The Royal Navy stationed older capital ships round the coast of Britain and Ireland, where they served as bases for the Coastguard, and as training ships for the Royal Naval Reserve, founded in 1859. Once a year these vessels came together to make a short training cruise as the Reserve Fleet. The following articles from The Times newspaper refer to the cruise of this fleet in May 1869 (the first time that men of the Royal Naval Reserve participated in such a cruise).
|Extracts from the Times newspaper|
|Fr 19 March 1869|
THE NAVAL RESERVE.The following has been forwarded to us for publication:—
"Admiralty, March 15."Sir,— I am commanded by my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to inform the Board of Trade that their Lordships have determined to assemble a Reserve Squadron at Portland in the month of May, during the Whitsuntide holydays, and that the assembling of this squadron appears to their Lordships to afford a good opportunity for giving the officers and men of the Royal Naval Reserve a chance of taking their drill and participating in the advantages of manœuvres afloat.
"Their Lordships have thereupon made arrangements whereby the Reserve Squadron can be partially officered and manned by the Reserve.
"The cruise of the squadron will probably last about a fortnight, and their Lordships request that you will move the Board of Trade to take such steps as may appear to the Board to be necessary for making known to the Reserve the opportunity thus afforded to them, and the conditions on which members of the Reserve may take part in the cruise.
“The conditions are as follows, viz.:—
"1. Naval Reserve men who have, since their enrolment in the Reserve, taken not less than 28 days' drill, and who may wish to volunteer for the cruise, must give in their names to a Registrar of Naval Reserve, on or before some day that will hereafter be fixed by the Lords of the Admiralty, and notified to and published by the Board of Trade.
"2. The number of officers embarking for the cruise will be in the proportion of 1 per cent, to the number of men. Those officers who wish to volunteer for the cruise must apply by letter addressed to the Board of Trade.
"3. The Admiralty will select from the officers who volunteer those who are reported by the Board of Trade as having undergone most drill, or who are recommended by the Board of Trade as having taken the greatest interest in the Reserve.
"4. The time occupied in proceeding from the port where the men reside to the ship in which they make the cruise, and also the time occupied in returning to that port after the cruise is over, will be included as time occupied in the cruise.
"5. During the cruise (including the time named in paragraph 4) the men of the Reserve will be paid the same drill pay as when on drill — viz., one shilling and fourpence (1s. 4d.) a day. They will also be supplied with provisions and bedding while afloat.
"6. For the time they are not afloat — viz., the time between leaving the port where they reside and arriving at the ship and returning to the port where they reside they will also be paid drill pay of 1s. 4d. a day. They will, in addition, be paid 1s. 8d. a day as their regulation bedding and subsistence allowances during the time they are not afloat, as named in this paragraph.
"7. The time of the Reserve men will be reckoned as commencing when they leave the port where they reside, and as ending when they return to that port by the authorized conveyances, and the whole time will be reckoned as annual drill.
"8. The time spent in the proposed cruise will also entitle the men to their retainers for the period. These retainers will be paid at the usual times by the Registrars of Naval Reserve.
"9. Should any of the officers or men who volunteer for the cruise have already taken their drill for the whole or any period of the present year, the extra time served in the proposed cruise will count as drill performed for next year.
"10. Officers who embark for the cruise will be required to embark in undress uniform.
"11. Men who embark will be required to appear in a decent suit of sailor-like clothes, with black neckerchiefs and Royal Naval Reserve caps.
"The men must also take with them a bag containing one shirt, one pair of stockings, one towel, one piece of soap, one comb.
"12. On joining the Reserve ship each man will be supplied (for the sake of uniformity) with a blue frock and trousers to wear during the cruise, and each man whose conduct during the cruise is satisfactory will be allowed to keep the clothing supplied without payment.
"13. The Reserve will, as far as possible, be embarked on board the Coastguard ships of the district to which the men belong, and with the officers and crews of which they are already acquainted.
"14. It is hoped that members of the Reserve will prove their efficiency by volunteering in large numbers for the contemplated cruise.
"15. The men will have to embark about the middle of the month of May on board the nearest or most convenient Coastguard ship. They will leave the port where they reside under the charge of the Registrar of Naval Reserve or of one of his deputies, and full notice of times and dates will be given at each port.
"I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
" W.G. Romaine.
"The Assistant-Secretary, Marine Department, Board of Trade."
|Fr 14 May 1869||At daybreak to-morrow an experiment of no slight national importance will be commenced. For the first time since the establishment of the system, a call has been made upon our Naval Reserve, and some 2,000 men of this Force will put to sea from Portland. The development and organization of our National Defences have passed through so many phases that the origin and objects of the "Royal Naval Reserve" may now, perhaps, be almost forgotten. There was, however, a time, not so very remote, when all the thoughts of alarmists were directed to the increase of the Fleet, and especially to the manning of the Navy. People then believed that, if we had but ships and sailors enough, no Power could ever touch us; but it happened that we had very few ships, and only a mere handful of men. Sir James Graham, in a speech which was often afterwards quoted, said that the country was by no means unprotected, inasmuch as we had three guardships in commission; but it was a fact, nevertheless, that one vessel after another would be detained in harbour for weeks together from sheer inability to get her complement of men. At length, after much had been done for the Standing Navy, it was resolved to organize a Naval Reserve, from which, upon any emergency, trained seamen could be drawn for the reinforcement of the regular Fleets. With this view registers were opened at the various ports of the kingdom, and qualified applicants were enrolled for contingent service on moderate terms of remuneration. That system has now been at work for some time, until, at this moment, the Royal Naval Reserve comprises no fewer than 16,000 picked seamen of the Mercantile Marine - men who, as regards ordinary seamanship, have nothing to learn, and who, after very brief practice, would be fit for all the duties of a man-of-war. Nevertheless, up to the present time no opportunity of such practice has been taken, and here it is that the proceedings recently reported in our columns assume especial interest.|
It was resolved a short time ago to send a Fleet to sea for a fortnight's cruise during the Whitsuntide holydays, and to invite the men of the Naval Reserve to join. As we are not at war, the seamen of this Force were under no obligation to give their services, and it was a matter, therefore, of pure volunteering. It was a question how many men would answer the call, especially as this is a busy time of the year for the Merchant Navy, when the ice breaks up and re-opens the Northern ports to commerce. That doubt, however, has now been removed. Upwards of 1,900 merchant seamen at the various ports have volunteered for the fortnight's duty, being at least twice as many as were expected to appear. It should be remembered that, though the entire Force comprises as many as 16,000 men, it is only a certain proportion of these which could be available at any particular conjuncture. Many of them are necessarily at sea, pursuing their ordinary avocations; indeed, it is not supposed that a first demand even upon any actual emergency could be answered by more than 5,000. Yet two-fifths of this number have now come forward of their own free will for a fortnight's duty - a most satisfactory proof of the spirit pervading the Force.
The ships composing the Fleet are the Coastguard ships, ten in number. These vessels have each a small permanent staff afloat, with a complement of Marines. The sailors of the Coastguard - real men-of-war's men - have been added to the crews on board, and with these crews the volunteers of the Naval Reserve will be now combined. In point of fact, therefore, we are sending to sea a Reserve Fleet of considerable strength, and which could be quickly supported by others in case of actual need. We have said that in the ordinary duties of seamanship these volunteers will have nothing to learn; but it will be of great advantage to inure them a little to the routine and discipline of a man-of-war, and to instruct them in the use of modern artillery. It is understood that the officers of the Fleet have received instructions to consult the feelings of their new hands, and to deal in all respects considerately with them. If these directions are judiciously followed, as they doubtless will be, we may reckon upon dating a new epoch in our naval organization from this Whitsuntide cruise.
A few days ago we explained the way in which the Army, with its several reserves and departments, had grown under the hands of reformers, and the story of the Navy in this respect is certainly not less extraordinary. We have now a Navy of 400 vessels of various rates, of which probably at least 300 are effective, even according to modern reckoning. We have 150 fighting ships in commission, exclusive of these guardships now sent to sea. We have 35 ironclads afloat, and others building. In old times it would have been asked what was the use of all these Fleets without sailors to man them, but we can now give quite as good an account on that head also. We have 60,000 seamen and Marines borne on the regular establishment, and we have in this Naval Reserve 16,000 picked seamen, with officers and commanders of their own, from our Mercantile Marine. It is expected, as we have said, that within a single week after the declaration of war 5,000 of these men would be available for the reinforcement of our squadrons, and the lowest estimate assumes that 12,000 would be forthcoming in the space of six months.
