Fifty Years in the Royal Navy
10:52 h History Lvl 11.35 297.3 mb
Fifty Years in the Royal Navy is the autobiography about the rise of Sir Percy Moreton Scott from officer to Admiral. Scott was an officer in the British Royal Navy in the late 1800s, and the book was published in 1919. Read how this outspoken and often controversial sailor rose to the highest rank in the branch. Scott was a problem solver and engineer and had big ideas that eventually were considered and even used by the Navy.

Fifty Years in the Royal Navy

Percy Scott

Fifty Years in the Royal Navy


In this volume I have set down the recollections of a lifetime of sixty-five years. It deals with my service in the Royal Navy during a period of over half a century. I entered it when most of the ships were propelled by wind, steam being only an auxiliary; our gun carriages differed little from those of Queen Elizabeth’s day; midshipmen were punished in peculiar ways, and seamen received the “cat?” for comparatively minor offences. In 1913 I was retired at my own request, and I thought that my active career had ended. I was mistaken, for, as these pages record, I was drawn into the backwaters of the War and became associated again with gunnery matters, with the fight against the enemy’s submarines, and with the defence of London against aircraft, rendering to the best of my ability what service I could do to the country. I should not have decided to issue these chapters, which I began writing by way of recreation and amusement after I had gone on the retired list, if I did not hope that they might serve a useful purpose in future years.

From the time when I was a junior lieutenant I was interested in gunnery, realising its importance, and this book is devoted mainly to describing my efforts, assisted by other officers — in particular. Admirals of the Fleet Lord Fisher of Kilverstone and Viscount Jellicoe — to improve the shooting of the British Fleet.

How far these pages may prove of general interest I cannot tell, but they will at least show how opposed the Navy can be to necessary reforms, involving radical departures from traditional routine; the extent to which national interests may be injured owing to conservative forces within, and without, the public services; and what injury the country may suffer from politicians interfering in technical matters, which they necessarily do not understand. It is my hope that ultimate benefit may result from an honest attempt to shed light upon matters of vital concern to the nation by means of my personal record. In that belief, these reminiscences have been published, and I would only wish to add that nothing has been set down in malice. My intention has been not to attack persons, but to expose rather the weaknesses and defects of our administrative machinery, in so far as I had experience of it.

Obstinate opposition to change and reform is, in my opinion, a crime. In these days of rapid advance of science and swift development of mechanics, unless we move ahead we are bound to become retrograde. In order to hold our place in the world, in naval as well as in other affairs, we must encourage initiative, and, above all, so far as the Sea Service is concerned, inculcate in our officers ideas consistent with a modem steam Navy, instead of clinging to traditions and routines which were good in their day, but are now obsolete. And I may add that I have not much belief in the influence of an elaborately organised Naval Staff at the Admiralty, for the best creation of that character, possessed by Germany, failed under the test of war, as Lord Jellicoe’s book on the record of the Grand Fleet has revealed. The Navy does not require a greatly expanded Naval Staff sitting in offices at the Admiralty performing routine work, most of which is unnecessary and seems to be done mainly in order to swell the number of officials employed. The Service requires open-eyed, well-educated, progressive, practical seamen, spending most of their time afloat, and when employed at the Admiralty not immersed in day-to-day routine, but with time to think of the needs of the future and how they should be met.

But the root of bad naval administration lies, in my opinion, in the system by which business at the Admiralty is conducted. The civilian element, being permanent, obtains too much influence, and the naval element, which is always changing, has too little influence. The spirit in which work is done is wrong. There is insufficient incentive to encourage the best men. If a man does nothing, or next to nothing, he may be sure that he will do no wrong and his career will not be endangered; hence there arises a general desire to shirk responsibility and to evade making a decision until as many sub-departments as possible are drawn into the discussion. By that widely recognised means the individual who should act evades his personal responsibility and business is delayed, sometimes with serious results to the country.

