Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – The Convict Settlement

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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 Clio.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – The Convict Settlement

From the Falkland Islands we proceeded to the Straits of Magellan, where the natives of Terra del Fuego came off to us in boats. They were totally naked, and were smeared all over with grease. It was snowing, and they had made a fire in the boats; and when the sea splashed upon the fire and put it out, they beat the sea in anger with their paddles.

At the convict settlement there used to be a box to hold mails fixed on the top of a pole. The letters were taken on board the next ship passing homeward bound. I posted a letter addressed to my mother, who received it in due time.

We dropped anchor off Port Mercy. It came on to blow a hurricane. We had two anchors down ahead, struck lower yards and topmast, and kept the screw moving to ease the cables. Without the aid of steam, we should have been blown away. Even so, the captain became anxious and decided to put out to sea. We battened down and went out under trysails and forestaysail. Instantly we were plunged into a mountainous sea, and the wind whipped the canvas out of us. We set close-reefed foretopsail. A tremendous squall struck us, we shipped water and were blown upon our beam ends. So strong was the wind that each successive blast listed the ship right over. The captain then determined to run back to Port Mercy. The master set the course, as he thought, to clear the headland; and we steamed at full speed. I was standing half-way up the bridge ladder holding on to the man-rope in a violent squall of hail and snow, the hail cutting my cheeks open, when I saw land right ahead. The fact was that the master had mistaken his course, and the ship was driving straight on shore, where every man would have perished. I reported my observation to the first lieutenant, who merely remarked that it was probable that the master knew better than I did. But presently he too saw the high rocks looming ahead through the smother of snow and spray, and the course was altered just in time. The wind was on the port beam; we edged into it out to sea; and so were able to clear the headland and get under the lee of the land. The first lieutenant afterwards handsomely admitted that it was a good job I was standing where I was “with my eyes open” at the critical moment. It was in the height of this emergency, that I first heard the pipe go “Save ship.”

We proceeded to Valparaiso, where the ship put in to refit. At Valparaiso, we were able to get horses, and we organised paper-chases.

It was about this time that the incident of the Impresario occurred. He was conducting the orchestra from the stage itself, being seated in a hole cut in the stage, so that his legs rested upon a little platform below. The refreshment room was underneath the stage, and the Impresario’s legs projected downwards from the ceiling into the room, where were two or three midshipmen and myself. The temptation was irresistible. We grasped the legs; hauled on them; and down came the Impresario. Overhead, the music faltered and died away.

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