Category Archives: News

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1853 – Smallpox

James Brooke became the first White Rajah of Sarawak in 1841 after inheriting £30,000 and investing it in the schooner ‘The Royalist’ and sailing for Borneo. 

We are publishing a blog series that covers his adventures – taken from one of the books in our library called Rajah Brooke by Sir Spenser St John published in 1899.

Catch-up with earlier posts in the James Rajah Brooke series here.

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1853 – Smallpox

No ships of war were now at his disposal, and I doubt whether in his then state of mind he would have accepted their services. He returned to Sarawak in a small merchant brig, the Weeraff commanded by a cheerful little Frenchman.

His reception in his adopted country might have consoled him for the injustice of his own Government, for never had he received a more sincere welcome. The whole population was astir, and the hill on which Government House stood, as well as the house itself, was crammed with his joyous subjects; but he soon complained of being tired. We noticed that the Rajah’s face looked swollen, and I heard a native say he had purunasi, but none of us understood the word, which meant smallpox in the language of the north. Fever came on, and I used to sit for hours with him. At last it was manifest to everyone that it was smallpox. No sooner did he hear this than he insisted that all those who had not suffered from that disease should leave the room, and he chose his attendants among the Malays and submitted to native treatment. His cousin, Arthur Crookshank, watched over him, and all would have braved the danger of contagion, but he would have none of us with him. A Mr Horsburgh, a missionary, who thought he had passed through the ordeal, joined those who were nursing him.

By the Rajah’s express order our hill was tabooed, and all were forbidden to approach for fear the disease might spread; but this rule was afterwards relaxed in favour of those who had already suffered from it, and as most of the Malays were in that case, they came every day to inquire. There was no doubt of the intense feeling of anxiety that oppressed the people. There were prayers in the mosques, votive offerings by Klings and Chinese, and as for the Dyaks, they were in despair. However, the crisis passed, and then the Rajah was overwhelmed with presents, Scented water was brought for his bath; delicate dishes, to tempt his appetite, came from the native ladies; and the rejoicing was true and heartfelt. We all remained near the Rajah, and as soon as we were permitted eagerly joined in nursing him. The attack had been most severe, and it would have been difficult for a casual acquaintance to have recognised the same man in our chief, who had just escaped from the very jaws of death.

Excerpt from Rajah Brooke, published in 1899 by Sir Spenser St John

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Further Reading and External Links

James Rajah Brooke on Wikipedia

The Royalist Schooner

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1866 – Landing Party

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 The Sublej.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1866 – Landing Party

Charles Beresford
Charles Beresford

So the British and American fleets steamed out to sea, while the Spaniards fired upon Valparaiso from eight in the morning until four in the afternoon, setting the place on fire, and then retired to their anchorage outside. The British and American fleets then returned to the Bay, and I accompanied a landing-party to help to extinguish the conflagration.

Five of us were standing on the top of the high wall of a building whose roof had fallen in, so that the whole interior was a mass of burning wreckage, upon which we were directing the hose, when the men below shouted that the wall was falling. We slid down the ladder, and no sooner had we touched the ground than the whole wall tottered and fell inwards.

We put the fires out, but the inhabitants were so angry with us because we had not prevented the bombardment, that they requested that the landing-party should be sent back to their ships. Then the flames broke out afresh. For years the resentment of the Valparaisians remained so hot that it was inadvisable to land in the town men from British ships.

The meeting of the British and American seamen gave rise to much discussion concerning the respective merits of the British and American theories of gunnery. The Americans advocated the use of round shot to deliver a “racking blow”; the British preferred firing a pointed projectile which would penetrate the target instead of merely striking it. When an American bluejacket asked his British friend to explain the new English system of shell-fire, the British bluejacket said: “We casts our shot for the new gun so many fathoms long, and then, d’ye see, we cuts off a length at a time, regulatin’ the length required according to the ship we uses it against. For your ship, I reckon we should cut off about three and a half inches.”

The Spanish fleet was afflicted with scurvy; and we used to pull over to the Spanish ships in the evenings, bringing the officers presents of chicken, fresh meat and fruit.

Having done with Valparaiso, the Spaniards went to Callao; but there they had a more difficult job; for Callao was fortified, and the Spaniards were considerably damaged by the gun-fire from the forts.

During the progress of hostilities between the Chilians and the Spaniards, the Chilians constructed one of the first submarines. It was an American invention worked by hand and ballasted with water. The Chilians intended, or hoped, to sink the Spanish fleet with it. The submarine started from the beach on this enterprise; but it was never seen again. It simply plunged into the sea, and in the sea it remains to this day.