As an illustration I will take the case of a proposal which is put forward for introducing a new way of firing the guns in His Majesty’s ships, involving alterations of fittings, additional electricity, structural changes, and also affecting the engineering department. When the suggestion reaches the Admiralty the original paper will be marked to be sent for consideration to the Gunnery Department, the Electrical Department, the Dockyard Department, the Chief Constructor’s Department, the Engineering Department, the Third Sea Lord, and the First Sea Lord. No limit of time is fixed; each department can keep the paper as long as it likes; it is passed from one official to another, the speed with which it moves depending upon the pleasure of each official concerned — and frequently it gets lost. I know of one case in which a letter took upwards of a year to circulate through the various departments of the Admiralty.

I suggest that this routine is radically wrong and would not be tolerated by any man accustomed to a commercial firm. He would determine to obtain the opinions of all concerned in any suggestion in the quickest possible time. First of all some one would decide if there was anything in a proposal which merited its being examined. If the decision was in the affirmative several copies would be typed and one copy sent to each person whose opinion it was desired to obtain bearing the date and time when it was sent out and the date for its return. In due course the various replies would reach the heads of the firm and the matter would be dealt with. Under some such system business men conduct their affairs, and they are amazed when they are brought in contact with the Admiralty and other public departments.

War is the supreme test of a naval administration and under that test the routine system of the Admiralty, which is slow, was found wanting. Napoleon once declared: Strategy is the art of making use of time and space. “I am less chary,” he added, of the latter than the former. Space we can recover — but time never! Because Admiralty administration is deplorably slow, it proved unsuited to war, and the nation owes much to Lord Fisher and Lord Jellicoe for their efforts to speed matters up, for in war the enemy does not wait on the convenience of a Government department in which almost every one, civil and naval, is nervous of taking responsibility and acting swiftly and decisively. Successful war-making depends in a large degree on time-saving — rapid, decisive action. The country suffered unnecessarily, and the war was unduly prolonged because that principle was so often ignored.

It is for the country to decide whether the Admiralty shall fall back into its old ways. The policy of circumlocution and delay lies at the base of our bad administration, and not, I am afraid, by any means at the Admiralty only or at the Admiralty conspicuously. At any rate, writing of things I know at first hand, I am convinced we can never hope to obtain a Fleet well equipped, well organised, and well trained, until this system of evading responsibility at the Admiralty is broken, the circulation of papers is speeded up, and the official who shirks responsibility is made to suffer, instead of being promoted as “a safe man.” Individually Civil Servants are men of wide interests whom it is a pleasure to meet, but the system of the Civil Service is, in my opinion, a public danger. This book has been written in vain if it does not carry conviction that our naval administration is based on wrong principles.

Chapter I
Entry into the Navy

Entry into the Navy — Life in the Britannia — My First Sea-going Ship — A Sailing Passage to Bombay — Discipline on Board — Chasing slave Dhows — The Slave Market at Zanzibar — Lessons In Seamanship — Gazetted Sub-Lieutenant — With H.M.S. Active on the West Coast of Africa — Life on Ascension Island — A Punnitive Expedition up the Congo — A Successful Operation — More River Expeditions — On Board the Guardship at Cowes — An Incident of the Crimes.

The association of my family with the Royal Navy goes back for four generations; my great-grandfather was a captain in the Service. My grandfather was a doctor and a man, I believe, of considerable talent. He attempted some innovations in surgery — an art which has, of course, been revolutionised since his time; but the medical profession in those days did not welcome any departure from their recognised and often primitive methods. His inventions included some instruments for assisting the deaf, which I understand came into general use after his death. In the course of my career I was to experience the same sort of attitude on the part of those in authority, and I have sometimes reflected with a passing bitterness how little the obstructive attitude of one generation in such matters differs from that of another.