It will be observed however, that hitherto this Naval Reserve has been a somewhat indefinite and intangible force. No one could say exactly what it was worth, or to what extent it could be relied upon. The numbers enrolled were of course well known, and it was ascertained also that the engagement was popular, and that the authorities were able even to select the best men from the multitude of candidates. Still it was impossible to speak with confidence of the numbers likely to be forthcoming for service on a sudden call, and there were not wanting those who threw great doubt on the estimates offered, and who insisted on the superiority of regular seamen to volunteers of any kind. In the very case now before us the widest possible differences of opinion were entertained. Some thought the men would never care to volunteer for the projected cruise, or to give up a fortnight of their working time, with the chances of other engagements. The Naval Reserve was not like the Militia, liable to be called out for duty; and it was a Force, therefore, the value of which could only be accurately measured when the demand for its services had actually arisen. This Whitsuntide cruise, however, will remove many of these uncertainties. If as many as 2,000 picked men were thus ready to volunteer for duty, it is hardly to be doubted that 5,000, according to the estimate, would be forthcoming in compliance with their contract in the hour of need. We trust, therefore, that nothing may be wanting to render the conditions of the experiment as favourable as possible, and to give the volunteers a good impression of the Royal service. After all that has been said of late about the Army, our first and most natural dependence must still be upon our Fleets, but no plan could be better calculated to strengthen these Fleets than the adoption of that system of Reserve Forces which provides the greatest facilities of rapid expansion at the least possible current charge.
|Sa 15 May 1869|
THE CRUISE OF THE RESERVE FLEET.
H.M.S. AGINCOURT, PORTLAND ROADS,
The ships forming the fleet are:-
The Agincourt, armoured iron screw frigate, 6,621 tons, 1,350-horse power, 26 guns, Captain Thomas Miller, carrying the flag, of the Admiral Commanding-in-Chief, Rear Admiral Astley Cooper Key.
The Duncan, unarmoured wooden screw line-of-battle ship, 3,727 tons, 800-horse power, 81 guns, Captain Charles Fellowes, carrying the flag of Rear-Admiral Geoffrey Thomas Phipps Hornby (the future commanding officer of the "Flying Squadron"), second in command.
The Hector, armoured iron screw frigate, 4,089 tons, 800-horse power, 20 guns, Captain Algernon F.R. de Horsey.
The Black Prince, armoured iron screw frigate, 6,109 tons, 1,250-horse power, 41 guns, Captain Alexander C. Gordon.
The Valiant, armoured iron screw frigate, 4,063 tons, 800-horse power, 24 guns, Captain William J.S. Pullen.
The Donegal, unarmoured wooden screw line-of-battle ship, 3,245 tons, 800-horse power, 81 guns, Captain Edward W. Turnour.
The Royal George, unarmoured wooden screw line-of-battle ship, 2,616 tons, 400-horse power, 72 guns, Captain Robert Jenkins, C.B.
The Trafalgar, unarmoured wooden screw line-of-battle ship, 2,000 tons, 500-horse power, 60 guns, Captain Edward K. Barnard.
The St. George, unarmoured wooden screw line-of-battle ship, 2,864 tons, 500-horse power, 72 guns, Captain Matthew S. Nolloth.
The Mersey, unarmoured wooden screw frigate, 3,733 tons, 1,000-horse power, 36 guns; Captain John Seccombe.
The fleet is thus composed of ten ships, having a total tonnage of 39,877 tons, with a nominal engine power of 8,250-horses, and carrying 513 guns.
It should be fully understood that this fleet, as the "Reserve" of the regular naval force of the country, is simply a "scratch" fleet, manned with "scratch" crews, and in these particulars represents truthfully the composition of a fleet, both with regard to the ships and their officers and crews, which we should, under present circumstances, send to sea as a second line of our naval defence, in the event of any international complications occurring that would require the presence of our first line of naval strength — the heavily plated fleet — on duty at a distance from the coasts of the kingdom. The fleet now commanded here by Admiral Key, in fact, stands in the same relation to the regular navy of the country as does the Militia, and the Volunteer forces to the Regulars of the army. While the ships commissioned for active foreign or Channel service cruises are it may be said, continually at sea during their term of commission, the ships of the Reserve Fleet do duty as guard and training ships at the home ports, and are thus available for more active service in the Channel or on any part of the coasts of the United Kingdom as their services may be required. Every year these ships make a week or two's cruise at sea for the purpose of exercising the seamen of the coastguard attached to them, and this year the Admiralty very wisely issued a memorandum inviting all seamen belonging to the Royal Naval Reserve who might be unemployed in the various home ports to join the ships of the fleet belonging to their various districts, and take out their annual term of training in seamanlike fashion in actual work at sea. It is almost superfluous now to say how, considering the season of the year and the small number of unemployed seamen in the home ports, this official call by the Admiralty has been answered, and by a class of men, too, who, by their appearance, can well stand on their merits as seamen. The shrewd north countryman is there in force, and could tell strange stories of how he helped to work the old "Mary Jane" round and about the coasts of the kingdom, deeply loaded and awfully leaky as she was, for years, against the fierce winter gales, and take her at last into port a mass of rotten timber, only kept afloat by indomitable pluck and perseverance. ln the bronzed beards and faces of men in another of the ship's messes may be recognized the "long voyage" seaman of the mercantile marine, who has placed his name alongside his brother north countryman as one of the defenders of his country in time of need on the lists of the Royal Naval Reserve. Both, however; arc types of seamen who have fought old ocean in his angriest moods. They are not one whit, not even the best of them, superior as seamen to the blue-jackets of the regular navy; but, excepting some slightly imperfect notions of discipline as understood on board Her Majesty's ships, every man that I have seen as yet belonging to the Royal Naval Reserve on board this fleet is every inch a seaman. Of the officers it is not necessary to speak much. When the greatest as well as the smallest of the commercial marine firms of the country have the names of their most trusted officers on the list of the Royal Naval Reserve, there can remain no question that the honour of England is as dearly prized by the Mercantile as it is by the Royal Navy of the country. I can speak from personal experience as yet in saying that the cruise of the Reserve Fleet will commence with the best possible understanding existing between the officers belonging to the various ships and the officers of the Royal Naval Reserve attached to them, as also between the seamen of both services, and I anticipate that this feeling of mutual goodwill will be very materially strengthened during the cruise. As professional brethren at sea in the exercise of their respective duties, each will better understand and appreciate the other, and the coming cruise will forge yet stronger the link binding together in common love of country the officers and men of the Royal and Mercantile Navies.
The relative composition of the crews is not the least important consideration connected with the results to be obtained from the coming cruise, and in dealing with such a question I cannot do better than give the existing arrangements on board this ship, the proportionate numbers being, as nearly as possible, equal throughout the fleet, according to the size of the ship and her allowed complement. Here there are, as in the other ships, the usual number of officers, engineers, stokers, &c., permanently attached to her for harbour duty, together with two marine officers, 75 marines, eight of whom do duty ordinarily as officers' servants, and 76 seamen. Now, there are on board in addition 200 men of the Royal Naval Reserve (with Lieutenant Allen Young, of Polar exploration fame, as Royal Naval Reserve officer), six officers and 231 men belonging to the Coastguard, and four lieutenants and 40 seamen gunners from Her Majesty’s gunnery ship Excellent, as gunnery instructors for the cruise. The Agincourt brought round here with her from Sheerness 234 men of the Royal Naval Reserve belonging to the port of London, but 34 of these have been transferred to other ships of the fleet since her arrival here, much, indeed, to the disappointment of the men so transferred, for they had taken such a fancy to the roomy quarters of the flagship, and the general kindness of the officers on board, that they all hoped to continue on board throughout the cruise. They will, however, find themselves just as comfortable on board other ships of the fleet as on board the Agincourt, every care being given by the officers belonging to the ships to render their stay on board as agreeable as may be possible so far as is compatible with proper discipline. In this respect, indeed, a very judicious order has been issued to the Captains of the several ships, by direction of the Admiralty, by Rear-Admiral Key.
Mr. Childers, M.P., First Lord of the Admiralty, accompanied by his son, by Vice-Admiral Sir Sydney Colpoys Dacres, K.C.B., First Naval Lord, Captain George Willes, R.N., the Chief of the Coastguard and Reserve Force, Lord de Grey and Ripon, and other gentlemen, are expected to arrive at Portland this evening, to embark on board the Agincourt, and accompany the fleet to sea.
Portland roads can seldom have looked more gay than at present. Ten stately war-ships lie at anchor on the broad sheet of water inside the breakwater, all ready to go out to sea by signal. There are also lying here, under the lee of the Reserve Fleet, two of the vessels commissioned as part of the flying squadron to be placed under the command of Rear-Admiral Hornby after the cruise of the Reserve Fleet — the Cadmus, unarmoured wooden screw corvette, 1,466 tons, 21 guns, 400- horse power, Captain Herbert [in fact Robert Gibson was captain of Cadmus; Herbert was captain of Scylla], and the Scylla, unarmoured wooden screw corvette, 1,467 tons, 21 guns, 400-horse power; and inside of those again lies the Boscawen, boys' training ship, with the screw gunboats Hind and Earnest, none of which, however, will accompany the fleet to sea. The Royal Yacht Squadron schooners Dream, Mr. Bentinck, M.P., and Queen Eleanor, the Duke of Marlborough, are anchored in company with the fleet, with the intention of going to sea with the ships, and the Earl of Hardwicke is hourly expected to join company for the same purpose in his cutter yacht Susan. The Helicon, paddle despatch vessel, Commander Edward Field, arrived here at 10 o'clock this morning from Portsmouth. She will be attached to the fleet for the service of Mr. Childers, Admiral Dacres, &c., during the stay of the First Lord with the fleet.
