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Title: A Middy's Recollections 1853-1860
Author: Montagu, Victor Alexander
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Middy's Recollections 1853-1860" ***

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[Illustration: THE AUTHOR AS A MIDSHIPMAN IN 1856.]








        ENTERING THE NAVY                                         1


        THE “PRINCESS ROYAL”                                      9


        WAR WITH RUSSIA DECLARED                                 26


        THE CRIMEA                                               35


        PUNISHMENTS IN THE NAVY                                  64


        RUSSIA COLLAPSES                                         71


        LEISURE HOURS                                            77


        SOME DISTINGUISHED SAILORS                               86


        PLAY ON BOARD; AND SOME DUTIES                           95


        PIRATE-HUNTING; AND A DINNER PARTY                      101


        WAR WITH CHINA DECLARED                                 106


        THE “RALEIGH” WRECKED                                   111


        AT WAR IN CHINA                                         119


        MORE PIRATE HUNTING                                     139


        THE INDIAN MUTINY                                       147


        THE NAVAL BRIGADE AT WORK                               157


        INCIDENTS OF THE CAMPAIGN                               167


        A TOUCH-AND-GO ENGAGEMENT                               179


        COMPLIMENTS TO THE NAVAL BRIGADE                        193


        HOME AGAIN                                              199


    The author as a Midshipman in 1856. From an
    oil painting                                     _Frontispiece_

                                                      _Facing page_
    The author as a Naval Cadet, 1853. From a
    miniature                                                     6

    H.M.S. “Princess Royal,” of 91 guns, 1853                    10

    The signal flying for war, and Fleet cheering                26

    H.M.S. “Raleigh,” 50-gun sailing frigate, wrecked
    off Macao (China), the 14th April 1857                       86

    The battle of Fatshan, showing the sinking of
    Commodore The Honourable Henry Keppel’s galley,
    1st June 1857                                               128

    H.M.S. “Pearl,” 21-gun corvette                             148

    The author at the present day                               170



Born in April 1841, I was about six months more than twelve years
old when I joined the Royal Navy. My father was the seventh Earl
of Sandwich; my mother, a daughter of the Marquis of Anglesea, who
commanded cavalry at Waterloo, and lost his leg by one of the last
shots fired on that eventful day. It is said that when Lord Anglesea’s
thigh was struck he happened to be riding by the side of the Duke of
Wellington, and exclaimed, suddenly, “O the Devil! my leg is hit!”
The Duke turned round, looked at him, and said, “The deuce it is!”
His leg was shortly afterwards amputated. As all the surgeon’s knives
had become blunt from the long day’s work, it took twenty minutes to
perform the operation. I was the second of four sons, and was educated
by a private tutor.

For some time before I was sent to sea, my father had often expressed a
wish that, hailing from a naval family, one of his sons should select
the Sea as his profession. Somehow or another, it devolved upon me to
be the naval representative; and, though my father did not enforce this
idea, I took it into my head that I should like it. My poor mother had
misgivings. She loathed the sea, and could not bring herself to believe
that any one else could endure its hardships. She was second to none,
however, in her admiration of the Service.

No doubt I thought it a fine thing to don a naval uniform and wear a
sword at my side at twelve and a half. A position of importance was
assured. Of sea-life I knew but little. I had on several occasions,
when staying at the Castle at Cowes (enjoying the hospitality of my
grandfather, Lord Anglesea), sailed in his famous old cutter, the
_Pearl_ (130 tons); but beyond learning, when beating about the Solent,
what sea-sickness was, my experience was naught. However, on the 15th
of December 1853, I was gazetted a naval cadet in the Queen’s Navy.

It was deemed advisable to send me to a school where boys were prepared
for examination before joining the Navy. When it is remembered that
one’s qualification consisted only in being able to master simple
dictation from some English work, and arithmetic as far as the Rule
of Three, this will seem incompatible with modern ideas. So it was,
however; and I found myself, some time in October 1853, at the school
of Mr. Eastman, a retired naval instructor who kept a house of about
thirty boys in St. George’s Square, Portsea. This mansion I visited not
long ago, and found it a tavern of the first quality.

If my memory serves me rightly, we did not indulge in much study at
that school. We used to walk out to Southsea Common in twos and twos
to play games, and, if opportunity offered, to have rows with what we
called “the cads,” the youth of the town: a pastime which the usher

It was a very rough school. The food was execrable; many of us were
cooped up in the same room; and I have a vivid remembrance of the
foot-pan which we were allowed to use only once a week. On birthdays,
or other select occasions, the chosen few were regaled with very large
junks of bread sparsely besmeared with butter, and tea in the parlour,
about 4.30 P.M.; our host and hostess being at that time well into
their second glass of toddy, and drowsy though attempting to amuse us
with old sea stories.

Sometimes we were taken to the Dockyard. I well remember being much
interested in watching a Russian frigate then in dock refitting, and
wondering to myself why Russians looked so different from men of
my own race, and why their ships carried such a curious scent. This
reminds me that often in after years, when returning to my ship on a
dark night and not being exactly sure of her position, I have been
guided by the peculiar smell which you notice in passing under the
stern of a foreign man-of-war. The perfume of each navy is distinct;
and the position of a ship, which I recollected from the daytime, was
often the means of putting me on my right course during a night’s pull.

I do not remember anything particularly worth recording during my
six-weeks’ stay at that school. Only, on one occasion, about midnight,
we were all aroused by the noise caused by the smashing of glass.
Running out in our night-shirts into the street, we discovered that all
the front plate-glass windows were broken. The master, in his fury,
thought that open mutiny had broken out in school, and vowed vengeance
on every bone in our bodies. It turned out that Mr. Eastman had been
cramming some mates for their examination towards Lieutenancies,
and that, as they had all signally failed, they had expressed their
displeasure by breaking the windows. No clue was obtained at the time;
but I happened to hear all about the affair when I joined my first
ship. Three of the culprits were serving in that vessel, and told me
the story.

Shortly after this, the time arrived when I was to present myself
at the Royal Naval College to pass my examination. The nervous and
sleepless nights! Though I felt perfectly capable of passing through
the ordeal, the name of the Royal College overawed me. The thought
of naval dons sitting in conclave over my work, with the possibility
of their finding it defective, was as an evil dream. When the day
arrived, two short hours sufficed to get me through. My arithmetic was
faultless; and, though I spelt _judgment_ without a _d_, my papers were
said to be very good. In short, I had passed thus far with _éclat_.

Having qualified in mind, I found that the next performance was to
qualify in body. Forthwith I was taken on board that glorious and
venerable ship, the _Victory_, to be medically inspected. It was
my first visit to this renowned ship; and how well I remember the
thoughts that ran through my mind as I approached her! There was the
hull exactly as it had been on the day of Trafalgar! I could not help
picturing to myself those noble sides being pierced through and through
with shot while the vessel was leading the line gallantly into action
past the broadsides of the enemy.

Once on board, I was accosted by a rough Irish assistant-surgeon,
who, without a word of warning or of good-morning, ejaculated, “What
is your name? How old are you?” On my having meekly answered these
questions to his apparent satisfaction, he said, in the gruffest of
tones, “Strip, sir.” Having decency, I quietly asked, in the humblest
of tones, “Do you wish me, sir, to pull off my trousers as well?” “Yes,
sir,--everything,” was the answer. This was a trial. I was miserable
about my braces’ buttons, afraid he would see that two were lacking
(one in front and one behind); which might tell against my claim to
respectability. How curious is it to find oneself remembering such
details through life! Having denuded myself of everything,--which was
very trying, particularly in a draughty cabin in December--I was put
through various exercises; and, after being minutely examined as to
wind, sight, hearing, and other gifts, I was told to dress and take
away with me a formal certificate of health. I hated that man, and was
glad to get back to school in order to prepare to leave for home on the
following day.

[Illustration: THE AUTHOR AS A NAVAL CADET, 1853.

_Swan Electric Engraving Co_]

Within a week from this time, I received my first official document. It

  You are hereby directed to repair on board H.M. ship _Princess
  Royal_, now laying at Spithead, and report yourself on December the
  15th. Should the _Princess Royal_ not be laying at Spithead on the
  date mentioned, you will inquire at the Admiral’s office at the
  Dockyard, and you will be informed where H.M. ship may be.

This notice gave me a clear fortnight more at home. I had to get my
outfit ready, and to pack up my sea-chest. My father had the sea-chest
made by the house-carpenter, instead of relying on the outfitter who
invariably supplied the necessary article according to regulation size.
No doubt my father conceived the idea with the best possible intentions
as to economy; but the chest was always an eyesore, and eventually
it was cut down to proper dimensions by order of a very particular
commanding officer, who could not stand seeing one chest an inch higher
than the rest in the long row on the cockpit deck.

War with Russia was at this time expected. Writing so many years later,
I can only attempt to describe, from memory, all I then thought, and
the pride I felt that I should possibly see active service soon. There
was an innate dread of leave-taking--of parting from home for the first
time--more especially of separating myself from my mother, a lady
beloved by all her children. That was a thought scarce bearable. Many
who read those lines will realise too well how sad such moments are:
perhaps the saddest that fall to one’s lot. Yet, painful as they are,
they have their consolation: as showing the love between mother and
son. The more this sentiment is impressed on the youthful mind, the
greater the gain in after life; for when the mother is not present,
there comes the echo of sweet counsel ringing in the heart, inspiring
the wish to act as she would desire--she, the help and guidance in all



I joined the _Princess Royal_, commanded by my uncle, Lord Clarence
Paget, and found that beautiful 91-gun line-of-battle ship lying at
Spithead, preparing for sea. The family butler was deputed to see me
safely on board and report on his return. He had been long a servant
of my father--I believe he had been his valet at Cambridge;--and many
were the hours he had spent with my brothers and myself ferreting and
hunting with terriers; and we were all much attached to him.

It was blowing a fresh gale when we took our wherry from the Hard at
Portsmouth, and the double-fare flag was flying on the official tower;
but go we must, though our boatman seemed to suggest that we should
have a bad time of it outside; and so it turned out, for, besides being
drenched to the skin on a cold December day, the butler and I, when
we got alongside the noble ship, were sea-sick. My first obeisance
to the Quarter-Deck--(I had been warned to be very particular about
this)--must have lacked finish. My troubles were not over with that
ceremony. I had hardly finished saluting the officer of the watch when
a blue-jacket fell from out of the main-rigging on to a quarter-deck
gun within a yard of me. He was killed instantly, and the sight was
very painful.

This was a sad beginning.

My next step was to go below and endeavour to look pleasant on being
introduced to my messmates. Many were the eyes I felt glaring at me to
see what the new cadet was made of. Didn’t this poor boy wish himself
elsewhere? Once in my hammock that night, I was thankful to find myself
in seclusion.

[Illustration: H.M.S. ‘Princess Royal,’ of 91 guns, 1853.]

For several nights I was on the look-out for the cutting-down process
that must be practised on me. I had not long to wait. “Cutting down,” I
may explain, means that when you are fast asleep your hammock, either
at one end or the other, is let down by the run. If it were let down by
the head, your neck might be broken. To be suddenly aroused from sleep
by finding yourself balancing by the head on a hard deck is not an
enviable position. It was ordained only if the boy was obnoxious; but
the alternative, as I found to my chagrin, is not pleasant. Luckily,
a marine sentry came to my rescue. He helped to get my hammock up
again, and condoled with me.

Those marines were fine fellows. They were always considered the
special safeguard of the officers in a man-of-war. In case of mutiny or
other trouble, they stood by the officers of the ship. In the _Princess
Royal_ I had, on joining, an excellent old soldier told off to look
after me and be my servant. For many months after joining I was too
small to swing myself into my hammock (I could not reach anything handy
even by jumping), and he invariably came at the appointed time to give
me a leg-up. I was much attached to him. Many a time, when some bigger
midshipman took it into his head to take some of my washing water
away for his own selfish use, my marine came to the rescue in support
of his small master. Seven shillings a month were his wages, and on
washing days, I think, he received an extra _douceur_. Poor man: he
got into trouble later, and had to leave me. I recollect well going
to visit him in irons, under charge of a sentry; he was then under
sentence of four dozen lashes for having been drunk on board; and some
years afterwards, while I was fitting out in a ship at Portsmouth, in
passing along the road I heard the voice of this dear old Joey calling
me by name; but so drunk was he that he could not follow me, and I
escaped. Sometimes, when half-starved in the gun-room mess, I went
into my marine’s mess and got some ship’s biscuits, which, with pickled
gerkins, I supped off. We certainly were shockingly fed in those days.
Growing youths, much imbued with sea air, used to fare very badly; but
when it is considered how little was paid in the shape of mess money
it is no wonder. On joining you found £10 as an entrance fee; and the
mess subscription was one shilling a day, with your rations thrown in.
The rations were the same as those allowed to the ship’s company: a
pound of very bad salt junk (beef), or of pork as salt as Mrs. Lot,
execrable tea, sugar, and biscuit that was generally full of weevils,
or well overrun with rats, or (in the hot climates) a choice retreat
for the detestable cockroach. In one ship--I think it was the _Nankin_
frigate--cockroaches swarmed. Sugar or any other sweet matter was their
attraction; and at night, when they were on the move, I have seen
strings of the creatures an inch and a half long making a route over
you in your hammock. Some ships were overrun with them. Rats also were
a dreadful nuisance: they invariably nested among the biscuit bags. We
mids used to lie awake and watch them coming up at night from the hold
on to the cockpit deck; and, well armed with shoes, hair-brushes, and
so on, we persecuted them.

Spithead, at the time I joined my ship, afforded an interesting
spectacle. Men-of-war of all classes were gradually collecting, and the
dockyards were very busy; but we were short of men--so much so that
all available coastguard-men were requisitioned to complete our crews,
which in those days were for the most part collected from the streets.

The war with Russia which (keen-sighted diplomatists warned our
Government) must come, and that soon, necessitated active preparations.
The newly-joined men were being trained in great-gun drill, and target
practice was always going on.

My ship was a battleship of about 3400 tons, and said to be quite the
prettiest of her class. We were afterwards styled the _Pretty Royal_;
which so much pleased the middies that we all bought eyeglasses, and
wore them, when not on duty, by way of swagger. We carried 32-pounders
on the main and the upper deck, and 56-pounders on the lower deck,
throwing hollow shot; with one solid 68-pounder on the forecastle. Our
full-steam speed under favourable conditions was nine knots; but this
speed under steam was of rare occurrence--eight knots was usual. We had
a complement of 850 men and officers.

In the gun-room (or midshipmen’s) mess we numbered about twenty-four,
all told. I grieve to say that we had a few very bad specimens
of the British officer: bad both professionally and socially.
Though discipline was generally very strict on deck and on duty,
irregularities went on below that were winked at, and in later
days would not have been tolerated. There was a remnant of the bad
style of earlier days, without any of the higher qualities of the
old naval officer to temper it. One heard now and then of notorious
characters that seemed always just to escape retribution; though
long before the end of the war three of my messmates, if not more,
were “hoisted out” by court-martial or otherwise. Bullying also was
common. On one occasion I was so much irritated by a lout of an Irish
assistant-surgeon that I lost my poor little temper and gave him the
lie. Being overheard by one of the senior mates, I was immediately
kicked out of the gun-room and ordered to mess on my chest for three
days. The punishment was carried out to the full. The most fiendish
case of bullying it ever was my lot to endure was perpetrated by one
Berkley. I glory now in presenting his name to the British people. He
was one of the senior mates. It was his wont to regale himself with
port wine and walnuts of an afternoon. On one occasion (possibly it
may have been oftener) he sent for me, and he lashed me to a ring-bolt
in the ship’s side, ordering me to say, “Down, proud spirit: up, good
spirit, and make me a good boy.” I had to suit the action to the word
by moving the hand and arm down and up the body. I had to repeat
the formula a hundred times, while he jotted down my penances with
a pencil on his slate. I have always considered myself lucky that I
did not cross that man’s path in after life. In my last experience
with this creature, I got the better of him. The _Princess Royal_ was
paying off, and the ship’s company and officers were hulked in one of
the old ships in Portsmouth harbour. I think all our middies, except
myself and two others, were away. A signal was made from the flagship
for a midshipman to copy orders; and, though I was just going home on
Admiralty leave, having packed my portmanteau and proceeded to change
into mufti, Berkley sent for me to obey the summons for this signal,
he knowing perfectly well that I was just about to go on shore. My
answer to the message was that I would come up immediately, but that,
as I had changed my uniform for mufti, I requested five minutes within
which to don proper dress. In less than that time I had carried out my
view of the matter by hailing a wherry under the stern port, popping
my portmanteau into the boat, and telling the boatman to pull for his
life to the Hard, keeping his boat well in a line with the stern of
the hulk. Luckily, the tide was in my favour; but, to my horror, when
nigh half-way to the Hard, I discovered the jolly-boat pulling after
me like the very devil. “Give way, you beggar! Double fare! Only land
me at the Hard before this infernal boat can overtake us!” We just did
it. The portmanteau was whipped up on the boatman’s shoulders, and
thrown into a fly that, luckily, saw the little game going on; and off
we galloped to the station. I did him--Mr. Berkley:--that was all I
wanted. He was promoted, and had left before I returned from leave; and
from that day to this we have never crossed each other’s path.

One of the amusements with which the seniors entertained themselves
was slitting the end of your nose open with a penknife. The idea was
that you could not properly be a Royal, bearing the name of your ship,
without a slight effusion of blood. The end of one’s nose was well
squeezed, and thus there was little pain. A ceremony something after
the style of blooding one over one’s first fox was gone through.

Every officer was limited in regard to his wine bill: you could not
exceed a certain monthly sum. A middy was allowed about 15s.; the
seniors, more; but, as many of them were of thirsty habit, some means
had to be found to procure more wine or spirits after the bill was
stopped, which usually occurred about the middle of the month. There
were several methods. As on one occasion I had to suffer severely for
the faults of others, I will tell a story.

The youngsters had to draw lots as to who should go and represent to
a Naval Instructor fresh from one of the Universities that it was the
birthday of some one in the gun-room, that his wine bill was stopped,
and that he had no means of procuring any liquor if Mr. Verdant Green
were not able to oblige by lending some. The lot fell upon me. I
felt I was running fresh risks; but go I must. I soon found my man,
and forthwith told my story and made my request. Instead of my being
answered as I expected, by a “Yes” or by a “No,” my green friend
went straight to the Commander’s cabin, tapped at his door, and in
my hearing asked whether this were permissible, or in contravention
to naval discipline and custom. The Commander settled the matter by
ordering me to the mast-head on the spot and stopping my leave for six
weeks. One would have thought the original delinquent would have pitied
me on my return from the cross-trees; but I was told that I must have
acted in a clumsy manner, and that I was a useless cub. The worst of
an escapade such as this is that it gets you into the bad books of the
Commanding Officer.

Soon after I had joined the _Princess Royal_, my uncle made me his
A.D.C., and gave me charge of his 12-oared cutter, a boat which
he preferred to the usual 6-oared galley. It was, I think, on the
first occasion of my taking charge of this boat that I was sent
into Portsmouth Harbour to fetch my captain and bring him off to
Spithead. On my way to the King’s Stairs, while passing “the Point,”
a locality (beset with public-houses) where the immortal Nelson left
the English shore for the last time, the coxswain suddenly accosted
me. “My sister,” he said, “keeps a pub close by, and it is quite the
right thing that you should treat the boat’s crew to a glass of grog
all round.” Feeling that I had plenty of spare time, and that it
would be mean to refuse this very strong request, I gave permission
to beach the boat, and forthwith produced the last of my pocket-money
(a ten-shilling bit), in order that the crew might be regaled. They
returned one man short. I could not wait to search for him, and I
thought it just possible that his Lordship might not discover one oar
_minus_: so I arranged that, on whichever side of the boat the captain
took his seat, my vacant thwart should be on the other. All went well
until we were nigh our ship; though I must own to many moments of
anxiety during the long pull off to Spithead. Alas! He noticed the
absence of a man as the men tossed their oars in. I could have died
on the spot. Of course, we were all paraded on the quarter-deck. The
coxswain made some plausible excuse; but I myself was threatened with
immediate expulsion and watch-and-watch for a fortnight--four hours on
duty and four hours off duty throughout the day and night. Within a
few days, however, my uncle, having found a soft place in his heart,
sent for me and let me off. I fancy that, being an old hand, he had
seen how the land lay, and had taken pity on my youth, thinking that
his coxswain had had more to do with the episode than I. Needless to
state, the coxswain’s sister was a Mrs. Harris. She had been designed
in order that a bad hat whom the coxswain and the crew detested should
be given an opportunity to run. In later days, when the affair had well
blown over, this information was imparted to me by the coxswain.

On the 11th of February 1854, the Baltic Fleet was ready for sea. Three
divisions (of squadrons) were formed, under Vice-Admiral Sir Charles
Napier, Commander-in-Chief, Vice-Admiral Corry, and Rear-Admiral
Chads; and a most imposing sight it was. Besides the line-of-battle
ships, there were frigates and paddle-sloops. These frigates were
lovely ships: the _Imperieuse_ and the sister vessel, the _Euryalus_,
were beautiful models, carrying 51 guns. There was a very fine 40-gun
frigate whose name I cannot recall: she was commanded by one of the
best and most popular officers in the service, Captain Yelverton. I
had the honour, many years afterwards, of serving under him when he
was Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean; and nothing could have
exceeded the happiness of the fleet at that time. There was great
rivalry in those days (and even long before) among some of the ships.
Sail drill was the principal cause of it. The ships’ companies became
so intensely jealous if one or more ships had completed an evolution
in less time, that when general leave to go ashore was granted strict
orders were given that leave should not be granted to those respective
ships at the same time, for fear of a free fight between their men. I
well recollect serious rows when they did meet one another. To my idea,
nothing could have been finer than the display of competitive feeling.
Some of the ships used to have all sorts of dodges (as we called them)
to enable time to be saved during drill, and when I was Flag-Lieutenant
on the station I was ordered to watch minutely, to see if all was fair
play. The paddle-wheel sloops and frigates were comfortable vessels
(one in particular, the _Terrible_, carrying 21 guns--and heavy ones
they were). The _Gorgon_ and the _Basilisk_ rendered good service
during the war. These were smaller, and carried 14 or 16 guns, I think.
Of the liners, the _Duke of Wellington_, the flagship, bore the palm.
She carried 131 guns, and was a beautiful sailer as well as steamer.
The _St. Jean D’Arc_, of 101 guns, was a lovely ship. The _Acre_,
commanded by Harry Keppel, was always what we termed our chummy ship:
the _Princess Royal_ was generally next her in the line.

Then came the great event of the day. The Queen arrived from Osborne
in the _Fairy_, to review the Fleet before it weighed anchor. The very
fact of Her Majesty announcing her intention to bid us Good-bye caused
intense excitement through the Fleet, and I recollect well how highly
this mark of honour was appreciated. We were all anchored in three
lines, and the lovely little _Fairy_ threaded her way through the ships
as we manned yards and cheered to the echo. After this inspection the
Queen summoned all her Admirals and Captains in command on board the
_Fairy_, and personally took leave of them all. I was lucky enough to
be present, as I had charge of my Captain’s cutter; and Her Majesty,
on being told that one of her godsons was present, immediately ordered
me to be sent for. It can be imagined that it was a most nervous
moment for a boy of my age--scarcely thirteen--when I was hailed to go
alongside the _Fairy_, as the Queen wished to see me. I remember well
my coxswain pulling off a piece of flannel I had round my neck (as
I was suffering from a severe sore throat, and the weather was very
cold) before I left my boat to step over the side of the Queen’s yacht.
After the Admirals and Captains had made their last obeisance, my turn
came. Standing cap in hand, I made my bow; and Her Majesty said to me,
“How do you do, Mr. Montagu? I have not seen you since you were quite
a little boy;” and then asked after my mother, who had not many years
previously been one of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting. I then had the
honour of shaking hands with His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales,
who was standing near, for the first time, and with the Princess Royal
and the Princess Alice, all of whom said some kind words. I felt very
proud indeed, after having got over my nervousness; and many were the
interrogations when I returned on board. Yes: this was all a great
honour; and so impressed was I at the time that nothing of this great
reception has escaped my memory, nor the scene as I witnessed it at
the time. His Royal Highness the Prince Consort also, I think, was on
board; but I did not have the honour of seeing him. Shortly after this
the Fleet weighed. Her Majesty placed herself at the head of the Fleet,
and forthwith led us out to sea. When the _Fairy_ left us a parting
signal was flown on board the _Fairy_, the whole Fleet cheering Her
Majesty’s departure. It was one of the grandest scenes imaginable: God
be praised for having spared our gracious Sovereign to be reigning
over her loving subjects still. In a man-of-war we are all constantly
reminded of our Sovereign and the honour due to her station. At eight
o’clock, when the colours are hoisted, the band plays our National
Anthem, and all officers and men salute the colours as they are hoisted
to the Peak. The Quarter-Deck is always saluted when officer or man
comes on to it: simply because it is the Queen’s Quarter-Deck, and is
honoured as such. At every mess, when the wine is passed round, our
first duty is to recollect our Sovereign and raise our glasses to “The
Queen (God bless her)!” All these matters tend to keep us in perpetual
recollection of our Queen and the duties we owe to Her Majesty; and it
is indeed a fine sentiment.

The _Princess Royal_ called in at the Downs, and embarked an officer;
and our last letters were sent on shore. On our way across the North
Sea the Fleet was scattered in a fog. Our first rendezvous was Wingo
Sound; and by degrees the ships rejoined, and we made that place our
first anchorage. The ice farther north had not broken up: so there was
a good deal of delay and cruising about.

The Fleet generally was sailing under very easy canvas (double-reefed
topsails), as the wind was pretty strong, and we used to wear in
succession after a few hours’ sail on one tack. Day after day this went
on; and the only interest I took in it was in watching the ships while
the evolution of wearing was going on: turning through the curve of
a half circle, endeavouring to keep their proper distances apart. Of
course, some of the ships carried more sail than others, as there was
a material difference in their respective speeds. It was monotonous
work, and, the weather being still cold and occasionally pretty rough,
many of us suffered a good deal from sea-sickness and ennui. The paddle
steamers used to ply across to Copenhagen, or other port, for fresh
food; but I do not think the blue-jackets got much of this fare, and
I know the gun-room mess did not. Indeed, we had a very wearisome
fortnight during breezy weather, jogging about under easy sail off
Gotska Sands. All was done in quite the old naval style, and gave me an
insight into “the good old days.” A great deal of salt pork and salt
junk, with a moderate allowance of water, was our fare; and all were
desirous of pushing on.

I find myself writing about this time, evidently very homesick:--

  People tell me I shall like the Service better as I get on, but one
  gives up home and all its joys for coming to sea, or otherwise for
  honour; one can do without honour but not without home, besides,
  why should I not get honour at home as well as at sea?