My father was a solicitor, a good linguist and an excellent public speaker. Foreign business — or the gaming-tables — took him to Baden Baden once a year, and I am told that he was a perfect loser. He was always very good to me and gave me advice that has been invaluable. It was a principle with him never to make a fuss about anything, and he impressed upon me that every occurrence, whatever it might be, should be taken with imperturbable quiet. He would quote that passage from “Pelham” who declares that among the properly educated a calm pervaded all their habits and actions, whereas the vulgar could take neither a spoon nor an affront without making an amazing noise about it. In discussing my future career, he would point out to me that in a household a fussy person could only disturb the few inmates, but in a ship one fussy person might disturb what was equivalent to a whole village. How true I have found that statement in H.M. Navy! His ideas on education were as quaint as those which exist at some of our large English schools and colleges. He wanted me to be taught only Latin and Greek, as he declared that those languages were the foundation of everything. I read Caesar with him, and having won the first prize at my dame’s school, thought I knew something. Then I went on to the University College School and continued to thrive on Latin and Greek.

At 11 1/2 years of age I got a nomination for the Navy and was sent to Eastman’s Naval Academy at Portsmouth. I shall never forget my first interview with the Headmaster. He asked me what I knew. I rather proudly replied that I had done “As in Presenti, Propria qui maribus, Caesar, and had started Ovid.” He told me that they required living languages in the Navy, and that I was dreadfully backward in all useful subjects. He added that I should have to work half my playtime, and even then he doubted if I should be able to pass the qualifying naval examination. Subsequently he took a great interest in me, was most kind in helping me with my extra lessons, and a month before the examination prophesied that I was sure to pass.

The exciting day for us all at length arrived, and about a hundred little boys presented themselves at the Royal Naval College, Portsmouth, for examination. A week afterwards I was gazetted a naval cadet in H.M. Navy. Sixty-four had passed in. I was forty-sixth on the list and one place above me was a candidate who was destined to become Field-Marshal Viscount French. Forty years later we, side by side, marched past H.M. King Edward VII at Aldershot. Sir John French (as he then was) commanded the Army and I the Naval Brigade.

Before joining the Britannia we naval cadets were given a month’s leave. My father thought it would be a good thing for me to see something of the war then in progress between Prussia and Austria, so he took me to Germany. The Prussians entered Wiesbaden the day we arrived. The next morning all the sentry boxes and flag-staves were painted black and white instead of red and white, and the Black Eagle was flying everywhere. In another town near where a battle had been fought we saw a large square full of wounded men and prisoners. Thus at the age of thirteen I was an eye-witness of some of the effects of war.

On the 26th August, 1866, I went to Dartmouth and joined H.M.S. Britannia. She was an old three-decker, fitted with a large mess-room for the cadets. We each had a sea chest and we slept in hammocks. The decks were well saturated with salt water every morning, summer and winter, and the authorities considered that this hardened the cadets. Possibly it did; at any rate it weeded out those who were not strong.

We were kept in very good discipline. The birch was used freely. It was administered publicly with great ceremony, and was the only punishment that incorrigible boys did not like. No idea of disgrace was attached to it, but it hurt. How stupid it is to talk of doing away with the birch at our public schools! In a large community of boys there will always be a small percentage of very black sheep who have no good side to their nature to appeal to, and who, unless well birched, will encourage other boys to follow their bad example.

Shortly after I joined it was rumoured that the damp and evil-smelling old ship was not a suitable home for boys of between thirteen and fourteen years of age, and that she was to be done away with. The Commissioners of the Admiralty considered the question, and successive Boards discussed it, but as the matter was important they did not act hastily — their deliberations, in fact, extended over about thirty years. Finally, in 1898, work was begun on a college on shore in place of the Britannia, and the old ship of many memories was doomed.

On leaving the Brittania I joined H.M.S. Bristol, a 50-gun frigate; she was employed as a sea-going training ship. From there, on the 25th August, 1868, I went to my first real sea-going ship, the Forte, a 50-gun frigate of 2,364 tons. She had engines, but of such small horsepower that they were only serviceable in a flat calm.