Noon.The wind continues blowing fiercely from the E.N.E., and communication by boat between the fleet and the shore is for the present impossible, several of the boats of the ships that have been sent ashore on duty being unable to return. As the tide ebbs possibly the wind may go down. If the weather is as rough to-morrow morning as it is at present, it is not likely that the ships will weigh their anchors; but if the wind moderates, by the time this letter appears in print they will be standing well out into the Channel on the commencement of their cruise. The cruise is expected to last a fortnight, as it is the intention of Admiral Key to anchor his fleet again in Portland roads on Saturday, the 29th inst. Sunday, the 30th, will be a day of rest, and on Monday and Tuesday the fleet will be officially inspected by the Admiral Commanding-in-Chief, who will then receive from the captain of each ship his report on the abilities and conduct of the men under his command during the cruise.
PORTLAND, May 14.A very strong wind, almost amounting to a gale, has been blowing from the eastward during last night and to-day, causing a heavy sea in the Channel. The ships ride with the most perfect safety under shelter of the great breakwater.
|Th 20 May 1869|
THE CRUISE OF THE RESERVE FLEET.
At 4 a.m. "all hands" were called on board the ships of the fleet with all those unmusical shrieks and roars from the pipes and voices of the boatswains and their mates which are never heard elsewhere than on board ship. Cables were at once shortened in for the start seawards, and steam got up in the boilers. A bitterly cold wind from the E.S.E. drove right in upon the roadstead from the Channel, and altogether it was as disagreeable a morning for the month of May as could be well conceived; but among the first on the poop of the Agincourt to witness the start of the fleet were Mr. Childers, with his First Naval Lord, Vice-Admiral Sir Sydney C. Dacres; Captain B. Seymour, A.D.C. to the Queen, private secretary; and Captain George Willes, of the Coastguard and Reserve Department at the Admiralty. At 5 30 all the ships weighed their anchors, and half an hour later they were all outside the breakwater, under steam at half-boiler power, and taking up their positions in two divisions. This was soon accomplished, and the fleet then steamed out on a course carrying them along the eastern land to the east of the Shambles Shoal in the following formation:—
1. The Agincourt, ironclad, Captain Miller, flagship of Rear-Admiral A. C. Key, C.B., Admiral Commanding the Fleet in Chief. Admiral Key's flag was hauled down, and the Agincourt carried at her main royal masthead the Admiralty ensign, with its foul anchors emblazoned on a crimson ground.Helicon, paddle tender, Commander Field, took up a position on the weather quarter of the Agincourt, as look-out vessel and tender for any special service.
All unarmoured wooden ships:—
1. The Duncan, two-decker, Captain Charles Fellowes, carrying the flag of Rear-Admiral Hornby, second in command.Helicon. All had topgallant yards aloft, and before they reached the Shambles several of the lee line began to pitch their bows pretty heavily into the seas which met the ships as they crossed the tidal run at the outer edge of the bay. At 8 a.m. the fleet had steamed into the desired position eastward of the Shambles Shoal, and all made plain sail to signal from the flagship. It was the first time the "scratch" crews of the fleet had been aloft, and it would be unfair to men so situated to say that any one ship appeared to get her canvas set more quickly or smartly than another. In a few days the men will have fairly shaken down into their stations, and then they can be more fairly compared with each other. The officers of the fleet all unanimously declare that the men of the Royal Naval Reserve have taken to their duties on board with surprising quickness, and show a remarkable readiness to submit to discipline. The Coastguard men are equally well spoken of. The time up to the start of the fleet was but short for any opinions to be founded safely on such a subject, but the conduct of the men no doubt fully deserved the opinion expressed. Admiral Dacres gave his opinion on the first day at sea by saying that "he never saw a finer body of men than was then being mustered on the Agincourt's quarter-deck, and he could not say which he liked best — the Reserve or the Coastguard."
After all had set canvas to topgallant sails the course was changed to a little south of west by compass, which would carry the fleet down Channel on a line about 10 miles south of Start Point, and the ships bowled away merrily in two grand parallel lines right before the wind. During the afternoon the fleet changed form of sailing to "line abreast to port and on the Agincourt," and afterwards resumed its old form of two lines, each in Indian file.
There was a great difference in the speed of the ships when thus running nearly dead before the wind, the Duncan outrunning all of the lee line with her three topsails lowered on the caps and reef tackles drawn out. The Mersey appeared to be doing the same kind of thing at times with the weather line. The great hull of the Agincourt scarcely felt the weight of her small canvas, and her screw was therefore kept at work at from 14 to 10 revolutions per minute, the lowest possible rate at which the engines could be driven with a following sea. The Helicon was sent in by the Admiral to sight the land at noon, and came out just before sunset again with the bearings from the fleet of Start Point. The general work of the crews of the ships during the day consisted in cleaning up the decks for Sunday, settling the men down at their respective stations, and in preliminary rifle and cutlass drills, &c. One incident occurred during the day strikingly illustrating the willingness of the men for work of any kind that came first to hand. A small division of Reserve seamen were mustered abreast the after hatchway, with rifles and cutlasses, under one of the Excellent's instructors, when one of the ship’s seamen, handling a cask on a grating over the hatchway, made apparently a slip in his hold upon the cask. Two of the Reserve men dropped their rifles on the deck and rushed to the man's assistance. The motive was admirable, but the men forgot they were breaking rules in leaving the ranks when under arms. At 4 30 p.m. the crews were piped down to supper. At 5 o'clock the men changed their day for night clothing. A brief Night Quarters followed, and after that the watch was called and drills were done with for the day. The course of the fleet was about the same time changed to west half north to bring the course on a straight line for the position fixed upon for a rendezvous, in the event of any ship parting company during the night or from any cause brought about by fog or rough weather, at 60 miles south of the Lizard, the Cadmus and Scylla, being signalled at the same time to advance to the front, the former to take up a position off the weather bow and in advance of the Agincourt, and the latter a like position off the lee bow of the Duncan, as look-out ships for the night. As the light faded into night, and the ships, with the green and red lights at their bows sparkling out over the sea, heaved up strongly under the long swell found west of the Start, the effect was most picturesque. The sails of the ships wanted but little work from the crews, as the ships ran nearly dead before the wind, which by this time had very much moderated. The bands on board were discoursing sweet music between decks as the officers sat down to dinner; the men were enjoying their pipes previous to hammocks being piped down, and thus passed pleasantly enough the first "Saturday night at sea" in its early hours with the Reserve Fleet.
The official return of the number of Coastguard and Royal Naval Reserve officers and seamen on board the respective ships of the fleet is as follows:—
The Agincourt.— Coastguard, 6 chief officers, 231 men; Royal Naval Reserve, 2 lieutenants, 200 men.
The Duncan.— Coastguard, 9 chief officers, 180 men; Royal Naval Reserve, 1 lieutenant, 229 men.
The St. George.— Coastguard, 8 chief officers, 143 men; Royal Naval Reserve, 200 men.
The Trafalgar.— Coastguard, 5 chief officers, 179 men; Royal Naval Reserve, 2 lieutenants, 134 men.
The Donegal.— Coastguard, 3 chief officers, 158 men; Royal Naval Reserve, 2 lieutenants, 255 men.
The Hector.— Coastguard, 6 chief officers, 152 men; Royal Naval Reserve, 1 lieutenant, 127 men.
The Royal George.— Coastguard, 6 chief officers, 195 men; Royal Naval Reserve, 2 lieutenants, 68 men.
The Black Prince.— Coastguard, 6 chief officers, 163 men; Royal Naval Reserve, 1 lieutenant, 111 men.
The Valiant.— Coastguard, 6 chief officers, 146 men; Royal Naval Reserve, 1 lieutenant, 134 men.
The Mersey.— Coastguard, 5 chief officers, 128 men; Royal Naval Reserve, 1 lieutenant, 142 men.
Total number embarked.— Coastguard, 60 chief officers, 1,675 men; Royal Naval Reserve, 12 lieutenants, 1,700 men.
The wind fell to nearly a calm during the night, and heavy rain followed early on Sunday morning. As soon as the ships could be well distinguished through the rain and the mist, the slower of the line-of-battle ships were plainly distinguishable from the others of the port lino by their sails piled on alow and aloft in their endeavour to keep place in the line with the faster going ships. Between 9 and 10 a.m. the wind came out in a nice little breeze from the north-west, veering out more westerly as it gained strength, and bringing the fleet close-hauled on the starboard tack. The day, as Sunday, was observed by the fleet, as far as is possible on board ships at sea, as a day of rest. It was also a "red letter day" for the Reserve Fleet, as I believe this cruise is the only instance in which a First Lord has commanded a British fleet at sea in person, and also attended Divine service on Sunday on board his own flagship. Perhaps I omitted mentioning in my last hurriedly-written letter from Portland Roads that on the embarkation of Mr. Childers there Rear-Admiral Key hauled down his flag and ordered the Admiralty ensign to be hoisted in its stead. In consequence Mr. Childers is actually in command of the fleet, and will remain so during his stay with it.