I quote this because it is curious to see how a boy’s mind wavers; for
shortly afterwards, having seen a few shots fired at Hango at some
Russian forts, I wrote home:--

  I like the Service better every day. I begin to understand things,
  and they interest me.

We rode out a heavy gale in Kioge Bay, while some of the ships,
dragging their anchors, were steaming ahead, with topmasts struck and
two anchors down.



On the 14th of April, lying in this same bay, we suddenly saw a mass of
bunting flying on board the _Duke of Wellington_. The signal, indeed,
gave us great joy. It announced that “War was declared with Russia.” I
shall never forget officers and men all rushing on deck helter-skelter.
The blue-jackets were up the rigging in a jiffy, and cheer after cheer
echoed through the Fleet. I believe the actual date of the Declaration
was the 15th of March, just three weeks previously.

[Illustration: The signal flying for war, and Fleet cheering.]

I shall not attempt to describe what are now well-known matters of
history,--the events during the summer of 1854;--nor shall I speak of
the do-nothing policy, which (with the exceptions of the storming and
taking of Bomarsund, the destruction of grain stores in the Gulf of
Bothnia, occasional scrimmages for fortified posts, and the hemming
in of the Russian Fleet at Kronstadt) kept us inactive. Our chief,
though a gallant man, did not seem to be gifted with much enterprise
(possibly he was hampered by orders from home); but I do know that we
all longed for some active service, and wished that the Russian ships
would come out from under their batteries and give us a fair chance. We
used to see them loosing their sails at their anchorage, and many were
the surmises as to whether they intended to “sheet home” or only let
them fall off the yards to dry.

They were, I think, nearly all sailing ships; though they had
paddle-wheel steamers that occasionally would make a dash out at some
yacht that had come out to see the fun, and had got in too close to the
batteries. I fancy we must have felt as Nelson felt when blockading
Toulon,--longing for his enemies to come out. But, after all, why
should an enemy be expected to give battle with hopeless odds against
him? Perhaps, on the other hand, the Russians wondered why we did not
attack their forts. The explanation is that the channels were narrow,
and what they called in those days “infernal machines” were supposed to
have been laid down in those channels to obstruct the passage of our

There were some pretty sights to be seen during that summer’s campaign.
The two that struck my juvenile eyes most were the sailing of our huge
Fleet through the Great Belt and the first meeting with the French
Fleet. In the former case, imagine one long row of nearly twenty
line-of-battle ships, several frigates, and a few sloops, tearing
through the Belt, with a strong fair wind (there is a very clever
picture of this scene drawn by Brierly, a famous marine artist of those
days), the _Duke of Wellington_ leading under close-reefed topsails,
and some of the slower sailers carrying a press of canvas to enable
them to keep their stations. It was amusing how we middies used to
compare notes as to our respective sailing qualities, and argue, till
we nearly came to blows, over details as to how one ship could spare
another an extra reef in a topsail or a top-gallant sail, or the lee
clew of a mainsail, as the case might be.

And what a lovely sight a line-of-battle ship was, under all plain
sail--and still more lovely, to my mind, a handsome 50-gun frigate!
Yes: one sometimes longs to see such sights again. One of the prettiest
manœuvres I ever heard of in my time was done by the old _Arethusa_, a
50-gun sailing frigate. She attacked a fort off Odessa, in the Black
Sea. Sailing in, she fired first one broadside; in tacking, she fired
her bow guns; then she hove about, and fired her other broadside; wore
round, and fired her stern guns. I do not know how many times this
manœuvre was repeated; but it was a fine display of handling.

The second incident to which I have alluded was our meeting the French
Fleet for the first time. They were under sail, and remained hove to,
with their main topsail to the mast, as we, the English Fleet, steamed
in one long line across their bows. We hoisted the French Tricolour
at the main, and they, to return the compliment, hoisted the English
Ensign, while the bands played the National Anthem as we passed. It
was a beautiful calm day, and the sight glorious. Yes: here we were,
allies, bent on the same cause near at hand, and past days obliterated
from memory. When at anchor together the two Fleets formed a most
imposing sight: forests of masts covering the seas, and at eight
o’clock, or when the colours were hoisted in the morning, the bands of
the Fleets playing each the other’s National Anthem.

_Apropos_ of bands: I shall never forget finding, while lying at anchor
in the pleasant little landlocked harbour of the Piræus, off Athens,
eight or ten vessels of different nationalities. At eight o’clock in
the morning, as the colours went up, all our respective bands played
one another’s National Anthem. The music was discordant. There was a
great deal of etiquette as to which anthem was to be played first.
Ultimately it was arranged that we should begin with the Hellenic air,
and that the others should follow according to seniority of the ships
present; but soon the discord became pronounced. It took the best part
of half-an-hour to complete the set.

While the Fleet was cruising off Hango (a fairly strong position of the
enemy’s) several of our paddle steamers were sent in to reconnoitre,
and soon became engaged with the forts. My Captain, Lord Clarence
Paget, could not stand a distant view of this engagement: so he ordered
his boat to be manned, and we pulled in the direction of the ships
engaged. We only had the satisfaction of gazing at some highly-elevated
shells that exploded far above our heads, though some of the fragments
fell into the water, unpleasantly near. The engagement ended in smoke,
though a few losses occurred on board the paddle steamers; and, to our
astonishment, the Fleet retired. I could not see the object of this
mild display.

The attack of Bomarsund, later, was a success. The authorities had
taken a considerable time to make up their mighty minds when to begin
the bombardment. There was an idea that we could not subdue the place
without troops. Thus, we waited long for the arrival of 10,000 French
troops, which were brought up the Baltic on board some obsolete old
3-deckers in tow of steamers. It took some doing to lay Bomarsund low.
We landed blue-jackets and marines, and heavy ordinance from the Fleet,
and threw up a few batteries on the flank of the largest fort; and on
a given day our smallest 2-deckers and paddle frigates were sent in
to demolish the place. The forts were blown sky-high, and the Russians
suffered heavily.

We fraternised with the French Fleet. Each ship in our squadron had
its own particular chum, and, besides exchange of dinners, many were
the orgies at night. The nights being very short, two, three, four in
the morning was not an unusual hour for boats, with lively occupants
returning to their respective ships, to pass to and fro.

The _Princess Royal_ always fraternised with the French liner, the
_Austerlitz_, a very fine screw 2-decker of 90 guns. I scarcely set
foot ashore during the cruise. Excepting at Led Sound (where we lay
waiting for the French troops), there was little opportunity of a run.
An immense deal of drill went on, and boat duty was constant. Thus
one’s education was entirely neglected: the Naval Instructor, the
midshipmen’s instructor, was voted a secondary consideration. Let me
refer to boat duty for a moment. Great excitement prevailed when the
mails arrived from England. All eyes were watching for the signal 768,
implying “Send boat for letters.” Then came a regular race, every boat
pulling its best to the flagship for mails and parcels; and, as it was
a case of First come first served, the slow-going boats had sometimes
to wait two or even three hours for their mails if, as was usual,
many ships were present. I have seen as many as thirty or forty boats
waiting alongside the _Duke of Wellington_.

Soon after the fall of Bomarsund, the _Princess Royal_ was sent to
Revel, to join the sailing squadron then lying at anchor, or cruising
off that port; and after this, in October, my uncle, knowing that there
was little chance of my seeing any more active service (and as I was
not in very good health), took the opportunity of transferring me to
his old friend Harry Eyere’s ship, the _St. George_, a sailing 3-decker
of 120 guns.

The sailing squadron had received orders to leave for England: so in
October four beauties--the _Neptune_ (120 guns), the _St. George_
(120), the _Monarch_ (84), and the _Prince Regent_ (90)--made for
England; and a very interesting and instructive sail we had down the
North Sea. The second in command on board my ship was Paddy May, a very
fine seaman of the old school, a man whose name was much respected
in the Service. Everything was done quite in the old style; and thus
I can fairly claim the distinction of having belonged to the old
school--anyhow to the remains of it--as all the ships of this squadron
were _minus_ engines and boilers.

The _Monarch_ was far away the fastest ship, though in a breeze the
_Prince Regent_ held her pretty close. Off the island of Bornholm we
were caught in a fresh gale; and, the _St. George_ being a very crank
old craft, it was deemed advisable to send our upper-deck carronades
down into the hold. As we were short of water and provisions, the extra
weight of these guns below counteracted our want of ballast. A 3-decker
in a gale of wind was rather a curious being. Under close-reefed
topsails you could not lay her near enough the wind to enable her to
meet the seas comfortably. The effect of the wind on her huge sides
was to drive her bodily and very fast to leeward: in fact, you simply

It was pleasant to watch these ships speeding gaily on their course
for England. We carried on when the weather permitted. The _Monarch_
was generally in the van, showing us a high turn of speed. At sunset,
or soon after, we collected and sailed in two lines; and, as was
customary, took in a reef or two of the topsails, to make all snug for
the night. When daylight broke every stitch was set again.

On arrival in England we anchored at Spithead. My father was soon on
board to greet me. He asked permission for me to land with him. Being
virtually invalided, I was allowed to pack up my “traps” and accompany
him ashore. I can so well remember telling him that I had not had a
real good wash for weeks, and that before I was taken to my mother,
who was then residing at Ryde, he must purchase me a clean shirt, as
I was ashamed of appearing in a crumpled garment washed in salt water,
and not even ironed or starched. Forthwith we went to a public bath,
and six new shirts were bought from the nearest establishment to make
me presentable to my mother, as I could not bear the idea of her not
seeing me at my best.

Thus ended my share in the Baltic Campaign. I was much disappointed
at having seen so little active service. Both officers and men shared
that feeling. Sir Harry Keppel and my Captain were always urging the
Commander-in-Chief to do something. The campaign seemed to have been
conducted in a half-hearted manner; but memorable signals were sent
up. One in particular caused feeling: “Sharpen your cutlasses, lads.
The day is our own.” This was made about sunset. Goodness knows what
we were to have a try at on the morrow. All we do know is that nothing
came of it; and it looked rather peculiar. I fancy that our Chief was
much hampered by the Government of the day. Perhaps he thought it would
be very hazardous to attack strongly fortified positions, such as
Kronstadt and Sveaborg, with little chance of doing much damage, or of
compelling the Russian Fleet to come out. Thus all our time was devoted
to a strict blockade: a slow game at the best of times.



Our ships had some experience of attacking forts (in the Black Sea) on
the 17th of October 1854. We did not damage the forts. On the other
hand, we received a good dose in return: wooden walls and granite forts
are different things. Then, again, the combined Fleets must indeed have
paralysed the Russian Fleet, which was so much inferior. But it was a
pity that when we sailed for the Baltic (and still more so when we got
there) we were led to think of mighty deeds in store for us. When our
medals were presented to us, with the bit of blue and yellow ribbon,
many felt that they had not deserved them: and the trinkets were kept
in hiding.

I remained in England until the following January. Then, being quite
re-established in health, I received orders to rejoin the _Princess
Royal_ off Sebastopol. It was while I was at home that the news of
Balaclava and Inkerman arrived. Many of our friends and relations were
laid low on those battlefields. I can well recall the wave of mixed joy
and sorrow that swept over England as the detailed accounts came slowly
to hand. My uncle, Lord George Paget, at the head of his regiment, the
Fourth Light Dragoons, commanded the second line in that fatal and
memorable charge, where his regiment was well-nigh destroyed. It was to
him, as he was riding off the field, that were addressed those words
by the French Marshal, which have since passed into proverbial use:
“C’est magnifique; mais cela n’est pas la guerre.” One of Lord George’s
troopers, who (I think) was his servant, was made prisoner, and for
some reason was taken before the Tzar of Russia. Observing the man
standing six foot two in his stockings, His Imperial Majesty inquired
what regiment he had belonged to, and, being told that he was in a
Light-Cavalry regiment, said, “Well, if you are a Light-Cavalry man,
what the devil are the heavies?”

I took passage to the Crimea in a hired transport, and we sailed from
Plymouth early in January 1855. We carried a few troops, and a large
quantity of stores for the army. Touching at Gibraltar and Malta, we
arrived at Constantinople after a three weeks’ passage.

I shall never forget my first sight of the entrance to the Golden
Horn. Those who have seen it will bear me out when I say that of its
kind the view is second to none in the world. It was a beautiful still
morning, and as the sun rose and reflected its golden rays on all the
minaret towers and the great edifice of St. Sophia, one seemed in
fairyland. The caiques, the colouring, the costumes, and the novelty of
this oriental scene--all enchanted me.

Before leaving England I had been told to quit the transport at
Constantinople, and to report myself on board the _Carodoc_, the
man-of-war appointed to our Ambassador as his despatch vessel. I was
most kindly received by dear old Derriman, the Captain, who told me to
present myself up at the Embassy, where Lord Stratford de Redcliffe
wished me to stay until I could get a passage to rejoin my ship on the
Black Sea.

That great man made a deep impression on me. Tall and upright, he
was as fine a figure as ever stepped: a man of perfect features and
iron will: a grand seigneur; and the world knew it. He kindly told
me to make myself at home, and to remain at the Embassy until he was
ready to start in the _Carodoc_ for the Crimea. He was going to the
front to hold an Investiture of the Bath, and would probably sail in
two or three days. This gave me intense pleasure: I rejoiced at the
prospect of becoming acquainted with Constantinople. Lady Stratford
de Redcliffe and her charming daughters made things doubly pleasant.
That most lovely and engaging of women, Lady George Paget, my cousin
(aunt by marriage), also was staying at the Embassy. Among the staff
of the Embassy were many men who made their marks in after life--Odo
Russell, Allison, Count Pisani, and others,--from whom, one and all, I
received the kindest attention. It was indeed an interesting time: I
saw everything, and had a sort of general _lascia passare_.

I was soon called upon to assist in the correspondence department
at the Embassy, and many were the despatches which I copied. Every
one was overwhelmed with business, and I was only too glad to render
what assistance I could. His Lordship was often at work most of the
night, receiving and dictating despatches; his breakfast hour varied
from nine to twelve, according to his hours of rest. The Embassy at
Constantinople in those days was, I imagine, a position of unique
and supreme importance in diplomacy. The postal and the telegraphic
services were in their infancy. In copying Lord Stratford’s despatches
I was not long in discovering how frequently he acted on his own
initiative and responsibility, without reference to the powers that
were at home. No such independence would now be tolerated, nor would it
be possible. It is one thing to recommend your views before the home
authorities for approval; quite another, to act on the spur of the
moment, and to take the sole responsibility on your own shoulders, as
Lord Stratford did. The Turks held him in unbounded fear and respect.

The Bosphorus was a great sight. Ships of war were passing to and fro;
transport and provision ships were constantly going and coming. With
Lady Stratford, I went over to Scutari Hospital to see the crowds
of wounded and invalids from the front, and was presented to Miss
Nightingale. How she worked!

Constantinople in those days was purely Turkish. Modern customs were
not in vogue: the Frank dress was infrequent. The bazaars were rough
and uncivilised. Not until some time after the war was there any
marked improvement in the customs of the natives. Trade soon became
more general, and, owing to freer intercourse with foreigners, the
more enlightened Turk began to shake off the lethargic Eastern style,
adapting himself to the more modern ways of civilisation. I doubt much
whether the change has produced good results as far as the Turk is

While awaiting the Ambassador’s departure for the Crimea, I made
excursions to the environs. The sweet waters of Asia were most
interesting. Rowed about in the Embassy caique, I visited most of the
palaces, gardens, and other places worth seeing. Everything was novel.
Englishmen were at that time held in high esteem by the Turk. “Buono
Johnnie” was the cry everywhere, and nothing could have exceeded the
Turk’s rude civilities. I was much amused at the way the kavasses
cleared the road for one. When you were walking in the bazaars, or in
the streets, which were crowded, men and women were sent flying on the
approach of your kavass, who generally wielded a big stick. And the
swarms of dogs--how curious it all seemed to my young imagination!

The _Carodoc_ soon sailed, and in less than thirty-six hours we
found ourselves steaming into Balaclava harbour, which was almost
landlocked. On passing the towering perpendicular cliffs I could not
help picturing to myself the scene of carnage of the previous October,
when so many vessels, with their living freights, were lost during a
frightful gale on that iron-bound coast. Before we got in I caught a
distant sight of Sebastopol and the large allied Fleets at anchor off
the coast. My ship was lying in Kazatch Bay. As there was no chance of
joining her for a few days, His Excellency asked me to accompany him
in his daily expeditions to the front. We were a goodly party. All the
ladies from the Embassy accompanied us. We rode or drove to all the
battlefields and objects of interest at the front, lunching generally
at some Headquarter Staff, and on one occasion at Lord Raglan’s. The
battlefield of Inkerman was still full of _débris_. I was astonished
to see so many boots lying about--and poor fellows’ bones as well. I
carried off a Russian musket, besides other small articles.

At Lord Raglan’s I came across Frank Burgesh--afterwards Lord
Westmorland--looking as handsome and as fresh as he was when hunting
with the Fitz-William hounds.

Subsequently we visited the ground of the famous Balaclava charge,
and saw some of the remains of the shattered cavalry. The few horses
surviving were in a sorry plight. Their manes and tails were much
reduced: actually the horses, from sheer hunger, had been gnawing one
another. Lord George Paget had scarcely any horses fit for duty the day
after the charge. The Tenth Hussars, with splendid horses, had just
arrived from India, and, mustering strong, were much more numerous than
the whole of the Light Brigade.

On one occasion, while I was with Lord Stratford, there was a review
of 25,000 French troops; and I was much struck by their soldier-like

Within a few days I rejoined my ship, then lying off Sebastopol,
delighted with all I had seen, and with Lord Stratford’s kindness to
me. Once on board again, I soon shook down among old messmates and
friends. There had been many changes among the officers; but my best
friend, Dick Hare, was still there. The three bad officers had been
weeded out. Consequently, our mess was comfortable.

In a letter to my mother I remarked that I much preferred the Black Sea
to the Baltic, and that I felt happier--more reconciled to the Service.
There was always the sure expectation of seeing active service, and
possibly of being in the thick of it.

The duties assigned to me were to keep daily the morning and in the
evening the six-to-eight watch. This went on without a break for eight
months. I soon became accustomed to getting up at 4 A.M., and in the
fine summer months it was pleasant to paddle about the decks during the
washing process. When the ship’s company went to breakfast, at three
bells (5.30 A.M.), I could get three-quarters of an hour to myself,
alone in the gun-room, for my cup of ship’s cocoa and biscuit; to be
followed by reading or writing letters, pondering over my letters from
home, and a glance at my Prayer Book, as to which I remembered my
mother’s last injunctions.

How much I relished my 5 A.M. cocoa! A hungry middy does enjoy it;
though it takes the sharp edge off the eight o’clock breakfast, which
consisted of (perhaps) a piece of toughest beef-steak--any part of
the animal being dignified by that name. The poor animals, which had
ploughed Turkish soil for many a long year, were slaughtered the
afternoon before, between two guns, on the main deck. When we were not
favoured with these mighty bullocks, it was a case of salt pork or
junk (salt beef); these were usually chopped up into square bits, and
curried with a ghastly yellow powder. Sometimes we had boxes of grub
(as it was called) sent out from home; the grub was much appreciated,
and we usually shared it with our chums. Mostly it consisted of jams,
potted meats, and preserved milk; but in those days potted meats were
in their infancy, and nothing like so good as now. The condensed milk,
though to a certain extent welcomed, was nasty stuff: some of the
midshipmen preferred spreading it on their bread to putting it in their

During the daytime my duties were very various. We were supposed to
go to the Naval Institute for two or three hours in the forenoon; but
going was a rare occurrence. There was much duty to be done away from
the ship in boats--provisioning, coaling, landing stores for the front,
besides attending constant signals from the Flag-Ship. This, together
with gun drilling and other exercises, took up a great deal of one’s

Occasionally I got a day’s leave. Then I went to the front, and dined
with some pal in the Brigade of Guards or other regiment, shared his
tent for a night, and had a peep at the trenches next day. We could
see a good deal of the fighting from the ship: the sorties at night
were lit up by bursting shells. By its lighted fuze I often watched the
trajectory of the shell while circling through the air, beautifully
timed to burst on approaching the ground.

Having to be up so early every morning, I was generally in my hammock
by 9.30 P.M. (sometimes earlier), and often fell asleep while the band
was playing on the main deck, hard by the officers’ smoking resort.
Smoking was kept uncommonly strict in those days. The hours of the ship
company’s meals were the only times allowed during the daytime; in the
evenings, from after evening quarters until just before the rounds were
gone, at 9.30; and no officer could smoke until he was eighteen. I
became an inveterate smoker, and once was within an ace of being turned
out of the _Excellent_, gunnery-ship at Portsmouth (while undergoing
my examination), for smoking with another fellow on the extreme fore
part of the main deck, a locality well known to the naval officers. The
sentry smelt the fumes, and reported us. We had tried to get out of a
scuttle; but it was considerably too small, and we had to surrender,
feeling it was all up, and that we should have to suffer next day.
However, somehow we got off with a deuce of a wigging.

On another occasion I infuriated my senior officer by smoking
while on duty. I was serving in the Mediterranean under that great
disciplinarian, Sir William Martin (nicknamed Pincher Martin). I was
officer of the guard, and had a long nasty pull round from the Grand
Harbour at Valetta to the quarantine harbour, to get the Admiral’s
despatches from the P. and O. steamer. It was a blowy cold night: so
I allowed all my boat’s crew to light their pipes. On arriving at
Admiralty House with the Commander-in-Chief’s bag of despatches, I was
kept waiting in the hall while the old gentleman was at dinner. After
his meal, the Admiral descended the staircase, and, in his usual curt
way, said, “You are the officer of the guard, I presume? What sort of a
night is it?” I having answered his questions, he said, “You have been
smoking, sir!”--“Yes, sir: I have. I have had a long pull--and a very
wet one--round from the other harbour.” “This is very disgraceful,”
quoth he: “I will see about this to-morrow.” However, I heard no
more of it. I always thought that the restriction as to smoking was
carried much too far in the Navy. When I commanded ships, I used to
allow much more licence than the Queen’s Regulations authorised, and I
never found cause to repent of the indulgence. Smoking was considered
a great solace and help, and many a dull afternoon was got through
by my officers and men over their pipes. The custom of the Service
was to allow a sort of half-holiday on Thursday afternoon. The pipe
went, “Make and mend clothes.” That was a curious definition of a half
holiday; but on those occasions every one was allowed to smoke, and it
was a _dies non_ with the ship’s company.

At 9 P.M. the youngsters, as a rule, were supposed to leave the
gun-room; the signal for this arrangement was called “Sticking a Fork
in the Beam.” I cannot remember ever seeing one so placed; but that was
the adopted term. After a boy had passed his four yearly exams he was
considered an oldster, and assumed a position of more importance. The
chief benefit attached to his promotion was an extension of limited
wine and extra bill. At ten, in harbour, gun-room lights were put out.
The master-at-arms (the chief of the ship’s police) came round with his
lantern, and was supposed to see the gun-room cleared of its inmates.
If the seniors were singing, and there was some particular hilarity
going on, the master-at-arms might be requested to ask for an extra
half-hour’s lights. He would then go to the officer of the watch for
permission. Much depended on the conscience of the officer.

The gun-room officers always dined at noon at sea, and at two or
half-past two in harbour; but by degrees these hours became later,
though it depended a good deal on the view which the Captain took
of the arrangements. Dinner at noon and a wretched tea at about 5
P.M. made a boy feel mortal hungry by 7 or 7.30: so the steward was
generally in requisition for a pot of sardines or for a lobster. This
was considered an extra; and, as you were limited to 15s. a month of
extras, one had to be very careful, and to economise one’s consumption.
A certain amount of gambling went on over these extras. We “read” for
each article; which, being interpreted, means that, instead of tossing
up as to who should be charged for the supper, you selected the number
of a letter of a specified line on a page--_e.g._, two two right, or
three three left (as the case might be): the nearest letter to A won
the supper. At Malta, sometimes, I have been away all day getting
biscuit from the factory and filling launch after launch with bags of
biscuits: so I used to lunch off newly-made biscuit and raw carrots
or parsnips that were _en route_ on board. I relished the provender:
a middy’s digestion is pretty tough. It was considered a great honour
to be asked to dine when at sea with the Captain. If one’s stock of
clean white shirts was exhausted, one generally pulled out all the
worn shirts and selected the best to wear at his table. At half-past
two in the afternoon watch any middy on duty told the officer of his
watch that he was asked to dine with the Captain, and no power on
earth could prevent you from leaving the deck. Occasionally the Ward
Room officers asked one to dine, which was a more enjoyable invitation,
as you usually sat next to your pal lieutenant or officer, who was in
the habit of lending you his cabin, or generally looked after your
interests. It was a great boon having a cabin to fall back on, and when
fatigued to be able to rest on a comfortable bed. Otherwise there was
nothing but a hard teak deck to lie on, and a sextant box, or (what we
often used) a couple of nautical almanacks for a pillow.

On many of our Sundays, while blockading Sebastopol, with everything
quiet on deck and below, and perhaps not a shot being fired from the
land batteries, I have gone down into the gun-room and seen rows of
middies, mates, and other officers stretched out all over the deck
fast asleep--and in the fore-part of the ship most of the ship’s
company. Sailors are adepts at sleeping in quiet moments. Small blame
to them; for when at sea a constant watch and watch for weeks and
months is kept, and there is little continuous rest. I always thought
it hard lines that after keeping the middle watch--from midnight to 4
A.M.--you had to be out of your hammock by 6.30. Often turning in wet
and cold at four, you could not get off to sleep, particularly in bad
weather, because of the noise; and just as you dozed off you heard the
solemn grunt of your hammock-man, “Turn out, sir: it’s five bells”
(6.30 A.M.); and the longer you kept him waiting, the shorter was
his breakfast hour. How one could have wished him farther--anywhere
but bothering one! And then his dirty hands pulling your sheets and
pillows about, so as to place them away properly in the hammock, and
that it should appear on deck in its proper shape to be stowed in the
hammock-netting, well scrutinised by some very strict officer of the
watch or mate of the deck! Woe betide you if the hammock looked too
full of bedding, or in excess of what his critical eye might notice!
I have often seen an unfortunate sleepy mid roll out of his hammock,
cover himself with a blanket or a rug, and give himself another hour
or so of rest by lying on the top of his chest, his own little home;
but not much comfort attached to it if you were over four foot six in

What I used to hate most--in hot weather especially--was that morning
evolution of crossing yards at eight o’clock. Just washed and dressed,
perhaps in a clean pair of duck trousers, up you had to go to the main
or fore-top, running up tarred rigging, or (just as bad) finding the
rigging full of coal-dust and smoke. One often came down positively
black, hot, and uncomfortable, one’s trousers ruined; and there you
were, for perhaps the rest of the day, as another wash was out of the
question. In after days wiser heads--at any rate, officers with more
forethought--left off making you wear your ducks on this particular
occasion, and the comfort and convenience was a great boon to officers
and men. But somehow, in my early days at sea, very little was studied
as to convenience and comfort for officers and men.