We started from Sheemess, and en route to Portsmouth we youngsters were fortunately introduced under sail to a gale of wind. Four hours on deck, close-reefing the topsails and clearing away broken spars, probably cured every one of sea-sickness for the remainder of their lives — at any rate, it cured me. An excitement of this sort is, I believe, the only cure for sea-sickness. We got to Spithead and we midshipmen were delighted at being turned out in the middle of the night for a collision. Colliding with or being rammed by another ship, or ramming another ship, is a necessary part of an officer’s education. In this case the barque Blanche Maria had got across our bows, at the change of the tide. There was a lot of crunching, but eventually we got clear without much damage. The Blanche Maria said that we had given her a foul berth; we declared she had dragged her anchor. However that may be, we midshipmen were all delighted at having seen a collision.

We left Portsmouth on the 2nd October, 1868, practically to make a sailing passage to Bombay, via the Cape of Good Hope. This we accomplished in a little over three months.

In those old sailing days in fine weather it was very delightful; a man-of-war was a gigantic yacht, scrupulously clean, for we were seldom under steam and as a consequence did not often coal. Shortage of water for the purpose of washing was our great inconvenience; our Commander, either for economy or to save the dirt of coaling, made a great fuss about the coal used for condensing. Consequently we were very often short of water for washing; water for drinking was not limited. On the main deck there was a tank with a tin cup chained to it, so that any one could get a drink. But there was a little waste, as the men did not always drain the cup dry. In order to check this, the Commander introduced what was called a “suck-tap”; the tap and the cup were done away with and a pipe placed in lieu of these, and any one wanting a drink had to take the nasty lead pipe into his mouth and suck the water up; it was a beastly idea, which our new Commander immediately did away with.

In the evening the men always sang, and it was very fine to hear a chorus of about 800 men and boys, many of the latter with unbroken voices. We had one young man who used to sing “A che’ la morte” and other tenor songs from Verdi’s operas, as well as many singers that I have heard on the stage. The songs, however, were not always of this high class.

I remember one or two lines of a very popular song called “Mr. Buggins’ Ball.” The song, in referring to the guests, described the dress of one:

“Round ’is arm ’e ’ad some crep’on,
’Cause ’is wife was dead, poor soul;
Round ’is waist ’e ’ad an apron,
Because ’is breeches ’ad a ’ole.”

We midshipmen knew all the men’s songs, and their parlance, which was sometimes strong; many of their comparisons and similes were often witty and quite original.

During the Great War some people seemed to think that milk, butter, cheese and vegetables were necessities of life. In my first ship there were about 750 men and boys in the perfection of health and strength. Their rations at sea consisted of salt beef salt pork, pea soup, tea, cocoa and biscuit, the last named generally full of insects called weevils. Later on, preserved beef was introduced; it was issued in tins, very convenient for making into paint pots and other receptacles. Its official name was “Soup and boulli”; the bluejackets called it by various names — “soup and bullion” “two buckets of water and one onion”, or it was called “bully beef” but the most common name was “Fanny Adams.” At the time of the introduction of this preserved meat into the Navy a girl called Fanny Adams disappeared and a story got afloat that she had been tinned, or as the Americans would say canned. To this day the tins which contain preserved meat, and which are utilised for all sorts of purposes, are called “Fanny’s.”

En route we found out what a magnificent seaman our Captain, John Hobhouse Alexander, was, and what a bully we had in our Commander. We midshipmen had a terrible time with the latter. I contradicted him once, and as I happened to be right, he never forgave me. I saw more of the masthead than I did of the gun-room mess. Sending a boy to sit up at the masthead on the cross-trees was a funny kind of punishment. In fine weather with a book it was rather pleasant; in bad weather you took up a waterproof. Masthead for the midshipmen, and the cat for the men, was the Commander’s motto. I saw one man receive four dozen strokes of the cat on Monday and three dozen on Saturday, and he took them without a murmur. That is the spirit which made this a great country; we love men who take punishment without flinching. This particular Commander revelled in flogging, and the sight of it seemed to be the only thing that gave him any pleasure. It was a form of self-indulgence which finally led to his ruin.