On board here, as with all the other ships, the officers and crew mustered at "Divisions" at 10 30 a.m., the officers in undress uniform, the Marines drawn up under arms on the poop, under the command of Captain Ley, and the seamen in double lines, under their divisional officers, along the upper deck from the break of the poop to the forecastle. Mr. Childers, accompanied by Rear-Admiral Key, Flag Captain Miller, Captain B. Seymour, private secretary to his Lordship, and other officers, made the "rounds" according to naval Sunday morning customs, first inspecting the officers, seamen, and marines as they were drawn up, and afterwards the mess, berths, &c., on the 'tween decks, displaying the keenest interest throughout, and especially when inspecting the Reserve seamen. Vice-Admiral Dacres followed immediately in the track of his chief, accompanied by Captain G. Willes, R.N., of the Coastguard and Reserve Department, by Commander Bloomfield, and other officers of the ship. Both Mr. Childers and Admiral Dacres were evidently much pleased with all they saw during their inspection, and they had every cause to be so, for a finer body of seamen never stood on the deck of a man-of-war than those just inspected by them on board the Agincourt; and the ship herself, considering the short time she has been in commission, is an honour even to the distinguished flag flying at her main royal mast-head.
Divine service was performed on board the Agincourt by the Rev. Mr. Lang, the chaplain of the ship, who took as his text the 44th verse of the 10th chapter of the Acts. Mr. Childers and his son, with Captains B. Seymour and G. Willes, and Rear-Admiral Key, with the officers and crew of the ship not on duty on deck, Mr. S. Lefevre and the Hon. Mr. Stanley, attended the service. By noon the atmosphere had perfectly cleared, with just enough wind prevailing to keep all the vessels' sails well filled, the fleet being close hauled and heading about S.W. The spectacle was really magnificent, as the two lines of ships, with their white sails from courses to royals, were lighted up with bright sunshine, and the ships heeled over gracefully on the gently heaving sea. By observations taken and logged at noon the position of the fleet was found to be in lat. 41 39 N., long. 5 27 W., about 28 miles south of the Lizard. The weather continued fine and the sea smooth, and the crews of the ships had little to do during the remainder of the afternoon. After the men's dinner hour I accompanied Lieutenant Brown, R.N.R., who is on board here from the office of the Registrar-General of Seamen, on his afternoon visits to the messes of the men of the Naval Reserve. It was a good opportunity for seeing the men in their leisure time off duty. The mess-tables, stools, and deck were as scrupulously clean, everything as completely in its place, and the men as perfectly respectful in their manner as the veriest naval martinet could desire. In answer to questions put to each mess by Lieutenant Brown, no one had any complaint, and all said they were perfectly comfortable, except one strapping fellow, and he only mildly suggested that, as he had lost his knife overboard, it was possible he might be better off with another. This little want of his was soon supplied, and there can be no doubt the man ate his dinner with more comfort the next day, when he would again have a knife to cut his meat with, instead of having to pull it in pieces with teeth and fingers.
At 6 p.m. signal was made for the fleet to tack in succession, in the two lines in open order, at four cables' length distance; all plain sail was being carried to royals, and the light winds had freshened a little during the previous hour and gave the ships plenty of way upon them to perform the manoeuvre, which was accomplished by each ship in the subjoined times:—
The entire fleet had tacked and was standing on the port tack with the vessels' heads W. by N., in 40 minutes 30 seconds. The manoeuvre is very effective at sea with a fleet as large as the present one, but it will be better executed on the second attempt of the Reserve Fleet, one or two of the commanding officers putting their ships about rather out of position. The fleet remained on the same tack during the night until 5 o’clock on the following (Monday) morning, when signal was made to steer a course N.W. for a rendezvous on Jones's Patch, from the fleet's then position, S.W. of the Scilly Islands. At 8 a.m. the fleet, in two lines, under moderate canvas, was bowling steadily along over the "Admiralty Patch" shoal, in line with the westernmost point of Scilly, with the wind on the port beam and at good full-sail strength, looking straight over towards the coast of Ireland, to which, either at Bantry Bay or Queenstown, the fleet would have a short road and a fair wind under the existing conditions of the weather. During part of the previous night, and previous to daylight, the weather had been unpleasantly cold, with occasional heavy showers, but after the fleet had got clear of the Scilly Islands the sun came out brightly and rendered the state of things on deck fresh and invigorating. On the long swell that rolled in from the Atlantic the ships rocked languidly like a school of sleepy whales. About midday signal was made to the Donegal, Mersey, Black Prince, and Cadmus to raise screws, make sail to windward, and try rate of sailing, the four vessels representing four distinct types of ships. The Mersey started close to leeward of the Admiral, under all plain sail to royals, dipping her bows until she buried her hawse-pipes in the sea, and on rising again nearly showing her forefoot. She appeared to be kept too full. The Black Prince came up from her station in the line of the weather quarter of the Admiral under her three courses and fore and main top-gallant sails, and hung there dead, for some time making a long attempt to set her royals with all her other sails shaking. The Cadmus was following with her royals for some time, but seeing the Donegal coming up rapidly, beautifully sailed, she took the alarm, filled her sails, and sailed away splendidly, taking a long lead of all. Soon afterwards a rain squall, coming down upon the fleet, brought with it a northing of the wind, which, gave the Mersey the advantage over the others not gained by mere sailing under fixed conditions, and signal was accordingly made for the four ships to cease chasing and take up their positions in the two lines.
The position of the fleet at noon, by observations, was found to be in lat. 49 28 N., long. 6 38 W. During the day the crews of the several ships of the watches off deck were drilled at divisional quarters and in rifle and cutlass drill. I can only, of course, speak of the appearance of the men on board this ship, but here everything passed with spirit and alertness on the part of every one that came under my notice — Coastguard or Naval Reserve man. Both Coastguard and Naval Reserve men have here, however, as they have in all the ironclads, to learn a gun drill of which neither know anything previous to their present cruise. They have been drilled at their several ports on board such ships as the Duncan, Donegal, or Mersey — ships carrying ordnance that is now quite obsolete. All the four ironclads carry the new naval gun of 6½-tons, and the flagship also carries four of 12-tons. Now the course of drill with this ordnance is totally different from the gun drill of the unarmoured ships, on board which the Naval Reserve and Coastguard men have been trained, and their work in that respect was on this their first day entirely new to them. On board the Agincourt there is, fortunately for the men, an admirable drill master in Gunnery-Lieutenant Martin, and under his sharp incisive mode of instruction, administered with wonderful tact and consideration, the men picked up their new drill wonderfully. In the new cutlass exercise the Naval Reserve men exhibited a proficiency that rather surprised many who saw them. In great gun drill, as with rifle and cutlass, the men appeared to fall naturally and easily into their work, and not languidly, but with the most admirable spirit.
Up to this time fires had been kept alight on board the ships to meet any emergency, but the Agincourt was the only vessel of the fleet that had made much use of her screw, and her rate ranged as low as from 10 to 16 revolutions per minute. In a three hours' carefully-conducted trial, with the screw making 16 revolutions per minute, the consumption of fuel in the Agincourt's stokehold was found to be rather under one ton per hour, and at this very low rate of speed the engines worked with extraordinary smoothness and regularity.
The day's work with the fleet may be said to have closed with sail drill in reefing topsails. Two separate reefs were taken, the times of each being noted, from the moment of the men going aloft to the fair hoisting of the topsails again. Naval Reserve and Coastguard seamen only were on the topsail yards, the seamen belonging permanently to the ships taking the upper yards.
The time occupied by each ship was as follows :—
The Helicon despatch paddle steamer, Commander Field, leaves the fleet to-morrow, Tuesday, at daylight, with a mail from the fleet, for Plymouth, and returns from that port on Wednesday with what mails may be ready there for the fleet, I shall avail myself of the Helicon's trip to Plymouth to forward my report of the doings of the fleet to this date, and have only to add to what I have already said that the greatest unanimity prevails between the officers and seamen of the Regular and Reserve Forces of the Navy in the fleet; that no mischance of any kind that I am at present aware of has occurred, and that the Naval Reserve seamen are behaving admirably and gaining the best opinions from the officers of the fleet. It is not yet known whether the fleet will look in at any port previous to its return to Portland, which is now expected to be about the 25th inst. Mr. Childers and Admiral Dacres remain with the fleet for the present, and the probability is they will remain throughout the cruise.
|Ma 24 May 1869|
THE CRUISE OF THE RESERVE FLEET.
HER MAJESTY'S SHIP AGINCOURT, AT SEA.My letter and telegram, despatched by Her Majesty's ship Helicon, will have informed you of the proceedings of the Reserve Fleet up to the evening of Monday, the 17th inst. On the following morning, soon after daylight, the Fleet "hove to," by signal from the flagship, to deliver letter-bags to the Helicon for conveyance to Devonport, whither the Helicon was bound with Admiralty despatches. It was a lovely morning at sea, but with a suspicious look on the northern horizon, and unusually cold for May. The sun came out brightly; the wind puffed lazily from the S.W. by W.; the sea heaved in vast ridges of foamless waters, and the ships, as they rolled to the swell for want of wind to steady them, dipped deeply, as with unspeakable enjoyment of a summer morning's Atlantic bath. Even the great Agincourt, forgetting her dignity as the flagship of the British Admiralty and her character as a non-roller under any circumstances, condescended to take a few quiet dips, first to port and then to starboard, in company with her consorts.
