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Royal Navy News

Transcribed by Michael Coomber, graciously provided to the Kent OPC for display.
Contributors of additional abstracts are noted by their initials placed in square brackets at the end of the source citation.

Source:  Daily Courant (London, England), Friday, March 29, 1734; Issue 5611.
On Tuesday last the Lords of the Admiralty appointed Mr. AMBROSE to the Command of his Majesty's Ship the Greyhound, at Sheerness, when he was sworn, and received his Commission.

Source:  The Press-Gang
     "While press-warrants were supplied regularly to every warship, no matter what her rating, the supply of tenders was less general and much more erratic. It was only when occasion demanded it, and then only to ships of the first, second and third rate, that tenders were assigned for the purpose of bringing their crews up to full strength. The urgency of the occasion, the men to be "rose," the diplomacy of the commander determined the number. A tender to each ship was the rule, but however parsimonious the Navy Board might be on such occasions, a carefully worded appeal to its prejudices seldom failed to produce a second, or even a third attendant vessel. Boscawen once had recourse to this ingenious ruse in order to obtain tender number two. The Navy Board detested straggling seamen, so he suggested that, with several tenders lying idle in the Thames, his men might be far more profitably employed than in straggling about town.

     "Most reprehensible practice!" assented the Board, and placed a second vessel at his disposal without more ado. Lieut. Upton was immediately put in charge of her and ordered seawards. He returned within a week with twenty-seven men, pressed out of merchantmen in Margate Roads.

     "At Gravesend sailors came ashore in such numbers from East India and other ships as to keep a brace of gangs busy. Another found enough to do at Broadstairs, whence a large number of vessels sailed in the Iceland cod fishery and similar industries. Faversham was a port and had its gang, and from Margate right away to Portsmouth, and from Portsmouth to Plymouth, nearly every town of any size that offered ready hiding to the fugitive sailor from the Channel was similarly favoured. Brighton formed a notable exception, and this circumstance gave rise to an episode about which we shall have more to say presently.

     "A more legitimate pastime of the gang was the pressing of incorrigible sons. George Clark of Birmingham and William Barnicle of Margate, the one a notorious thief, the other the despair of his family because of his drunken habits, were two out of many shipped abroad by this cheap but effectual means, the instigator of the gang being in each case the lad's own father.

     The distracting problem, "What to do with our sons" was in this way amazingly simplified. "

[Sources: Admiralty Records: A. 1478 Letters of Capt. Boscawen, July and August 1743;  B. 1537 Jeremiah Clark, 30 July 1806;  C. 1547 Lieut. Dawe, 4 Sept. 1809.]

Source:  London Daily Advertiser and Literary Gazette (London, England), Monday, June 10, 1751; Issue 85.
Friday died at Rochester, after a long illness, Mr. Thomas BAMPFYLDE, Purser of the Canterbury Man of War, a seventy-gun Guard-ship, now lying at Chatham.

Source:  Evening Post or London Intelligencer, Tuesday, October 30, 1759; Issue 2125.
CHATHAM, Oct 31.

     Last night the Princess Louisa, and the Centaur of 74 Guns, lately taken by Admiral BOSCAWEN, came up to Blackstakes. Capt. AFFLECK is appointed to the Command of the Princess Louisa.

Source:  London Evening Post, Saturday, August 8, 1767; Issue 6205.
His Majesty's ship Squirrel, of twenty guns, now sitting out for sea at Chatham, is put into commission, and the command of her given to Capt. BOTTEREL.

Source:  The Times (London, England), Saturday, Jan 05, 1788; pg. 3; Issue 944.

CHATHAM, Dec. 31. (1787)

     The beautiful new ship of 72 guns (lately launched at Harwich) arrived here from that place on Friday last to be laid up in this ordinary: she was navigated here from Harwich under the command of William NICHOLSON, Esq., master attendant of this dock-yard.

Source:  Public Advertiser (London, England), Friday, December 9, 1791; Issue 17918.