On arrival at Bombay, Captain Alexander went home. We became the Senior Officer’s ship on the East Indies Station, and flew the broad pennant of Commodore Sir Leopold Heath, K.C.B. He was a clever, kind and able seaman. He made me his A.D.C., an honour which I appreciated, but which got me into further trouble with the Commander, as he did not approve of it. I had more leave stopped than ever and was continually under punishment. However, an end came to it all under the following circumstances. While the Commodore was up country in Ceylon, an able seaman refused one morning to obey an order. The case was investigated by the Commander, and at one o’clock — two hours later — the offender received four dozen lashes. On the Commodore’s return the man laid his case before him, and complained that the King’s Regulations, which order commanding officers not to inflict corporal punishment until twenty-four hours after the offence, had not been observed. The Commander was tried by court-martial and dismissed the ship.

We spent a good deal of time on the East Coast of Arabia, looking for slave dhows, but only caught one. She was a small craft about 40 feet long, but had on board a crew of five Arabs and eighty slaves, consisting of ten youths, twelve women, thirty-seven girls, twenty boys and one baby. Those wretched beings were naked and horribly emaciated, and had been so crowded that most of them during their eighteen days’ voyage had not moved from the position they were packed into. We took the slaves on board, washed and fed them and dressed them in some sort of clothes and then, having landed the Arabs, used the dhow as a target. We opened fire on her with all our guns, but expended a quarter’s allowance of ammunition without result and finally sank her by ramming. This was my first lesson in gunnery.

The eighty slaves had come from a village a few miles north of Zanzibar. While the men were away fighting another tribe, the Arabs had swept down and marched off all their women and children, embarking them for the Persian Gulf, where they would have got, on an average, about £20 a head for them. The baby slave was another difficulty, as none of the women would look after it, but the boatswain made a sort of cradle for it, a feeding arrangement was extemporised, and the child did very well. We eventually landed the whole eighty at Aden, and got prize bounty at the rate of £5 apiece for them. A midshipman’s share of the prize was £1 4s. 6d.

At Zanzibar the slave market was in full swing. It was quite a large place in which all the slaves sat round in concentric circles, with spaces in between so that the buyer could pass through and inspect them. They were arranged according to their “chop” or quality. A first “chop” man meant extremely good physique and youth. The women were divided into two classes, those destined for work and those suitable for adorning an Arab’s harem; a nicely rounded-off maiden of eighteen or twenty years could not be bought under about £40. It was a loathsome sight to see the rich old Arabs inspecting these girls as though they were so much merchandise. The Arabs looked dirty and generally had horribly diseased eyes, upon which the flies settled; they were too lazy to brush them off. When I visited Zanzibar thirty years afterwards I found that an English cathedral had been erected on the site of the slave market.

In chasing one how we went too near the shore and bumped on a coral reef, whereby all our false keel was knocked off and we leaked badly for the remainder of the commission.

Our new Commander was a great success. He gave us midshipmen plenty of boat-sailing, took us on shore to play cricket, and encouraged sport of every kind. He made us dress properly, and in appearance set us a fine example. He took a long time over his toilet, but when he did emerge from his cabin it was a beautiful sight, though he might have worn a few less rings on his fingers.

The ship he absolutely transformed. All the blacking was scraped off the masts and spars, and canary-yellow substituted. The quarter-deck was adorned with carving and gilt, the coamings of the hatchways were all faced with satin-wood, the gun-carriages were French polished, and the shot were painted blue with a gold band round them and white top. Of course we could not have got these shot into the guns had we wanted to fight, but that was nothing. Some years afterwards the Admiralty issued an order forbidding the painting of shot and shell.

