Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – Sail-Drill


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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 – Sail-Drill

Sail Drill In those days, the master was responsible for the navigation of the ship. He was an old, wily, experienced seaman, who had entered the Service as master’s mate. (When I was midshipman in the Defence, the master’s assistant was Richard W. Middleton, afterwards Captain Middleton, chief organiser of the Conservative Central Office.) The master laid the course and kept the reckoning. As steam replaced sails, the office of master was transferred to the navigating officer, a lieutenant who specialised in navigation. The transformation was effected by the Order in Council of 26th June, [1867].

The sail-drill in the Marlborough was a miracle of smartness and speed. The spirit of emulation in the Fleet was furious.  The fact that a certain number of men used to be killed, seemed to quicken the rivalry. Poor Inman, a midshipman in the Marlborough, a great friend of mine, his foot slipping as he was running down from aloft, lost his life. His death was a great shock to me. The men would run aloft so quickly that their bare feet were nearly indistinguishable. Topmasts and lower yard were sent down and sent up at a pace which to-day is inconceivable. I once saw the captain of the maintop hurl himself bodily down from the cap upon a hand in the top who was slow in obeying orders. That reckless topman was Martin Schultz, a magnificent seaman, who was entered by the captain direct from the Norwegian merchant service, in which he had been a mate.

Mr. George Lewis, an old topmate of mine, who was one of the smartest seamen on board H.M.S. Marlborough, has kindly sent to me the following interesting details with regard to the times of sail-drill and the risks incidental to the evolutions.

Excerpt from The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford written by himself and published in 1914.


Further Reading and External Links

Lord Charles Beresford on Wikipedia

Lord Charles Beresford on The Dreadnought Project