In much later days I was serving in a line-of-battle ship belonging to
the Channel Fleet. We wintered at Portland. It happened to be a very
severe winter--so much so that at times our rigging and sails were
frozen. Twice a week the ship’s company had to wash their clothes,
which generally took from an hour to an hour and a half. Consequently,
the routine was put a little out of joint. Time had to be made up
somehow. The usual hour to turn out was at 5 or 5.30 A.M., to wash
decks; but on washing mornings I have seen the men turned out at 7
bells in the middle watch (3.30), on a freezing morning, to scrub
hammocks and wash clothes, with nothing but a wretched lanthorn and a
farthing dip to see by; and this was the only light for ten or a dozen
men to wash their clothes by. After this the decks had to be washed
in icy cold water, and at 6.30 these wretched frozen men consoled
themselves with breakfast of cocoa and ship’s biscuit--possibly with
bread and butter, if the bum-boat had come alongside; but, as it
generally blew a gale, Mr. Bum-boat did not appear so early. I can
vouch for these remnants of barbarism: I was what was termed Mate of
the Main Deck, and had to be up to see the business carried out.

During May the combined fleets sailed on an expedition to Kertch, at
the entrance of the Sea of Azov. We left some ships to remain off
Sebastopol; but the bulk went to Kertch, and shipped a goodly quantity
of troops. The _Princess Royal_ took on board the 90th Regiment of the
line, besides detachments.

We expected opposition to our landing; but, as light-draught vessels
could easily command and cover the landing, no Rooskies appeared to
oppose us. We soon had our army ashore on a sandy beach not many miles
from Kertch itself. Next day, while we were on the line of march,
my uncle, Lord Clarence, happened to be in close conversation with
Sir Edmund Lyons, when the Commander-in-Chief, suddenly observing me
near at hand, called me up, and said, “Here, youngster: can you talk
French?” On my answering “Yes,” he said, “Go at once and find the
French General in Command” (pointing me out the direction in which I
should find him), “and tell him that I wish the English Jack to be
hoisted alongside the Tricolour as soon as that fort is captured. Mind
and say so very civilly and in your best French.” Off I ran as fast as
my legs would carry me across the plain. Singling out what appeared
to me to be a body of French Staff-Officers, I asked the first among
them to point me out the General in Command. Luckily, that potentate
was among the bunch of officers. I felt nervous and shy; but, mustering
up courage, I stood, cap in hand, delivering my orders. To my horror,
he seemed to demur, and asked me a heap of questions before he at last
consented and desired me to inform the Admiral that his wishes should
be carried out. I had been told to bring back an answer; but for the
life of me I could not find the Commander-in-Chief for a long time.
However, when I did find him he seemed pleased. He said, “I see the
Union Jack is up alongside the French flag. Well done, my boy! What’s
your name, and who is your father? Tell your Commander I am much
pleased with you.” I did feel proud.

There was no opposition at Kertch, and that evening part of the troop
bivouacked in the town and suburbs.

Whether they resulted from the pent-up life of the soldiers and
sailors, or from the mere longing for a spree, I do not know; but the
looting and breaking into cellars, and the consequent trouble, were
very discreditable. I supposed it was one of the horrors of war. Among
other officers, I was sent ashore next day to patrol the streets with
a strong picket, and endeavour to keep the inhabited houses free from
molestation. I took many disorderly men of both armies prisoners, as
well as lusty Jacks of the Fleet. However, fair and square looting
seemed to be winked at. Our mids went ashore, and bagged no end of
cases of champagne. On a subsequent occasion my respected uncle did not
scruple at having a wretched old piano taken on board the _Princess
Royal_ by way of enabling his dear little nephew to keep up his music!
We lay some little time off Kertch while our gun-vessels and launches
of the Fleet were employed playing wholesale destruction of grain and
stores in the Sea of Azov; and they had some sharp fighting into the

I used to land occasionally, and in strolling about the camps came
across old friends that I did not even know to be attached to the army
before Sebastopol. Two of them were old cricketing friends: so, no
doubt, we got on the noble game and cricket grounds many miles away.

On the 24th of May the Fleet weighed--or part of it, bound to a very
strongly fortified place, Anapa, where we expected heavy fighting.
Splinter netting was got up; masts and yards were struck; everything
was made ready for an attack. Next morning, when approaching this
place, the _Hannibal_, line-of-battle ship, was sent on ahead to look
out and report by signals whether the forts were ready for us. To our
dismay (I thought so then), we found the forts evacuated, and partly
blown up. They were excessively strong, and stood on a very commanding
position on high cliffs. We should have had our work cut out to subdue
them. How bloodthirsty the middies were! I suppose I was too young to
realise the horrors of a naval action, and of seeing our decks strewn
with killed and wounded. I never could understand why the Russians blew
up and deserted the place. On landing, soon after anchoring, we could
readily observe the strength of the place. Some of the works were blown
up, and the guns were spiked or taken away--possibly buried. Leave to
land was granted; but on no account were we to enter the forts--for
fear of slow matches and explosions.

We fraternised with some very picturesque Circassians. I longed to
buy some of their accoutrements, which they seemed ready and willing
to sell; but, alas! I had no money with me. However, a happy thought
struck me. I happened to be wearing a new pair of duck trousers.
Thinking that I might tempt them with the shiny brace buttons, I went
round a corner and cut the trinkets off. The effect was magical, and
enabled me to purchase some of the cartouche-cases in which they
carried their powder slung round their waists, or sewn into their rough
coats across their chests. They say that exchange is no robbery. The
aphorism was well illustrated. Soon we were back again to our old
anchorage off Sebastopol, feeling that we had had a wild-goose chase.
Indeed, we were all beginning to be weary of not having the chance of
distinguishing ourselves from on board our respective ships. Luckily,
my uncle was of an enterprising nature. He formed an idea that it would
be a good thing to worry the forts by firing into them after dark. To
do this, it was necessary to have leading lights on the coast, so as to
guide the ships in at night; and these he placed on the sea-coast on
the extreme left of the French position.

The Admiral lent him a paddle-sloop, the _Spitfire_, commanded by an
able officer, one Spratt; and for several nights I accompanied my uncle
while the operations were going on. Our only danger was that we might
be discovered by the Russian guard-boats that were always prowling
about outside the harbour mouth. Somehow, they never saw us. After a
week’s work at placing the lights, everything was in readiness for
the night attack. The lights were very ingeniously placed, showing
different colours on different bearings; and when on these bearings we
knew our approximate distance from the fort at the harbour’s mouth.

On the night of the 16th of June the _Miranda_ frigate, commanded
by Captain Lyons, supported by rocket boats, was sent in to attack
the forts. Unfortunately, the enemy got his range--owing to the
illumination caused by the rockets, which lit up the whole scene. Poor
Lyons was killed, and there was considerable loss besides, and the
incident ended in being somewhat a failure. The intention of these
night attacks was to worry the enemy, and keep the sailors and gunners
down at the forts instead of their assisting in the siege batteries up
at the front.

Next night, that of the 17th of June, came our turn in the _Princess
Royal_. My Captain begged to be allowed to go in alone, so as not to
attract the fire of the forts by too great a display of firing, such
as that of the previous night. Of course, this sort of affair under
cover of darkness makes it a mere question of luck whether we should be
sunk, or seriously mauled, or escape scot-free. The enemy could fire
at random only. We were not blessed in those days with search-lights:
in fact, there was nothing to give the enemy a clue to our distance,
and they could not lay their guns with any certainty: whilst, we being
directed to fire in broadsides only, there would naturally be no
continuous firing to assist their gunners in laying the guns.

We cleared for action at 9 P.M. that evening, hove in our cable, and
awaited the signal to weigh. How wearisome each half hour seemed! We
longed to have the business over. We waited and waited the signal; but
half hour after half hour passed, and nothing happened. So we could
only lie down at our guns and take a snatch of sleep--or make the
attempt, at any rate. I wonder what many of us thought over during
those weary half hours, and whether our minds were far away? Not a
light was allowed. All was still, and in utter darkness. The only
light to be seen on board was in the binnacle compass on the poop. I
recollect well running up and down constantly to the poop to find out
the latest news, and convey it below, because at one time we began to
despair of the attack coming off that night.

My uncle was calmly walking the poop, in close conversation with the
Commander, and awaiting the signal to weigh. At last, at midnight, up
went the signal, by lanterns: “Weigh and proceed.” All was bustle in
an instant; though beyond the links grinding in at the hawse pipe not
a sound was to be heard--no boatswain’s whistle: absolutely nothing.
We were soon under weigh, and off at slow speed. The lights which we
placed were plainly visible as we steamed in. It was a most exciting
moment as we gradually approached the enemy’s huge batteries. The men
were already at their guns, and we had placed a few more from our port
batteries over to the star-board side, in order to give them not only
46 but also 50 or more shots from our star-board broadside.

Having got our bearings on with the lights (coloured large lanterns),
we steamed on until a certain light showed red: then we knew our
approximate distance, and that it was time to fire. Up to this time I
had been constantly sent down with messages to the officers at their
quarters, in order to make sure that no mistake could possibly be made;
and the Captain arranged to give the order himself for the broadside to
be fired at the exact moment.

I was on the poop by the Captain’s side. Suddenly he asked whether all
was ready below--the guns being elevated to 1200 yards and loaded with
shell. The answer was, “Yes, sir.” He said, “Stand by.” A few seconds
of suspense followed. When the order to fire was given, off went the
roar of these guns simultaneously from our whole broadside; and in a
few seconds I saw the most lovely illumination of the whole front of
Fort Constantine. Our shells had burst beautifully. On the face of the
fort, for an instant or so, I could plainly see the embrasures (so to
speak) lit up, and, indeed, the whole face of the fort.

A minute or two elapsed before any fire was returned. First came one
or two shots; then gradually more; until they began pounding away to
their hearts’ content, firing red-hot shot, shells, and chain shot,
the latter to cut our rigging. The shells I could plainly see coming
over us, some few bursting short; but the enemy must have estimated our
range to be 200 yards farther out, for hundreds passed over us, cutting
our rigging unmercifully. Had we been that distance farther out to sea
we should indeed have got a proper mauling. It was great luck, indeed,
that our hull was hit only five times. We lost only two killed and five
wounded: all at one gun under the poop: just below where my Captain and
I were standing.

I shall never forget an idiot of a signalman who, on hearing the crash,
yelled out to me, “Look out, sir: the mast is coming down by the run.”
This shot certainly made great havoc. After knocking these poor chaps
over, it tore up some planks on our quarter-deck, smashed part of the
mast, and made a hole in the stern of our boom boat in its passage
overboard to the other side. For a quarter of an hour or more these
shots and shells came very thick. We loaded for another broadside,
but suddenly got into unpleasant shoal water: so we had to turn tail.
I believe our orders were not to run any risks, and not to fire more
than one or two broadsides if the enemy got our range: after all, our
purpose was served in worrying the forts. Though the engagement was
exciting, I felt glad when we got out of range. It certainly was too
hot to be pleasant.

When the retreat from quarters was sounded, there was a general call
for the steward; and (now two o’clock in the morning) potted lobster,
tinned salmon, and sardines were eagerly devoured. Many a yarn about
the details of the night passed between us. We were afterwards told
that the whole Fleet had been watching the affair, which was described
as lovely in the distance. Next day we buried our dead outside at sea.
Some people think that being sewn up in a hammock with two shots tied
to the foot of it, and being launched overboard, is the best way of
being buried. I do not. I hated seeing the bodies slipped overboard out
of a port from a grating during the funeral service.

For a fortnight we had cholera in the Fleet pretty badly. I think we
lost eleven poor chaps in our ship alone. Many others were seized, but
got over it. Our men generally fell ill about daybreak or soon after.
I have seen them, seized with the horrid cramp, tumble down while
decks were being washed. The best precaution was to make every one as
cheerful as possible, so as to keep the devil out of the mind. The band
used to play off and on all day; while games and smoking were allowed
_ad lib_.

By the next mail I wrote to my mother, describing the night attack; and

  I have no wish to go into action again, if I can keep out of it. We
  were the first line-of-battle ship that has been in at night--and
  so close! How jealous the Acres must be [alluding to the _St. Jean
  D’Acre_, our chummy ship, commanded by Henry Keppel]. I have earned
  the Black Sea medal.

The day after our night attack we were all very busy watching an
unsuccessful assault of the Redan, and could plainly see with glasses
a great deal of what was going on. For some long weeks we lay off
Sebastopol, weighing our anchor only twice. On the first occasion we
received sudden orders to get up steam, in company with other ships of
the Fleet, and to start for some unknown destination. Many were the
conjectures. Could it be a sudden attack on the forts of the town? Or
were we off to some fresh destruction of the enemy’s positions? Suffice
it to say, the Fleet was formed into one long line, and at first shaped
a course directly towards the mouth of the harbour, and, on arriving
within measurable distance of long shots, quickly turned along the
coast in the direction of Eupatoria. All the marines were ordered to
sit on the top of the boom boats and hammock nettings--in fact, to
show their red coats in the most conspicuous manner;--and even the
blue-jackets were dressed up in spare tunics and placed in conspicuous
spots, thus affording a certain amount of merriment: the ruse being to
mislead the Russians into thinking that we were bound with troops to
the Alma.

We anchored that night off Eupatoria, returning to Sebastopol next day.
Whether the Russians were taken in by our manœuvre, or they thought it
a capital joke, we never knew. Nothing came of the emprise.

The second time we weighed, the ships were spread out across the
mouth of the harbour. We slung our long-range 68-pounders on the
fore-stay, and at an elevation of 45° fired occasional shots towards
the batteries. I think that we did not do any harm: we could not quite
range the batteries. On that occasion one of our small steamers went
in pretty close under the land, to reconnoitre; and the Russian paddle
frigate _Vladamir_ was out of the harbour like a shot, and might have
caught our vessel had not one or two other steamers gone to the rescue
and driven the Russian off. At night we had to row careful guard round
the ships. The Russians also had guard-boats; but we seldom came across
them. How different it would be now, in the days of search-lights,
steam launches, and torpedo boats! No fleet would dare to anchor off a
harbour’s mouth for weeks together.

There was great excitement about this time over a person who professed
to be able to steal in at night in a submerged canoe, drop an anchor
when within a certain distance of the Russian ship, fire his submarine
mine under her bows, and haul himself out by his cable. I believe
he was a blue-jacket of the _St. Jean D’Acre_; but, somehow, the
performance never came off.

At this time my uncle became very unwell, and had to be invalided. This
was a matter of great regret to us all on board; for not only was he
deservedly popular, but also we knew that, while under his command, our
good ship would have been one of the first selected for any particular

He was always most kind and considerate to me; but in those days it was
not a good thing for the skipper to have a near relation serving under
him. That created a certain amount of suspicion, and at times made me
feel that I might be thought the originator of some gossip that may
have reached his ears. Having the run of his cabin was a great boon. On
one occasion, having met with a nasty accident to my foot, I was laid
up in a cot in his cabin for three weeks. I could never get into a pair
of ready-mades afterwards.



The new Captain was a horrid speculation to us juniors. When it was
announced that he was Sir Lewis Tobias Jones, dread ran through us.
He was what we called a “taut hand”: an officer with a stern sense
of duty, which was all he lived for on board ship. That was his
reputation. We were agreeably surprised after a very short time. For
myself, I had great admiration for his character, and none could
question his great abilities. I was soon made his A.D.C., and got on
swimmingly. I recollect his running foul of me only on one occasion;
and no doubt I deserved it. It was a bitterly cold day, and (as is the
custom when a ship is under canvas) the wretched middy of the watch had
to walk the lee side of the deck. Unfortunately, the main trysail was
set--the most draughty sail in the world, sending all its winds bang
down your neck from one end of the quarter-deck to the other. I felt
perished with cold, and in a moment of inadvertence put my poor little
fingers into my pocket, to keep them warm. Now, the weather side is
the sheltered side (it sounds illogical, but so it is); and no doubt
Captain Jones did not realise my benumbed state, he being on the more
sheltered side of the deck. Seeing my hands in my pockets on the sacred
precincts of Her Majesty’s quarter-deck was beyond what he could bear.
He called me up, therefore, and said, in rather a stentorian voice,
“Pray, sir, who allowed you to keep your hands in your pockets on the
quarter-deck? Go down immediately to the tailor on the half-deck [a
worthy who was always seen squatting with his mate between two guns at
the after end of the main deck, sewing clothes], and tell him from me
to sew your pockets up instantly; and report to me, sir, when he has
done so.” I fled, feeling disgraced, and knowing that the only chance
of retrieving my character was to urge the tailor to “bear a hand”; as
the sooner I appeared on deck sewn up, the better. It was but the work
of an instant. The tailor twigged the situation, dropped all his work,
and sewed me up in no time. When I reached the deck, trembling almost,
with my report ready, the stentorian voice had disappeared, and I was
accosted in the most fatherly manner. “Now, my boy, this is a lesson to
you. Do not do it again. Go below to the tailor, and tell him to unsew
your pockets.”

Now, I am going to moralise. I appreciated that form of reprimand
much better than I should have relished a senseless punishment such
as, unfortunately, often falls to the middy’s lot. I allude to the
stopping of leave. Of course, that could have effect only when in
harbour. Possibly, therefore, your ship might be weeks at sea after
the punishment was awarded; and you had it hanging over your head. A
boy was debarred from seeing some new place of interest, an experience
which would have been more beneficial to his mind than the punishment
was to his morals. Mast-heading was another form. “Go up to the
mast-head, and wait until I call you down.” This, on a rough day was
very disagreeable: the jerking of spars (to say nothing of the climb
up into the skies) did not abate the feeling of sea-sickness; and
woe betide you if by any chance you made an unfortunate exhibition
of yourself! Among other punishments was what was termed “sticking
you on the bitts.” You stood on the wooden framing round the mast, to
which the ropes were belayed, for a specified number of hours; and
you not only looked, but also felt, an abject fool. Sometimes you
had watch-and-watch--four hours on duty to four hours off. During
these punishments there was generally one friend who had compassion
on you. That was the boatswain’s mate of the watch. When he got the
opportunity, he would invariably go behind the mast and near where you
might be undergoing your punishment, spin you a yarn of what he had
seen in his time, and offer you some consolation, telling you to endure
your disgrace like a man.

These boatswain’s mates were fine fellows, as a rule; but generally
they had to bear the brunt if something went wrong with the sails or
ropes. “Boatswain’s mate, why the Devil--” this or that--was constantly
yelled out by the officer of the watch. Noise and repetition of orders
emanating from that worthy were a sure sign that the officer of the
watch was not up to his work.

Standing between two guns on the quarter-deck for so many half hours
was another form of punishment. This was killing. It often happened
that the poor middy found himself in close proximity to some dirty
cook’s mate placed between two guns for neglecting to keep clean
something under his charge.

These punishments were very senseless: irritating to some natures, and
disgusting many a boy with the Service. I have known several serious
cases of insubordination consequent on such punishments, which stung
some characters to the quick. A case happened to myself that I shall
never forget. As mid of the watch, I had to call a certain Commander
at 5.30 A.M. Calling a strict Commander whom you very much funked was
in itself a nervous transaction. But this officer seemed particularly
to love cross-questioning the wretched small boy. The question usually
first put to you was, “How is the weather?” followed by various
others--some difficult to answer, perhaps. On the occasion to which
I refer, it happened to be a washing-of-clothes morning; and this
very bearish Commander asked me whether the clothes were up, meaning,
Were all the clothes hung up on the lines and in their places? On my
answering in the affirmative, he asked, “How many blue frocks are there
hanging on the lower lines?” For the life of me, I could not tell; nor
could one possibly discover by any depth of reasoning what object there
was in knowing how many blue serge frocks were hanging up to dry out of
a complement of 850 souls. I answered, “I don’t know exactly, sir; but
I will go and see.” “You don’t know, sir!” exclaimed this infuriated
gouty person. “I will see about that. Meantime, consider your leave
stopped for a month.” And this in Malta Harbour--where we had our
cricket, rackets, billiards, friends, and every sort of fun, besides
a half-crown stall at the opera when we could afford it. The only
consolation is that (I suppose) it did not do me much harm, but that,
on the contrary, it taught me a lesson for after life, when my turn
for authority came. Such punishments, like flogging, were the remnants
of barbarism; and it was a good day for the Navy when they ceased.

I am sorry to say I have often seen three men flogged, one after
another. This hateful ceremony invariably (in my time) was gone through
at 7.30 A.M. All the officers had to appear on deck in frock-coats,
and with swords, while the punishments were being inflicted. I do
not believe that flogging ever cured a character. I think that it
hardened nine men out of ten. It may have deterred others, and so
had its effect; but the crimes committed were often, to my idea, too
trifling for such retribution. Of course, in those days prisons--or,
at any rate, the means of sending men to prison--were scarce; and it
happened that we were a good deal on war service, when prisons were
not accessible. But, _coûte que coûte_, bad characters--men who could
not be reclaimed after several attempts--were best kicked out of the
Service. They are a plague to their shipmates, and give trouble all
round; though it was a curious fact that they were generally the best
seamen. When I commanded ships I occasionally found characters that
were past all hope. I spoke to them, explained matters, argued cases
out. Nothing had the slightest effect. Crime appeared to be a second
nature: they could not refrain from the temptation to disobey orders.
They were not ill-treated by their shipmates, or soured by constant
fault-finding. Their sole object in life seemed to be to go in a
direction exactly opposite to that which was right. I believe this to
be a mode of insanity.



Early in September 1855 it was generally known that the game was nearly
up with the Russians. Sebastopol could not hold out much longer. The
bombarding had been very heavy and constant for some days. On the 7th
of that month the combined Fleets made all preparations to attack the
forts in conjunction with the land batteries. We prepared for action,
got all our upper masts down, unrove a deal of rope, placed shot about
the deck, and demolished all bulkheads; and when once the splinter
nettings were placed we knew that business was meant. Steam was ready
in the early morning of the 8th of September, and, after ceaseless
blockading, we felt that our turn to be up and doing had come.

Alas, we were mistaken. It came on to blow a gale dead-onshore. About
9 A.M. our Commander-in-Chief signalled to the French Admiral, “Do you
think it advisable to weigh and attack?” What was answered I do not
remember. Suffice it to say that, after all the excitement of a coming
ding-dong, we remained at anchor. Wiser heads took the responsibility.

The south side fell that day. We watched the huge explosions of the
forts on that side. It was indeed a grand sight,--the enormous columns
of smoke, dust, and _débris_ flying majestically into the air in
great shoots, and dense clouds of it hanging thickly at the base. On
the second day this continued. We could also plainly see streams of
soldiers crossing the bridge of boats over the harbour to the north
side, where Fort Constantine still stood out unscathed. I think many of
the Russian ships-of-war were sunk in the harbour at that juncture.

Early in October we were ordered to embark the 63rd Regiment of the
Line; and, together with a goodly company of other ships with troops on
board, we left for Odessa, where, it seems, we made a reconnaissance
only, our real object being Kimburn, a fortified spit near the entrance
of the Sea of Azov. Arriving off Kimburn, we transferred our freight of
soldiers to the _Vulcan_, transport ship, and prepared to attack the
fortifications. I find myself writing home by next mail as follows:--

  We arrived at this place, Kimburn, about 3 P.M., and anchored
  about two and a half miles off the forts in very shallow water.
  Nothing happened that afternoon, and we commenced preparing for
  action for the following day, being sure we should attack, but it
  was postponed. They say it was all Admiral Bruat’s fault (French
  Admiral), for Lyons cannot do anything without his permission, as
  he is much the senior. We then thought our turn would come the
  next day. But it did not, and we found it was all old Bruat’s
  fault, for he will have nothing to do with it. Admiral Lyons was
  very much put out about this, for depend upon it, that if he had
  been alone I really believe he would have gone in the day we
  arrived; but he was determined to do something, so he ordered all
  the mortar-boats to commence shelling the place, which consisted
  of nine forts and houses. The following day our Admiral made the
  signal to old Bruat:--“This is a fine day to attack.” Answer was
  “Agreeable.” So at 12 o’clock we got under weigh and steamed in,
  firing our long pivot gun, a solid 68-pounder, occasionally, but
  not without receiving some shots in return, and some not pleasant
  at all. Whish! whish! on they came by the dozen. When about 600
  yards from the centre battery we anchored and put a spring in
  our cable, so as to keep our broadside well on to the forts. All
  this was only the work of a few minutes, when we let drive from
  our whole 46 guns as hard as we could, firing occasionally with
  moorsom shell as well as round shot--such a row, and such dense
  smoke as was never seen or heard. I was constantly sent down with
  messages to direct the firing, but it was nigh impossible to
  make myself heard to the officers of the quarters, and the smoke
  between decks was so dense I could see absolutely nothing, and felt
  suffocated into the bargain. I must say I was awfully anxious to
  go in, but on the other hand equally glad to come out. We blazed
  at them for one hour and a half before they surrendered; we sent
  in a flag of truce and asked them if they had had enough of it
  and wished to surrender, which they readily acquiesced in. I then
  saw them sending down their troops to the beach, with their arms
  and knapsacks, and piling them on the beach. We gave the forts an
  awful pounding and completely smothered them. I must tell you that
  two French floating batteries bombarded the place all the morning
  before we went in, so they deserve more than half the credit of
  taking the place. There were several forts. I fear they suffered
  considerable loss. I believe we were the only ship that got knocked
  about a bit: we were struck in several places. Our mizen topsail
  yard was shot away and our side hit, but we only had one man
  wounded; and a good deal of rigging was cut to pieces. I am quite
  a warrior now, three times under fire out here. Yesterday I went
  ashore to see the place, which was almost knocked down and full
  of our shot and broken shell. I picked up a few curios, such as a
  bayonet and a looking-glass, also a Cossack’s stirrup iron, and a
  piece of the Russian Union Jack, which I will enclose. I hear we
  killed and wounded a great many; I saw a lot of dead bodies. All
  our launches went ashore the first evening after the bombardment,
  and brought off lots of wounded Russians to be cared for on board;
  good practice for our doctors.

  We have taken 1500 prisoners. I think I have told you all for this
  mail, except that in the midst of the fight, I was standing on the
  poop as usual, when I saw our Turkish pilot suddenly fall head over
  heels backwards in a large tub of water we had on deck in case of
  fire. I thought he was killed, instead of which I feel sure he
  fell back from dire funk, because a shot whisked past his head. I
  could not help laughing, as indeed we all did.