In a sailing ship the midshipmen were brought into very close contact with the seamen, always working with them aloft, on deck, and in boats. This I think was a most desirable practice, as the officers acquired at an early age that knowledge of the men’s customs and ideas which is really the key to managing them. If officers nowadays knew more about their men there would be fewer defaulters.

One thing I learnt was how the sailor hated Sunday. When he was turned out in the morning it was — hurry out, it is Sunday; hurry over dressing, it is Sunday; hurry over breakfast, it is Sunday; get out of this, it is Sunday. At 9 a.m. he was fallen-in on deck and his clothes were inspected by his Lieutenant, whereby he might get into trouble. Then the Captain walked round and inspected clothes, and he again ran the risk of something being wrong with his uniform. Then the Captain went below and inspected every hole and corner of the ship. This occupied about two hours, during which the men were left standing on deck. At 11 o’clock there was church, which generally was not over until after 12, so the men got a cold dinner.

I learnt from the men what a godsend it would be to them if they could only get an hour on Sunday mornings to write letters, and when I became a Captain I arranged for church always to be over by 11 o’clock. By this means the men got an hour to themselves, a hot dinner, and a peaceful, Sunday. It is a pity that all ships do not adopt this routine.

In those days there were widely different opinions about uniform, and great trouble was caused. Some Captains encouraged men to ornament their clothes with embroidery; others did not like it, so men had to cut it out again if they went from one ship to another. Some Captains allowed their officers to wear any fancy uniform they liked; others insisted on their wearing a blue frock-coat, even on the West Coast of Africa. One Admiral always wore a white billycock hat instead of a uniform cap; another wore a tall white Ascot hat. There was no promotion by merit, all went by patronage. Every Admiral on hauling down his flag was allowed to make his Flag Lieutenant into a Commander, and if a death vacancy occurred on his station he could promote whom he liked — generally a relative. Admiral Fremantle, in his memoirs, says: “The young officer so promoted often had no merit, and his promotion was a gross injustice to those senior to him.” This was the general opinion in the Navy, but the abuse continued until about 1880.

Our gunroom was sometimes conducted very well. The youngsters who misbehaved themselves were tried by the seniors, and if found guilty “cobbed,” that is, got two dozen smacks with a dirk scabbard. If they had been reported to the Captain they would have lost time, and their careers in the Navy would, perhaps, have been spoiled. The gun-room corrective while in operation hurt the boy; the service punishment hurt his career and brought grief to his parents.

At Trincomalee we transferred the flag to another frigate of 51 tons, the Glasgow, and started under sail on our homeward voyage of about 12,999 miles.

The night before reaching Sheerness, off Dungeness, we had our second collision; a steamer ran into us and did a good deal of damage. Had we been a merchant ship instead of a strongly built frigate, we should have been sunk. The steamer did not stop to ask how we were, but made off as fast as she could. The Admiralty had great difficulty in tracing her, but they eventually got her.

On the 17th February, 1872, we paid off, having been in commission for three and a half years. To the midshipmen it was a sound three and a half years’ education in seamanship and in travel. We had seen the ship twice go on shore, and twice in a collision. This constituted my introduction to the old Navy of the sailing-ship days. Little did I think that I was to live to see every familiar thing disappear, and to watch the growth of a new Navy, with marine turbines, high-powered guns, automobile torpedoes, and to discuss the relative value of the Dreadnought and the submarine.

At the expiration of my six weeks’ leave, I joined H.M.S. Hercules. She was our most modem armoured ship, and carried fourteen 18-ton guns. She could steam well, and the only blot on her fighting capacity was that she had masts and sails. The Navy did not in fact abandon these relics of a past age till thirty years later: it was thought to be a policy of economy, but it was in fact one of real extravagance and folly. I was Signal Midshipman, and as we did a good deal of manoeuvring I got some education in that branch. Nothing of interest happened during the year that I was in her, except that I experienced a third collision. At Madeira the Northumberland anchored ahead of us and parted her cable. She fell across our ram, and we made a hole in her that a horse and cart could have been driven into. Fortunately the inner bottom saved her.

