My fourth great grand uncle George Kinnaird Dana in 1811 served as colonel of the 6th Garrison Battalion quartered in Nenagh, Tipperary. The Battalion paymaster was his brother William Pulteney Dana, one of my fourth great grandfathers.
Garrison Battalions were reserve troops, primarily concerned to maintain defence and good order in potentially troublesome territory. They were recruited from elderly veterans or other troops considered unfit for front-line combat. The 6th Battalion had been raised at Dublin from limited-service personnel of three regiments of foot. It was stationed at Nenagh in Tipperary, a hundred miles to the southwest.
In June 1811 the 6th Garrison Battalion had a field day. Blank ammunition had been issued but unfortunately a ball cartridge had been mixed with it. One man was shot in the back.
At Nenagh William Pulteney Dana met Charlotte Elizabeth Bailey, a daughter of the Reverend Henry Bayley, Rector of Nenagh. Around 1812 they were married. Their two oldest children were born in Ireland.
In April 1814 Napoleon had surrendered to the allies and since the war was over Garrison battalions was no longer needed. On 5 December 1814 the Garrison battalion was disbanded.
Captain William Pulteney Dana now on half-pay returned to live in Shropshire. William and Charlotte had ten more children all born in Shropshire.
In June 1814 William’s brother George Kinnaird Dana was promoted to Major-General and returned to England.
Babet was also among the numerous vessels that shared in the proceeds after HMS Dartcaptured the French frigate Desiréefrom Dunkirk harbour on 8 July 1800.
Loss of HMS Babet
In September 1800 HMS Babet left Spithead with orders to convey General John Knox to Jamaica, where he was to take up the position of Governor. On 24 October she arrived at Fort-Royal Bay, Martinique, sailing the next day for Jamaica. HMS Babet was never seen again. It seems likely that she foundered in a storm.
Newspaper reports in early 1801 reported on the probable loss. There were also a few suggestions that she had in fact survived.
Letters concerning the loss of the Babet
“About this time  we got the melancholy account of the loss of the Babet, the ship in which our dear John (General Knox) was gone out as Governor and Commander in Chief to Jamaica. Many, many tears did I shed for him, I loved him as a brother, and never, I believe, was there a man so deserving of the regard and regret everyone expressed for him. We long had hopes that the ship was not lost, as it was not seen to go down, but years have elapsed since, therefore no hope can be indulged, though I am sometimes fool enough to feel some, in spite of my almost conviction that it is impossible they ever should be realised.” [The Honourable Frances Calvert nee Pery at An Irish beauty of the regency page 13 retrieved through archive.org]
The letters of Henry Swinburne concerning the fate of his son who was aide-de-campe to Knox, document the uncertainty of the fate of the Babet.
“London , January 3rd, 1801. … I am uneasy at not hearing yet of Harry’s arrival in Jamaica, though various persons conversant with those seas laugh at my fears . [footnote: He went out as secretary and aide-de-camp to General Knox, commander-in-chief at Jamaica. The ship was never more heard of, and must have foundered between Martinique and Jamaica.]
February 2nd . Another Jamaica mail arrived this morning, which left the island on the 21st of December, at which time no account had been received of General Knox. They are very low at the Admiralty concerning it. I have been all the morning in the city, hunting for information ; but there are so many contradictory reports and conjectures that I returned just as I went, except feeling my spirits depressed by the fatigue. I assure you I keep nothing from you, nor palliate nor exaggerate; spero contra spent . I do all I can to resist the weight of despondency, but, indeed, I am cruelly alarmed, and prepare myself for the worst. I cannot pretend to bid you keep up your spirits, or hope or despond, for I know not what to do or to say. My thoughts are on the rack about your health, and the improbability that your shattered nerves will be able to resist such a blow as this may prove. Colonel Barry sits all day over the fire crying, and is angry if one suggests a hope. He quite kills me. I had got so far when Mr. Higgins came in, who declares upon his honour he would not buoy me up with false hopes, but his opinion is not the least altered by the arrival of this packet, nor will it till we hear from Honduras. There is nothing so common as ships driving past Jamaica and being lost for months; Admiral Parker was so for four months.
February 6th. Barry has quite got up his spirits, but I fancy from no reason but Higgins’s persevering in his opinion, or perhaps from forcing himself out into the fresh air. How often have I admired and felt the force of the Marquis of Ormond’s exclamation about his dead son! Ours, if gone, is gone “with- out a blot upon his fair fame.” How time runs on! — every day sinks so much of my hopes, that I feel myself unmanned by every desponding expression or look of other people.
February 12th. I write to save the last post. We had just dined when a letter came from Colonel Barry, enclosing one just received from the General, the date of which was the 25th of October, from Martinique. They had arrived, after an agreeable passage in a good ship, the day before. They were to re-embark that evening for Jamaica, where the General expected to be landed about the 1st of November. His letter is written in uncommon spirits. He says they were all well, but that he keeps Swinburne so busy he has no time to write, and therefore begs Barry to acquaint his family that he is safe and well. It was almost too much happiness to bear when these tidings came amidst all our anxiety, and we were quite overcome at such unusual ways of digestion.
