Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – The Defense – Sad Scrape

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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 Defense (The Ship of unHappyMemory) one of the first iron and steam driven ships of the ‘New Navy’ launched in 1861.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – The Defense – Sad Scrape

In the Defence, as in my other ships, my Service transgressions were few and venial, as in the case of the signal halliards. My troubles arose from my intervals of relaxation on shore. It is now so long ago that perhaps I may without imprudence relate a sad episode in which I fell under the condemnation of the law, with all that attendant publicity which – as one journalist rather unctuously remarked at the time – is so often worse than the penalty.

Defense, PLYMOUTH

“My DEAREST FATHER, – I am writing to you at once to tell you what a sad scrape I have just come out of. On Friday night I was with some other wild fellows on the outside of a cab, pea-shooting, myself the worst, when unfortunately I hit a lady who was leaning on a gentleman’s arm in the face. The man chased us and with a good deal of difficulty, caught us; we were then taken to the station-house, and given into custody. The hotel-keeper we always go to, very kindly bailed us for the night. In the morning we went to the station-house according to promise; and were tried; the result was my paying £2, 10s. and costs, or one month’s imprisonment, and another £1, or 7 days. The other two got off, no peas being found upon them. You will see all about it in the papers I am sending you. I am writing to you in such a hurry, as I am afraid you might believe the papers if you saw them before my letter. I most solemnly swear to you on my honour that I was quite sober the whole of the day that this took place. And as for behaving unbecoming a gentleman in the Court, I certainly did laugh, but the judge made me, and all did so, as he was chaffing all the time. The reason I did not apologise to the man was because he swore on his oath that I was drunk; which was a lie. I had been dining with Hutchinson (see in the paper), who was giving a dinner as he was leaving the ship. All I drank was two glasses of Moselle. The papers I sent you are Radical so of course they run me down. All that remains to be said is, I hope you will look upon it as a boyish lark and not as a disgraceful action; and will you send me 5 pounds as I have but 3 shillings left; and I must have some money to pay mess, wine, etc. etc. So now write soon to your prodigal son, “CHARLIE BERESFORD”

I received in reply a severe but affectionate reproof from my father. The gentlemen of the Press took upon themselves to improve the occasion, having first taken care, of course, to describe the affair as a great deal worse than it was. “Let this lesson be taken,” says one kind journalist, “it may be a guide and a warning for the future. The days are gone;  gone for ever; when the pranks of a Waterford would be tolerated; but while we would hope his follies are lost, we would likewise hope that his manly, frank, chivalrous nature is still inherited by his kinsmen.”

Another reporter did me the justice to record that, on being called on for my defence, I said: “I certainly do apologise if I did strike the lady, because it was not my intention to do so; but I certainly don’t apologise for striking Mr. Yates.” I trust he bears me no malice.

Yet Mother guardian of public morals observed that “his Worship, in announcing the penalties, called attention to the inequalities of the law, which exacted fines for the same offence alike from the man with whom sovereigns were plentiful as hours and the man whose night’s spree must cost him a week’s fasting.” Had his Worship taken the trouble to refer to the scale of pay granted by a generous country to midshipmen, comparing it with the scale of rations and the price we paid for them, and had he (in addition) enjoyed the privilege of perusing the financial clauses of the letter addressed to me more in sorrow than in anger by my father, he might perhaps have modified his exordium.

As an illustration of the strict supervision exercised by the senior officers, I may record that I received; in addition to my other penalties and visitations; a severe reproof from Captain Stewart, my old captain in the Marlborough.

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