I was gazetted a Sub-Lieutenant on the 17th December, 1872, and went to the Excellent and the Naval College at Portsmouth to complete my examinations. By July, 1873, these were finished, and as the Ashantee War had broken out, I volunteered for service on the West Coast of Africa. Commodore William Nathan Wrighte Hewett, V.C., was going out in the 10-gun screw frigate Active, and he applied for me. There was, however, no room for me in the ship, as she had already twelve sub-lieutenants on board, so I took passage out in a hospital ship and joined the Active at Cape Coast Castle. I was distressed that I could not land with the Naval Brigade; however, we people who were left at the base had a busy time of it.

Sir Garnet Wolseley, who conducted the campaign, arrived at Cape Coast Castle early in October, and found that the Navy had done a great deal to prepare the way for him. We understood that this was his reason for taking a Naval Brigade with him, leaving some of the troops behind.

In December plenty of troops had arrived, but the advance was delayed by the difficulty of getting carriers, for the roads were impassable for vehicles or mules. Each man carried 70 lbs., a woman 40 lbs., and a child 15 to 20 lbs. for a distance of seven miles. One woman gave birth to a baby en route; she put it in the bush. On her return she picked it up, placed it in her empty packing case with a bunch of bananas, and arrived at Cape Coast Castle, smoking and smiling, with the packing case, bananas, and baby on her head.

The Naval Brigade, under Commodore Hewett, V.C, landed at the end of December, and on the 6th February, Coomassie was entered and burned, and peace followed on the 13th.

In the engagements, Lieutenant A. B. Crosbie, R.M.L.I., Sub-Lieutenants Gerald Maltby and Wyatt Rawson were wounded, and Sub-Lieutenant Robert Munday was killed. Sub-Lieutenants Ficklin and Bradshaw died of fever. Each of these young officers was an only son.

In this campaign the Active received the following promotions and honours: Commodore W.N.W. Hewett, V.C., to be K.C.B., Staff-Surgeon Henry Fegan to be C.B., and Lieutenant Adolphus Brett Crosbie was “mentioned.”

At the conclusion of the campaign I broke my leg, and was sent to hospital at the Island of Ascension. I soon got well, but could not go back to my ship, so I had an opportunity of studying this unique island. It is treated like a man-of-war; it has a captain, officers and crew, with a few of their wives, but no other inhabitants. If a baby is born on the island, its name is put on the books and provisions allowed for it by the Admirality. There are no shops, but certain things can be purchased at a canteen, and you buy your clothes from the cape of Good Hope, miles distant. All the lower part of the island are lava and clinker. In the centre stands Green Mountain, a peak of cinder, from whose summit you look down on the craters of about a dozen extinct volcanoes. On the mountain the cinders, decomposing under the tropical sun's rays, have produced a rich soil in which everything will flourish. I was told that if you put your umbrella in the ground it would grow.

The energetic naval inhabitants had put down pheasants, partridges, and rabbits, and there were about six hundred wild goats. I should think they are there now, as they are very difficult to shoot. I spent all day and every day stalking them, but got very few.

We annexed the island when Napoleon went to St. Helena, and the expense of keeping it up has often been discussed. At the time we were there the question of fortifying it was submitted to our commodore. We were told he was very much against the proposal, and he suggested withdrawing all the naval officers and men from the island and leasing it to Messrs. Spiers and Pond for the turtle, about three hundred and sixty of which were turned in the year. They would have gladdened the eyes of any City alderman.

WholeReader. Empty coverWholeReader. Book is closedWholeReader. FilterWholeReader. Compilation cover