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

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1866 – Valparaiso

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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 The Sutlej.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1866 – Valparaiso

When we put into Valparaiso the Spanish fleet was threatening to bombard the town. Rather more than a year previously, in [1864], Spain had quarrelled with Chile, alleging that Chile had violated neutrality, and had committed other offences. In March, [1864], Spain began the diplomatic correspondence with Chile in which she demanded reparation, which was refused. Chile sent artillery and troops to Valparaiso. The Spanish admiral, Pareja, then proclaimed a blockade of the Chilian ports, and Chile declared war.

The European residents in Valparaiso, who owned an immense amount of valuable property stored in the customhouses, were terrified at the prospect of a bombardment, and petitioned Admiral Denman to prevent it. An American fleet of warships was also lying in the Bay. Among them was the Miantonomoh, the second screw ironclad that ever came through the Straits of Magellan, the first being the Spanish ironclad Numancia.

When the Miantonomoh crossed the Atlantic in [1866], The Times kindly remarked that the existing British Navy was henceforth useless, and that most of its vessels “were only fit to be laid up and ‘ painted that dirty yellow which is universally adopted to mark treachery, failure, and crime.'”

The British and American admirals consulted together as to the advisability of preventing the bombardment. The prospect of a fight cheered us all; and we entered into elaborate calculations of the relative strength of the Spanish fleet and the British-American force. As a matter of fact they were about equal The Spanish admiral, Nunez, who had succeeded Pareja, visited the Sutlej and conversed with Admiral Denman. It was reported by the midshipman who was A.D.C. to the admiral that, upon his departure, the Spaniard had said: “Very well, Admiral Denman, you know your duty and I know mine.” The information raised our hopes; but at the critical moment a telegram forbidding the British admiral to take action was received from the British Minister at Santiago.

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

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1866 – Old Yarn

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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 The Sutlej.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1866 – Old Yarn

In those days we had little bright-work, but plenty of whitewash and blacking. The test of a smart ship was that the lines of white or black should meet with absolute accuracy; and a fraction of error would be visited with the captain’s severe displeasure. For he employed condemnation instead of commendation. There was an old yarn about a mate of the main deck, who boasted that he had got to windward of his captain. We used to take live stock, poultry and sheep to sea in those days. The captain found fault with the mate because the fowls and coops were dirty. The mate whitewashed the chickens and blacked their legs and beaks. Now the poultry in question belonged to the captain. Thereafter the fowls died.

It was the custom for the admiral to take a cow or two to sea, and the officers took sheep and fowls. There is a tradition in the Navy that the cow used to be milked in the middle watch for the benefit of the officer on watch; and that, in order that the admiral should get his allowance of milk, the cow was filled up with water and made to leap backwards and forwards across the hatchways. Another tradition ordains that when the forage for the sheep ran short, the innocent animals were fitted with green spectacles, and thus equipped, they were fed on shavings.

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

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1866 – The Sutlej

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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 Sutlej.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1866 – The Sutlej

We arrived at Valparaiso towards the end of January. I continued to discharge my duties in the Tribune until the middle of February, when I was transferred to the Sutlej. I was as happy on board the Tribune as I had been in the Marlborough and the Clio, and for the same reason: the splendid seamanship and constant sailorising.

The Sutlej was a steam frigate pierced for guns, of 3066 tons and 500 h.p., flagship of the Pacific station. Before I joined her, the commander-in-chief of the station was Admiral Kingcome, who had (as we say) come in through the hawse-pipe. It was the delight of this queer old admiral to beat the drum for night-quarters himself. He used to steal the drum, and trot away with it, rub-a-dub all along the lower deck, bending double beneath the hammocks of the sleeping seamen. On one of these occasions; so runs the yarn; a burly able seaman thrust his bare legs over the edge of his hammock, clipped the admiral under the shoulders, swung him to and fro, and, with an appropriate but unquotable objurgation, dispatched him forward with a kick.

Such (in a word) was the condition of the flagship to which Rear-Admiral the Honourable Joseph Denman succeeded, after the enjoyment of twenty-five years’ profound peace in the command of the Queen’s yacht.

The captain, Trevenen P. Coode, was tall and thin, hooked-nosed and elderly, much bent about the shoulders, with a habit of crossing his arms and folding his hands inside his sleeves. He was a taut hand and a fine seaman. He nearly broke my heart, old martinet that he was; for I was mate of the upper deck and the hull, and took an immense pride in keeping them immaculately clean; but they were never clean enough for Captain Trevenen P. Coode.