     The Lords of the Admiralty have appointed Mr. Charles BREWER to be Purser of the Suffolk, of 74 guns, now repairing in Chatham dock-yard, and in ordinary at the port, in room of Mr. Thomas TURNER, deceased. Their Lordships have also been pleased to appoint Mr. John MASON to be Purser of the Scipio, of 64 guns, in ordinary at Chatham, in the room of Mr. John WALLACE, appointed to the Terncraire, of 98 guns, ordered to be built in that dock-yard.

Source:  Steel's Original and Correct List of the Royal Navy, 1782, p. 25.  [SF]
Statenborough, 15th June 1794.

Dear Sir

I am sorry I was not at home yesterday when you did me the favor of calling. I was gone to the Admiral at Deal who told me he had received information that Adml Montague had fallen in with a part of the French Fleet and had taken one of 120 guns 2 of 90 2 of 74 and sunk two. This is Glorious News. Should you want any of the men under my Command for any military service you will please to send to my Lieutenant, to whom I have given directions to comply with any request you may make, when they are not immediately wanted for the service of getting men. I shall be with you on Tuesday, as I am well convinced of your Loyal and good intentions and shall be happy to cooperate with you in every thing for the good of His Majesty's services. I have the honor to be Sir Your most humble servant Hugh Baikie.

Francis Cobb, Esq."

[Cobb was an important man of Margate, and Baikie's letter seems to refer to the "pressing" of men into service.]

Source:  Bell's Weekly Messenger (London, England), Sunday, August 6, 1797; Issue 67.
     Thursday morning was executed at Pennenden Heath, pursuant to his sentence, at Maidstone Assizes, John STAMFORD, for the wilful murder of Mr. BUCHANAN, late a Midshipman on board the Leopard, by stabbing him in the back with a pike, of which wound the unfortunate gentleman languished five days in the most extreme torture, and then died. STAMFORD appeared to be about forty-five years of age, and behaved in a manner becoming his situation.

Source:  Bell's Weekly Messenger (London, England), Sunday, July 29, 1798; Issue 118.

     Thursday the assizes at Maidstone concluded, when Mr. DAWSON, the commander of a gun-vessel, was found guilty of the murder of Mr. MILLER, the commander of another gun-vessel, by stabbing him in the breast as he was going into the boat at Sheerness. - He was left for execution.

Source:  The Times, (London, England), 11 November 1803  [SF]
     A letter from Margate, dated November 8, says "Last night a naval officer landed on the Pier about ten o'clock with a press gang, and having exercised his Authority in a manner deemed improper by the high constable and another peace Officer of this port, they interfered and informed the naval officer that the Persons he had impressed were not objects of the impress act. In consequence of this interference, the gang seized the two constables, and sent them with several others on board the ship."

Source:  The Times (London, England), Saturday, March 23, 1811; pg 3; Issue 8251; col B.
     Thirteen England prisoners, who had been confined in France upwards of three years, contrived to make their escape in an open boat, and on Wednesday landed at Broadstairs. Two of them belonged to Dover, viz: Mr. C. NORWOOD, formerly master of the Lord Keith cutter, and Mr. KNOCKER, pilot of one of our sloops of war, wrecked on the French coast, in the dreadful gale of the 14th February three years ago; they were so closely confined they heard no news.

Source:  Jackson's Oxford Journal, Saturday, December 19, 1812; Issue 3112.
     Lately, off the coast of Catalonia, in his 22d year, Lieut. G. SANDYS, of his Majesty's ship Bustard, third son of B. H. SANDYS, Esq., late of Kingston, Kent: his death was occasioned by falling overboard in a gale of wind.

Source:  The Times (London, England), March 27, 1818, p. 3, Issue Number 10315.  [SDY]

     William Shipley CRESWELL was put to the bar, under an indictment charging him with having feloniously personated and falsely assumed the name and character of one Joseph WALKER, late a seaman of his Majesty's gun-brig Swinger, in order to obtain the payment of prize-money, with intent to defraud the Commissioners and Governors of the Royal Hospital for Seamen, at Greenwich.