Such were my descriptions. I evidently condensed my subjects. But
I well recollect feeling pity for the poor Russians, who were so
unmercifully hammered by the broadsides of so many line-of-battle
ships, our 32-pounders working complete destruction and levelling the
forts. At times I could see our shot flying into the fort only 600
yards off. As quick-firing meant approximately three rounds a minute
from each gun of a liner’s battery, the number of rounds fired can be
imagined; though we could not keep it up long at that rate. Captain
Jones always wore a tall black beaver hat (which was considered uniform
in those days) with what we called a lightning conductor--nothing more
nor anything less than a piece of broad gold lace from the crown to the
brim. It was an economical costume: off came the lightning conductor
when the Captain landed, and he was out of uniform. After the firing
ceased his hat caused some merriment: it was white from the smoke of
the gunpowder adhering to the nap.

We left Kimburn next day, still thinking that Odessa was to be
bombarded; but, instead of going thither, we returned to our old
diggings off Sebastopol. The sailing squadron was now ordered home,
and the Naval Brigade re-embarked; and there was nothing left for
the Fleet to do, as the south side of Sebastopol had fallen and the
Russians were in a state of collapse. So, to our infinite joy, we were
ordered to take a cruise into the Mediterranean: to while away the
time, and await events.



We stayed a few days at Constantinople _en passant_. I enjoyed as many
hours as possible ashore at the Embassy with the kind Lord Stratford
de Redcliffe and his charming family. Then we cruised, spending a few
days at the lovely Princes Islands, in the Sea of Marmora; then on to
Smyrna. Smyrna was a charming place to lie at. The merchants and the
Levantines were hospitable. After their work hours, I used to drive out
to their country bungalows, and dine and stay the night; and, by my
wig, what pretty girls were to be seen! Lovely little one- or two-story
houses, each (generally) with a marble courtyard in the middle of
the building, and delicious fountains playing in the centre of this
yard, which was a mass of flowers and pretty shrubs--such was Smyrna.
The gardens beyond were delightful. Usually there were dances in the
evenings (which were deliciously cool), or rubbers of whist. The
bazaars also were an attraction, and very good; and the town to my mind
seemed more Turkish than Constantinople itself. Sometimes we gave a
dance on board, or took our friends for a picnic. In fact, the sojourn
was enjoyable. Dwelling there was a certain Miss Blount, our Consul’s
daughter. She was considered a great beauty, and was always called “The
Fair Maid of Athens,” being so like the lady of Byron’s song. I rather
think that her father was Consul at Messalonghi, where, it is said,
Byron wrote his lines on “The Fair Maid.”

After leaving Smyrna, we sailed for the Piræus. We stayed some little
time, refitting; and we mids got up regattas, hiring the sailing boats
of the Piræus, and racing round Salamis bay and islands. Here it was
that I derived my first taste for boat-sailing, which in my late
years led to so much yacht-racing in England. The snug harbour of the
Piræus always had a charm for me. I have often visited Athens since
those days, both in men-of-war and in a private capacity; and I know
of no better station to be on while in command of a ship. Your limits
generally extended from Corfu to Chalchis. Corfu and its islands are
perfectly charming, and afford excellent wild shooting. I have made
very considerable bags in those parts; and was, luckily, once under the
command of a genuine sportsman, Admiral Hobart Pasha. We used to shoot
great quantities of game in the Morea, all round in the bays of those
lovely stretches of country. Fifty or sixty couple of woodcock fell
to our guns on several occasions, when you just happened to hit off a
flight of these birds. Snipe also abounded, and wild duck and pigs were
to be got. Indeed, in all the bays there was always plenty of game,
and in the higher lands the red-legged partridge. Hobart was a genuine
sportsman, and a wonderfully good shot. Every day of the week he used
to get some shooting, devoting Sundays to consular work, or to whatever
business the ship was sent to do: shooting was more to his taste. We
had still better sport up a river called the Jahun, in Iscanderoun Bay.
We were returning to our ship on one occasion, having been tenting-out
up this fine river for ten days. Our two boats were well laden with
game, besides wild boar. Unfortunately, the boat containing Hobart and
myself filled and swamped as we were crossing the bar. We managed to
touch hard sand when we stepped out; but it was touch-and-go, as the
current out of the river was at a great pace, and the breakers and surf
were running very high. Thank God, we all escaped; but we lost our
boat, game, guns, dogs, and all. The poor brutes swam in our eddy as
long as they could; but soon they became exhausted, and drifted away to
sea, to be drowned.

The society at Athens was most enjoyable, and the number of times I
lost my heart it would be hard to say. In late years, when I commanded
the _Rapid_, a wooden sloop, my very dear friend and most excellent
Commander-in-Chief, Sir Hastings Yelverton, used invariably to send me
to that station, where I had the honour of becoming acquainted with His
Majesty King George and Her Majesty Queen Olga. No words that I can use
would be commensurate with the marked kindness and hospitality that I
received at their Majesties’ hands. I spent many of the happiest days
of my life under their roof, or otherwise in their society; and some
who may chance to read these lines will bear me out in acknowledging
the debts of gratitude which those who had the distinguished privilege
of their Majesties’ acquaintance must have felt for the kindness shown
to them on their visiting Athens, and that lovely country-seat, Tatoi.
I first knew Athens in King Otho’s reign; and I was there at the _coup
d’état_, when His Majesty was conveyed away in Her Majesty’s ship
_Sylla_, commanded by Rowley Lambert.

From Athens the _Princess Royal_ was suddenly ordered to proceed
post-haste to the island of Zea, in the Archipelago, where the _Royal
Albert_, flagship, had sought refuge, having sprung a serious leak
in her stern post on the way from Constantinople. We found her with
her bows run ashore, and hard at work having the leak repaired. We
assisted, and in a day or two were enabled to get her off. A paddle
sloop, the _Sphynx_, took her in tow. We formed the escort, and
eventually arrived all together at Malta.

Dear old place! What a time we middies had there! I immediately fitted
myself out with new clothes, took a stall at the Opera, and was the
young swell to my heart’s content. The performances were very good
for second-class singers. Some made their fame afterwards in European
capitals, and rose to the zenith of their profession. Balls, parties,
and every sort of fun went on during our stay. We used to ride in
parties of twenty or more all over the island. Helter-skelter we flew
along those hard rocky roads, to the peril of anything that came across
our path. Cetta Vechia was the famous _rendezvous_ for luncheon or
refreshments, and the orange gardens suffered considerably from our
thirsty mouths. The Maltese, apparently, did not mind. Fresh from
the war, we were given unlimited licence in our expeditions; and we
certainly made the most of it.

The harbour was always astir, transports and ships of war constantly
arriving or leaving: all was interest and excitement.

Malta had great fascinations to my mind. Everything was picturesque: a
beautiful harbour, with its numerous creeks splitting up the town into
several small ones: though under different names, it was all Malta.
There were an excellent club, races, cricket, and every sport save
shooting, though quails were to be found at certain seasons.

About the middle of April 1856 our stay at Malta came to an end. We
left for a cruise in the Archipelago: to pass the time during the long
armistice, and also, I imagine, to be handily awaiting events while the
peace preliminaries were under discussion.

We had not long to wait. A day or two after we arrived at the island of
Rhodes the _Spiteful_ hove in sight, flying the signal, “Have important
despatches for you.” These turned out to be an order to proceed
full-speed to Constantinople, to hoist our guns out, and be off as fast
as possible to the Crimea, to take on board troops for conveyance to
England. Hurrah! We were indeed glad to find the war at an end and home
looming in the near future. Our guns were hoisted out on the Asiatic
side of the Bosphorus, and one day sufficed to turn the man-of-war into
a troop-ship. Eighteen months is not a long time for a sailor to be
away from home; yet as a boy, especially after war service, one felt
anxious to return to one’s family,--a small warrior full of narrative.
My cadet’s time had now expired: so I was able to don “the patch” of
white on the collar, and felt as proud as Punch.

From the Bosphorus we made for Katzatch harbour, and took on board a
battalion of the Scotch Fusilier Guards, 1260 strong.

We had a fine army at the close of the war. I believe that most of the
regiments were on a real war-strength footing. The Scots Fusiliers were
a splendid regiment, officered by some of the finest fellows you could
possibly meet. Several were great friends of mine for years afterwards;
though, as I write this, many of them are gone. Alister Frazer,
Trefusis, Astley (the mate), Gordon, Erskine, Gipps,--all had served
through the war. Landing at Varna in 1854, they had fought at the
Alma, at Inkerman, at Balaclava, and in other actions, and weathered
the storm of shot and shell in the trenches during those tedious and
trying times. It was a marvel they lived to tell the tale. I believe
that only 400 of the men who landed with the regiment at the beginning
of the war came home in my ship. Most of the other ships of the Fleet
were embarking troops, and every available steamer was chartered from
the Merchant Service. The _Himalaya_ bore the palm for size and beauty.
She was looked on in those days as simply majestic: nothing approached
her in size. She was afterwards brought into the Navy from the P. and
O. Company, and for years afterwards she served as a troop-ship with
the White Ensign at the peak, and was always, until her last days,
considered a perfect vessel: she could be relied on to make her long
passages almost to a day. I saw her in 1896, about to be broken up,
lying in the Hamoaze at Plymouth; and I could not help feeling a pang
when I heard that her days were numbered and she was to be broken up,
for a more dutiful vessel has not graced the Royal Navy. On whatever
station one happened to be, out would come this glorious old ship,
looking as neat as possible, even in her old age.

We in the _Princess Royal_ did all we could to make the time pass
pleasantly for the Scots. The Mate (Astley) was always to the fore
sky-larking with us mids; and we tried the old game of getting him
aloft to lash him to the rigging, so that he should “pay his footing”
(as it was called); but he was as nimble as a cat, and we never

We stopped to coal at Malta and at Gibraltar, and made the best of
our way to England under steam and sail. We took three weeks from
Sebastopol to Spithead: not a bad time for a liner of those days.

Directly we anchored at Spithead a couple of gun-boats were lashed
alongside, and our living freight was soon away to the ringing cheers
of our sailors. Again and again this healthy display went on, until
the boats were nearly into Portsmouth harbour.

My ship went into harbour, and was soon dismantled and paid off.
Shortly after this event my father received a letter from Captain the
Honourable Henry Keppel; and I cannot do better than give a copy of

  MY DEAR LORD SANDWICH--Your son Victor and myself have established
  a friendship and mutual regard I flatter myself for one another.
  Should I be appointed to a frigate going to India, how far would it
  suit you and Lady Sandwich if I were to apply for him. I need not
  say the pleasure it would afford me to have the little fellow under
  my care, and I cannot help thinking that nothing is so beneficial
  to a youngster as the regularity and system established in a
  man-of-war during a long sea-voyage, and nothing so injurious as
  the constant harbour work (after the first two years of servitude)
  of a line-of-battle ship.--Allow me, my dear Lord, to remain, Yours
  very truly,

            HENRY KEPPEL.

How this letter describes the man who wrote it! It is so full of kind
solicitude that, I am sure, he thought not of his own interests, but
only of the good it would do me to go out on a long commission, and
gain a deal of sea experience into the bargain, as he was about to
hoist his pennant in a sailing frigate. He knew, also, how the war had
kept us mids away from regular study in navigation and other branches
of our profession.

[Illustration: H.M.S. ‘Raleigh,’ 50-gun sailing frigate, wrecked off
Macao (China), the 14th of April 1857.]



Within a month of the letter from Captain Keppel to my father, I was
appointed to the _Raleigh_, sailing frigate of 50 guns, then fitting
out for the East Indies and China stations. I recall vividly the honour
I felt at the idea of serving under that Captain. I had been thrown in
with him all through the Baltic and the Crimean campaigns. I did not
serve in the Naval Brigade ashore; but he was the constant companion
of my uncle when opportunities offered, and in that way I saw a deal
of him. Throughout the war Captain Keppel and Lord Clarence Paget were
always putting their heads together, trying to infuse more spirit
into what was done. Well do I recollect overhearing their remarks,
especially those in reference to the Baltic Do-Nothing Policy--how it
affronted these enterprising minds! Keppel was full of dash and fire,
though always blessed with an iron nerve. His was not a nature that
ever contemplated failure. I had plenty of opportunities of finding
this out. I was not destined to serve long under his command; but I
learnt to admire his love for the Service. I have heard it said that he
did not study the possibilities of risk enough: that at times he was
too adventurous. Where and when did he fail? Let us leave well alone.
He was the most genial of men, with the kindest of hearts. A great
disciplinarian he was not. Still, in a service like the Navy you are
as much in need of a character like Keppel as you are of a Sir William
Martin. Both are admirable in their different ways. In the one case
you train a man to perfect discipline; in the other you make use of
that discipline and steadiness when the moment of dash is required.
One man may shine in one particular sphere; another shines elsewhere;
and both may be invaluable officers. I have known Captains who (either
from their own peculiar natures, or perhaps from having been so trained
in their younger days) apparently thought it absolutely wrong to hold
friendly intercourse with their subordinates on board ship: they could
not bear the idea of a friendly Good-morning, and seemed glued to the
notion that all discipline was at an end if the symptom of a joke
appeared. Talking of a friendly Good-morning puts me in mind of what
occurred between a young lieutenant just joined and an officer I knew
very well, who, though a most pleasant man off duty, had very strong
opinions as to the sanctity of being on duty: he carried them to such
an extent that he would not even shake hands with any Captain of his
own standing who might happen to call on board his ship. The young
lieutenant was keeping the morning watch for the first time, and at
about 7.30 A.M. the Commander of the ship came up on the poop before
the morning evolution of crossing yards and so on. As he approached
the lieutenant the latter said, “Good-morning, sir.” To that no answer
was given. Thinking that the Commander had not heard his salutation,
the lieutenant repeated it. Thereupon the Commander turned round and
asked, “What is that you say?” The lieutenant answered, “Oh! I was
only saying Good-morning to you, sir.” “Oh! were you? I will tell you,
once for all, there is no Good-morning here, sir. It’s all work.” What
the young lieutenant thought I must leave to my readers to imagine.
The whole episode was so characteristic of the Commander that when I
heard the story I would have laid a thousand to one that I knew the
man; and a finer officer or more agreeable man in any other capacity
it was hard to find. Of course, you soon learnt to fear and respect
such an officer; but if he were not a splendid professional man, and
withal a gentleman, his figure of merit did not always shine in the
Service. It is a singular fact that no body of men are so alive as
the blue-jackets as to what constitutes gentlemanly bearing, or the
combination of officer and gentleman. They know well enough the good
tone it produces in a man-of-war, and they overlook many a rebuff and
many a failing on the part of a gentleman. I have never in my career
in the Navy seen or heard of anything more approaching perfection
than the once famous _Marlborough_, flagship, in the Mediterranean,
flying the flag of Sir William Martin, who had Sir Houston Stewart as
his Flag-Captain and the late Sir Thomas Brandreth as Commander. Here
were officers of remarkable qualities. Here was a ship the very home
of discipline. All on board were happy and contented. In fact, she
was what was termed a “happy ship.” The officers were sportsmen and
cricketers: off-duty was one thing, and on-duty another. I must quote a
little episode that added to my admiration for that ship.

I was serving as second lieutenant in a despatch boat, the _Foxhound_,
in the Mediterranean, commanded by the Honourable A. C. Hobart,
afterwards Hobart Pasha, who served in the Turkish Navy for some years.
The Commander-in-Chief had been for some three or four days inspecting
my ship, and we had arrived at the last subject of inspection--the
boats manned and armed. I was ordered to take all our boats alongside
the flagship, to be examined in detail. No sooner was I alongside than
Captain Stewart came down the accommodation ladder to confer about my
boats. Just at that moment the pipe went on board the _Marlborough_
to cross royal yards and loose sails. The ship had been refitting;
her topmasts were struck; the yards were down and across the hammock
nettings. Thus, as all sailors will understand, the evolution about to
be performed was a very big business. No sooner was the pipe given than
1300 men forming the crew were rushing to their stations up ladders and
hatchways; and, beyond the pit-a-pat of feet, not a sound was to be
heard. Stewart, bored to death at having to inspect my boats at that
moment, instead of being at his post on the poop, said to me, by way of
consolation, “Montagu, can you hear a pin drop?” He meant to indicate
how proud he felt that his 1300 men were rushing to their stations in
perfect silence. “Well, sir,” I answered, “it’s a remarkable sign of
the order of your ship that not a sound is to be heard.” “Yes, Montagu:
this is the ship you ought to be in,” he said. Beyond an occasional
order from the Commander aft, or from the first lieutenant forward, no
human voice, as a rule, was heard; and most of the orders were carried
out by flag-signals. If any voice was heard, or the slightest confusion
arose on any part of the deck, or aloft, the bugle immediately sounded
the “Still”; and not a soul moved. It was curious to see the strange
positions of arms and legs at such moments. I believe that the bugle
on deck was first used in the _Marlborough_; and, to my mind, it did
heighten immensely the discipline of a ship’s company. If a dilemma
occurred, the bugle was sounded; and the men were so trained to it that
all orders could be spoken quietly, steadying everything on the spot.
I need not say that my inspection ended soon. Captain Stewart glanced
into the boats, and, not being able to resist the temptation to go on
to his poop, whispered to me, “Go back to your ship: your boats are all

On being appointed to the _Raleigh_, Keppel was given the rank of
Commodore, as second in command of the China station, our destination.
Consequently, we flew a blue broad pennant at the fore; and I was very
proud of this, as, on joining, I was made his signal midshipman. The
other midshipmen in command of boats very soon had the blue burgee
painted on the bows of their craft.

Keppel, I believe, chose all his officers himself; a better lot never
set foot on board ship; and there was every prospect of a long and
happy commission. _Mais l’homme propose, et Dieu dispose._ We were
ready for sea about the middle of October 1856, and sailed out of
Portsmouth Harbour with studding-sails set. Tugs were handy; but Keppel
disdained the use of them, much to the Port Admiral’s discomfort. We,
most of us, had a goodly number of relations on board: in fact, the
ship was crowded with sight-seers, some of whom even went up into the
tops. I do not know for certain, but it is said that the _Raleigh_
was the last sailing frigate that left the harbour under canvas. We
left Spithead on the 26th of October 1856, and, after a dead beat down
Channel, called in at Plymouth for final orders. Here we dispatched
our last letters home. Mine was my last from English shores to my
mother. From Plymouth we shaped course to Madeira, and took ten days
on the passage, meeting with strong contrary winds the latter part of
the time. How strange is the difference of being in ship and making a
passage from port to port with the use of sail power alone--no steam to
fall back on in case of emergency! And how much more interesting, and
even exciting, it was on entering and leaving a port, particularly if
your ship was well manœuvred, while you were threading your way into
some difficult harbour full of shipping to pick up a snug berth among
the crowd! At sea one is constantly on the look-out for the weather
(change of wind and so forth), taking advantage of every opportunity
to get on by crowding a press of sail on the ship when opportunity
offers. Sailing in and out of harbour required a deal of judgment and
prompt decision: any one having two minds at a critical juncture would
be bound to come to grief. In the Mediterranean in later years I had
command of a wooden sloop. We had engines and boilers. They were seldom
used save in some duty requiring despatch; but I enjoyed running into
(or even beating in and out of) the small harbour of the Piræus, and
it was wonderful how the ship’s company worked on such occasions, all
knowing perfectly well the absolute necessity of flying to their ropes
as occasion required.

A run ashore at Madeira was very pleasant. There, for the first time,
I saw tropical vegetation. Of course, we rattled about in our sleighs,
and enjoyed the well-known trips up the mountains. The Commodore
had intended visiting Rio on the way to the Cape, but, owing to our
having been retarded when making Madeira, had to give up that plan.
From Madeira we stood away for the coast of South America, until we
reached a latitude and longitude putting us 100 miles or so off the
coast of Pernambuco; and then, steering south for ten or twelve days,
we struck into strong westerly winds, which carried us across to the
Cape, preserving, approximately, the same latitude right across the
ocean. In spite of the long detour, our passage to the Cape lasted
only twenty-eight days; which, at that time, was considered a record
for a sailing ship. We had a fair wind all the way, and were not
much delayed while crossing the line. Keppel was good at carrying
on, and not a man to lose a minute on a passage. We carried away a
goodly number of spars before we got to the Cape, and before we got
to China we had not a spare spar left. Spare top-gallant masts were
requisitioned, and our “sweeps” were cut up for studding-sail-booms
and yards. Sweeps were huge oars, to be worked out of a main-deck port
during calms; but I do not suppose that they would have been of much
help in propelling a 50-gun frigate.

Our best run in the twenty-four hours between South America and the
Cape was 296 knots. For six days we averaged 275 miles a day--no great
speed in the present day, but considered a very high rate for a sailing
frigate forty years ago.



One day was much like another, though, I am sure, we middies enjoyed
the whole business. There was constant interest in watching the good
ship speeding along, driving great bow waves in front of her, the
foam churning up along her sides as she passed swiftly through the
water. Occasionally some studding-sail-boom would carry away, or ropes
attached to it would break; and we watched the degrees of seamanship
exercised by the various officers in getting sails reset as speedily
as possible. This caused rivalry between the middies, as we naturally
backed up the lieutenants to whose watches we were appointed; and one
constantly heard recriminations down below. “I say, Jimmy, what a mess
you made of your topmast studding-sail last night in the middle watch:
you got your sail before all, and there you were.” “Oh,” another would
say, “you have nothing to swagger about. Look at last Thursday in
the morning watch. You were an hour crossing those royal yards and
setting the sails, and then you had to rig and unrig the gear half a
dozen times over. I am sure the Commodore has his eye on you, and it
will serve you right if you get leave stopped when we get in.” These
conversations at times waxed warm, but were generally hushed by some
senior in the mess, who, taking his afternoon’s “stretch off the land”
in the shape of a good snooze, would be very angry at being disturbed.
In the evenings, after quarters (parade), the upper deck was devoted to
games--single-stick and sky-larking. Leap-frog round the decks was a
favourite escapade. Sling the monkey was another. That was a boisterous
amusement. One of us was slung in a rope fastened round the waist; with
knotted handkerchiefs, the others set to work to lash the unfortunate
person who was slung; and he, in his turn, swung himself desperately
about, endeavouring to hit one of the crowd with his knotted piece of
rope. If he caught a fellow fairly he came out of the sling, and the
other slipped into his place. When the ship was rolling about, the
game required much balance and judgment. Lacking those qualities, the
person in the sling would get nasty knocks against the masts or ship’s
side. However, a young gun-room officer was pretty tough, and scarcely
ever came to grief enough to hurt himself. The crew had their games on
the forecastle, and as the evening wore on songs became general. 100
or 150 men would sit round together and sing in great choruses. The
airs were very distinct right aft, in spite of the noise of the water
alongside, as, the yards being nearly square, the sounds echoed off the
sails beautifully. In the night watches it often happened that not a
sail or a rope was touched for nights together, so steady and true was
the wind. These moderate westerly gales were exactly like trade winds,
and in the trades for days nothing aloft is touched. Generally towards
the end of the night watch a little supper was carried on between the
officers of the watches. The junior mid had to make cocoa or coffee,
and to this were added sardines, or potted salmon and lobster. The
meal was looked on as a great relish about six bells in the middle
watch--3 o’clock in the morning. During the first watch it was indulged
in earlier, before the lights were put out: we generally asked the
officers whose turn it was for “all night in” to relieve us for a
quarter of an hour, when we went below to devour some cold supper. “All
night in” was a great boon. It generally occurred every fourth night.
When we were in what was termed four watches, it always fitted in:
when in three watches, the morning watch was considered the best rest;
and this always came to one’s turn every third night, and meant being
on deck at 4 A.M. The matter I disliked most was the short allowance
of time after being called to appear on deck at night to relieve the
watch--though I generally contrived to be called, if I could, five
minutes to the time. As soon as the eight bells had rung the boatswain
mate went below to rouse up the coming watch, and in eight minutes the
new watch was called to be mustered. In cold wet weather, turning out
of a warm hammock, and having only eight minutes to dress and appear on
deck, was rather short work.

Then came the horrid ordeal of calling out hundreds of names while
mustering the watch. In a line-of-battle ship it meant 350 names or
thereabouts, and the wretched mid was nearly choked before he got
half-way through. Whatever the weather was, this muster process had to
be got through as quickly as possible, for the old watch was not free
to turn in before the muster was over. Soon after daylight, when the
decks were washed, all sails that so required were reset, and any sail
that had been taken off the ship the evening before for precautionary
measures was set again in moderate weather.

We crossed the line the day after Christmas; and, the weather being
warm and calm, there was a rare ado, with the usual ceremonies
attending the event. In fact, one lived in salt water most of the day.
Every new hand had to be ducked and shaved by Neptune’s satellites,
and some rough play ensued. My duties during this long cruise were
those of signal mid to the Commodore, a sort of deputy flag-lieutenant.
He was very particular about being informed, when I called him at 5.30,
what vessels were in sight at daylight. All I saw had to be thoroughly
described. By eight o’clock I was always ready for my breakfast, which
I invariably ate in the Commodore’s mess, with the Captain and the
Secretary. This was lucky, as in the gun-room we were reduced to salt
pork and biscuit after a week or two out. In spite of our being always
on a strict allowance, water was at times scarce.

I can recollect only one unpleasant occurrence on our way out to the
Cape. The ship caught fire aft in the slop-room, a store where the
men’s clothing was kept, and in close proximity to the magazine; which
was rather shaking to the nerves. The fire bell rang immediately, and
we were all at our stations in a few moments. This was about 7.30 in
the morning. My station was on the quarter-deck, where I had to place
sentries with a view to preventing men from jumping overboard in panic
terror, and also to see hammocks passed down in case of necessity. The
marine on sentry walked up and down with a fixed bayonet. I cannot
say it was pleasant to see smoke issuing up the after hatchways.
At any moment one might go sky-high if the magazine exploded. The
Commodore was one of the first down to play the hose on the smouldering
matter; and it was amusing to see him rush down the after ladder with
nothing on but a pair of deck trousers and a flannel jersey. Sail was
immediately shortened, and the ship so placed as to prevent any draught
going below. After half an hour’s pumping the fire was subdued, and
I well remember watching the gradual return of smiling countenances
after the gloom of the anxious half-hour. While walking the deck I
knew nothing of what was going on below; but I heard afterwards that
the outer lining of the magazine bulkhead had been burnt through,
separating our little outside world from the powder by not much to
spare. I can remember the feeling of relief it afforded me to hear the
word passed up the hatchway that the fire was being got under, and
still more to hear the pipe, “Return fire stores.”

On such occasions--and in the same way when in action, if the truth
were known--there are, I believe, few men who do not feel a certain
anxiety. Personally I always found that I felt less anxiety when moving
about in action. On board ship you are like a stationary target. When
fighting on land and constantly on the move there is far less of this
emotion running through your mind.