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

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1866 – Promotion

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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 Tribune.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1865 – Promotion

While in the Tribune, two misfortunes occurred to me on the same day. As we all know, misfortunes never come singly. The sailmaker had reported me for skylarking; and it occurred to me that if he was going to put me in the report, he might as well have a better reason for that extreme action. I therefore rove a line attached to a sailmaker’s needle through the holes of the bench upon which he sat. When he seated himself to begin his work, I jerked the line, and he leaped into the air with a loud cry. That was my first misfortune. The second was entirely due to the rude and thoughtless conduct of another midshipman, who, in passing me as I sat at my sailmaker’s bench, industriously working, tilted me over. I took up the first thing which was handy, which happened to be a carpenter’s chisel, and hurled it at his retreating figure. It stuck and quivered in a portion of his anatomy which is (or was) considered by schoolmasters as designed to receive punishment. I had, of course, no intention of hurting him. But I was reported for the second time that day. I was put on watch and watch for a week, a penance which involved being four hours on and four hours off, my duties having to be done as usual during the watch off in the daytime.

We sailed from Vancouver early in December, [1865]. On 2nd January I was promoted to be acting sub-lieutenant I find that Captain Lord Gillford endorsed my certificate with the statement that Lord Charles Beresford had conducted himself “with sobriety, diligence, attention, and was always obedient to command; and I have been much pleased with the zealous manner in which he has performed his duties.”

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

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1865 – Sailmaker

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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 Tribune.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1865 – Sailmaker

I can never be too grateful for the seamanship I learned on board the Tribune. The captain lost no opportunity of teaching us. On one occasion, for instance, we carried away the starboard foremast swifter, in the fore rigging;  the Tribune had rope lower rigging. Captain Lord Gillford, instead of splicing the shroud to the masthead pennants, chose, in order to educate us, to strip the whole foremast to a gantline. We got the whole of the lower rigging over the masthead again. I was in the sailmaker’s crew; and another midshipman and myself, together with the forecastle men, fitted in the new shroud, turned it in, wormed, parcelled, and served it; put it over the masthead, and got the fore rigging all a-taunto again. I also helped to make a new foresail and jib out of number one canvas, roped them, put the clews in, and completed the job. Lord Gillford’s object was to teach those under him to carry out the work in the proper shipshape manner. The sailmaker’s crew, among whom was another midshipman, named Morrison, and myself, numbered 15 or 20 men, including able seamen, and we were all as happy as possible. We were taught by one of the best sailmakers in the Service, who was named Flood. We always worked in a sailmaker’s canvas jumper and trousers made by ourselves. I could cut out and make a seaman’s canvas working suit, jumper and trousers, in 30 minutes, using the sailmaker’s stitch of four stitches to the inch.

I had a complete sailmaker’s bag with every sailmaker’s tool necessary; serving and roping mallets, jiggers, seaming and roping palms, all-sized marling-spikes, fids, seam-rubbers, sail-hooks, grease-pot, seaming and roping twine, etc. etc.

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

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1850 – Chaufa Mungkut

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James Brooke became the first White Rajah of Sarawak in 1841 after inheriting £30,000 and investing it in the schooner ‘The Royalist’ and sailing for Borneo. 

We are publishing a blog series that covers his adventures – taken from one of the books in our library called Rajah Brooke by Sir Spenser St John published in 1899.

Catch-up with earlier posts in the James Rajah Brooke series here.

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1850 – Chaufa Mungkut

Sir James Brooke was soon satisfied that, under the then reigning king, success was hopeless, as he had imbibed a strong prejudice against foreigners through the unjustifiable conduct of an English merchant, who had nearly ruined the prospects of our trade by an attempt to coerce the King into buying a steamer at four times its value. But what proved of importance was the confidential intercourse which took place with Chaufa Mungkut, the legal heir to the throne. This prince had retired to a monastery to avoid the persecution of the King, who was an illegitimate elder brother.

We readily gathered sufficient information as to the King’s ill-treatment of various British subjects to warrant our Government acting against him; but all our present advances were rejected. I may again repeat that had we arrived with a strong squadron, with ships which could have entered the river, and decided to proceed to Bangkok in a war vessel, there would have been little opposition to signing a treaty; but Sir James thought that not much would be gained by forcing a convention on the Siamese.

Satisfied that nothing could be done, Sir James sent to the Foreign Minister the value of all presents received, and we started for the mouth of the river in the state barges, and soon found ourselves on board the Sphynx on our way to Singapore. Our only success had been the discovery that Chaufa Mungkut was favourable to the English, that he was an educated prince, who could converse and correspond in our language, and that when he came to the throne he would be ready to negotiate.

Excerpt from Rajah Brooke, published in 1899 by Sir Spenser St John

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Further Reading and External Links

James Rajah Brooke on Wikipedia

The Royalist Schooner

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1850 – Amusing Scene

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James Brooke became the first White Rajah of Sarawak in 1841 after inheriting £30,000 and investing it in the schooner ‘The Royalist’ and sailing for Borneo. 