     It will be recollected that the prisoner was the instigator of William HOLYMAN, who was convicted on a former day for the same offence as that with which the prisoner is now charged. On this ground Holyman was recommended to mercy by the prosecutors.

     It was proved by the witnesses called on the part of the prosecution, that, on the 12th July in the last year, the prisoner called at the Prize-office at Greenwich hospital, and declared himself to be Joseph WALKER, an able-bodied seaman, having served on board the Swinger gun-brig, and claimed prize-money on account of the vessel;  the prisoner at the same time gave two certificates:  he was informed that the money due to Joseph WALKER had been paid to Mother Betty, Administratrix of Joseph Walker.  The prisoner persisted that the money had not been paid.

     On the 10th of the same month the prisoner called again, and reproduced the certificate which had been returned to him, and was again informed that the money had been paid.  The certificates were sent up to the Navy office, and they were found to be forged instruments.  The prisoner was immediately apprehended.  It appeared that Creswell had been a captain's clerk on board the Swinger, while Joseph WALKER was a seaman on board the same ship, and that the latter had since died.

     The jury found a verdict - Guilty.

Source:  The Morning Chronicle (London, England), Monday, March 30, 1818, Issue 15260.  [SDY]


     Nicholas ROBILLARD and J. ARQUINBAU, two young midshipmen, were charged on two indictments, for shooting at two of the inhabitants of Deal, with the intent to murder, etc. This was arose out of a contest with some smugglers, to watch and prevent whose practices Messrs. ROBBILARD and ARQUINBAU were stationed by their commander, Captain McCULLOCH, of the Severn. The particulars were stated some time since. They were acquitted on both indictments.

Source:  Daily News (London, England), Saturday, May 6, 1854; Issue 2484.

     A veteran sailor named John GROOMBRIDGE, above one hundred years of age, and said to be the last survivor of Lord Nelson's crew at Copenhagen, made a call a few days ago upon some of his old Kentish friends. It appears that he was born at Yalding, was apprenticed at Chatham to a Quaker named WHITE, and was married at twenty years of age; but on the day of his wedding was seized by a pressgang and hurried off to Hull, whence he was sent to sea, and remained in the service through the long succeeding wars, commencing with that against the revolted American colonies, now the United States. Among the engagements in which he took part was one against the now historical privateer, or rather buccaneer, Paul JONES. Subsequently he served under NELSON both at Copenhagen and Trafalgar, and has sailed with our present Baltic and Black Sea admirals, NAPIER and DUNDAS, when the former was a boy lieutenant. He is now an inpensioner of Greenwich Hospital, the oldest on the college books, and is, he says, the sole survivor of the crew sailing in the Victory when Nelson met his death wound. He retains a perfect command of all his faculties. He adds that he never saw his wife after the day that he was torn from her, fresh from the nuptial rites at church, by the ruthless pressgang, but that she lived some fifty years afterwards, and that he learnt the particulars of her death shortly after it happened, some thirty ago. - Kentish Mercury

Source:  The Times (London, England), Thursday, Dec 02, 1920; pg. 11; Issue; 42583; col C.

     At a naval Court-martial at Chatham yesterday LIEUTENANT ARTHUR HOWARD ASHWORTH, of H. M. S. Royal Arthur (for submarine K.5.), was charged with attempting to smuggle 2 lbs. of tobacco at Torquay, with improperly ordering an officer's steward to land the tobacco, and with making misleading statements in a letter to the Commander-in-Chief at the Nore. Lieutenant ASHWORTH said that the parcel he intended the steward to take was one containing pictures, which he was sending to a friend. The Court found the charges proved and taking into consideration the accused officer's good character sentenced him to be dismissed his ship and to be severely reprimanded.