THE GOOD OLD TIMES.
A SHEAF OF ANECDOTES OF THE BRITISH NAVY.
Here is a story of Sir George Rooke. Before he rose to the rank of admiral he had served as captain of marines, and chanced to be quartered upon the coast of Essex, where the ague made great havoc amongst his men. The parson ol the village where he lay was so harassed by the frequent necessity of performing the burial service that at length he stoutly refused to bury any more of them without being paid the fee that he would receive for an ordinary parishioner. The captain made no words ; but the next that died he ordered to be carried to the parson's house and laid upon the table in his great hall. The clergyman gave in, but preserved his advantage in the contest of wis by sending to say that "if the captain v. t.uld cause the body to be removed lie would nevermore dispute with him ; nay, he would readily bury him and his whole company for nothing." Similar was the spirit displayed by a Captain St. Loe, commander of a British man-of-war lying in Boston harbor. He happened to go ashore on a Sunday, and was promptly arrested by the Puritan Bostonians for walking on the Lord's Day. On Monday he was haled before a Justice and fined. Refusing to pay, he was clapped into the stocks, and there sat for an hour, while the colonists admonished him to respect in future the God-fearing ordinances of New England. The captain pulled his hat over his eyes and chewed the cud of his revenge. When the hour was up and he was liberated, he stood up, shook hands, declared he was much edified by the discourse to which he had listened and the punishment he had suffered. The good folks rejoiced in his conversion, which (luring the next few weeks they had every reason to think sincere. On the day fixed for the man-of-war to sail, they accepted his warm invitation to a farewell dinner on board.
The dinner was excellent. Food and drink were fast disappearing, and the merriment ran high, when a body of sailors broke in on the feast, seized the jovial elders, stripped and trussed them, carried them up on deck, and tied them up for a whipping. " When they had suffered the whole of the discipline," says the story, "which had flayed them from the nape of the neck to the hams, the captain took a polite leave, earnestly begging them to remember him in their prayers. They were then let down into the boat that was waiting for them, the crew saluted them with three cheers, and Captain St. Loe made sail." J?ut there are other stories of the admirals that show a scrupulous reverence for things sacred, .and scrupulous regard for the courtesy of nations. When Blake wan at Malaga with the English fleet, some of his sailors, being on shore, ridiculed the Host as it passed them in the street; the priest highly resented this insult to his religion, and excited the people to avenge themselves by beating the sailors very severely. When they returned on board they complained tothe Admiral, who sent a trumpet to the Governor, demanding that the priest should be sent on board to him. The Governor returned for answer that " he had no power over the church, and could not send him." Blake sent a second message, that he would not enter into the question of the Governor's power, but if the priest were not on board within three hours he should destroy the town. The alarmed inhabitants promptly compelled the Governor to submit. The priest came on boai.! and excused himself by representing the j improper behaviour of the sailors; whereupon Blake, with much calmncßS, told him : *' If you bad complained to mo of this outrage I would have punished the men severely j for I suffer no one under my orders to affront the established religion of any place where I touch. But you are to blame for setting on a mob of Spaniards to beat them ; and 11 would have you and the whole world know | that none but an Englishman shall chastise an Englishman." It was Sir John Moore who said to certain of his sailors who wished to attack and plunder a village : "It is beneath us, lads, to render a crowd ef poor people miserable by destroying their habitations and comforts of life." And there ia a story of old Captain Killigrew which shows a restraint even nobler. He was cruising with six frigates in 1695, and fell in with a couple of French men-of-war. When Killigrew came up with one of them (the Content) the whole French crew were at prayers, and he might have poured in a broadside with great advantage. This, however, ho refused to do. " No, no," he said ; '" bide awhile. It is beneath the courage of Englishmen to surprise their enemies in such a posture." And if we come to me*e politeness, what can be finer than the following, of which Howe is again the hero? His' Memoirs' tell us that once when his fleet lay off Cape Race two large French men-of-war were dis. covered. Howe crowded sail, and ran alongside the hinder Frenchman, which proved to betheAlclde. "IsitpeMieorwar? asked the French captain. "Prepare for the worst," answered Howe; " for every moment I expect a signal from the flag-ship te fire upon you for not bringlng-to." As he spoke , he observed a crowd of officers and ladies on the deck ; so, pulling off his hat, he begged them in French to go below. " You have no personal business in the action," he explained, "and therefore I would regret! deeply the shedding of innocent blood." The French captain refused to yield. "Look," said Howe, pointing to the red flag just hoisted by the flag-ship, " there is the signal to engage." " Commencez, s'U j vows plait," called out the French commander. " S'il vous plait, monsieur, de com- < mencer," answered Howe, The two broadsides roared out almost together. In half an hour the Alcide, which carried fewer men , than Howe's ship, had struck and was taken. " My lads," cried Howe to his crew, " they have behaved like men; treat them like men." I This courtesy in warfare was not con-; fined to the admirals, as witness the following authenticated yarn : Daniel Bryan was an old seaman, and captain of the