The Helicon left for Devonport at about 8 a.m., and the fleet was then reformed in two lines under plain sail to topgallant sails, and the course taken for the rendezvous on Jones's Bank, in lat. 50 N., and long. 8 W. Before the fleet had stood long on its course, the sun became gradually obscured, and at length a heavy rain-squall burst over it, which drew the wind round to the north-west, and took every ship aback. Of course, there was no damage done by so slight an affair as a mere rain-squall, but on the sea the scene was changed from the bright promise of a summer's day to the cold blankness of an almost Arctic region. At about 9 30 a.m. Staff-Captain of the Fleet Symonds had a cast of the deep-sea lead taken, as he believed the fleet was now exactly on the spot fixed as the rendezvous on Jones's Bank. On the chart the bank on its edge is marked 42 fathoms, with 70 fathom soundings immediately off the edge. When the lead first reached the ground the line gave the 42 fathom mark, but before it could be lifted it slipped, and the line ran out to 70 fathoms - satisfactory proof enough of the correctness of Staff-Captain Symonds's navigation. Divisional quarters and drills with the batteries and small arms were carried out on board the ships of the fleet throughout the day; and on board this ship I observed the same deference to the orders given by the instructing officers and anxiety to pick up the new drills on the part of the Reserve seamen of which I spoke in my last letter.
The position of the fleet at noon was fixed by observation in lat. 50 1 N., and long. 8 9 W. At 1 30 p.m. the fleet, in consequence of the change in wind, was tacked together to starboard to columns of divisions in lines of bearing from the flagships; and at 3 30 p.m. the fleet again tacked to port, to columns of divisions in line ahead of the flagships. The first evolution took 7 min. 17 sec. in performing, and the second 9 min. 20 sec. The Agincourt, however, it must be said, lengthened the time in each instance, the amount of sail she can set being entirely disproportionate to the size and weight of her hull, and insufficient for any purpose of manoeuvring. The ironclads kept fires alight to enable them to keep position if requisite, but the unarmoured ships had no fires. ln the evening the fleet tacked in succession under the sterns of the leaders, with a fresh N.W. breeze, and in doing it presented a spectacle of wonderful beauty. The fleet was 40 minutes performing the evolution. The topsails were afterwards reduced by another reef, and the fleet sailed on the starboard tack.
As the night grew on the breeze increased, until it appeared to reach its greatest strength at about 3 o'clock on the following (Wednesday) morning, when it steadied to a strong wind, with violent rain-squalls. At 4 30 a.m. the Agincourt's foresail, which had been taken in a short time previously, was set, and the engines, which had been working at their lowest possible speed, were stopped. The fact was that the Agincourt, with her great hull and small canvas, went so well in the strong wind that her scanty canvas enabled her to more than hold her own with the other ships. At daylight all the ships of the fleet were in sight of each other, with the weather column in capital line and distance, but with the lee column disordered by the Royal George and St. George being some miles to leeward of their places in the column.
The Duncan and Agincourt were in company, and at proper distance as leaders, the line-of-battle ship having easily kept her position by her great sailing capabilities, under three double-reefed topsails. The majority of the ships had two reefs in their topsails.
At 6 a.m., on relieving the wheel, the men in changing hands lost control over it; it flew round with tremendous speed, and for a few moments the helm took command of the ship. Then the Agincourt had a little sport on her own account, rolling and plunging wildly, and behaving altogether in a most improper manner. The wheel, however, was soon secured, and the ship brought again under proper control. Immediately afterwards another reef was taken in her topsails, and relieving tackles to the helm rove and manned, and preventer braces rove. A tiny cockboat of a coasting schooner, while the Agincourt and other ships of the fleet were thus employed in battling with the wind, came dancing past the flagship's lee quarter, under reefed canvas, and sailed away three or four points of the course of the fleet, looking vivaciously impudent in such weather, and doing so well in it.
At 9 a.m. the Royal George, which was in company with the St. George, nearly hull down on the horizon to leeward, made signal, "Port bower anchor gone in 60 fathoms." The remainder of the fleet immediately bore down to her before the wind and in a south-easterly direction, but on nearing her it was found that she had recovered both anchor and chain, and the former was again hanging to her bows, "catted and fished." In reply to signal it was satisfactory to find that no one on board had been injured in any way. The cause of the accident remains for future explanation. The fleet reformed columns of divisions in line and stood away, close hauled to the north-westerly breeze, on the starboard tack, until 2 p.m., when order was given for the fleet to wear to port in succession - a manoeuvre, occupying one hour and seven minutes. The distances kept by the weather line was good, but they were not well kept by the lee line.
At noon the position of the fleet was in lat. 49 16 N., long. 9 13 W.
The Agincourt's engines, which had been kept moving at from 10 to 16 revolutions per minute, for reasons that I explained in my last letter, had only required up to this morning the consumption of 8 tons 14 cwt. of coal in the furnaces since she left Portland Roads, and with this 15 tons of water had been condensed.
Thursday forenoon was devoted to gun drill and target practice, and, fortunately, Ocean put on his best behaviour for the occasion, the sea being smooth as an inland lake, and the wind light from the northward. The fleet had been steered during the night for the rendezvous appointed to meet the Helicon on her arrival from Devonport with the Admiralty despatches and the letters for the fleet in lat. 50 N., long. 8 W. Soon after 9 a.m. the two columns into which the fleet was divided were distributed in the form of a great ellipse, and, each ship sending out its targets, commenced practice. What the results on board other ships than this were I am, of course, unable to say. There were great noise and much burning of powder over a great expanse of water, and the passage of the shot from the rifled 6½ and 12 ton guns of the ironclads was attended with a scream exceeding that emitted by the limited Irish mailtrain on emerging from a tunnel's mouth. Here, in the Agincourt, the guns are all of the most modern rifled pattern, mounted on iron carriages and slides, and the working of such weapons had never been even seen by the Coastguard or Naval Reserve seamen previous to their embarkation for the present cruise. In manning the guns for the morning's practice the Naval Reserve seamen filled all the numbers of the 6½ ton guns, except No. 1 (the captain of the gun), from forward of the two midship 12-ton guns, and the Coastguard seamen manned in like manner the guns from thence aft. To each gun a seaman-gunner of the Excellent was appointed as No. 1, or captain, and alongside each gun stood a petty officer instructor from the same ship. On the upper deck two 6½-ton guns forward, and two others of like calibre aft, were manned in the same way. Lieutenant Martin, of Her Majesty's ship Excellent, the officer of whom I spoke in my last letter, had command of the whole, with Lieutenants Thornton, Baker, and Alder as divisional officers.
Preliminary motions were first gone through by all the crews of the guns as a necessary drill, and afterwards one round from each gun, blank, with reduced charges, was fired. This was really the first test of the men's nerves in handling a strange weapon of such formidable look as the new naval rifled gun, and the previous experience of each man of the Naval Reserve might be plainly read in his face as No. 1, with left hand raised in a warning attitude, and with his right hand grasping the trigger line, waited to fire the gun at the word or signal of command. Many of the Reserve men stood alongside their guns with all the well-known stoical bearing of old gunners, and had, no doubt, often handled the trigger line themselves. Others looked at the loaded gun with a somewhat doubtful face. The whole was natural enough. The confident fellow possibly knew more than he chose to tell, and looked by his attitude a true R.N. If he has been so, and the scheme of the Royal Naval Reserve has brought him back to his old allegiance, the greater must be the value of the Reserve in times of need. The other man merely wanted confidence in a gun that he had heard of but never seen before. The first discharge of the guns, however, showed alll hands - Coastguard men and Reserve men - that the rifled guns of the Agincourt were not really more dangerous than the old-fashioned smooth-bores at which they had drilled on board the training ships of their respective districts, and henceforward the men in working the guns looked upon them and handled them almost as pets to whom they had been accustomed for years past. The distances from the guns to the targets varied as the ship drove down, hove to, towards them; and the firing by the Excellent's gunners sighting was not, therefore, so good as usual, or possibly some wrong elevation may have been given them. The best shot of the forenoon was made by one of the Excellent's from a 6½-ton gun, cutting away the staff of one of the targets with its surmounting flag. Nos. 1 and 2 at the guns changed rounds in the main-deck battery, and one Reserve man who filled the place of No. 1 at one of the guns specially distinguished himself by his admirable laying of the gun. The foremost gun on the starboard side of the upper deck, which was laid throughout by a Naval Reserve man as No. 1, and the after gun on the same deck, with a Coastguard man as No. 1, made, with the gun referred to on the main deck, the best general shooting of all. It may be asked, "How did all the numbers at the guns so easily fall into the mode of handling them?" The seeming problem is one that may be easily solved. The men all knew the greater part, if not all, the duties they would have to perform as smoothbore gunners, and to this already acquired knowledge has been added, since they have been on their present cruise, the sensible method of teaching the new gun drill adopted by the instructing lieutenants on board belonging to the gunnery ship Excellent. This is a method that at once appeals to the intelligence of the men under instruction, and incites their taste for the new drill. A gun is manned by a crew of trained seamen from the Excellent, the instructing lieutenant stands by the side of the gun, and the men under instruction form a semicircle in front of him and in rear of the gun. "Now, men," says the officer, "I am going to explain to you the duties of every number at the gun, and as I explain the duties the men now at the gun will go through them in practice, and so you will fully understand me. Now, No. 1's duties, &c."; and in this manner the duties each number has to perform is orally and lucidly explained, while the men at the gun give practical illustration. This is all very simple, yet very sensible and effective, and the results of such instruction were plainly seen during the time the men were at their duties.