The only time I can recollect being in comparatively abject terror,
knowing that I must be killed to a certainty, and among the first to
die, was when I was employed pirate-hunting on the coast of Asia Minor,
in the _Foxhound_ sloop, commanded by the late Hobart Pasha. I was sent
away cruising for a fortnight at a time on the south coast of Asia
Minor in a 10-oared cutter. I used to lie in some creek on the coast.
Sometimes we slept in any old hovel, in any cover, we could find near
the shore, but generally under our awnings and sails in the boat; and
by day we used to sally out, and board any suspicious coaster that was
passing. As it turned out, we frightened far more poor devils than the
pirates scared. We were constantly boarding some craft or another, and
we never knew until alongside what the vessel might turn out to be.
I felt certain that Mr. Pirate would not show the slightest attempt
at resistance until we were close alongside, and that then he could
quietly pot every mother’s son of us before we laid our oars in. That I
should be the best target was unquestionable. Standing up in uniform,
I made the most conspicuous figure. And I often noticed that on my
giving the order to draw cutlasses and stand by to board, there were
anxious looks on the faces of my boat’s crew. Pulling with their backs
turned to what might prove to be the enemy was not a pleasant position.
I could see, but they could not; and with my glasses I often noticed
men looking over the coaster’s bulwarks, crouching down in dire funk at
our approach: of course, they might suspect us of being the pirate, and
possibly send a shot or two at us on spec.

Thus there was a sort of “double event” about this job: of being taken
for the pirate oneself, and of finding the apparently peaceful trader
a pirate in disguise. There was much relief when we discovered each
other’s charms; and many a laugh over a cigarette and bottle of resin
wine followed, especially pleasant after a long hot pull of two or
three miles under a broiling sun. I never caught a pirate; though I had
the luck to drive a boat full of the beggars ashore, when they burnt
their boat and scattered up into the hills.

The other Lieutenant of the _Foxhound_ did not fare so well in his
cruise after the pirates. Bent on a ruse, he left his man-of-war’s
boat, hired a native caique, and sailed about, disguising his crew by
making them wear the regular Greek dress, in which he attired himself
as well.

Unfortunately, the Pasha of Rhodes had left in a Turkish gun-boat bound
for Smyrna, and, on calling in at the island of Symi _en route_, heard
from the natives of that island that a caique, apparently a pirate,
had been seen becalmed off the north-west point of the island the day
before. This was a fine chance for the Pasha. As it was calm weather,
he sallied forth in a north-westerly direction, and, to his delight,
saw the caique in the offing. Guns were loaded; shots were fired across
the caique’s bows; and he ran his gun-boat alongside. Up went the
English Ensign, which poor Turk naturally thought most improper, seeing
a Greek boat and a Greek crew on deck. To cut my story short: They were
boarded, taken prisoners, and thumb-screwed. No power on earth, for a
long time, could dissuade the old Turk from his way of thinking. So the
caique was taken in tow, and a return journey made to Rhodes, where
all on board seemed like to be thrown into a dungeon. Luckily, there
happened to be in their gun-boat a Scotch engineer who, on being called
up, soon discovered who everybody was, and explained the ruse. The poor
old Pasha would even then not have it for a long time, and kept them
prisoners for the day; and when he had to release them, was furious at
having been taken in himself.

As soon as the _Foxhound_ returned from her cruise, all this, of
course, was reported; and Hobart, not being a man to allow the British
Flag to be trifled with, rushed off in chase of the unfortunate Pasha,
caught him entering Smyrna Bay, fired a shot across his bows, hove him
to, boarded him, gave him an hour to return all the officers’ and men’s
effects that had been bagged, pay a sovereign apiece to all the English
crew, and salute the British Flag with twenty-one guns--or be blown out
of the water. Poor Turk, it is needless to say, did what he was told.
The incident found its way to our Ambassador at Constantinople, and
there was nearly a big shindy.

The _Raleigh_ anchored in Simon’s Bay on arrival at the Cape; and we
remained there a few days, refitting and putting matters in order.
During a fresh gale we dragged our anchor and parted our cable; but no
harm was done, though we drifted rather near the only rocky part of the
Bay. All the officers who could be spared went up to Cape Town. There
being no railroad, we drove or rode all the way.

The second night of our stay at the hotel, the middies took it into
their heads to entertain the Commodore at dinner. That pleased him
very much, and we had a very cheerful evening. After he left, it
being necessary to pay our bill, the head waiter, a gray-headed old
Kaffir, was sent for. On producing the bill he was much abused for its
proportions, and was told that if he could not get it reduced there
would be a bad look-out for him. The poor creature reappeared shortly,
looking miserable, and told us that nothing could be done. Forthwith he
was hauled over the end of the table, and cobbed, we tying knots in our
napkins and inflicting chastisement on the spot. Poor devil: he yelled
sorely; but we had no intention to hurt him, and did not do so.



After leaving the Cape we steered a southerly course for some days, so
as to get hold of the south-east trade winds, which took us north to
the line, making a poor passage of it; but from the line to Penang,
by the north end of Sumatra, we made a tedious voyage. We were
becalmed near the line for several days, in the doldrums. There was no
dependence on a breeze when it sprang up. It was generally accompanied
by strong wet squalls, which blew hard for a short time from all
directions, and left you again in a hot calm. One hour the ship was
under all possible sail; the next, perhaps, everything was in except
the topsails, and they were lowered at times. It was dreary work.
Worse: the sails were often flapping about for two or three days, in a
bit of a swell, with only the faintest of airs to move you along. We
did not anchor at Penang until the fiftieth day out from the Cape. For
six weeks we had been out of sight of land.

I shall never forget the charm of first scenting the spice islands and
the tropical vegetation, long before land was in sight. These delicious
flavours came off many miles to sea, and the scented airs were very
pleasant after so long a voyage. I was up aloft, as usual, one morning
at six o’clock. There was no land in sight, though I could smell it
distinctly; and we must have been from 60 to 80 miles from the nearest
coast of Acheen Head, the north-west end of Sumatra. We had met scarce
a sail during this cruise, and we were glad to arrive and anchor. There
was something particularly refreshing in putting foot ashore after
being cooped up on board, surrounded with nothing but sky and salt
water. (We had become rather short of water, and our allowance had had
to be reduced.) When you first land, legs and feet feel rather cramped,
and one’s body is sadly out of condition, even at the happy age of

At Penang, where we first touched, we heard that war with China was
imminent. Our stay, therefore, was cut very short. We stopped only
long enough to get in water and fresh provisions. Our next point was
Singapore; and getting through the Straits of Malacca took some doing
in a sailing vessel. Keppel was in his glory at the prospect of having
a crack at John Chinamen and again seeing active service. So it can be
imagined how we carried on all the way to Singapore. Squalls or no
squalls, the ship had to put her best foot forward; and, as at that
season the Straits are celebrated for violent squalls, we knew what was
in store, for Keppel must get to Hong-Kong in time to be in the fray.

I must say that sometimes our nerves were a bit strained. One night
in particular, during the middle watch, it came on to blow like the
very deuce. Everything, to bare topsails, had to be taken in. Keppel,
lightly clad, rushed on deck, and upbraided the officer of the watch,
who had just given a fresh order to lower the topsails. The ship was
now lying well over; and, as standing on deck was out of the question,
nothing further could be done, though Keppel instantly gave the order
to hoist the topsail again, saying, “Damn it, sir: we have been
becalmed for some hours; and now a squall comes, and you do not take
advantage of it.” It is needless to say, to those of my readers who
understand nautical life, that no power in the _Raleigh_ would ever
have got those topsails up again during the squall--particularly at the
angle we were at, with our main-deck guns dragging through the water.

We had many of these escapades between Penang and Singapore, and were
often logged to be going twelve and thirteen knots in the smooth water,
braced sharp up on an easy bowline. It was very delightful looking over
the side, feeling the good ship quivering under a press of sail, and
with the phosphorus lighting up the whole of her sides distinctly. We
used to put every sort of additional support to the spars and ropes on
such occasions: for go she must. In fine weather and smooth water, we
used to bowse the fore- and main-yard arms together, and get our tacks
down amidships; and we clawed many a mile to windward in consequence.

The _Raleigh_ remained only three or four days at Singapore, though we
were in sore need of a refit. We took on board a goodly quantity of
shot and shell for conveyance to Hong-Kong. The colonials entertained
us handsomely. We used to amuse ourselves catching sharks, or shooting
at any shark that showed its fin above water. The harbour was infested
with these brutes. A few of us took it into our heads (about as mad
a thing as we could do) to swim twenty or thirty yards from the ship
and back again, as quickly as possible. I suppose the sudden splash of
eight or ten of us jumping into the water together frightened away the
sharks that were in the vicinity; the water being very muddy, possibly
we were not seen; but we got into trouble for so doing--and that served
us right.

After leaving Singapore, we had to beat against the monsoon, all the
way up the China coast, constantly anchoring with a light anchor
termed a coasting anchor, and leaving all sails set, until a breeze
should spring up. This was a weary business, particularly amid the
circumstances of our hurry.

And now I come to a very eventful scene in my midshipman’s career. So
far all had gone well with us. We were happy and proud of our ship.
Little did we think what a few days were to bring forth; still less,
that our fine ship would shortly be a wretched wreck.



On the 14th of April 1857 we were sailing along close-hauled on a
lovely day. A nice, gentle breeze was blowing; land and islands were
all round us; and we had got within thirty miles of our destination,
Hong-Kong, when suddenly, at one o’clock, while the ship’s company
were at dinner, the good ship struck a rock. Her bow lifted right up;
but not for a moment did it deaden her way. She heaved, and passed
on. In an instant all hands rushed on deck, and the consternation was
simply appalling. We all felt that a dire calamity had come over us.
At that moment I was looking over the hammock-netting on the weather
bow, having just previously reported a rock awash two miles to leeward,
which I had been warned to report if I could discover it. The sudden
impact with this unknown rock which we had struck was so severe that
I was nearly jerked off my seat. I knew that our bow had come into
serious collision somewhere under water. We were going about seven

The first order given was to sound the well. In a very few minutes the
carpenter came on deck, and reported a considerable amount of water
rising in the well. Rigging the pumps was the matter of a few moments:
I never saw men turn to their work in grander fashion. Off came their
frocks; they stripped to flannels, and hove round with a will. We had
two large chain pumps, besides smaller ones that cast out tons of water
every minute; and buckets were used to bail water from below; but,
alas, to not much purpose. The water steadily gained on us.

As it turned out afterwards, the rock proved to be only 9 feet under
water. It was shaped like a sugar loaf, and the top was so small that
a boat’s anchor could not lie on it. For about an hour we were doing
fairly well with the pumping, and there was every hope that if the wind
lasted we should reach Hong-Kong.

Every sort of sail was improvised for the occasion--even to setting
the sails of the boats hanging at the davits. At the end of an hour,
owing to the superhuman efforts of the men pumping, one of the chain
pumps broke down. This caused a gloom. After a bit, we tried to put
a sail over the leak; but this failed, and no time could be spared
troubling over it. Officers were cheering the men, who were singing;
and it seemed to give them encouragement and assist them in their work.
The ship now began to sink by the bows; the ports were all barred in;
and every gun that could be so placed was run to the after part of
the ship. Shot, shell, and every movable weight were brought aft, to
counteract the weight of water in the bows.

On we sailed, hoping against hope; but to no purpose. Her bows began
visibly to droop, and, matters having assumed a serious aspect, the
Commodore attempted to get her to take the ground on the first small
island that lay in our path. Minute guns were now fired, and the ensign
at the peak was reversed, in the hope that some sail might possibly
come to our assistance. A few old trading junks were about; but they
took no notice. We passed an easy stone’s throw off the point of one
small island, hoping she would take the ground; but nine and ten
fathoms of water was called in the chains close to the shore, and on we

It was a very exciting moment as we gradually neared this small island,
wondering what would happen. It was lucky that we did not ground. I do
not know how it was, but I personally had a presentiment that we should
not have to forsake the ship and take to our boats before something
turned up. And my idea proved right. Soon after our passing this island
the breeze freshened very considerably, which enabled our ship to
be steered for the gradual shelving mud shoals off Macao, some miles

I reported to the Commodore that, in the distance and hull down, I
could see three French men-of-war at anchor, with a Rear-Admiral’s flag
flying. This was great news. He instantly gave the order to salute
the French flag, though we kept on firing minute guns of distress all
the while. It was a fine idea: it is astonishing how subordinates
gain confidence when complete reliance can be placed on their chief
in moments of dilemma: it always encourages the feeling of dogged
determination not to give in.

The water had now reached the level of the main-deck bow ports, and was
coming in where there was the slightest leakage; and the hour was about
3.30 P.M.

I fancy it must have been a profound relief to the Commodore to find
the breeze holding out, and that, bar accidents, in a short half hour
we should be encroaching on the mud banks.

So it came about. The mud was so soft, and the banks were so shelving,
that, at the speed we were going, it took some little time for the good
ship gradually to lose all way, and eventually stop with studding-sails
set low and aloft.

All sail was furled; boats were hoisted out; and we prepared to land
on a small island about a mile and a half distant. A boat was sent
ashore, and discovered a good sandy beach under the high land beyond.

Of course, it was a great relief to feel ourselves safe. There were the
boats to fall back on as a last resource; but I doubt if we could have
saved all hands without making temporary rafts, and then, of course,
provisions and water had to be considered.

Within a short space of time a French paddle sloop came as near us as
she could; and, after communicating, our first Lieutenant was sent
away in her to Hong-Kong, to take despatches to the Senior Admiral and
Commander-in-Chief, Sir Michael Seymour, and report the sad disaster.

There was a question of landing all hands at once; but as long as we
did not sink in the mud and the sea remained smooth, there was no
immediate cause for anxiety. We sent sails ashore, improvised tents,
and landed provisions and a guard of marines.

Pirates infested the neighbourhood. Every trading-junk was more or less
a pirate if he got the chance. All that evening there was little to
be done beyond collecting our goods and chattels and placing them for
safety in the main deck. The after part of the lower deck was still dry
up to eight or nine o’clock; so that the officers were enabled to get
to their cabins to remove their clothes.

Later she settled still deeper in the mud; and before we had lain down
to catch some sleep on the main deck the water was all over the lower
deck, and up to the beams farther forward.

At 5 A.M. the ship appeared to have suddenly settled down very
considerably. We were called up to man the boats, and to land in case
of further accident. It was still dark, and this business was somewhat
difficult. The Frenchmen sent boats soon after daylight, and helped us
all that day to get stores and provisions ashore; but it was well past
midday before I got anything to eat, as we had not expected to have to
forsake the ship so suddenly.

As has been said, the only spot where we could encamp was on this sandy
beach. Now, the first night of our landing deluges of rain began. They
lasted three or four days, and the hills sent down such volumes of
water that we lost a good many of our effects, which became buried in
the sand. We had three or four brass howitzers in position in front
of the camp, and these had to be dug out of the sand--one had been
completely lost to view.

Most of our officers lost all they had saved from the ship, and what
was left on board was well under water by this time.

The ship had sunk gradually into the mud, and at high water the upper
deck was well covered.

The Commodore would not leave the ship. He was much distressed, and
spent most of his days on the bridge under a temporary covering, with a
guard of marines as his protection.

He always had the idea that his frigate could be floated; but not so
others, who felt sure that the game was up and the vessel doomed to be
a wreck.

As soon as lighters and help came from Hong-Kong we set to work to
hoist guns out and get every mortal thing out of the ship we could; but
mud had settled so much in the ship (owing to the tides) that work was
very slow and much against the divers.

More important duties now called us elsewhere. John Chinaman had to be
settled with. War had begun, and a strong naval force was to ascend the
Canton River. Accordingly, all our officers and men were dispersed into
different vessels forming the Squadron then in China.

Keppel was given second in command of the Fleet, and made senior
officer up the river. He flew his flag in the _Hong-Kong_, a river
steamer that had been improvised for the war. She was useful, being of
fair speed and very light draught. Her armament consisted of a long
32-pounder; and a few brass guns were put into her, besides several
rocket tubes, splendid weapons to smash into mandarin junks and bamboo
stockades which we should have to deal with up the river.

I have by me a letter written by Henry Keppel to Sir Baldwin Walker,
then at the Admiralty. After describing the circumstances that led to
the grounding of the _Raleigh_, he writes:--

  I cannot bear the idea of leaving the ship, and will not do so
  while there is any hope. The Admiral has given us the _Alligator_
  to live in, and we are happy and jolly together, and the idea of
  our being dispersed distresses all hands more than the loss of our
  beautiful frigate. I should prefer the command of a junk to being
  sent home.... You will feel, my dear Walker, this sad blow, this
  finish to my career as a captain. If, however, the ship is not got
  up--and I will bet my quarterly bill she is (though I have lost my
  little all)--I may still be of some use. We ought all to be truly

This shows the distress of mind poor Keppel was in; yet he thought his
vessel might still be saved. I believe later that they tried to raise
her by lashing junks alongside. That having failed, she was put up for
sale; but, as only the value of her copper was offered, this also came
to nothing. When I last saw her, some three weeks after the stranding,
the sea used to break over the bulwarks in the fore end. The three
lower masts were still standing and the pennant still fastened to the
main mast; but beyond that she was a complete wreck. I never heard what
became of her afterwards.



After ten days or so of hard work and exposure on this desert island, I
was sent to the _Nankin_, a 50-gun frigate, and took passage in her to
Hong-Kong, to await events.

Commodore Elliot was hard at the Chinese junks up the Canton River,
when Keppel took his place. As luck would have it, my dear Chief took
me with him; also Prince Victor of Hohenlohe, Goodenough, Charlie
Scott, and Harry Stephenson. Goodenough had command of the improvised
gun-boat, the _Hong-Kong_. Having little or no kit left, I managed to
get a small fit-out at Hong-Kong before joining. Very little sufficed
for that rough work up the river. I had lost nearly all my clothes.
What became of my sea chest I don’t know (nor my poor fiddle I was so
fond of). I expect it was left on the desert island, with what little
there was in it. Sea chest! What a ghastly thing it was! You were
supposed to wash in it. Fancy your stock of white shirts being slopped
over, as well as your uniform, every time you went to your chest to
wash your hands. A certain part of a cockpit could easily have been
arranged with drawers for middies’ clothes, and there might have been a
decent place to bathe in.

We started up the Canton River for the front on the 20th of May, and
joined the Fleet of brigs, gun-boats, and small corvettes at the
rendezvous off the Bogue forts, fortified islands some distance up
the river--I should imagine half-way to Canton. Some of these brigs
were lovely little ships. A 16-gun brig under all sail was one of the
prettiest sights imaginable. I particularly remember a little beauty
called the _Acorn_.

The old _Alligator_ was towed up and turned into a depot flagship. She
was an old 26-gun frigate, as broad as she was long; and, short as I
was, I had to stoop in going along the main deck, lest I should strike
against the overhead beams.

When we were not fighting, or on some expedition, this old frigate
served as our flagship; and, though cramped, we were certainly much
cooler and better provided for. Towards the end of May the plan for
the attack on the Chinese war-junks was completed. Gun-boats were told
off to lead divisions of boats and take them in tow. Our larger boats,
launches, and barges carried brass guns in the bows; cutters were
armed with rockets, besides rifles and cutlasses.

The rockets John Chinaman particularly dreaded: they upset his nervous
system. I wrote home at this time, saying:--

  We hate these Chinese; it takes twenty of them to equal one
  Englishman, and they are awful cowards. They carry what they call
  stink-pots at the mast-heads of their junks, so that when our boats
  get alongside to board them, these pots are lowered into our boats,
  explode or break as the case may be, causing such a frightful
  stench that you are suffocated by the disgusting smell, but if they
  will only hold on and not bolt when we get among them we shall pay
  them off properly. But they say these chaps cannot stand close

What a novelty to me was China--people, customs, costumes, and
eccentricity of the women! I am afraid we treated China very badly. I
remember landing at low water on one occasion at Hong-Kong in company
with several other officers. We had to be carried ashore through the
soft mud on the boatmen’s backs. We were all in nice clean white
clothes. To our horror, on landing we found ourselves besmeared with
cocoa-nut oil. The boatmen had rubbed oil all over their naked hides,
to keep the flies and other insects off. We were a dirty sight;
and retaliated by thrashing the poor wretches with our sticks and
umbrellas. They bore our abuse without a murmur.

On the 30th of May, the attacking force was pushed up the river to a
point where various creeks debouched from the main stream. Up one of
these creeks we were to fight our battle of Fatshan on the 1st of June.
The boats were all towed up by the gun-boats, presenting a very long
string: they were an imposing sight. The _Hong-Kong_, on which vessel
I was serving, flew Commodore Keppel’s broad pennant. We had a good
reconnoitre of the Chinese war-junks on the 31st, while the finishing
touches were being made among our gun-boats and attacking forces.

At sunset we returned to the flotilla, and the last orders for the
morrow’s fight were given out. We anticipated a hard tussle. We were
right. The Chinese had placed stakes in the river at certain ranges,
which we must pass, and all their guns were beautifully laid for those

There was a fort also on a commanding hill on our left front, which
must be taken before the boats could advance to capture the junks; and
this was to be the first operation.

After supper on the night of the 31st we all lay down in our boats, or
on the decks of the gun-boats, to get some sleep. The gun-boats were
anchored, with boats all lying in single file astern. It was a lovely
calm night, and pretty hot; and beyond the noise of frogs on the banks,
and a few night birds parading about, there was little sound to be
heard. We did ourselves as well as we could: some snoozing; others
smoking, spinning yarns, discussing eventualities; and no doubt many
minds with their thoughts far away. Those who have gone through the eve
of an action know too well the many things that run in the mind. Those
who have not I wish well through it when their time comes; and to all
who may happen to read these pages, luck.

Soon after 3.30 A.M., and before daylight had dawned, the boats were
ordered to be manned; the landing-party told off to assault the fort
were sent on ahead; the rest of the forces followed slowly, with orders
to move on when the fort was carried.

Just at break of day the landing-party were ashore and rushing the
hill at the point of the bayonet, while the leading gun-boats pitched
shot and shell into the fort, to cover the assault. It did not take
long. The Chinamen fired a few shots; but, being overwhelmed by the
fire of the gun-boats, and seeing the gallant marines close at hand,
they bolted like rabbits. On went the flotilla, until one by one they
grounded. The _Hong-Kong_, luckily, drew a foot or so less of water.
We were highly favoured thereby, and got to pretty close quarters with
the junks. As each gun-boat grounded, the tide being at low water, the
boats pushed ahead and came in for a real good dressing, it being now
broad daylight and the sun rising.

Presently the _Hong-Kong_ stuck, and a battery, which was masked by
trees and sheds, opened fire on our right flank, and caused us much
annoyance. Owing to there being many trees about, they could not see
our hull properly; but they made several holes in our funnel and

Soon the tide began to rise. One by one we all floated and scraped on,
as the depth of water permitted, in order to cover our boats, which
were now in the thick of it. Keppel led them in his 6-oared galley.

The fire was very heavy: it has always been a marvel to me that we
did not lose more men, for the shot were ricochetting down the river
as thick as hail, from junks moored across the creek in two lines at
intervals. Some of these junks had eight or ten guns on board, and
many of them 32-pounders, besides endless jingalls. They certainly
looked very formidable, and were decidedly picturesque, being painted
in various colours (generally red and green) and flying streamers and
flags on all their masts. When we reached a distance of 300 yards or so
of the boats, we began firing over their heads; and then, some of the
other gun-boats having come up, we gave the junks goss!

Beyond helping to direct the firing, I had little to do, and was all
this time merely a spectator on the deck of the _Hong-Kong_: so I had
the satisfaction of seeing the whole business well.

Presently we grounded again. I now saw that at a distance of about 300
yards our boats had taken the first line of junks, and were setting on
fire those which had not begun to move off; and these very soon began
to blow up, the explosion being dangerous, as spars and timber were
falling about in all directions. Having passed through the first line
of junks, our boats came under fire of a second fleet, and our poor
chaps were suffering severely. Whole sides of oars were shot away; many
boats came to grief, and some were sunk; each crew had to take refuge
in the nearest boat.

Keppel’s galley was at this time sunk, and five of his crew of six
men were killed or wounded. He got on board a boat belonging to
the _Calcutta_, and, finding his force gradually diminishing, was
compelled to beat a retreat for the time being, and rally with what
was left round the _Hong-Kong_, the nearest _point d’appui_. Noticing
our retrograde movement, John Chinaman doubled his efforts, and the
shot came thicker than ever. We were hulled twelve times in a short
space--in fact, were being well raked. There was nothing now to do but
to await reinforcements. The deeper-draught gun-boats, with their boats
in tow, were coming up to join us.

About this time--I should think 11.30--an unfortunate marine had both
his legs taken off by a round shot; and my (white) ducks, face, and
body were splashed with the poor chap’s blood. Looking over the side
about this time, I noticed a launch close alongside. I actually saw the
whole of one side of her oars cut away, and at the same instant two men
killed on the after-thwart, one poor chap’s skull killing the man on
the thwart alongside of him.

Lieutenant Graham had a round shot between the calves of his legs,
contusing them; but he managed to hang on to his work.

The men were fearfully done up. Keppel gave the order to serve out
quinine and biscuits during the time we were rallying; but I do not
think a dozen men had time to swallow this frugal meal before Keppel,
who was at this moment on top of our paddle-box, suddenly called out,
“The beggars are making off. Man the boats! man the boats!” and,
shaking his fist at them, further exclaimed, “You rascals! I’ll pay
you off for this!” What a rush! Fresh boats had come up; a frantic
cheer was given; and on they raced exactly like boats at a regatta,
indiscriminately, straight at the junks, which now slackened their fire
and appeared to be getting into position with their oars to make away.
Now there was no quarter. Junk after junk was taken. Some ran on the
banks and were fired immediately: Chinamen jumping overboard in all
directions, and swimming for their lives. Some five or so, I believe,
got away. The rest were chased for six miles up the river, towards the
town of Fatshan; but our chaps were done, and, as Fatshan was fortified
and full of troops, we could do no more. So ended a thundering good

The _Hong-Kong_ went up some distance beyond the junks that had been
captured in the morning, to cover the boats; but, owing to the shoaling
of the water, our progress was slow. We were scraping the mud most of
the time.

When the boats returned it was about 3.30 P.M.: so we had been hard at
it for twelve hours. As I said before, it was simply marvellous that
our casualties were so slight. Between seventy and eighty, I believe,
was our butcher’s bill. I fancy that, as the boats and gun-boats were
all bows-on most of the time, it must be considered that we offered
small targets. Otherwise the smallness of our loss is unaccountable.

