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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 – Gunnery
We were very particular about our gunnery in the Marlborough; although at the same time gunnery was regarded as quite a secondary art. It was considered that anyone could fire a gun, and that the whole credit of successful gunnery depended upon the seamanship of the sailors who brought the ship into the requisite position. The greater number of the guns in the Marlborough were the same as those used in the time of Nelson, with their wooden trucks, handspikes, sponges, rammers, worms and all gear complete. The Marlborough was fitted with a cupola for heating roundshot, which were carried red-hot to the gun in an iron bucket. I know of no other ship which was thus equipped. The gunnery lieutenant of the Marlborough, Charles Inglis, was gifted with so great and splendid a voice, that, when he gave his orders from the middle deck, they were heard at every gun in the ship. We used to practise firing at a cliff in Malta Harbour, at a range of a hundred yards or so. I used to be sent on shore to collect the round-shot and bring them on board for future use. I remember that when, in the course of a lecture delivered to my men on board the Bulwark more than forty years afterwards, I related the incident, I could see by their faces that my audience did not believe me; though I showed to them the shot-holes in the face of the cliff, which remain to this day.
On gunnery days, all fires were extinguished, in case a spark should ignite the loose powder spilt by the boys who brought the cartridges to the guns, making a trail to the magazines. At “night quarters,” we were turned out of our hammocks, which were lashed up. The mess-tables were triced up overhead. The lower-deck ports being closed, there was no room to wield the wooden rammer; so that the charges for the muzzle-loading guns were rammed home with rope rammers. Before the order to fire was given, the ports were triced up. Upon one occasion, so anxious was a bluejacket to be first in loading and firing, that he cherished a charge hidden in his hammock since the last night quarters, a period of nearly three months, and, firing before the port was triced up, blew it into the next ship.
Excerpt from The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford written by himself and published in 1914.
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