It may be now time that I said something of the manner in which the Naval Reserve seamen do their work aloft. As may be anticipated, there is no room for fault-finding with the men of either service, so far as pure seamanship goes, but the work that I have seen might in many instances have been done in less time. I can easily account for this without at all detracting from the men's professional merits. All the ships of the fleet have been sent to sea with only their harbour complement of officers, excepting the gunnery instructing officers, and, as a consequence, when the men went aloft there was no officer with them in the tops, as there always is in men-of-war on ordinary service. Merchant seamen do not as yet quite comprehend the necessity for jumping off to execute an order almost before the last word has left the officer's lips, though they would quickly do so I am convinced from what I have already seen on board this ship. But when a party of seamen are sent aloft, unused to the usages of the Royal Navy, under the command simply of a petty officer, I think they may not "jump" so quickly to any order given by one of their own class as they would to one from an officer, however small a middy the officer might be. It would not have been necessary to refer at all to so small a matter, nor should I have done so but for the probability that the subject may be referred to at some future time by some prejudiced opponent to the Naval Reserve scheme, and a false colouring given to it, and also because there was really nothing else in the conduct or manner of the men in which an improvement might be suggested. The seamen now on board this ship, if trained for three months to work together, would give her the finest crew that ever trod a ship's deck. I believe that, up to the time of writing this letter, not one man belonging to the Naval Reserve or the Coastguard has been “reported," or has given the slightest trouble to his officers by any misconduct on or off duty. At the same time it is necessary I should state here my suspicion that there is one ship in the fleet where things have not gone so pleasantly, and if this should really prove to be the case it is evident that it must be due to want of tact in the government of a large body of men. If a want of tact has been shown, or a disposition to render the position of the men on board irksome to them in any way, so as to cause a "grumble," the officer, whoever he may be, is unfit to command a ship in the Reserve Squadron.
The retreat from quarters was sounded at seven bells, half-past 11 a.m., and the Helicon steamed up alongside the Agincourt from Devonport, which place she had left the previous evening with Admiralty despatches and a mail for the officers and men of the fleet. Thursday is, in nautical parlance, "ropeyarn Sunday" at sea, and accordingly further drills were abandoned for the day and after dinner the pipe was made to make and mend clothes. After the men's supper the fleet was tacked to starboard in succession, in open order of two columns, and stood on to the N.W. under easy sail for the night.
The weather continued fine, with a smooth sea, but an unusually cold wind, and the next morning at 8 o'clock signal was made to furl sails and prepare for evolutions under steam. Previous to entering upon these evolutions the fleet was put on a course about E.S.E., so as to work its way back gradually, but not directly, towards the Channel. At noon the fleet was in lat. 49 43 N., long. 8 44 W., about 100 miles west of Bishop's Light, Scilly, and its next rendezvous was fixed for 20 miles south of the Scilly Islands. The ships being all under steam, drill at the guns, Snider rifle, and cutlass was carried on by the instructing officers throughout the day. All of them, Naval Reserve and Coastguard seamen, continue to enter into their drills with the greatest zest, and consequently to make rapid progress.
The evolutions under steam comprised the following formations from columns of divisions in line ahead, the prescribed distances between each to be two cables' length. Speed, from 5 to 6 knots, the Agincourt's engines making 22 revolutions. Columns of subdivisions in line ahead. Columns of subdivisions to starboard. Columns of subdivisions in line ahead. Alter course 8 points together. Subdivisions in line abreast. Reform columns of divisions in line ahead. All the evolutions were very fairly performed for ships whose officers and crews have never worked together at such manoeuvres before. After they had been brought to a close the fleet was put under plain sail and steered a course nearly S.E., which, if continued, will carry the ships into the next appointed rendezvous off the Lizard.
Tuesday, 8 p.m.The Helicon leaves the fleet in about an hour's time for Devonport with Admiralty despatches and a mail, and I shall forward this letter by her.
The present arrangements are that the fleet shall anchor in Torbay on Monday morning, and be inspected by Mr. Childers, Vice-Admiral Dacres, and Rear-Admiral Key on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning at the latest the fleet will be dispersed, and the ships return to their respective ports - but the Duncan and Black Prince, as having the longest journey before them, may leave the fleet on Tuesday evening. The Agincourt will arrive at Spithead during Wednesday forenoon, when the Admiralty flag will be hauled down from her main and Mr. Childers and Admiral Dacres, Admiral Key, Captains G. Willes and B.P. Seymour, with Mr. Lefevre, M.P., Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, the Hon. Mr. Stanley, and Mr. Childers, jun., will disembark and return to London. The Agincourt will afterwards fill up with coal at Spithead, and then sail for Sheerness.
No accident of any kind that I am aware of has occurred to the present time to any ship, officer, or man in the fleet.
Official. - Letters for the fleet will find the ships anchored in Torbay up to 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
FALMOUTH, Sunday.Wind, S.S.W,, and clear weather. The Experimental Reserve and Coastguard Fleet, comprised of the Agincourt and ten other men of war, with the Helicon despatch-boat, were off this port with a leading wind and under steam and sail from 12 20 p.m. to 2 50 p.m., heaving in sight from the westward off the Manacles and standing to the eastward. The Admiralty flag was hoisted at the main mast of the Agincourt, and this ship, the largest of the squadron, kept the lead of the entire fleet, and appeared to outstrip all the others in speed, although having no canvas hoisted on the two after masts. Four two-decked liners formed the rear squadron, and were at least a league astern of the nearest of the advanced ships, and, unlike them, besides using steam, carried a larger press of sail.
PLYMOUTH, Sunday, 9 p.m.Wind, S.W. The Coastguard Squadron, under steam and canvas, hove in sight from Bovisand at 3 p.m., and at 5 30 p.m. was observed from Plymouth Citadel rounding Rame Head.
They then approached the harbour, and ranged along east and west about a mile outside the breakwater.
Being in single line and under royals they formed altogether a most imposing sight, no way diminished by the addition of the frigates Liffey, Liverpool, and Bristol, and the corvette Penelope, anchored in the Sound.
The squadron was led by the Agincourt, bearing the flag of the First Lord of the Admiralty. She was followed by three armour-plated ships, the wooden frigate Mersey, and a fourth ironclad, which completed the starboard division. The port division was headed by Admiral Hornby, in the Duncan, supported by four other two-decked wooden ships and a 15-gun frigate.
On reaching the east end of the breakwater the Agincourt, followed by the others, bore away for the southward, and when a sufficient offing had been made steam was dropped.
Towards 8 o'clock a boat left Admiral Key's ship for the despatch vessel Helicon which then got up steam and went to the eastward.
The Liffey, being the senior ship in the Sound, saluted the flag of Mr. Childers which was answered by the Agincourt when she had reached some four miles south of the breakwater.
At 8 o'clock the ships were hove to, and from the Hoe it appeared there was some confusion, owing possibly to their having come too close together.
The Government contractor here has received orders to send 19,000lb. of beef to Torbay for the Coastguard Squadron.
|Tu 25 May 1869|
THE CRUISE OF THE RESERVE FLEET.
HER MAJESTY’S SHIP AGINCOURT, AT SEA.On Friday evening, after the departure for Devonport, with Admiralty despatches and a mail, of the Helicon, paddle despatch vessel, Commander E. Field, the fleet was tacked in order of succession, and hauled to the wind in open order for the night, under plain sail to topsails and topgallant sails, with the wind light and nor'-westerly.
On Saturday morning, soon after 7 o'clock, the fleet bore up to signal in close order, and stood away on a south-easterly course for the next appointed rendezvous, 20 miles south of the Lizard, with the wind light on the port quarter, a smooth sea, and the lightly-swelling sails of the ships, tinted with the pale gleams of the morning sun. By 10 o'clock the wind was only propelling the fleet at the rate of four-and-a-half knots, when, as the fleet was still outside the "Haddock bank," and it was desired to sight Scilly the same evening, topsail and topgallant studding sails were got out on the port side and permission given to the ironclads to use steam sufficiently to enable them, to keep pace with the other ships of the fleet, the revolutions of the Agincourt's engines being increased at the same time to 22 per minute.
At noon the fleet was in lat. 49 23, long. 7 40, Bishop's Rock, Scilly, bearing N. 58 E., distant 55 miles. The wind had freshened to a nice full sail breeze, and the two lines of ships bowled along over the smooth sea in glorious style, with every inch of their canvas drawing at its best. Being Saturday, the day was devoted to cleaning up decks, &c., in preparation for Sunday, and no drills of importance were carried out on board any of the ships. In fact, the drills might now be considered at an end, as on Sunday such matters, even at sea, are out of the question, and on Monday the fleet would be preparing to anchor in Torbay on the termination of its cruise. So, with the wind fair, the sea smooth as the grass on a croquet-lawn, and the sun shining down brightly on the two magnificent lines of ships, the fleet held on its way for the Channel and home moorings.