I may be allowed, perhaps, to copy a letter from the Commodore that
appeared in _The Times_ soon after the news got to England. It will
naturally be a description better than my account. It was written
on 20th of July, three weeks after the action, from on board the

  The three weeks of this month have been full of excitement. We
  commenced on the 1st with as pretty a boat action as any ever
  recorded in naval history, though it may never be appreciated
  because it was fought in China. The troops are now unfortunately
  required for India, and, I suppose, we shall not get them before
  summer is over. [This is in allusion to the outbreak of the Indian
  Mutiny.] So much the better for them, as it is boiling hot here
  now. In the meantime we have to keep the Canton River open for
  them, it being the high road to the Celestial City, which I suppose
  they will have to occupy before Lord Elgin attempts to bring
  Commissioner Yeh to terms. I am left here in command of the river,
  the fort of Chuenpee, which I took possession of on the 18th,
  being my boundary at one end, and the Macao fort at the other.
  They are about forty miles apart. All the intermediate forts have
  been demolished, and on the 1st we polished off the remainder of
  their war fleet, about 180 Imperial war-junks, so that now I have
  uncontrolled possession. Our worthy chief, a fine fellow he is,
  remains with his flagship at Hong-Kong, paying us occasional visits
  in one of the small steamers. I have seventeen ships manned by
  about 2600 men, stationed at different distances, and this being
  the anniversary of Her Majesty’s accession, they are dressed out
  with bunting, and at noon Commissioner Yeh will be edified by royal
  salutes fired the whole length of the river from Canton to below
  the Bogue forts.

  [Illustration: The battle of Fatshan, showing the sinking of
  Commodore The Honourable Henry Keppel’s galley, 1st June 1857.]

  My poor _Raleigh_ no longer belongs to Her Majesty’s Navy, and
  the Admiral has appointed all the officers and myself to the
  _Alligator_, with three tenders to do our work. I live in the
  _Hong-Kong_, but come here to sleep when not moving about, this old
  hulk being a sort of fixture.

  We all mess together, viz., Lieutenant Goodenough, Dr. Crawford,
  Prince Victor, Autey, my secretary, Lord Charles Scott, Montagu,
  and Stephenson. We are very happy and jolly, and this temporary
  arrangement is a very good one. We thought we were going to have
  a little fight the other day. The Admiral ordered me to take the
  Chuenpee fort; we moved down in good order, but the enemy guessed
  what they might expect, and very wisely “hooked it.” I am afraid
  this is the last little affair that is likely to take place this
  summer. The upper part of the river is not considered so healthy as
  the rest, so I have the ships relieved every fortnight. There are
  two islands near where we are anchored, where the officers and men
  assemble every evening and play at quoits and all sorts of games.
  Turnour is up at the front; they are obliged to be continually on
  the alert to look out for fire rafts and all sorts of infernal
  machines. I generally visit them once a week in Hong-Kong. I hope
  somebody gave you a good account of our boat fight on the 1st June.
  It must have been a beautiful sight to those who viewed it from the
  heights. The shallow water obliged the _Hong-Kong_ to ground, or
  she would have been in front of everything, but when she grounded
  I led on my boats in my gig, but as the tide was rising the
  _Hong-Kong_ followed on as fast as she could.

  The first division of the Chinese Fleet were simultaneously
  attacked by about 1900 men. Spread over a large surface they soon
  gave way, but I did not take up more than a quarter of that number
  to attack the second division, which was three miles higher up
  the river, in a well-situated place, and evidently the _élite_
  of their fleet. They numbered exactly twenty in one compact row,
  they mounted from 10 to 12 guns each, two in bow and stern being
  heavy 32-pounders. I saw I had all the _Raleigh_ boats well up,
  and I determined to push on. They fired occasional shots as if to
  ascertain our exact distance, but did not open their heaviest fire
  until we got to 600 yards’ distance, and then I saw how impossible
  it would be to force our way until I had reinforcements. Nearly the
  first fellow who had his head knocked off was an amateur, Major
  Kearney. I had known him many years. We cheered and I tried to get
  on, when a shot struck my boat right amidships, cut one man in two
  and took off the arm of another. Prince Victor, who was with me,
  jumped forward to tie up his arm with his neckcloth. While he was
  doing so another round shot passed through both sides of the boat,
  wounding two others on its passage. The boat was now filling with
  water and I got on one of the seats to keep my legs out of the
  water, and just after stepping up a third shot went through both
  sides of the boat not more than an inch below the seat on which
  I was then standing. Many of our boats now got huddled together,
  the oars of most being shot away. A boat of the _Calcutta_ being
  nearest, I jumped into her, pulling our wounded men with us, my
  dog Mike refusing to leave the dead body of the man who was his
  favourite. We were obliged to leave him. I then gave the order to
  retire on the _Hong-Kong_ and reform abreast of her. While we were
  going down a shot cut away all the oars on one side. I called to
  Lieutenant Graham to get his boat ready, as I would hoist my broad
  pennant and lead the next attack in his boat. I had no sooner
  spoken to him than a shot disabled his boat, wounding him and
  killing and wounding four others. I saw Graham one mass of blood,
  but it was from a marine who stood next to him, and part of whose
  skull was forced three inches into another man’s shoulder. When
  I reached the _Hong-Kong_ the whole of the enemy’s fire seemed
  centred on her. She was hulled twelve times in a few minutes, her
  deck was covered with the wounded who had been brought on board
  from the boats. I was looking at him when a round shot cut down
  a marine and he fell on them. From the paddle box I saw that our
  heavy firing was bringing up strong reinforcements. The account
  of having been obliged to retire had reached them, and they were
  pulling like mad. The _Hong-Kong_ had floated and grounded again.
  I ordered a bit of blue bunting to be got ready to represent my
  broad pennant. I called out, “Let us try the row boats once more,
  boys,”[1] and went over the side into the _Raleigh_ cutter, in
  which was Turnour and the faithful Spurier[2] bringing the bit of
  blue bunting. At this moment there arose from the boats, as if
  every man took it up at the same instant, one of those British
  cheers so full of meaning, that I knew at once it was all up with
  John Chinaman. They might sink thirty boats, but there were thirty
  others who would go ahead all the faster. On we went. It was indeed
  a lovely and exciting sight. I saw the move among the junks; they
  were breaking ground and moving off, the outermost first. This
  manœuvre they performed in beautiful order. They never ceased to
  fire. Three more cheers and then commenced an exciting chase for
  seven miles. As our shot told on them they ran ashore and their
  crews forsook them. Seventeen were come up with this way, and only
  three escaped. It was in this last chase that my poor Spurier was
  shot down by my side. I saw his bowels protruding as he lay in the
  bottom of the boat, holding my hand. He asked me if I thought there
  was any hope. I could only say--Where there is life there is hope.
  But I had none. Strange to say, the good Crawford sewed him up, and
  the Admiral’s last letter from Hong-Kong states Spurier hoped to
  return to his duties in a few days.

    [1] What he did say was, “The rascals are making off.” He shook
        his fist at them, and further said, “I will pay you off for
        this. Man the boats, boys.”

    [2] His coxswain.

  We have a surgeon out here who served in the Naval Brigade in the
  Crimea. He says he never saw such frightful wounds as these Chinese
  shot appear to make. By the way, I ought to record a delicate
  attention from the ladies of Macao. My Commodore’s broad pennant
  had been lost when my boat sunk. They presented me with a new silk
  one, worked with their own fair hands! I hope some day to plant it
  on the walls of the Celestial City, where the “Braves,” as they
  call themselves, shall respect it.

I will now, in conclusion, give a letter equally gratifying in its


  SIR,--I had the satisfaction of communicating yesterday to the
  squadron generally my high sense of the zeal and gallantry
  displayed by the officers and men in the decisive action against
  the Chinese war junks in Fatshan Creek on the 1st inst., but I feel
  it is further incumbent on me to express personally my admiration
  of the cool courage and good judgment with which you led the
  attack, first in the gun-boats until they grounded, and afterwards
  in the ships’ boats up the Fatshan branch, when in the vicinity of
  the city of Fatshan the severe struggle with the formidable line of
  heavy junks moored across the river commenced, and the _Hong-Kong_
  again aground bore so conspicuous a part. Also your subsequent
  determined attack with the boats under your command, which finally
  dislodged the junk forces, and led to the uttermost success of the

  The fact that your galley was sunk under you, and that five out
  of six of your crew were killed and wounded, is the best proof
  that you maintained the post of honour throughout. I sincerely
  congratulate you on your safety, and shall not fail to bring
  your services to the notice of the Lord Commissioners of the
  Admiralty.--I have the honour [etc.],

    M. SEYMOUR, _Commander-in-Chief_.

The action over, all the killed and wounded were placed on board my
ship, and we were ordered to convey them post-haste down to the Naval
Hospital at Hong-Kong. We took down eighty killed and wounded; and,
as we were but a small river steamer,--considerably smaller than an
ordinary tug-boat,--it can be imagined that the poor fellows lay thick
on deck and below. Our troubles were not over. A sort of sequel to the
fight was going on; and a most unpleasant one it was. As we proceeded,
we passed through the junks which we had taken in the morning, now all
on fire; explosions were going on in all directions; and (which was
almost worse) the guns as they got hot (pointing in every direction)
were continually going off. It was a case of running the gauntlet: how
I did watch the muzzles as we passed close by!

Luckily, we were not hit, though our awning caught fire in several
places from falling _débris_; and mighty glad was I to find our poor
craft clear of all these blazing junks and once more out of harm’s way.

I had one very close shave during the fighting. (Probably there were
plenty of others, unknown to me.) I was standing on the sponson,
helping the wounded up out of the boats, when I heard a devil of a
crash close to my head, and, turning round, saw a great bulge and crack
in the pantry bulkhead, at the after end of the paddle-box, exactly
in a line with my head. I could not resist the temptation to look
round, and in at the door, to see what was wrong; and there I beheld an
18-pound shot still pirouetting round on a shelf on which stood some of
our crockery, now all more or less smashed. The missile had gone right
through our paddle-box from one end to the other. A few more grains of
powder or one bulkhead less, and my head would have been unshipped to a

Luckily, John Chinaman was not in those days enlightened in the use of
shells. Had he been so, we should probably have lost four times as many
men, and we might not have been able to take and destroy the Chinese
Fleet as we did; Still, the Chinamen had grape, and filled their
guns with bags of musket balls; and the jingall was an ugly customer,
throwing a very large bullet.

Once out of fire, on our way down the river, there was time to reflect.
What would we not have given for a good cup of China tea under some
of the groves we passed, and for the privilege of being left in peace
for a short time? Instead of being at rest, we were tearing along
full-speed, leaking like a sieve, owing to the shot holes.

The first thing I did to my outward person was to change my clothes and
make an attempt at a wash. I was covered in blood, begrimed with smoke:
in fact, filthy. I had a hasty feed on what I could get hold of: to
find anything was difficult, with so many poor wounded lying about on
the beds in our cabins, on the sofas, everywhere.

The next trouble was our leaks. Where the shot had gone through our
sides all was fairly well, as the holes had been plugged up and covered
with boarding; but several had stuck in our sides, and the vibration
of the engines loosened them, and the leakage was serious. Pumps were
kept going; but at one time during the night it was doubtful if we
should reach Hong-Kong, as the water was rising to near the stoke-hole
fire-pits. We hung on all night, however, and reached Hong-Kong at nine
next morning.

The remembrance of that evening and night, while we were steaming
down, is heart-rending. It was dead calm, and the cries of the wounded
were unbearable. Many were calling for their relations and friends;
others would rise up in their beds, and then throw themselves down in
despair. Several times I went on to the sponson to have their piteous
cries drowned in the noise of the paddle wheels.

Poor fellows, who had been scorched terribly from explosions of
boats’ magazines, were enveloped in wadding. Some of them sank during
the night from exhaustion: though covered in wadding from head to
foot, they found no respite from their agonies. There was a nice
young fellow, a mate of the _Tribune_, who had a grape shot through
his lungs. It was touching to hear him talking to his coxswain, who
knelt by his side, fanning him the while. The chief subject of his
conversation was his poor mother. He also sank during the early hours
of morning. When daylight broke our decks presented a sorry sight. It
was painful to have renewed the scenes of suffering which the darkness
had mitigated. Some were soon to die; others were in great pain; but
generally all now seemed more still, and, except for the noise of the
paddle wheels, a sort of silence came over us as day dawned: the weary
were more at rest. I shall never forget that night. I snatched an hour
or two’s sleep; but one and all of us did what we could to help the
surgeons, and it was a relief when the dead bodies and the wounded were
taken out alongside the hospital ship and our decks were washed down.

We repaired our shot holes, coaled, and, as soon as possible, returned
to the front that same evening. Next day we took up officers from the
ships to see the scene of the fight of the 1st of June. Some Chinamen
were already trying to raise their guns sunken in the junks; but a few
shots sent them flying. We found we had smashed them up terribly. It
was interesting to seek out details of where we had been only three
days before, and of what we had done in certain localities; also to
note how the Chinese had placed their stakes, many of which were shot
away--only the stumps left.

Again, how extraordinary it was that we had not lost more men! An
action like this--(I verily believe that during the twelve hours it
lasted it could not have been hotter)--is a pretty good test of British
pluck. I can conscientiously say that I did not see the slightest
hesitation in any man from beginning to end. Even when the boats were
fairly beaten off, and Keppel had to retire for reinforcements, there
was no hurry while retiring. The men paddled back at leisure, and took
their licking calmly.

On one occasion there was rather a rush on board to quench thirsts;
but that was only natural.

The _Hong-Kong_ was a large target; but our interest was so much
centred on firing good shots, and in watching the boats amid the smoke
ahead of us, that, while the firing was hottest, we all felt quite
excited, and redoubled our efforts. I enjoyed planting the rockets into
them: you can make excellent practice when your craft is still.



After Fatshan actual war operations were more or less over; but we
had a deal of pirate hunting. All the trading-junks were more or less
pirates if occasion offered: the whole country was demoralised.

One day, lying at anchor in the _Hong-Kong_, we saw on the other side
of the river, two or three miles away, a piratical junk chasing two
others laden with salt. In less than no time Keppel ordered me to man
a cutter of twelve men and go after him. The pirate did not show fight
when I got near. He ran his craft on to a mud bank; the whole crew
bolted up through a paddy field, and sat down, unconcerned, on a low
hill, watching me trying to set fire to the junk. We had pot shots at
them; but I could not get the junk to catch fire. To climb on board was
impossible (the mud was soft, and had we tried we should have gone over
our necks: the tide was falling fast): so the only thing I could do
was to smash in the side under water with axes. We set him on fire next

On another occasion the _Hong-Kong_ was despatched up one of the many
rivers that run into the Canton main stream, in search of piratical
junks and “fast boats,” which were supposed to be marauding some little
distance inland. Boats of the _Esk_ also were sent to cut them off up
another creek, in case of our missing them. Fast boats were beautiful
models, generally propelled by six-and-twenty oars, and armed with
jingalls on swivels: they could command all-round fire.

We started early, but saw nothing until about two o’clock in the
afternoon, when we discovered three of the fast boats, which, I
imagine, had caught sight of our funnel. As we rounded a bend in the
river we saw them pulling for all they were worth to escape from us.
Going at full speed, we gained somewhat, and got nicely within long-gun
range; but unfortunately took the ground, the tide being low, and stuck
in the soft mud. Nothing daunted, Goodenough manned and armed the only
two small boats we had; taking command of one himself, and giving me
charge of the other. Our boats held ten men, besides us two officers.
His boat was a wretched 4-oared gig; mine a “sandpan” (shaped like a
canoe), which we had bagged from a junk on some previous occasion;
it was propelled by six paddles, and I was steering with a paddle. I
could beat the 4-oar, if only I could keep my boat’s head straight;
but herein a difficulty lay, for I was firing my muzzle-loading Minié
rifle as hard as I could all the while when within range. I fancy the
fast boats’ crews were hesitating as to whether they would await our
approach and show fight, because, to our delight, we found ourselves
gaining a trifle: perhaps they were getting a bit done up after the
_Hong-Kong_ chase. Be that as it may, we gradually wore them down; and,
when within 300 yards or so, they suddenly put their boats’ noses to
the bank, forsook their crafts, and bolted into the paddy fields.

We had had enough of it, having pulled a long distance; and we sate
ourselves down when we came up with our capture, got into shade, and
filled our pipes, hoping that the _Hong-Kong_ would rejoin us shortly.

A little distance away on our right front was a small wood. To our
astonishment, soon we saw the mast and sail of a huge junk coming
slowly along, opening out to view after passing the trees. She was
sailing down another creek, which ran into ours about 500 yards farther

“Man the boats!” shouted Goodenough. When she showed her hull round the
corner Goodenough said to me, “Montagu, do you think we can take her?”

I hesitated to answer. I thought it would be hopelessly mad to make the
attempt. If two or three were wounded in either boat, we should be done.

Seeing that I made no answer, he said, “Well, what do you say?”

I answered: “Sir, if you lose a man or two, or I do before we board
her, we shall be utterly helpless; but I am game, sir, whichever you

This sufficed for Goodenough, as plucky a man as ever breathed. He
said, quickly, “Oh yes: we will try.”

“Oh,” said I to myself, trying to look and feel as bold as a lion,
“it’s UP this time.”

But, once we were off, somehow the excitement and the steering and
the firing of the Minié rifle kept the devil out of one’s mind. The
wretched junk--filled with men, crowds on her deck (into which I was
potting as fast as I could load and fire)--kept the even tenor of her
way, though she soon began to fire round shot and jingalls at us. They
fell pretty thick, though most went over our heads.

She was not sailing fast. At first, consequently, we gained on her, as
there was little breeze. On we went pulling, Goodenough and I firing
until we got about 350 yards from her--and were still gaining. Bullets
struck our boats; but not a man was touched. Luckily, the big shot
missed us every time. How I watched the muzzle of his two 32-pounders!
What difficulty I had to keep my boat straight! The least mistake in
steering, and she was off at right angles.

This went on for a quarter of an hour or more; the junk still sailing
slowly away, we pulling our hearts out, when the breeze freshened
suddenly, in a sort of puff on the water. The junk began to heel, and
soon she showed a bow wave. Then we knew we were done; and perhaps it
was well, for nothing could persuade me that ten men and two officers
could take a junk with sixty men on board if they showed the semblance
of a fight--for the simple reason that nobody could have fired from our
boats, and in a running fight we should have been shot in the back as
we were pulling alongside.

The only chance of our capturing her was that the beggars might jump
overboard from funk. I for one--and I am not ashamed to own it--was
heartily glad we got no nearer. I suppose, however, that I should have
acted as Goodenough acted had I been in his position.

This same junk was captured next day by the _Esk’s_ boom-boat, armed
with brass guns and a force of at least fifty men. They lost twelve
killed and wounded. How we should have fared without a gun, without a
rocket, and with nothing but two Minié rifles firing at intervals, I
don’t know.

We dropped a few poor beggars: it was not easy to miss when firing into
a crowd at 350 yards. I do not think I got more than a dozen rounds
into them: steering with a paddle and loading a muzzle loader is not an
easy combination of duties.

The only thing which this running fight showed us was that the John
Chinaman of 1857 was made of ghastly stuff. He simply bolted.

After lying on our oars, we turned back to pick up our “fast boats,”
two of which, to our dismay, had got clean off; we found the third--a
beautiful boat; but how she stank! We took her in tow, and went down
to meet the _Hong-Kong_, now approaching us with the rising tide; and
rattling good cheer they gave us on our return, as they could see from
the paddle-boxes a bit of what had gone on, by looking over the land;
and much distressed they were that they had been unable to help us.

We had other goes at the pirates; but on no occasion was there much
show of fight. The work was harassing, and the constant expeditions
were tedious, the heat being very severe.

I now come to the month of July 1856, when I was lucky enough to get
the opportunity of seeing further active service, though in a different
part of the world.

The operations upon the Canton River had now come to an end. The
enemy’s fleet of junks was destroyed, and the fortified posts had been
demolished. Certainly the town of Canton had to be taken; but that
business required troops, and troops were not yet available. Amid these
circumstances, the Commodore thought it advisable to ask the Admiral
to appoint us mids to one of the ships of the squadron now forming
for a cruise up the north coast of China. This was done; and after
a few days’ leave at Hong-Kong, where I was kindly put up by one of
the great merchants, Mr. Dent by name, Scott, myself, and Stephenson
were appointed to the _Pearl_, a 21-gun corvette commanded by Captain

During my few days ashore at Hong-Kong I had a capital time of it:
complete rest in a charming bungalow, with a lovely garden attached:
we lived on the fat of the land. I recollect having a regular Chinese
dinner with Colonel ----. It was entirely of Chinese dishes, and we fed
ourselves with chop-sticks. One dish consisted of bird’s-nest soup. I
was told that a _bonâ fide_ bird’s nest of some sort had been cooked,
the interior producing a most choice glutinous substance resembling
thick stock. A mid is not supposed to have much conscience: therefore,
he is not very particular about his digestion: I found this “plat” very

I was well into my breakfast one morning at Dent’s house when I
received an order to join the _Pearl_ in the evening. She was to start
next day: not on the expedition up the northern coast, but post-haste
to Calcutta! She was taking in coal, and we were to pick up some troops
at Singapore for conveyance to India.



The Mutiny was at its height. Regiments bound to China had been stopped
at the Cape or at Singapore, and sent on to India. The _Shannon_, a
51-gun frigate, was told off for duties similar to our own; and we
started together next day.

If I recollect aright, I was not very keen on this change of scene.
How little a boy foresees! I was, most probably, weary, and sorry not
to have a few days more at the charming bungalow. (My letters rather
implied this.) Then, I had no idea of what was in store. I thought
only of my ship being turned into a trooper to go to Calcutta, little
knowing that there was a possibility of a Naval Brigade being landed.
In fact, I thought that following my luck in China under Keppel would
have been more to the point.

Of the voyage to Singapore, occupying twelve days against the
south-west monsoon, I have nothing to relate. We met the _Shannon_
going into the harbour as we approached: so we made a good race of it.
Next day was spent in coaling and taking aboard a few troops; then on
we went to Calcutta, making a good passage, averaging our 200 miles a

On arriving off the mouth of the Ganges we unfortunately lost four
days in searching for a pilot. The weather was very thick, and, as
may be imagined, this was very trying to all on board. We arrived at
Calcutta on the 12th of August, and moored our vessel to the shore off
the Maidan. The _Shannon_ got in three days earlier, having picked up
her pilot shortly after reaching the mouths. These pilots were very
important gentlemen. They were dressed in uniform, and each brought his
own leadsman with him. They would not trust to the blue-jacket. The
shoals in the river were constantly changing, especially during the
rainy season, when great volumes of water came down; and, I believe,
there was a shoal called the James and Mary: if by chance it was
touched you would capsize instanter.

[Illustration: H.M.S. ‘Pearl,’ 21-gun corvette.]

What a scene it was on our arrival! Thousands of people were watching
us. We astonished the natives by firing a Royal Salute. I was amused
by watching Parsees in their buggies flying, horses taking fright, and
the natives generally fancying we were bombarding the city. Sir Colin
Campbell, who was still at Calcutta, told Lord Canning we were as
good as the right wing of an army in the position in which we were--so
as to cover the town. An outbreak even at Calcutta was daily expected:
in fact, the whole place was in a state of turmoil.

Dreadful stories came down-country. The massacre of Cawnpore was in
everybody’s mind. In fact, these outrages, accompanied by feelings
of revenge, were on every white man’s lips, and we soon caught the

Within a few days of our arrival, Captain Peel of the _Shannon_ formed
his Naval Brigade and went up-country. We of the poor _Pearl_ felt
terribly the order to remain behind. We were wanted at Calcutta. Our
two ships there had had a great effect on the natives, and had possibly
saved an outbreak in the town, which we could rake with our heavy

We placed howitzers in our tops, and for some days kept men aloft on
the watch. The Hoogly (as the river is called at Calcutta) was alive
with merchant ships--huge East Indiamen, and a considerable number of
large American trading ships.

At night the songs were sometimes very entertaining, and what amused
me most was listening to their anchor-weighing choruses. There were
ships constantly unmooring and weighing their anchors close to us. At
every heave of the old-fashioned windlass they would almost stop for
a whole verse, and then go on again and just get in two links. The men
generally were a rough-looking lot, and there was plenty of liquor
floating about.

The first detachment of our Naval Brigade was formed in September, and
in a few days left for up-country. Sotheby was in command, taking all
the marines and about 100 blue-jackets and half the combatant officers.
I myself was left behind, which was a great trial; but I knew it would
not be for long.

Our turn came about the middle of October. The six weeks of my stay I
passed pleasantly. The civilians and the Government officials were most
hospitable. I was surprised at seeing so many Europeans. My idea of
India was the dark man and nothing else.

Lord and Lady Canning were kindness itself. In one of my letters to
my parents I describe the dread of going up to write my name down at
Government House on being ordered to do so by my Captain: I considered
that “a poor mid was not half swell enough for that.” I put off what
appeared to be the evil day as long as I could: until one morning I got
a note from Lord Dunkellin inviting me, by Lady Canning’s wishes, to
come to tiffin. Though careworn and anxious, she still preserved her
charming looks: the grace and dignity of her bearing struck me, young
as I was.

She conversed with me a good deal about common relations and friends at
home, and soon won my heart by her very kind ways and charm of manner.
His Lordship was just as I remembered him in England, though he was not
well, with the weight of cares depressing him.

I was offered ponies to ride, buggies to drive, anything I wanted; and
I heard him give the order that I was to have _carte blanche_ use of
his stables.

Great state was observed in those days. I have seen sixty to seventy
attendants, all dressed in very handsome native garb, waiting at
dinner; and we dined in a beautiful marble hall, kept cool by
innumerable punkahs.

They took me, on one occasion, to the country-seat at Barrackpur; and
how I did enjoy the gardens, flowers, fruit! At Calcutta in those days
there were two celebrated tiffin restaurants, where we mids consumed
English mutton chops, beer, and the celebrated chutnee. One was called
“Bodrie’s,” and was famous in its day. Maybe it is going on now;
though, I suppose, there are many more of such places on a much larger

At the end of September orders were sent from the Governor-General
that we were to be ready to start, with the remainder of our crew (as
many as could possibly be spared), to reinforce Captain Sotheby’s
detachment, and we were to endeavour to raise 100 volunteers from the
merchant ships lying in the river. So pressed were we for the white
man, as long as any one could be found to carry a musket he had to go

I devoted a good deal of my time to going on board the merchant ships
to induce the men to come. Of course, this was hard on the unfortunate
captains: it meant their lying there unmanned, and consequently unable
to sail away with their cargoes; and many were the altercations I had
with the skippers.

Still, I collected 100 men in less than four days, and sent them on
board the _Pearl_ to be fitted out in clothes, and to be taught the use
of the firearm. Curiously enough, they turned out some of the best men
in the Brigade. To get more, we sent to the jail, thinking that there
might be men whose times were about to expire.

To get up-country, we had to be taken by steamer right down the river
to the Sunderbunds, and so, _viâ_ the main river, to Benares. Our
steamer was very comfortable. She towed a flat laden with baggage,
ammunition, and so forth. Our remaining brass gun (12-pounder),
howitzers, and two brass field-pieces had gone up before. The
12-pounder threw a shot at no greater range than 1200 yards; the range
of the howitzers was about 800. Such were the guns that formed our
batteries on war service.

