went back into his cabin, returning every few minutes to see if he had a fish. Beneath the stern gallery opened the ports of the gunroom. With a hooked stick I drew in his line, attached a red herring to the hook, dropped it in again, and when the captain came to feel his line I jerked it. He hauled it up in a hurry. Instantly after, he sent for all the midshipmen; and, for some reason or other, he picked me out at once.

“You did that, Beresford,” he said. “Most impertinent! Your leave will be stopped.”

Next day, however, he let me off.

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