foretop, who had been turned over from the Blanche into Sir Sidney Smith's ship, Le Tigre. During the seige of Acre this hardy veteran made repeated applications to he employed on shore; but as he was an elderiy man and rather deaf, his request was not acceded to. At the first storming of the breach by the French, i among the multitude of slain fell one of the generals of that nation. The Turks in triumph struck off the head of this unfortunate officer, and, after inhumanly mangling the body with their sabres, left it naked, a prey to the dogs. As it lay thus exposed, a dreadful memento of the horrors of war, when any sailors who had j been on shore returned to their ship, in- ■ quiries were constantly made respecting the j state of the deceased general. Dan frequently asked his messmates why they had not buried him; but the only reply feat he received was: "Go and do it yourself, j Dan swore he would, observing that he had himself been taken prisoner by the French, who always gave their enemies a decent burial, not like those Turks, leaving them to rot above board. In the morning, having at length obtained leave to go and see the town, he dressed himself as though on an excursion of pleasure, and went ashore with the surgeon fa the jolly-boat. About an hour or two after, while the surgeon was dressing the wounded Turks in the hospital, in came Dan, exclaiming " I've been burying the general, sir, and now I'm come to see the ; sick." Not particularly attending to the tar's salute, but fearful of his catching the plague, the surgeon immediately ordered him ont. Returning on board, the surgeon inquired of the coxswain if he had seen old Dan. "Yes, ha has been burying the French general." The boat's crew, who witnessed the generous action, thus related Sts circumstances: — The old man procured a pickaxe, a shovel, and a rope, and insisted on being let down •out of a port hole close to the breach. Some of hw more juvenile companions offered to Attend him. " No f' he replied; " you are too young to be shot yet. As for me, I am old and deaf, and my loss would be no great matter." Persisting in his adventnre, in the midst of the firing Dan was slung *nd lowered down, with his implements of motion on his shoulder. His first difficulty, not a very trivial one, was to ilrive away the dogs. The French now
levelled their pieces—they were on the instant of firing at the hero. It was an exciting moment; but an officer, perceiving the friendly intentions of the aailor, was seen to throw himself across the file. Instantly the din of arms, the thunder of the cannonade died away; a dead, solemn silence prevailed, and the worthy fellow consigned the corpse to its parent earth. He covered it with mould and Btones, placing a large stone at its head and another at itsfeet. ButDan'staskwasnotyetcompleted. The grave wa* formed, but the epitaph was still lacking. Dan, with the peiuliar air of a British sailor, pulled a piece of chalk from his pocket, and wrote on the stone —'* Here you lie, old crop." He was then, with his pickaxe and shovel, hoisted into the town, and the hostile firing at once recommence,!. A few days after, Sir Sidney, hearing the story, ordered Dan to be called to his cabin. " Well, Dan, I hear you have buried the French general." "Yes, your honor." " Had you anybody with you ?" " Yes, your honor." " Why, they told me you had not." " But I had, your honor," "Ah ! who was it?" "God Almighty, your [honor." " A very good assistant. Give old Dan a glass of grog." Dan drank his grog and left the cabin, highly gratified. He was afterwards a pensioner in the Royal Hospital at Greenwich. Here you have "the spirit of your fathers " "to a nicety. Let us give another instance of the wf«y in which the peculiar humor of the commander is caught and reproduced by his men : One day as the brave Admiral Kempeufelt, afterwards so unhappily lost in the Royal George, was coming into port to have his ship paid off, a sailor eyed with great earnestness a gold-laced waistcoat which his commander wore, and, stepping up to the admiral, begged in his best sea fashion to know who made it. The admiral, catching his drift, gave him the necessary information, and Jack went ashore. He forthwith applied to the admiral's tailor, who, knowing the humors of his customers, went with him to buy the materials, and at last asked what he would have the back made of. " Made of!" said Jack : " why, the same as the front, to be sure !" The man remonstrated, but in vain ; so the waistcoat was made as ordered, and put on, with an old greasy jacket over it. One day, in the High street, the admiral met his man in this curious dress. But his laughter was not a little increased when Jack, coming up to him, lifted the hind part of his jacket, and, showing his gold-laced back, exclaimed: " See here, old boy, no false colors. Stem and starn alike, by George!" Or take this story:—General Mackensie, of the marines, was a martinet; and, among other regulations, would suffer no officer to be saluted on guard if out of his uniform. It one day happened that the general observed a lieutenant of marines in plain dress, and, though he knew the young officer intimately, he called to the sentinel to turn him out. The officer appealed to the general. "I know you not," said Mackensie; " turn him out! " A shqrt time after, the general had been at a small distance from Chatham to pay a visit, and, returning in the evening in a blue coat, claimed entrance at the yard-gate. The sentinel demanded the countersign; the general did not know it, but ordered the officer of the guard to be sent for, who proved to be the lieutenant that had been treated so cavalierly. "Who aje you?" inquired the officer. " I am General Mackensie." "What! without a uniform? Oh ! get back, get back, impostor! The general would break your bones if he knew you assumed his name." Mackensie made his retreat, and next day, inviting the young officer to breakfast, told him "he had done his duty with very commendable exactness."