Going up-country in this steamer was a matter of great interest to me.
Passing through the innumerable creeks in the Sunderbunds at the mouths
of the river was most exciting. Every one was shooting at something
all day. Sometimes deer appeared, drinking; and no end of birds were
shot--not that we ever stopped to pick them up. Tigers we were always
on the look-out for, though we never saw one. Farther up, as we came
across cultivated land and villages, we gave the Pariah dog no peace.
The signalman on the steamer had strict orders to let us know if a dog
appeared in sight on the banks. A volley was immediately discharged,
and all consequences were ignored. It was war time!

I shall never forget a native galloping along for hours on a road that
ran parallel to the river, waving and gesticulating frantically to stop
our vessel. The poor man came on board that evening, when we made fast
for the night, and told us that his daughter had been shot in a field
by a spent bullet. Whether it was true or not (he was much doubted
by our native crew) we never knew; but 20 rupees was all he got--and
seemingly all he wanted, for he went ashore in great glee.

We were a considerable time steaming up the Ganges, owing to the
strength of the current. Every evening we had to make fast for the
night, and at daylight we started off again. A good deal of organising
went on daily, and all preparations were made for landing the Royal
tar, and turning him into a soldier. What a novelty to us, all trained
to the sea as we were, to be suddenly turned into soldiers! Such we
were for twenty months, as we remained up-country until the whole neck
of the Mutiny was broken and peace restored.

We had our horsed battery and companies of infantry; and it was really
astonishing how soon the sailors learned to ride and gallop their
horses and guns about, very often like horse artillery.

We picked out the most horsey blue-jackets for our battery: some that
had had in their boyhood to deal with horses, or, at any rate, who
knew something about them. The men were all armed with the Brown Bess.
Rifles were not to be had at Calcutta, and in those days only our
marines had been supplied with the Minié rifle. Brown Bess was good
only up to 300 yards in reality. Not until the Mutiny was far advanced
were we supplied with rifles, and, even then, there were not enough for
the whole Brigade.

Our 4-gun battery was, later, increased by two 9-pounder brass guns.
These ranged some 1700 yards or more, and that made all the difference
in the world to our effectiveness. Often we longed for the rifle
instead of the old Brown Bess.

Luckily, the Sepoy mutineers were little better off. Still, they had
better artillery on the whole. Anyhow, they always found our range
before we got theirs; though in our part of India very few shells
were used by the Sepoys, and that only at the beginning, for they ran
shorter and shorter of ammunition as time wore on, and latterly even
had often to use bullets made of clay.

We arrived at our destination on the 2nd of November, having left
Calcutta on the 12th of October. There were no railways, and thus our
journey up-country took an endless time. We landed not many miles
above Patna, on the opposite bank of the river; marched four miles
inland, and bivouacked in an old schoolhouse for the night. At 4.30
A.M. the reveille was sounded, and we marched on ten miles. Then we
remained two days, waiting for baggage, collecting bullocks, hackeries,
and elephants; and two days later we joined Sotheby and the first
detachment, who were awaiting our arrival before proceeding up-country.

It was a great lark. One of the first things I did was to buy a
pony. I got one for £3 : 10s., which was a pound more than the usual
price. What a delight to a boy--possessing his pony and syce, and a
grass-cutter between two of us! We remained in this encampment for
several days. The tents were pitched in a large mango tope, shady
and pleasant; the monkeys affording us much amusement. We set to
work, formed our force in fighting order, and drilled like the devil,
morning, noon, and night; marched out to practise the men, and got them
into the ways of battalion drill: in fact, turned the British tar into
a soldier.



In describing what I saw of the Mutiny I shall not be able to give a
very correct account of the places we went to, more especially as to
the names. I must be pardoned for mistakes. It is somewhat curious that
I do not retain in my memory many incidents of the campaign that might
prove interesting to read. I say curious, because I find I remember
matters of much more antiquated dates quite easily in comparison with
those which occurred between October 1857 and February 1859, during
the time I was up-country in India. Perhaps this is because of the
many varied scenes in a life so entirely novel; but there may be a
better reason. Between the ages of sixteen and nineteen a boy’s mind is
constantly on the change. He is growing out of boyhood into manhood;
he no longer sees things in a boyish light; yet he has had none of
the experience of a man; in fact, his state is one of transformation.
Certain things strike a boy’s fancy, and _vice versâ_; and so I give
what follows as the reflection of my best remembrance. In looking over
my letters, I find a great difference in the account I wrote of passing
events during those twenty months ashore.

To enable me to refresh my memory with more correctness of detail, I
applied to the blessed Board of Admiralty to allow me the use of the
official report of our proceedings in the _Pearl’s_ Naval Brigade;
but this was refused--on what grounds it is difficult to imagine.
Either it is the cursed system of red tape that pervades the length
and breadth of that building at Whitehall, or possibly some librarian
and his associates find the book-ladder too heavy to trouble with; but
there live the records of the doings of the _Pearl’s_ Naval Brigade in
India, possibly rotting on some musty shelf, and one who served his
country--to whom reference to these books would be of the greatest
service--has been denied the privilege of referring to them. I consider
that it ought to be deemed a right. The Admiralty has always been
(in my days, at any rate) one of the last places on earth to expect
assistance from. I am happy to say that I have never been under any
obligation to the Admiralty for the slightest help. My promotion was
by Order in Council, when the _Pearl’s_ Brigade were voted the thanks
of both Houses of Parliament; and whatever luck I may have had I owe
to no one at the Admiralty, but to chances that might accrue to any
officer during his career.

We now arrive at a date about the middle of November 1857. During the
rest of that month, and well into December, there is nothing particular
to relate. We moved from our camp only to send out a detachment when
any news came in of a party of rebels being in the vicinity. There
were occasional scrimmages, not worth recording. We were simply
stationed there as the Sarun field force to protect a district in the
neighbourhood of Sewan. The flower of the Sepoy army were well engaged
with Lord Clyde and General Franks in Oude. We ourselves were on the
borders of the Gorruckpore district, and, consequently, at that period,
had to deal only with the rebels, led by certain Rajahs and without
much organisation. From day to day we heard dreadful accounts from
up-country. Our forces were barely sufficient for defensive purposes,
and things generally looked black.

On the 19th of December Brigadier-General Rowcroft, in command, had
under him a force consisting of 260 men of the Naval Brigade, with 14
officers, two small regiments of Ghoorkas mustering about 1150 men, and
50 Sikhs, with the Naval Brigade battery of four guns, all 12-pounder
brass guns. General Rowcroft had taken command of this force about
a week before; and, owing to the bad news we received of the rebels
collecting from all directions, it was deemed necessary to entrench
our camp. We were far too small a force to take the field: so it was
decided to wait for reinforcements. It took very little time to throw
up earthworks and bastions and to make rifle pits for the outlying
pickets; though we had to work night and day to complete the job, as
native labour was not to be had for love or money, and camp-followers
in India are a lazy lot.

To overawe the natives, we made dummy guns, which with our battery guns
were always kept covered up, so as to make the enemy imagine that we
had plenty of artillery; but, I take it, they knew just as much about
our doings as we ourselves knew. The bazaars (as they were called), a
system of market that always sprang up whenever we remained long in one
encampment, were hotbeds of the spies and detrimental to the force; but
the camp-followers must have them--else had they been minus food.

In India in those days, for every white man you had at least three
natives following, either on the line of march or on their own account
as appendages to the force. A magistrate accompanied us, and goodness
knows how many baboos and native police and other paraphernalia of the

When we were fighting, or on the brink of it, at least half of
the natives suddenly disappeared, or remained behind in their own
districts, and possibly turned rebels, if occasion required it. The
whole country was in a state of disorder. Villages were deserted, and
cattle grazing about _ad lib._ In fact, it was war with a vengeance and
no quarter.

It always struck me that we treated the natives with scant courtesy,
and at times very roughly. We looked on them as such inferior beings,
and bullied them far too much. I recollect seeing natives beaten and
kicked for very little provocation. If a kitmuggar or bearer (servant)
were lazy or disobliging, young officers took the law into their own
hands, either thrashing him or fining him so many days’ wages; and, as
a native only got a few pence to pull your punkah all night (to enable
you to sleep in comfort), it was poor pay. If by chance he dozed off,
the stillness of the air awoke you, and the poor devil was sure to get
a hiding for his neglect.

One of the earlier horrid sights I saw was when three Sepoy mutineers
were brought into camp to be blown away from a gun. Of course, this
sounds barbarous, as the sight is; but the death is no worse than
loosing off ten rifles into a man. We used to form our force up into
three sides of a square; a gun was loaded with half a charge of
powder; and the rebel was lashed to the muzzle. This was done for
effect, in the hope of overawing the natives; but those executed did
not seem to mind it, for their souls were supposed to be saved if they
were killed by white men: I saw them walk up to the gun as coolly
as possible. One could not help admiring the pluck of the wretched

Alas, we had to do it. Also, in the early days of the Mutiny we had
constantly to hang the wretches. Once I was sent away to hang eight
rebels on one tree. Shooting them would have been more merciful. I
simply marched them off with a small guard of sailors to a tree a mile
or so from camp, where they were executed. If by chance captured rebels
happened to be natives of any note, we erected temporary gallows and
left them hanging for a day or two.

Not many days after we had thrown up our entrenchments, there was a
sudden apprehension of a night attack; but it came to nothing. The
outlying sentries in one place began firing; the pickets ran in; and
we stood to arms. At that time, and for many days, only half the force
were allowed to sleep at a time; those asleep kept their belts on, and
no one was allowed to go far from camp by day.

Being pent up in entrenchments for days together was weary work. We
longed for the enemy to attack us, feeling pretty sure that we should
give a good account of ourselves, and so enable the force to move on,
and change quarters.

Christmas Day 1857 passed off quietly. We had our Christmas dinner,
such as it was. I think I fared off a tough fowl I had shot a day or
two before in the “High Street” of some village. We used to go into
villages to buy poultry or kids: if the villagers refused to sell, we
shot the fowls and paid the market price.

Our first brush came off on the 26th. Soon after daylight information
was brought in by our spies that some four or five thousand rebels with
six guns were advancing to the attack. At about ten o’clock some native
mounted police brought in word that the enemy was about five miles off
on the high road. This we soon discovered for ourselves. Seeing clouds
of dust in the distance, we struck camp and formed up half a mile or so
to our front, with our poor little force of 1400 men and four guns. I
had by this time been appointed Aide-de-Camp to General Rowcroft, and
had got hold of a real good nag, besides my pony.

We awaited them some little time. Then, the enemy making no move, the
Brigadier ordered a general advance. To our surprise, we found them
partially entrenched near a huge tank (pond), and in a large grove of
trees, with a battery in position under cover on the high road. Natives
always think you must attack them in front. They cannot imagine that
that is about the last place a wise General would choose--particularly
if he had the slightest chance of doing double the damage by a change
of front or by a flank attack;--and so it happened here. No sooner
did we get within long range of their artillery than we changed
direction to their right; which seemed to nonplus them completely.
Our skirmishers got well up to them, and our guns, pouring in shells,
astonished the natives very much. This went on for about two hours. I
was sent galloping about, and was highly amused all the while at the
novelty of the thing. Our guns made splendid practice. I saw a Rajah
knocked clean off his elephant, and all the crowd around him bolting to
the rear.

By way of a divertisement, the natives tried to outflank us shortly
afterwards; but our shrapnel shell soon stopped that little game.
Shortly afterwards about three or four hundred horsemen, looking like
business, appeared to be advancing to charge our skirmishers. We had
divided our four guns to meet this flank attack, and I saw two shells
sent bang into these Sowars just as, apparently, they were collecting
to charge. It seemed to paralyse them. They turned and bolted.

Rowcroft now thought his time had come. A general advance was sounded,
and we went in straight at their position. This was enough for the
natives. They fled. When we got to their first position we found
tents standing, two guns deserted, some grain, and so forth. This was
all fired, and we rested the troops for ten minutes. There followed a
general chase, in which the natives had much the best of it, chiefly
along the high road. If we had had cavalry, we must have inflicted a
serious loss. As it was, we followed the main body for six miles, until
we came to a small river. They had destroyed the only bridge, and, as
the river was not fordable and our men were dead beat, we collected and
halted. We took from this river two more guns, which they had spiked
and left behind.

This was not a very worthy engagement. The fact is, the natives had no
leaders and no organisation in these particular districts. They relied
on their numbers to smother our force, to harass our communications,
and to make themselves obnoxious.

After the action we bivouacked for the night near the river mentioned,
emptied our haversacks, and lay down as best we might in the open,
sending back for our baggage, which arrived next day under escort of
the small force we had left in camp. The camp was pitched at a place
called Mejowlee, a small village a few miles off. Early next morning
part of our force was sent away, I accompanying it, to burn a rebel
village about three miles from our camp.

On arrival we gave the infirm and the sick an hour to clear out. The
villagers generally had bolted before we arrived, or, it was assumed,
had formed part of the little army that had attacked us on the 26th. It
was rather pitiable to see these people wandering out into the open,
some carried on charpoys, others limping along, with all the goods and
chattels they could collect in that short hour. I felt sorry for them;
but it was a regular “budmarsh” (rebel) village, and its destruction
was richly deserved. A very short time sufficed to burn it to the
ground; and, I must own, we all tried for a bit of loot before it
became a blaze.



From this period--the end of December 1857 until the 10th of
February 1858--our work consisted in sending out detachments to
destroy villages and the houses of rebel Rajahs. On one occasion
a Sikh discovered 30,000 rupees (belonging to some Rajah) hidden
in the wall of a cow-house. Needless to say, this money was handed
over to the Government: much to our dissatisfaction, as we rather
anticipated having our respective shares doled out to us. Occasionally
our camping-ground was changed, so as to keep in touch with our
detachments; but otherwise there was no fighting during these six
weeks. Whatever rebels there were about did not collect.

Camp life was at that time pleasant enough. The days were pretty
warm; the nights actually cold. We amused ourselves shooting snipe
in the ghylls of the near neighbourhood, and very often came across
wild pea-fowl in the pea-fields or among the “growing crops.” The
difficulty lay in procuring shot. We improvised a system of melting
bullets: standing on a chair in our tent, we dropped molten lead
through small pierced pieces of tin into a bucket of cold water. The
shot were rather elongated; but they answered the purpose in a way
(anyhow as slugs), and we bagged many pea-fowl, also a few snipe, and
occasionally duck.

Another recreation was to go pig-sticking after the pariah dog with an
improvised spear--generally a long nail secured to a cane of bamboo.
We sallied out, a party of six or eight, on our ponies, and rode round
the outside of a village in quest of a good, strong-looking dog, which
we might find basking in the sun; and if it was not found outside the
village, we rode down the “High Street” in search. When found, he got
a good prick, and immediately started off, yelling. He was given a bit
of law, and off we skedaddled after him. Sometimes the dog would take
you clean across country to the next village, and once we had a rare
run of five miles. These dogs were more or less wild, and the hunt
sounds a bit cruel to relate. I fancy our feelings were hard in camp
life--especially during the Mutiny days.

The time had now arrived when we were ordered to the banks of the
Gogra river to collect boats to enable us to build a bridge for Jung
Bahadour’s army to cross over into Oude, in order to render assistance
to Lord Clyde’s army, then before Lucknow. Jung had 10,000 Ghoorkas
with him, and about twenty-four guns. Why he could not do his own work
himself I never discovered. I conclude that, he being an ally, the
authorities thought we ought to do his dirty work. We made four or
five marches to the banks of the river, took a small fort on the way,
and encamped near the bank. The Sepoys were collecting in force on the
opposite side; and Jung used to amuse himself by firing long shots at
them across the river, though they were well out of range. These 10,000
troops seemed quite a large army to us. I rode into their camp, and
dined with some English officers whom he had attached to his force.

Getting the boats up to build a bridge took some time, and, of course,
it was necessary to take possession of the opposite bank--a task which
our field force had to undertake. Accordingly, we were marched off
down the river to a spot where, with the assistance of a few boats and
temporary rafts, and aided by a steamer, we crossed, unknown to the
rebels. I fancy they were awaiting us near Fyzabad, little thinking we
could cross lower down. Jung and his army remained where they were,
with the exception of about 1000 Ghoorkas whom he sent with us, and
a few pieces of artillery. To get to this place of crossing, we had
to make a forced march of 32 miles. Much fatigued by our long march,
we rested until dark, when off we started in silence. Not a pipe was
allowed; the wheels of the gun-carriages were muffled; and strict
orders were given that no sound should be made.

Crossing the dry bed of a river at night is not an easy matter, and our
progress was slow in the extreme. Guns stuck in the sandbanks, and at
times the horses came to grief. It was so tedious, and I so done up,
that I slipped unconsciously off my pony’s back, and was sound asleep
on a sandbank for upwards of an hour. When I awoke my Chief had not
ridden on half a mile, and, as luck would have it, had never missed
me: when I rejoined him he made no remark. At about 9.30 that evening
a detailed force was sent on ahead to attack a stockade on a hill near
the spot where we were to arrive after crossing the river. This fort,
however, was found deserted, and was soon in a blaze.

[Illustration: Victor A. Montagu]

Once more we bivouacked, and got some rest, though not for long, as
at daylight we had to assist in getting our tents and baggage across,
which had now arrived on the other bank. This took a considerable part
of the morning, and beyond what I had in my holster (the remains of my
previous night’s feed) I had nothing to eat. About one o’clock that
afternoon, the baggage having arrived, and while we were preparing
to pitch our camp for at any rate twenty-four hours’ rest, our
outlying pickets gave the alarm and we instantly fell in, as about 50
of the enemy’s cavalry came down in our direction to reconnoitre.

Our force that day consisted of 260 Naval Brigade, with four guns, 1500
Ghoorkas, with seven guns, and about 60 Sikhs. After assembling, we
proceeded to march in the direction of our bridge of boats higher up. A
strong force of Sepoys and rebels had now come down to prevent us from
getting to our boats, and to cut us off. By 2.30, in a raging hot sun,
we had marched through the village of Phoolpore; and our little battle
of that name began directly afterwards.

It was the usual scene: first, a good blaze at each other with
artillery, skirmishers to the front. Then a general advance, the enemy
falling back and taking up a fresh position; there he stood until we
came up close, and then he bolted. There were a good many casualties
that day, and a tumbril or two of ours were blown up.

I witnessed a rather curious scene at the beginning of the action.
Elephants, as usual, dragged our spare ammunition for the guns and
men--as bullocks were slow and could not keep up--though directly we
came within manœuvring distance the elephants had to be sent to the
rear; and ammunition was placed in hackeries drawn by bullocks. On
that day, from accident or otherwise, the ammunition was not changed
soon enough, for a long shot from the rebel battery came bounding among
some of the elephants. It was the work of an instant. Up went their
trunks, off their trumpets, and away they fled as hard as they could to
the rear. It was an absurd sight. Nothing on earth could stop them: a
mahout told me he could hardly keep his seat.

We killed a good many mutineers that afternoon. We chased them till
near dark (6 P.M.); and, what with the forced march of the previous day
and the night crossing (to say nothing of having been under fire from 2
till 6 P.M.), our force was completely exhausted. Worn out with fatigue
and hunger, we were soon sound asleep. I pitied the poor chaps who had
to go out on picket after those thirty-six hours of incessant hard work.

Two or three of us that evening, while pitching our tents, suddenly
discovered in the dark a white mass lying near our tent pole. We had
just got the pole up when one of the party trod on this white mass,
which turned out to be an unfortunate wounded Sepoy, his leg broken,
either by a shot or by a piece of shell--and two parts dead, though,
poor wretch, he could call out for mercy and close his hands in token
of salaam. Well, all I can say is, we did what we could for him,
got the surgeon to dress him, and put some of our clean clothes on;
the doctor amputated his leg, the only chance of saving his life;
but by daylight he was gone. It was a sickening sight amid all the
circumstances of the case. He was very grateful, and showered blessings
on us as long as he could. Poor fellow: he must have thought, when
discovered, that he would have a hard fate. I feel sure that if the
case had been the other way up our man would not have escaped at their
hands: that was certain. I am afraid we all carried great hatred in our
compositions. The sole feeling was to sell one’s life dearly, if only
one had the chance of getting to close quarters. The way the men fought
was simply reckless. I have seen skirmishers go straight at the guns,
and bayonet all they could reach--unsupported, and perhaps not six men
close together.

One of our blue-jackets and Lord Charlie Scott, I believe, took a
gun between them, and there is no doubt that they won the Victoria
Cross. Somehow this event was never represented. On another occasion
a blue-jacket was seen wrestling with a mutineer. Both had lost their
muskets in the scrimmage. Eventually Jack got his man down with a fair
back heel. In an instant the nigger had his teeth through Jack’s arm,
the sailor pummelling away with the other. Then somebody called out,
“Stick him with your bayonet, man!” The sailor had forgotten that he
had this still on his belt. Soon it came into use, and all was over for
the rebel.

The forcing of the passage of the Gogra, accomplished by our force,
enabled the Nepaulese army to cross; and next day they were off
on their way to Lucknow. These troops, I suppose, could not be
compared with the Ghoorkas of this day: I do not think they had much
military system. Their chief weapon was the kookerie (a long-handled,
curved-blade knife), which they were supposed to throw with the utmost
precision a matter of fifty yards; and it was said that these knives
were thrown during a charge before coming to very close quarters.
For my part, I do not think I ever saw them used in this way: these
warriors preferred their muskets and bayonets. They were adepts,
however, at cutting off the head of a bullock with one stroke of the
kookerie: I saw this done on more than one occasion.

After Jung Bahadour left us we recrossed the Gogra, and were sent back
to defend the Gorruckpore district again: much to our disgust, as we
thought there was a chance of our going on to Lucknow.

I forgot to mention that Jung Bahadour held a sort of levee in his
camp to all our officers before he started, and, in a short speech,
thanked us for helping him across. He was a perfect blaze of precious
stones--diamonds and emeralds as large as a thimble--and must have been
worth a mass of money as he stood.

We now came in for some severe fighting, marching, and countermarching,
for weeks. The heat was becoming oppressive, with violent winds and
dust-storms; and the flies were abominable. I have known a leg of a
sheep or a goat half eaten by flies, if by any chance the tent was left
deserted for a few hours. The white ants were most obnoxious insects:
they would demolish a rug laid on the ground to such an extent that it
was utterly useless for any practical purpose afterwards.

On the 3rd of March, having arrived and encamped at a place called
Amorrah, our force was augmented by 250 of the Bengal Yeomanry Cavalry,
a perfect Godsend to us. These were indeed splendid troops. The
regiment--which, I believe, was raised at Calcutta--was commanded by
one Colonel Chapman. As far as I can recollect, two-thirds of the men
at least consisted of those who had lost their little all during the
beginning of the Mutiny. Some, indeed,--and these not few--had lost
near and dear relations, and, consequently, their only thought was of
vengeance for the dastardly atrocities and ruin brought upon them and
their poor families. They possessed, for the most part, nothing but
what they stood in: they were volunteers, and came only to fight and
to die, if such was to be their fate. They were beautifully horsed
and well armed: in fact, a splendid corps. Many of the troopers were
gentlemen in social life; all threw in their lot together; and their
discipline was superb. If they had a fault, it was recklessness: in
their charges nothing deterred them. I forget the actual engagement,
and where it was; but, just to see a bit of the fun and what they
would do, I followed them, after giving them the order from my Chief
to charge a certain position; and at a respectable distance I saw the
whole thing. After advancing at a trot, they found that a battery of
the rebels was playing into part of our position very warmly. Suddenly
they took ground to the right for a short distance, and, under cover
of trees, formed up at right angles to the battery. Then they advanced
at a canter, and, when within 100 yards or so of the battery, wheeled
suddenly to their right and charged straight at the guns in front. As
good luck would have it, the rebels fired their grape just too soon,
and caught only a few outside files as the squadrons wheeled for the
final charge.

It looked to me (200 yards or so away) as if they must have been
annihilated; but, thank God, they had lost only seventeen killed and
wounded and a few horses. It is needless to say that every gun was
taken, and the gunners were sabred to a man. It was as fine a bit of
dash as I ever saw in my life. It came off; but I suppose it was a wild
adventure--charging straight up to the face of a battery.

About 2.30 P.M. next day, after our arrival at Amorrah, the force
marched out some eight miles to attack the fort of Belwar, not far
from Fyzabad, and near the river. We had some scrimmaging in villages
before we got to this fort; for about two hours we battered it with our
artillery; and the skirmishers were potting away into the embrasures
200 yards distant, waiting the order to assault, if we made a breach.
The guns were now moved up to within grape-shot range; but, somehow,
we seemed to make no impression on these baked-mud bastions, which had
been erected by our own engineers for a Ghoorka Brigade that had been
there some time before, and, unfortunately, had not been demolished
before they left it. The Brigadier, not liking the task of storming it,
as it was nearly dark, ordered the force to retire under cover of the
night for two miles.

The fact is, we had got the worst of it. To be candid, they drove us
off. Next day the enemy were considerably reinforced: so much so, we
had to retire to our encampment at Amorrah and entrench ourselves
again. Luckily, we were not molested next day, the 4th; but on the
5th we had the most important fight of the whole campaign, and there
were considerable misgivings as to whether we could remain and fight
it out or should have to retire farther. The worst of it was that
our retrograde movement from the fort of Belwar had given the rebels
additional pluck. They thought they had us.



All the 4th of March we were busy strengthening our entrenchments,
filling up tumbrils and ammunition hackeries: in short, preparing.
Information had arrived that the enemy were going to attack us on the
5th, and would bring a very strong force to the task. Several of the
swell rebel Rajahs were to be present. All was in readiness by dark on
the evening of the 4th; and at 2 A.M. on the morning of the 5th the
alarm was sounded. The force moved out of its entrenchments, and formed
up a mile or so to our front. Cavalry on both flanks, guns in centre,
and infantry were equally distributed on each side of the battery.
There we remained, waiting for news. The cavalry patrol had been sent
out five miles along the road, to feel for the enemy.

Daylight appeared; yet no news had been sent in. Not until seven
o’clock did we see our patrol retiring at a comfortable trot along the
road. Soon after break of day they had observed this huge mass of the
enemy advancing, and had, consequently, retired. We had not to wait
long. Clouds of dust told us of their whereabouts. The clouds extended
a very considerable distance, overlapping our front on both sides. Not
long afterwards we could hear the bugle calls of the enemy; and I must
own it was rather an anxious time for us. The Brigadier, alive to the
occasion, rode about and spoke a few words of encouragement to the men.
How we longed to be all white troops, instead of a mixed force! All
told, we mustered only 1700 infantry, 250 cavalry, and four guns. The
enemy, we heard afterwards, were 15,000 strong--half Sepoys and half
badly-armed rebels--with twelve guns. The next thing to be done was to
show as large a front as we could. The regiments were actually placed
in single file in one long line. We could not afford supports, and the
four guns were divided. In fact, we had to take our chance. Luckily,
had to deal with niggers only: or.... Words fail me.