We are publishing a blog series that covers his adventures – taken from one of the books in our library called Rajah Brooke by Sir Spenser St John published in 1899.

Catch-up with earlier posts in the James Rajah Brooke series here.

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1850 – Amusing Scene

Early in August we left Singapore for Siam in the Sphynx, attended by the Company’s steamer Nemesis, and were soon at our destination. Captain Brooke and I were sent in to the forts at the mouth of the river to make arrangements for the Envoy’s suitable reception.

We found the people on shore in great alarm, and we heard that a heavy boom had been placed across the river to prevent the steamers proceeding to the capital. When we had settled our business we returned to Sir James, and it was arranged that he should enter the river next morning in the larger ship. It appeared to a landsman that no sufficient precautions were taken to mark the deepest passage, but we trusted to a native pilot, who speedily ran us on a sandbank. There was no help for it, as the Sphynx could not be moved, but to be transferred to the Nemesis and we then steamed on to the forts.

The minister charged with foreign affairs had come down to receive us, so the first meeting between him and the English Envoy took place at the village close to the mouth of the river.

It was an amusing scene. The arrogance of this half-civilised people was extreme, and the minister, to show his disdain, had the seats intended for the English Envoy and his suite placed in a position of marked inferiority. He himself was seated on a divan, with soft cushions, and surrounded by his gold betel boxes and tea service, whilst his followers crouched behind him, and no native approached, except on his hands and knees, crawling like an insect along the floor. The minister rose as we entered, and pointing to some chairs, motioned us to be seated, but Sir James passed them by. He approached the minister and shook hands, and sat down opposite to him; we all followed suit, and did the same, placing our chairs beside that of our chief. The minister was breathless with astonishment, but he resumed his seat, and in a short time recovered his composure, and the usual routine of questions and answers followed. He said that the Government had built a house for the reception of the mission, and that state barges were being prepared to convey the Envoy and his suite to the capital. Had the Sphynx been able to enter the river, we might have insisted on going to the capital in the Nemesis but it was settled that we should proceed in the state barges. Captain Brooke and I went first to inspect the temporary house allotted to us, but finding it unsuitable, we accepted the offer of an English merchant to take his house for the mission, and use the other for our escort and for visitors from the ships.

Excerpt from Rajah Brooke, published in 1899 by Sir Spenser St John

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Further Reading and External Links

James Rajah Brooke on Wikipedia

The Royalist Schooner

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1850 – Special Envoy

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James Brooke became the first White Rajah of Sarawak in 1841 after inheriting £30,000 and investing it in the schooner ‘The Royalist’ and sailing for Borneo. 

We are publishing a blog series that covers his adventures – taken from one of the books in our library called Rajah Brooke by Sir Spenser St John published in 1899.

Catch-up with earlier posts in the James Rajah Brooke series here.

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1850 – Special Envoy

We left Labuan at the end of February, and after calling in at Sarawak, proceeded to Singapore, where a budget of news awaited us. The English Governor had appointed Sir James as Special Envoy to proceed to Siam and Cochin China to form treaties with those states; at the same time we heard of the renewal of virulent attacks on the Rajah’s policy by certain journals and Members of Parliament. After a pleasant stay of a fortnight, we proceeded to Penang in the hope that we should all shake off the fever and ague contracted during our exhausting expeditions.

No man loved nature more than did the Rajah, and he enjoyed his stay on this lofty hill. He could ride, or wander among the lovely flowers and plants of the Governor’s garden, or he could gaze on the beautiful scenery which unfolded itself around us. Those six weeks were indeed delightful, and we often looked back on our quiet sojourn there and its refreshing rest. We busied ourselves also in preparing for our missions to Siam and Annam, to which I had been appointed secretary.

As the ship of war which was to have taken us to Siam was soon expected, we would not wait for the mail steamer, but left Penang in a sailing vessel, and took seventeen days to reach Singapore, a distance of only four hundred miles; in our case it was the greater haste the less speed.

On our arrival in Singapore we found that there was no vessel ready for us, and we had to wait weary months there before one was placed at our disposal. At first we were to have had the Hastings battleship; then, from some personal reason, it was decided by Admiral Austen, brother to Jane Austen, no doubt the ‘William’ of Mansfield Park that we were to have H.M.’s steamer Sphynx to show Captain Shadwell. It was quite useless ourselves in Siam without a commanding force, if we wished to secure a favourable treaty. It was known that the King of Siam had become hostile to Europeans, and nothing but fear would work on his prejudiced mind. Had we appeared off the Menam River with a strong squadron, our mission would have been respected.

Excerpt from Rajah Brooke, published in 1899 by Sir Spenser St John

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Further Reading and External Links

James Rajah Brooke on Wikipedia

The Royalist Schooner