THE CHANNEL, Sunday.The times for noon observations and the working out of latitudes and longitudes with the Reserve Fleet of the present year may be said to have passed away, the fleet having entered the Channel this morning, and now working its way leisurely along the coast towards its final rendezvous in Torbay. This morning came in, and the day has continued, as beautiful as was the previous night. The surface of the sea at daylight was perfectly calm, and the sun’s warmth when shining in its greatest strength later in the day was pleasantly tempered by a light breeze from the northward and westward. The fleet approached the rugged Cornish coast between the Land's End and the Lizard in one magnificent line of 2½ miles in length, under all plain sail and low steam, the smoke from the funnels ascending in light vapouring columns above the sails. On the left hand, at 7 a.m., nearly abreast of the centre of the line of ships, was that solitary horror, the "Wolf" Rock, the new light-tower on which is now, happily, nearly completed. Further on ahead lay the Longship Rocks, with their light-tower, just in advance of the rugged face of the Land's End. Along the coast, a little south of the Land's End, rose Firethensbras Point, with its vast caverns mined by the Atlantic, and right ahead of the fleet was Penzance Bay, with Beast Point and the Lizard terminating the view of the coast line on the right. On, past Penzance, Marazion, and St. Michael's Mount and Castle, the fleet passed in stately procession, and then helms were put down, and the fleet stood out to clear Lizard Point, the Scylla being at the same time despatched south to pick up the Helicon steamer, expected from Devonport with despatches from the Admiralty and a mail for the ships of the fleet. From Penzance Bay extra steam was put on as the ships put their helms aport to clear Beast Point at the Lizard, the bold points of the coast, bearing unpronounceable names, including the headland of Pradanack, well-known to mariners, lying between Penzance and the Beast, were soon passed, and the two towers of the Lizard lights with their intermediate block of buildings, all in white stone, glistened brightly under the midday sun as the fleet hauled round the grim-looking point up to the course for the Rame Head. At about 1 p.m. Falmouth harbour lay open on the lee beam of the fleet, and at 3 p.m. the red and white bands of the Eddystone Lighttower rose to sight on the starboard bow of the Agincourt. Off Falmouth the Helicon joined, and the Agincourt, sheering to starboard and out of the line, received from her the Admiralty despatches and ships' mail, after which she put on steam again and resumed her place at the head of the line. With the wind light from the south-west, the sea smooth as a sheet of glass, steaming at about half speed, and with all sail still set, the fleet continued its course for Rame Head. Divine service was performed on board all the ships of the fleet at the usual time during the forenoon, all officers and men that could be spared from constant duty attending. On board this ship the service was attended, as on last Sunday, by Mr. Childers, the First Lord of the Admiralty; Vice-Admiral Dacres, the First Sea Lord; Captain B. Seymour, private secretary to Mr. Childers; Captain G. Willes, of the Coastguard and Naval Reserve Department; Mr. S. Lefevre, M.P., Hon. Mr. Stanley, Mr. Childers, jun., the secretaries in attendance, &., in addition to Rear-Admiral A. C. Key and his officers. The Rev. Mr. Lang, chaplain of the ship, officiated, and took as his text the 3d chap. Heb., 15 v.
A few minutes before 5 p.m. the fleet was passing Rame Head, close in with the shore, and shortly afterwards opened to view from Plymouth, rounding Penlee Point under reduced speed, but with all sail set, the Agincourt leading in with the fleet in splendid line and distance. Luffing round Penlee Point Bay, the ships stood slowly for a short time with their heads looking towards the lighthouse on the west-end of the breakwater; but, Cawsand Bay half crossed, the Agincourt ported her helm and took the 11 war-ships astern of her in grand procession along the outer face of the breakwater, until nearing the Mew Stone, when the whole of the ships in succession hauled their wind to the southward and stood out into the Channel in two columns of divisions with their heads to the southward for the night. As the last ship of the fleet passed along the outer face of the breakwater, the Admiralty ensign flying at the main royal masthead of the Agincourt was saluted from a frigate in the Sound with 17 guns, as from the flagship of the Port Admiral at Devonport, and the Agincourt returned the salute with 17 guns.
7 p.m.The Helicon, I have just this moment learnt, leaves the fleet for Plymouth or Torbay in a few minutes. I therefore send this letter by her, and necessarily without giving it any revision. The fleet will lay off the land to-night, to-morrow have a day's exercise in evolutions under steam, and in the evening anchor in Torbay. On Tuesday morning the fleet will be inspected by Mr. Childers, Sir S.C. Dacres, and Admiral Key, and after that the Reserve Fleet of the present year will be dispersed, and the ships return to their stations. The Agincourt steams from Torbay to Spithead, where the Lords of the Admiralty, as I have already informed you, disembark on Wednesday.
TORQUAY, Monday Evening.The fleet has been engaged in evolutions under steam off Torbay all day, and at 5 this afternoon steamed in for the bay, where all anchored soon after.
|We 26 May 1869|
THE CRUISE OF THE RESERVE FLEET.
HER MAJESTY’S SHIP AGINCOURT, OFF BERRY HEAD, THE CHANNEL,
The fleet, after the departure of the steamer Helicon for the shore last evening, stood "off and on" in two columns of divisions until daybreak, when the fleet was standing to the S.E. under easy canvas. Steam was soon afterwards got up in the boilers, and about 8 a.m. sails were furled by the watch, and signals made to prepare for evolutions under steam. These were executed immediately off Torbay, and an excellent view of them must have been obtained from the numerous villas which cover the slopes of the high land overlooking Babbicombe Bay. The state of the weather was peculiarly favourable for the execution of such manœuvres as those proposed to be carried out, there being quite smooth water, with a light southerly wind, although the morning was somewhat overcast.
The morning evolutions comprised,—
1. From columns of divisions abreast to single line abreast, turning to starboard.
2. To single column in line ahead, turning to starboard.
3. Course altered in succession 16 points, reversing the course of the fleet in its formation of single column in line ahead.
4. To columns of subdivisions abreast, turning to starboard.
5. Helms starboarded, bringing the columns of subdivisions abreast, with their heads to the westward.
6. Course altered four points to port, bringing the heads of the ships on a course clear of the land.
The weather line performed all these evolutions exceedingly well; but the lee line — the two-decker line — was not quite so successful.
The evolutions were suspended from noon until 1 p.m., when the Helicon arrived from Dartmouth with the Dapper screw gunboat in tow, both having naval cadets on board belonging to the training-ship Britannia, lying in Dartmouth harbour, who had been sent for to witness the remainder of the evolutions. The afternoon evolutions consisted of,—
1. Columns of subdivisions, to port, in line abreast.
2. Course altered together eight points.
3. To columns of divisions in line ahead, turning to starboard.
4. Course altered for the anchorage in Torbay, the speed of the engines being reduced to "slow."
TORBAY, 6 30 p.m.The fleet are now anchoring in the bay in two lines, the inner line consisting of Rear-Admiral Hornby's division of five two-decked liners and the Scylla corvette, and the outer line of Rear-Admiral A.C. Key's division, consisting of the four ironclads, the Mersey frigate, and the Cadmus corvette. The inspection is fixed for the morning.
|Th 27 May 1869|
THE RESERVE FLEET.
PLYMOUTH, Wednesday morning.Five ships belonging to the Coastguard Squadron, from the eastward, arrived in the Sound this morning — viz., the Valiant (24), Capt. Pullen (Shannon); the Mersey (36), Capt. Seccombe (Queenstown); the Black Prince (41), Capt. Gordon (Greenock); the St. George (72), Capt. Nolloth (Portland); and the Donegal (81), Capt. Turnour (Birkenhead).
A considerable number of the Royal Naval Reserve men have already landed from the ships' boats. Others are being conveyed in the steam-tender Bann from the Sound to Hamoaze.
10 a.m.Signals are hoisted which indicate the approach of other ships.
The Mersey, one of the Coastguard Squadron, which arrived in Plymouth Sound yesterday morning, left at 11 a.m. for the westward. The St. George followed at 2 p.m., and the Black Prince at 4 p.m.
The Royal George, 72, Captain Jenkins, C.B., from the eastward, arrived in the Sound yesterday morning.
|Th 27 May 1869||The Agincourt ironclad, Capt. Miller, flagship of Rear-Admiral A.C. Key, C.B., Commander-in-Chief of the Coastguard and Naval Reserve Fleet, arrived at Spithead yesterday morning under the customary salute, with the Admiralty Flag at the main, having on board the First Lord of the Admiralty, Mr. Childers, M.P.; Vice-Admiral Sir S.C. Dacres, K.C.B.; and Capt. B. Seymour, A.D.C. to the Queen, and private secretary to the First Lord. The Enchantress Admiralty Yacht, Staff-Commander Petley, was in attendance, in which their Lordships embarked, entered Portsmouth harbour and landed at the dockyard, where they were received by the Commander-in-Chief of the Port, Vice-Admiral Sir J. Hope, K.C.B., Rear-Admiral Wellesley, Admiral Superintendent, and other officers. Their Lordships, after paying a short visit to the Hercules ironclad, Capt. Lord Gilford, alongside the jetty, left by train for London. The Agincourt sailed in the afternoon for Sheerness, the supernumeraries on board having returned to the Duke of Wellington.|
The screw steamship Duncan, Capt. C. Fellowes, carrying the flag of Rear-Admiral Hornby, as second in command; the Hector ironclad, Capt. De Horsey, and Helicon, tender, Commander Field, subsequently arrived at Spithead. The Helicon went into Portsmouth harbour; the Hector proceeded to take up her old position in Southampton Water for Coastguard service, and in the afternoon the Duncan left Spithead for Scotland for the like purpose.
|Fr 28 May 1869|
THE CRUISE OF THE RESERVE FLEET.