About 9 A.M. the action was begun by the enemy firing his 18-pounder,
then some 1500 yards distant. As we had nothing that ranged more than
1200 yards, we were at a disadvantage. So a general advance was made;
our skirmishers were thrown out; and the guns soon got their range.
All this time I saw masses of men moving about in large knots, their
object being to outflank us. Their cavalry were galloping about, though
they did not seem to have much formation: only clouds of men and clouds
of dust were to be seen for miles. This artillery and skirmishers’ duel
went on for about an hour. Rowcroft calmly waited events: it was for
the enemy to show the initiative: we were too weak to manœuvre. Their
guns did us little harm (our line was thin); for the most part they
fired much too high, clean over our heads.

Our guns pitched their shell beautifully into any large knots they
saw; also into their cavalry, which quickly retired in consequence. At
eleven or so, the first signs of manœuvring began by the enemy trying
to get round our right flank. We changed front slightly; and the right
squadron of Bengal Cavalry, to whom I had the pleasure of taking the
order, were ordered to advance and charge. They hardly waited for me
as I galloped up. They knew before I hailed Major Richardson, now in
command, what my bent was, and they were off. Our half battery also
advanced at a gallop, the ground being very open (a grassy plain, in
fact), and blazed away at the left of the enemy, who soon got the worst
of it and were driven back. Noticing this retrograde movement, our
centre, which had now been reformed two-deep, advanced, and, gradually
getting within close range, fired, lying down, volley after volley
into the disconcerted rebels, whose centre seemed to be on the move.

Meanwhile our left flank was overlapped, and the beggars were trying
to get round our left rear into our camp. Off went the left squadron,
supported by the other two guns, with our Marines and Sikhs, and mowed
them down beautifully. By 1 P.M. the rebels had enough of it, and began
to retire in earnest. Our fellows then all along the line took up one
continued cheer, and rushed them. This was too much for the enemy, who
for a time made off completely. They took up a fresh position some four
miles farther on, where there was a village with a large tope of trees;
but they did not remain long. We drove them out.

It was now about 2 P.M., and our fellows were clean done up by the
great heat. The General ordered a halt. The enemy gradually retired in
all directions from our front; and, beyond a few stray shots from their
artillery while we were resting in the shade, the fight was virtually

I had a good deal of galloping about all that morning. No sooner was
I back from one order than off I was sent on some other errand. It
was most interesting work. I had constantly to cross some part of
the plain where the fire was raging hot. In went my spurs on these
occasions. I could generally see the round shot coming. One of them
came ricochetting straight at me. Luckily, I was crossing a bit of
ploughed or soft land. The shot actually finished its last bound under
my horse’s legs without touching them. Once or twice I found some of
our native troops hanging back under shelter of old walls, the ruins of
some old village. This so annoyed me that, finding strong language of
no avail, I used the flat of my sword on more than one man’s back. My
Chief was very calm all that morning; but I could see very plainly that
he was anxious as to results. On my returning from my message he was
very impatient to know if the orders were being carried out. He had two
other gallopers that day, and they too were hard at it.

We took seven guns: one an 18-pounder, three brass 9-pounders, and
others of smaller calibre.

Here it was that a very good messmate of mine, Fowler, was killed by
a round shot; not half a minute before he had passed me and said, “I
say, old Victor, look at this,” showing me where a grape shot had gone
through the bottom of his trousers. This was a sad loss to us all.
That night I helped to dress him in clean white clothes, and we laid
him in his last resting-place. Our casualties were astonishingly few.
I attribute this to the thinness of our line and the wretched shooting
of the enemy. The hostile force were large enough to eat us had they
had any system of fighting; but, I suppose, they thought that their
great masses would frighten us clean away. The incident showed what
method and discipline can do against a mob. Many of the Sepoy regiments
had come from Oude. There they had been thoroughly thrashed; and they
fought us that day with their tails between their legs.

The action had a marvellous effect. It saved the Gorruckpore district
from a second rebellion. Before attacking, the rebels had issued
a proclamation that they had come to annihilate us, to liberate
Gorruckpore from the Englishmen, and to drive us out of the district.
Our spies told us that they never thought our small force would show
front for an instant. It was expected that we should retire, and,
consequently, the enemy made no preparations to manœuvre.

We had many narrow squeaks that morning. A shell burst close under the
head of the Brigadier’s horse; yet he was not touched. I had hold of
the branch of a tree, clearing it from my head, when a round shot cut
it off just above me.

After the fight we marched back to camp much fatigued; but we did not
enter our entrenchments. We felt comparatively safe. We knew that the
horde of rebels had lost all courage and were in despair. Many gave up
fighting and left for their homes. The loss was estimated at 700 killed
and wounded.

Next day we had a General Thanksgiving Service for our victory, and
very impressive it was.

From the 5th until the 23rd of March we remained at Amorrah and
fortified the village. We had one or two alarms that the enemy were
coming down upon us; but they were false. A royal salute was fired in
honour of the victories at Lucknow, and a parade of the whole force
was ordered to hear read out a despatch from the Commander-in-Chief
appreciating our services.

We now went into cantonment at Bustee, and huts were built to shelter
us from the sun and the rains during the hot season now advancing. Our
force was gradually augmented by the arrival of the 13th Light Infantry
under the command of Lord Mark Kerr. A splendid regiment it was, over
1300 strong. Later, some Madras cavalry and a Sikh regiment under the
celebrated Colonel Brazier arrived; and these cantonments served as our
head-quarters until the following November, when we once again took the
field. A story was told me of this celebrated Colonel. At the beginning
of the Mutiny, it was supposed that the Sikhs were rather wavering in
their allegiance, and that his regiment, though most ably commanded,
and under perfect discipline, might possibly follow suit. This the
Colonel was told. However, one day, while he was writing in his tent,
a fanatic rushed in and exclaimed, “Bolt for your life, Colonel: your
regiment is about to mutiny.” Brazier thereupon seized his revolver,
saying, “If my regiment is to mutiny you shall be the first to suffer
for it,” and then shot him on the spot. It was said that this summary
proceeding stopped a mutiny which was imminent in this regiment--that
what the fanatic had told him was quite true.

During the seven months at Bustee we were constantly sending out flying
columns, and otherwise giving the rebels no peace when they congregated
in the district which we were protecting. Sometimes the fighting was
at close quarters for a brief period; but generally the rebels did not
stand longer than they could help. It was harassing work, and kept our
force employed a good deal.

Cricket matches were got up. Also, we had a theatre, and amused
ourselves as best we could, when not out on detachment service, during
those long months. The heat was very great, and during the rainy
season our men suffered a good deal from fever. I was down with it
for six weeks. It took a very malignant mode with me: in fact, it was
touch-and-go with me for some days. I lived on quinine and jack fruit.

Towards November the weather became cooler, and preparations were made
to leave our cantonments and once again take the field under tents. The
change of scene and of work was very welcome.

We left our cantonment on the 16th of November, and advanced in a
north-west direction to the frontiers of Nepaul. From that date until
the 23rd of December we were gradually driving the rebels before us.
There was a smart encounter at a place called Domerigunge, where we
drove the rebels across the Rapti River. We crossed a few days after by
a bridge of boats. In the action near the Rapti River we got well among
them, and in their flight across the river a good many of them were
drowned. The Bengal Yeomanry Cavalry paid them off well in a charge,
but, unfortunately, lost an able officer, Captain Giffard, who fell at
the head of his troop. Once over the Rapti, we heard that the rebels
had made preparations for a great stand at a place called Toolsepore,
not far from the Terai Jungle. We were now within sight of the Himalaya
Mountains, and the distant scenery was magnificent--a relief after the
plains we had been marching through all these months.

We arrived in the vicinity of Toolsepore on the 20th of December,
and on the 23rd we had our last fight. It was supposed that to take
Toolsepore would be a big business. It was said to be a very strong
position. Consequently, a siege train was sent for to batter down
the forts. Part of the Naval Brigade had to take charge of the guns,
three 18-pounders and some mortars. Our force on the eve of the attack
consisted of 2180 infantry, 400 cavalry, 12 field guns, and the siege
train. To us, long accustomed to fighting with handfuls of men, this
appeared quite an imposing force.

We could see the enemy’s position in the distance, and clearly make out
large forts and batteries and a very extensive camp. I believe that
that was their last dying effort in our part of India. All the other
field forces were gradually converging and closing in the rebels, who
could now only surrender or retreat into the Terai Jungle and cross the
Nepaul frontier; which Jung Bahadour, it was said, would oppose. We
were now within touch of Sir Hope Grant’s columns; and, two days before
the action at Toolsepore, he sent us a wing of the 53rd Regiment, about
580 strong, with two guns of Welch’s battery.

In the evening before our fight I rode down to the outlying pickets
to have a look-round, and was much interested in watching the Sepoys’
pickets and sentries, and the little knots of cavalry patrolling about.
Now and then a bullet fired from a distance would fly past me, and, as
I was only an amateur, I did not remain long to hear more.

Next morning at nine our little army crossed a small fordable river,
the Bulli Rapti. I was galloping about all the morning to the various
corps, with messages sent by my Chief. About ten the troops had all
got into position, and the usual advance of an extended line about
one-and-a-half mile long, with guns in centre, was begun. The enemy
came out from their forts, and formed up in three separate columns.
Thus, when we got within range of artillery (about eleven o’clock) we
had to manœuvre so as to make three separate attacks on the formations.
The action was fought on a vast plain.

Skirmishers were blazing away. In fact, a general action had begun. The
Brigadier, seeing that the 13th were rather in rear of their proper
position, sent me off a mile gallop with orders to them to advance more
quickly. I found the 13th in a broken bad piece of ground intercepted
with nullahs. Lord Mark Kerr, marching his regiment in open column
of companies, was very much put out by the men not preserving their
wheeling distance. In fact, he was having a sort of field day on his
own account. On my venturing to repeat the orders he became very wroth.
Still, it was amusing to see him riding hatless with a white umbrella
over his head (which was his wont), and giving his orders as if he were
on a parade-ground instead of on a battle-field.

My message to his Lordship was that he should lose no time in
advancing, and should keep his alignment. As we advanced the rebels
fell back, and for a time they sheltered themselves in their
entrenchments. This being just what my Chief wanted and expected them
to do, cavalry and some infantry were immediately sent round their
flank, to attack them in the rear and to cut off their retreat should
they bolt. The siege train of heavy guns, drawn by elephants, was now
moved up and opened fire on the forts. By 4 P.M. we had carried the
fort and the villages. There was a chase until seven o’clock, and the
cavalry were very effective during the flight of the natives. It was
wonderful how soon the rebels got away. They were marvels at running
when once off: nothing but horse artillery and cavalry could come
up with them. Many hid themselves away in the high-standing crops,
villages, out-houses: in fact, they scattered all over the country.

That night we bivouacked outside the enemy’s fort and entrenchments.
Just before dusk I rode in to see what they were like. It was certainly
a very strong position; but the dirt was so abominable that I could
not stay long. They had evidently been there some time: anybody who
knew India in the Mutiny days will well understand what I mean. Several
of the enemy’s guns that day were carried at the point of the bayonet
(generally by our skirmishers), and we routed them completely.

Next day the troops rested.

On Christmas Day, as we were well into our dinner, and what might be
called enjoying ourselves, Sir Hope Grant rode into camp about 4 P.M.
and ordered us to make a forced march immediately, so as to follow up
the rebels, who were trying to escape to the eastwards. What a nuisance
we voted this grand soldier, as he stood there with a fine escort of
cavalry (Lancers) giving his orders to our General! I heard him say,
“Off at once! Dinner or no dinner, we must cut these rebels off.”
There, on the spot, the bugles were sounded; down came our tents; and
what became of our stewed kid and other little delicacies we had taken
so much trouble to get hold of I don’t know. I was on my horse in no
time and sent galloping about with instructions.

Marching until well into the night straight across country (the roads
being blocked with mud, owing to heavy rains), we halted, and curled
ourselves up as best we could on the ground until daylight. I lay down
in a ploughed field that night: no baggage or tents had come up. The
soil was soft at first; but I soon made a large form, which became as
hard as a brick bat; and I woke up aching all over. For three days we
saw neither tents nor baggage. We were simply following up the rebels,
who were now making for the great Terai Jungle. Arriving at Intwa on
the 28th, we found Sir Hope Grant with a troop of horse artillery,
the 9th Lancers, and Hodson’s Horse. What joy to see horse artillery
and that splendid cavalry! The 9th looked nearly as well as if they
had been at Aldershot; so did the horse artillery; and that splendid
regiment, Hodson’s Horse, was indeed a sight.

For two or three days our force and Sir Hope’s marched in parallel
columns. Only once did we come across rebels. That was at the edge of
the Terai, where we took them completely by surprise, and actually
found their pots on the fire, cooking. This was about the last shot the
Brigade saw fired. On the 3rd of January 1859 we had done our share in
quelling the Mutiny, and received orders to return to our ship _viâ_
Allahabad. All our part of the country was freed from rebels: at any
rate, there was no chance of their congregating again.



It was a pretty sight when we marched away. All our old comrades
cheered us; the Ghoorkas, the Bengal Yeomanry Cavalry, and the 13th
Foot, who had been our companions during the greater part of the
eighteen months we were landed, followed us out of camp; and the
bands played for a goodly distance along the road. Hand-shaking and
leave-taking followed, and Brigadier-General Rowcroft made us a most
complimentary speech. He was very much cut up (no wonder, considering
all we had gone through together); he was proud of his Naval Brigade;
and to me personally he was the best of Chiefs, considerate and kind
on all occasions--I do not remember his ever having allowed an angry
word to pass his lips. I had acted as his Aide-de-Camp the whole time,
excepting on one occasion when I was sent with a detachment from Bustee
and acted as Aide-de-Camp to Lord Mark Kerr.

Starting from near Intwa on the 4th of January, we marched incessantly
(with the exception of one day’s halt) to Alahabad. We arrived there on
the 15th, so that with the exception of one day’s rest (on a Sunday)
we had a consecutive ten days’ marching; doing 26 miles on one day
and 18 on another. What was the reason for this hurry I could never
understand. I suppose we were in fine condition, and not hampered with
much baggage. We left our tent-stores and ammunition behind, and our
guns were left with Sir Hope Grant. Lord Canning, I was pleased to
find, was at Alahabad. He kindly allowed me to visit him, and I dined
with him one evening during our stay. On the morning of the day of our
departure His Excellency caused the following general orders to be read
out to the Brigade:--

            ALAHABAD, _the 17th January 1859_.

  His Excellency the Viceroy and Governor-General cannot allow the
  officers and men forming the Naval Brigade of Her Majesty’s ship
  _Pearl_ to pass through Alahabad on their return to their ship
  without expressing his acknowledgments of the excellent service
  they have rendered to the State.

  Disembarked on the 12th of September 1857, they have for fifteen
  months formed a main part of the small force to which the security
  of the wide district of Gorruckpore, and of the country adjoining
  it, has been entrusted, and which has held during that time
  important advanced posts exposed to constant attack from the
  strongholds of the rebels.

  The duty has been arduous and harassing; but it has been cheerfully
  and thoroughly performed, and the discipline of the _Pearl’s_
  brigade has been admirable. The _Gazettes_ of the 9th and 23rd
  March, 27th April, 11th May, 22nd June, 6th and 13th July, 13th
  August, 12th and 19th October, 23rd and 26th November 1858, and
  11th January 1859, have shown that when the Gorruckpore field force
  has been engaged the Brigade has signally distinguished itself.

  The Governor-General cordially thanks Captain Sotheby, C.B., and
  his brave officers and men for the valuable assistance they have
  given to the army in Bengal, and he is glad to think that they
  do not quit the scene of their services without the satisfaction
  of seeing peace restored to the rich districts which they have

            R. J. H. BIRCH, _Major General_,
        _Secretary to the Government of India_
            _with the Governor-General_.

After this was read out a ringing cheer was sent up, and renewed again
and again; knots of soldiers and civilians standing by joined in the
general rejoicings. The bands played us down to our steamer, the
_Benares_, and we left shortly afterwards on our way down the river.
Here was a pleasant ending to all our work. The Governor-General was
right in stating that “we left with the satisfaction of seeing peace
restored.” It was indeed a proud moment to be told that: a reward
to us to see that accomplished which we had done our best to bring
about. I hope I may be excused for writing thus much. We had had very
arduous work, fighting with a small force against vastly superior
numbers, whatever they were made of. We never knew, especially in the
early days of the Mutiny, what a day might bring forth: we might even
find our whole force annihilated. We had very scanty information about
the rebels, and often our spies were not to be trusted. The whole
country was up in arms; villages were forsaken, either for fear of
us or because they had joined the rebels; the incessant marching and
countermarching, and entrenching our camp after a long day’s march
in a hot climate, were no joke; and I felt very proud of our force,
especially of the Brigade, so well commanded by Captain Sotheby.

The action of Amorrah had great effect on the mutineers in that part of
India. It broke their spirit: so much so, that they never were able to
mass in any large force afterwards, with the exception of that final
stand at Toolsepore. The rebels as a rule fought badly; but there
were occasions when we were hard put to it--not so much by the actual
fighting as by the constant state of unrest into which they put us.
Then, there was always the feeling that if retreat had been forced
on us we should have nothing to fall back upon: neither position nor
reinforcements. To me, a boy, it was naturally a most exciting and
interesting period. Between sixteen and eighteen troubles and work do
not seem to weigh heavily.

The Brigade had altogether twenty-six engagements with the rebels.
I saw seventeen of them. The others I missed because of severe
fever, or because I was left behind on camp guard. On one occasion
during my illness, while we were on the line of march at night, our
doolie-bearers and the spare horses endeavoured to make a short-cut to
avoid the dust of the road on which the column was marching. As bad
luck would have it, some rebels swooped down on us and stole several
horses. Luckily, my doolie-bearers did not skiddaddle with the rest. A
horse which was being led just in front of my doolie was captured; but
I escaped, doolie and all. I was so ill that it would not have taken
much to kill me.

It took from the 19th of January to the 2nd of February to make the
trip back to the ship at Calcutta, where, on our arrival, they gave us
a salute. Here we were _fêted_ for a few days. Dinners and receptions
were given in our honour, and the petty officers and men were
entertained at the public expense.

Of my passage home in the _Pearl_ there is nothing of much interest to
relate. We touched at Madras; and at the Cape, and there I met with the
heart-breaking news of my beloved mother’s death. Those who have known
the depths of a mother’s love will be able to measure the terrible blow
that then fell on me. She, the one in the world I longed to see again,
to talk over with her the many adventures I had had since last we
parted--she was gone.



The _Pearl_ arrived at Spithead early in June, and was immediately paid
off. Our Lieutenants were all promoted, and the midshipmen were to have
their Lieutenants’ commissions when duly qualified after examination.
Besides, we received the great honour of being voted the thanks of both
Houses of Parliament for our services during the mutiny.

After two months’ leave I was appointed to the _Algiers_, then in the
Channel Fleet. I had to wait until the following spring to complete my
six years as a mid and to attain the age of nineteen.

I now had to set to work and get up my navigation and gunnery, so long
neglected, in order to qualify in February.

While I was in the Channel Fleet there was the usual cruising--to Vigo,
Lisbon, and so forth;--but we spent most of the winter of 1859 lying
in Portland Roads. How dull that service was to me after years of
excitement and constant change!

I pass it over, and come to March 1860, when I went up to be examined
for my Lieutenantcy. The first ordeal was a Seamanship examination
on board the _Victory_. Three old salts sat on me--two of them brig
Commanders, the other a Post Captain. The ball was opened by one of
these setting me questions, which I was expected to answer _vivâ voce_.
I was to take command of his old brig, to find her alongside the jetty
in Portsmouth Harbour, dismantled; to fit her out, get my guns in, and
stores, and take her out to Spithead, mooring her at that anchorage;
I was to let them know when I was ready to begin the ordeal. In the
meantime they left the cabin and disappeared--I suppose in the hope
that I should be better able to make out my programme and so save their
time. This question was a hot one. I gave myself a clear ten minutes
over it. I made some pencil notes to assist me in my answers. These
notes I consistently followed, and at the end of my ten minutes’ grace
I sent a message by the sentry to say that I was ready. It always
struck me on such occasions that there was a chuckle of delight dimly
visible in your examiner’s countenance at the thought that he had got
you dead-beat. When all three reappeared smiling and joking I wondered
whether their merriment was levelled at me. For a moment it put my
back up, and I felt inclined to sulk. However, “Go on, my boy,” put me
straight again, and I thought there was a wee bit of solicitude in the
tone of the speaker’s voice. I went steadily on for some time: until
first one began to yawn, another got up and walked about, and the third
looked out of a port. Evidently bored, thought I to myself, and my
story getting prosy. Reader, I never got to Spithead in my brig. I had
stowed my hold so nicely--the peas placed carefully in one corner, the
biscuit in another, and the rum properly stowed “bung up” in the spirit
room--that the examiners had had quite enough of my capabilities,
and (beyond shifting a topsail in a gale of wind and some other such
detail) I was asked no more. “That will do, sir,” I was told, though
for the life of me I could not tell the extent of my knowledge: until
the Post Captain, on walking out quietly, whispered into my ear, “You
are all right! But say nothing about it.--Sentry, tell them to make a
signal for our galleys.”

“Thank God,” said I to myself; and down below I went to refresh the
inner man, my lips parched with thirst.

“Well, old chap,” says one, “how did you get on?”

“Pretty well, I think,” said I; “but, of course, I don’t know.” Soon
appeared my sheet of foolscap duly signed, and I was a free man, as
having passed my Seamanship examination.

The next step was the Gunnery examination, on board the _Excellent_;
and finally I had to be put through my facings at the Royal Naval
College examination in the Dockyard.

There were just six weeks before the Vacations, and there was to
be one day for each exam. The Gunnery day gave me only a clear
fortnight--short notice, certainly; but I thought I would have a try
for it, so as to be able to get clear away before the Vacation of July,
and not have to begin again later in the year.

I was allowed a room at the Naval College, and went daily to the
_Excellent_ to work, besides having a crammer at lodgings in Portsea,
to whom I repaired at 5 P.M., working with him until seven or eight.
Sometimes I began again after dining at the College mess. Things looked
bad when I went to the _Excellent_. The instructors told me I had no
chance of getting through in a bare fortnight, and that I was evidently
below the ordinary standard of knowledge. (No wonder, after so long a
period of war and active service.)

However, the eventful day arrived. I began at 10, and by 4 P.M. had got
my fifteen crosses (mistakes), sixteen turning you back. Therefore,
there was half a cross left; and the subject to be got through was
Drilling Quarters--that is, a battery of guns.

My poor crammer was very anxious: I had promised him an extra fiver if
I got through. “Sir,” said he, “you have but one chance left, which is
that you must give your orders as loud as possible and show all the
confidence you can. You must chance your mistakes. Only, sing out, for
God’s sake, sir, for all you are worth!” Whether my examiner (I can see
him now pacing up and down the deck) was becoming tired of his day’s
work, or whether he had a pity on me, considering the brink he knew I
was standing on, I don’t know; but he seemed to keep some distance off.
Once or twice the men at the guns helped me (when his back was turned)
by giving me a hint or otherwise, as they knew whither they ought to
go, if I had forgotten some detail in my order. At any rate, I yelled
myself hoarse, pretending I knew all about it; and when this exercise
was over and the retreat sounded, my crammer said to me, “I think it’s
all right, sir.” Within an hour I was told I had just squeezed through:
with fifteen crosses and a half out of a possible sixteen. Good enough
for me: all I had wanted was to pass.

I had now a month to get through the remaining ordeal--Navigation,
Algebra, Trigonometry and Other Sciences. During that time I rather
enjoyed my stay at the College: there were some good fellows there, as
well as one or two very eccentric ones. One in particular touched my
fancy. He was a poor chap trying to pass, and had been so for months.
He had no hope on the eve of the dreaded day. His only chance was that
he might be allowed to stay on at college by getting on the sick list
somehow or other. The first time he actually let himself drop some
feet down the stairs, and contrived to hurt himself; and the doctors
put him on the sick list immediately. Having recovered shortly before
the next dreaded day, and finding himself still in the unfortunate fix
of not being able to go up for examination with the slightest chance
of passing, he took a razor and chopped his shin bone in two or three
places so badly that he was enforced to lie up. This always struck
me as showing the good stuff he was made of: it was a pity that so
courageous a man should be lost to the Service. Unfortunately, his
little ruses were detected, and he had to quit.

At the end of my month, I went up not feeling over confident; yet if
the sheet happened to be a moderate one it would, I thought, be 6 to 4
on. So it came about: I won in a canter.

On 18th of July 1860, the following letter, written by the Duke of
Somerset to my father, followed, shortly after I had passed for

  The Duke of Somerset presents his compliments to Lord Sandwich,
  and begs to inform him that he deferred replying to his letter
  of the 13th until the report of Mr. Montagu’s having passed his
  examination at the Royal Naval College had been received and his
  case had been laid before the Board of the Admiralty.

  The Duke of Somerset has now much pleasure in enclosing a
  Lieutenant’s Commission for Mr. Montagu, dated this day, which has
  been given him on account of the special services rendered by him
  in India with the _Pearl’s_ Naval Brigade.

I should like, before closing this narrative, to offer a few words of
advice to youngsters on joining the Navy. The first need is strict
compliance with discipline, which at first perhaps is not easy.
Discipline has always been, and must continue to be, the mainstay of
any public service. With this fact always before him, an officer not
only carries out the orders of his superiors, but also acquires the
power of enforcing his own orders when he is placed in a position
of responsibility. There have been great changes since I joined the
Service. Officers and men are much more highly educated. The discipline
is no longer the same, and the methods of enforcing it are changed.
This only means that influence and character play a more important part
than force does. This, again, means that a more delicate and arduous
task falls on a youngster who joins the Navy. His tact and his example
are more important than ever; and, with a higher education and another
class of men to deal with, his character tells for more every day.
He must never forget that he has to set before himself the highest
standard of efficiency and conduct at home and abroad, at sea, and on
shore. Let him never forget that he is an officer serving under the
flag of the Realm which is Mistress of the Seas.

I have written about my midshipman life as being by far the most
interesting part of my naval career. The rest ran over a good many
years; but, though I had some interesting times, I have no more war
service to account for. During my midshipman years fortune favoured me
more than is usual in the lot of a naval officer. My only regret (if I
may so call it) is that I was not of riper years during the stirring
period. Thereby I should have gained more experience for the good of
the Service. I remained on in the Navy until 1886; but my deafness
(contracted by jungle fever during the Mutiny) increased considerably;
and, what with that and other personal affairs, I thought it best,
after mature consideration, to retire from the noble profession I could
no longer follow with satisfaction to my country or to myself.


    _Printed by_ R. & R. CLARK, LIMITED, _Edinburgh_

Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks retained.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

Text refers to ships named “St. Jean D’Acre” and “St. Jean D’Arc”. As
they may be distinct, both names have been retained here.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Middy's Recollections 1853-1860" ***

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