With few exceptions they were not a learned lot in His Britannic Majesty's navy. Take the case of the same old Admiral Gay ton, whom we saw just now crawling up on the Antelope's deck and telling his men that, though unable to stand, he would sit and see them fight. He had on board with him several chests of specie, his own private wealth. " Why put yourself to this trouble," asked his friends, " when you can remit the money so much more easily in bills?" "No ; I'm not such a fool as to part with mosey for paper." "Then why not send it home in a seaworthy frigate instead of that battered old tub the Antelope?" "No, my money and I will take passage in the same bottom ; and if we are lost, there will be an end of two bad things at once." Or of Sir Samuel Cornish. He was a man who had risen solely by his merit from a very humble walk of life; consequently his acquisitions as a scholar fell something short of his abilities &* an admiral. At the surrender of Manila, in 176,?, his colleague, Colonel Praper, who was a distinguished scholar, carried on all the negotiations relative to the ransom of the city in Latin. The payment of the ransom was afterwards shamefully evaded. "Very well," said Cornish, " never ask me again to accept a command in conjunction with a fellow who understands Latin." It may be imagined that the men did not exceed their commanders in scholarship. A band of English sailors being in Lisbon at the time of the peace, and passing by the house of M. Otto, the Frenefc Ambassador, saw among other preparations' the word " Concord " among the illuminations. " Conquered !" said Jack : "they conquer us ! We'll see ;" and immediately battered at the door and demanded the reason of placing that word. It yas explained, but to no purpose. Nor were they satisfied until the objectionable letters wers taken down, and the word " Amity" placed in their stead. But with how noble a note the bold simplicity of these men sometimes rings out! Listec to Nelson, when King George commiserated him on the loss of his arm and his ruined health. "May it pleaso your Majesty, I cau neye* .think that a loss which the performance of ' i«.y .duty has occasioned; and so long as I have a foot to feisfl.d on, I will combat for my king and oosptry." Or to Hardy when, having sailed without orders to Vigo and there taken or destroyed seventeen men-of-war and all the Spanish galleons they convoyed, he was summoned before Rooke. "(&," paid Itooke, "you have done a very important piece of service to the Throne; you have added to the honor and riches of your country by your diligence; but do you know that you are liable at this instant to be shot for quitting your station?" " I knew it," said Hardy, " and I risked it; moreover, I should hold myself unworthy to bear a commission if I counted my life as aught when the glory and interests of my sovereign ftnd country required it." Listen, finally, to the words of Rodney, perhaps the stoutest old hero in all the splendid roll. When in his later days the eld admiral fell into poverty, the Due Do Biron thought to bribe him to the French service by offering him the command of the French West India fleet. The duke invited Rodney to spend some weeks with him, and one fino moraififl! whilst strolling about the grounds began to sousd the admiral on the question. Rodney, not seeing the duke's drift, at first thought him mad, and eyed him with some alarm. At length the fc'Sf.h came out. " Then," says his biogjaplur, "those who remember the worthy admiral, and can recollect the countenance he would assume when anything unexpectedly broke upon him, may imagine his aspect and demeanor. He answered thus : ' My distresses, it is true, have driven me from my country, but no tempfcjion whatever can estrange me from her service, Had this offer been a voluntary one of your own, I should have deemed it an insult.; but lam glad tp knoiiy that it proceeds from a source that can do iio wrong ! '" # These were the men who made Britain the country she is—men rugged, bluff, boyish, desperately valoroup, .ftnd acutely sensitive to dishonor. Is the race 4ead ? or shall we find their suceessora in the day of need—days of such strenuous need as when Rodney raced away to the West Indies and cought and conquered before the Whigs could summon him back, or Duncan met the Dutch off Oamperdown, or Jervis fought off Cape St. Vincent, .or Nelson pulverised the vast schemes of Napolaon jn the Battle of the Nile? For with the answer to this .Question the greatness of England will yet oe tannd up.
Permanent link to this item
THE GOOD OLD TIMES., Evening Star, Issue 8036, 12 October 1889, Supplement
THE GOOD OLD TIMES. Evening Star, Issue 8036, 12 October 1889, Supplement
Using This Item
Allied Press Ltd is the copyright owner for the Evening Star. You can reproduce in-copyright material from this newspaper for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons New Zealand BY-NC-SA licence. This newspaper is not available for commercial use without the consent of Allied Press Ltd. For advice on reproduction of out-of-copyright material from this newspaper, please refer to the Copyright guide.