HER MATESTY'S SHIP AGINCOURT, SPITHEAD, May 26.In Torbay on Tuesday morning signal was made for all the ships of the fleet to get out steam launches, and get up steam in their boilers. This necessarily occupied some time, but at length all were in the water alongside their respective ships and reported ready. The Pigeon, screw gunboat, arrived early in the morning from Devonport with Admiralty despatches, and the Dapper, screw gunvessel, arrived soon afterwards from Dartmouth. Mr. Childers, Vice-Admiral Sir Sidney Dacres, and Rear-Admiral Key left the Agincourt about 9 30 a.m. to inspect the fleet previous to its dispersion on the close of its present cruise, and this mustering of the crews at divisions was, therefore, the work of the morning, accompanied with marine guards on the quarter-decks and poops, and the playing of the bands of the ships in honour of the First Lord and his accompanying officers. By the courtesy of the Lords of the Admiralty with the Fleet and of Rear-Admiral Key, the Admiral Commanding-in-Chief, I was enabled to visit the ships at the same time this inspection was made, and availed myself, therefore, of the opportunity to make myself fully acquainted with the state of matters as regarded the Royal Naval Reserve seamen on board the other ships of the fleet, as I have endeavoured to do on board here, - that is, comparatively speaking, for here I have been a constant witness to all that has occurred, whereas in the other nine ships of the fleet I could only expect to gather a general summary and opinion upon the subject. I have, however, done this much with the utmost care and impartiality, and shall give the results of my inquiries on board each ship as nearly as possible, in the first instance, in the words in which they have been given to me by the officers on board. I must, however, place the ship I am now writing from, and on board which I have been doing the whole cruise, as the readers of The Times will have understood from my letters from the fleet, first on the list, as the flagship of the Admiral Commanding-in-Chief, and here I speak from my personal knowledge. There has been no hitch or difficulty of any kind from first to last. The men have worked hard, have always been obedient to orders, have entered into their drills with wonderful spirit, have gained the esteem and respect of both officers and men of the regular service on board, and have left nothing at all to be desired in their conduct or manners as men serving on board one of Her Majesty's ships of war, excepting that they want a month or two's drill to make them thoroughly up to the requirements of their position and qualifications as trained seamen of Her Majesty's Navy. This done, the Agincourt, as I have stated before, would possess in the men now on board the finest and best-disciplined crew of seamen that ever trod the deck of a ship of-war. No man of the Reserve or the Coastguard I must say, but the Reserve seamen are the present consideration, has been reported for any misconduct throughout the cruise. But, good as the Reserve seamen on board this ship most undoubtedly are, these highly satisfactory results are due as much to the tact and consideration of the officers of the ship as they are to the merits of the men themselves. I say this advisedly, because I know, from many years' experience of a seaman's life and nature, how much depends upon the officers over him to give that life a colour one way or the other, as his tastes or prejudices may incline him. In the present instance, where Naval Reserve seamen from our merchant ships have been working during an experimental cruise with seamen of the Coastguard service, and seamen of the regular Navy - hitherto three distinct and decidedly antagonistic classes - such satisfactory results have been attained that all the governing powers on board, from Mr. Childers, Admirals Dacres and Key, downwards through every commissioned rank in the ship, profess to be more than satisfied. I shall treat the other shins of the Fleet more briefly, and give, as I have just intimated, the results of my inquiries on board, in as nearly as possible the words they were given to me on board:-
The Duncan.- "No complaint or report of misconduct whatever. All very good men indeed, and only want a month's drill and discipline to render them the finest seamen in the world.” - Captain Fellowes.
The Trafalgar.- Conduct of the men generally very good. Some men have been reported for slackness in obeying orders, and one man put in cells for speaking insolently to the Master-at-Arms. This man forfeits his suit of clothes given by the Admiralty, and loses the pay due to him for the cruise.
The Royal George.- No man reported for misconduct.
The St. George.- No men reported for any misconducts and no complaint whatever could be made against them.
The Donegal.- "The men have behaved uncommonly well, and only hoped that the men liked the ship as well as he liked the men." - Captain Turnour.
The Mersey,- "A fine set of fellows, and no fault of any kind could be preferred against them." -Captain Seccombe.
The Hector.- No complaint of any kind against the general conduct of the men; but two men had their grog stopped for being below when they ought to have been on deck.
The Valiant.- No fault of any kind to be found with the men, excepting that they were a little slack in one or two instances in obeying orders when piped up from below.
The Black Prince.- The men generally conducted themselves very well, and none committed themselves of as far as to be brought on the quarter-deck report before the captain.
After having completed the inspection of the ships the Admiralty barge, towed by the steam launch of the flagship, returned to the Agincourt, the guns of the Duncan, screw two-decker, flagship of Rear-Admiral Hornby, firing a salute of 19 guns. Manning yards was considerately dispensed with, owing to the state of the weather, a succession of rain squalls sweeping over from the southward. Later in the day Mr. Childers and Sir Sydney Dacres paid a second visit to the line-of-battle ships and saw their crews at divisions, Lieutenant Allen Young, R.N.R., commanding the Reserve seamen on board the Agincourt, and Lieutenant Brown, R.N.R., from the Office of the Registrar-General of Seamen, accompanying their Lordships, by Mr. Childers' special desire. Torbay was studded all day with yachts, pleasure boats, and excursion steamers from Torquay, come out to see the Reserve Fleet, notwithstanding the unpleasant state of the weather, the people in which cheered vociferously as they passed each ship.
After the inspection of the Fleet had been concluded the subjoined circular was issued from the Agincourt to the Fleet:-
"The First Lord of the Admiralty and the First Sea Lord, before leaving the Squadron of Reserve, commanded by Rear-Admiral Key, C.B., and Rear-Admiral Hornby, desire to express to the officers and men of the Royal Naval Reserve who embarked for the Whitsuntide cruise the satisfaction with which they have witnessed both the readiness of the Reserve to volunteer for this service, and the general willingness and good conduct of the men during the cruise. They have also noticed, with marked approval, the order and cleanliness of the force."
"2. They are glad to find that the officers and men of the Coastguard, in respect both of efficiency and of good conduct, thoroughly realize the expectations formed of a body of men especially selected from the Navy to constitute its First Reserve.
"3. They are also entirely satisfied with the behaviour of the officers and men of the Fleet.
"4. The good feeling which has prevailed during the cruise between the three branches of the service enables the First Lord and the First Sea Lord to express their hope that in future years opportunities may be again afforded for the exhibition of this harmony, so essential to the strength of the British Navy.
"Her Majesty's Steamship Agincourt,
"Torbay, May 26."
In the evening the fleet was supposed to be dissolved, and, after a redistribution of the Reserve seamen to the ships of their respective ports, each ship sailed out of the bay for her destination. The Agincourt left the bay under steam at 11 p.m., and arrived at Spithead at 9 30 a.m. to-day, where she found at anchor the Minotaur, flagship of Vice-Admiral Sir T. Symonds, Commanding-in-Chief the Channel Squadron; the Duncan, screw liner, just in from Portland, and the Warrior, Captain Boys, together with the Admiralty yacht Enchantress and the Helicon. Mr. Childers and Sir Sydney Dacres, with Captains B. Seymour and J. Willes, and Staff, disembarked from the Agincourt soon after her arrival, under a salute of 19 guns to the Admiralty ensign, as it was hauled down from the masthead of the great ironclad and transferred to that of the yacht.
In conclusion I wish to state emphatically my opinion that in the selection of Rear-Admiral Key by the Admiralty for the command of the Reserve Fleet of 1869 the "right man was put in the right place." A thorough gentleman, and without a superior as a seaman or gunnery officer, he has filled a most onerous appointment with great ability. In all these respects, indeed, he has been ably seconded by Captain T. Miller, Commander Bloomfield, Senior Lieutenant Clarkson, and all the officers serving during the cruise on board the Agincourt, and to all these gentlemen my best thanks are due for their extreme courtesy and kindness, displayed in every possible way during the cruise.
PORTSMOUTH, 3 p.m.The Agincourt sailed half an hour ago for Sheerness, where she will enter upon her duties as flagship to the Port-Admiral of the station. She took round with her the Reserve seamen belonging to the port of London.
The following is a copy of the official return of the coals burnt by the fleet during the cruise. It will be seen that the total amount is very small for the number of ships, and the time the fleet sailed from Portland until its return to Torbay at the end of the cruise.-