February 21 st. … Higgins says there is a letter arrived to a Mr. Miller, announcing the safety of all the crew of the Babet. By that I should imagine they have been shipwrecked. I care not, so he is safe.
February 24th Nepean has just written to me in a style you must like: “I am a father, and can therefore participate in your feelings on the news of your son’s safety ; long may he live ! I am sure he will be an honour to his name.”
March 2nd , 1801. Another month begun, and yet no satisfactory accounts of my dear son ! My hopes and fears are exactly what they were, and I wait in silence and sullen patience the accounts from Jamaica.
March 4th. … This strong south-west wind might have blown some ships in from Jamaica. I dare not say I long for their arrival.
March 28th . Every day takes away part of our hopes ; there are letters by the Jamaica mail, and accounts have been received from Honduras and other parts of the island. They have seen nothing of the unfortunate Babet , so that little opening remains but the chances of capture, which I am afraid would have been known before now. The Knox family and Colonel Barry give it up as a lost case. I write illegibly, for my eyes are dim, and every letter appears double.Can it be that the Almighty made my Hariy so good, so perfect, and protected him through so many perils, to take him away so early? I cannot believe it, till compelled by time and circumstances. I will still hope, till hope itself shall turn to despair. Pray look among my papers for all his precious letters, and put them carefully together. Happy is the farmer whose son learns to plough his land, and remains with him till his dying day !” [Secret Memoirs Of The Courts Of Europe Letters Written At The End Of The Eighteenth Century Vol Ii by Henry Swinburne pages 264 to 274 retrieved through archive.org]
Lines on the loss of the Babet by the Poet Laureate
Jemmet Mainwaring’s second cousin Henry James Pye (1745 – 1813) was appointed Poet Laureate in 1790, and held the post for 23 years. (Justly or otherwise Henry Pye is widely regarded as England’s worst Poet Laureate). Among his work is a poem on the loss of HMS Babet and the deaths of Mainwaring and Knox. The poem was reproduced in The Naval Chronicle.
Captain Jemmett Mainwaring’s will was probated in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury on 1 July 1801. [PROB 11/1360/15] He left the bulk of his estate to Anne Mainwaring, daughter of his cousin William Mainwaring.
In the late eighteenth century midshipmen (‘young gentlemen’ aspiring to become commissioned officers) usually joined the British navy through patronage or ‘interest’: string-pulling. You got your berth under a captain your family had connections with. After six years of notionally voluntary service a midshipman who successfully completed a formal examination could be promoted to lieutenant. There was no system of purchased commission as in the army: this meant that a naval career could be open to boys of less wealthy families and to younger sons of the rich who were destined not to inherit.
Rowland was one of five cousins who joined the navy about this time. With the exception of Jemmett Mainwaring (1763 – 1800), a first cousin of his father, no member of this branch of Mainwaring family had ever followed a naval career.
Jemmett Mainwaring born 1763 was the youngest son of of Benjamin Mainwaring (1719 – 1782) who had three sons who survived to maturity . Jemmett’s oldest brother Edward (1744 – 1803) served as an officer during the first American war. The second brother, John Montague Mainwaring (1761 – 1842), also served in the army rising to the rank of Lieutenant-General.
Jemmett seems to have obtained a midshipman’s place no later than 1783. It was a requirement at the time that before being commissioned as a lieutenant, an officer had to serve six years at sea and pass an examination. Jemmett Mainwaring was commissioned as a lieutenant in 1789 when he was 26.
I have found no record of his career before he was lieutenant nor do I know who his patron was. However, Jemmett Mainwaring’s grandmother, Jemima Mainwaring nee Pye (1681 – 1721) had a nephew, Thomas Pye (1708 – 1785), an admiral. Although Jemima was no longer alive to exert any influence on behalf of her grandson, perhaps Jemmett’s father Benjamin appealed to his maternal cousin on his behalf. Jemmett was a younger son, with two surviving older brothers. His father was also a younger son. A naval apprenticeship for Jemmett, with the likelihood of a commission, must have seemed an attractive prospect, potentially very rewarding.
The Royal Navy was expanded rapidly, especially at the time of the French Revolutionary Wars of 1792 – 1801. In 1784 there were 2,230 officers of whom 1,499 were lieutenants. In 1800 there were 3,168 officers of whom 2,120 were lieutenants; increases of over 40%. Moreover, in 1784 only about 25% of officers were serving afloat. In 1800 60% of officers and 68% of lieutenants were serving afloat.
Jemmett Mainwaring’s first placement as a lieutenant, from June 1789, was on HMS Royal George, a 100-gun first rateship of the line, launched at Chatham Dockyard the year before Jemmett Mainwaring joined her. It appears that he served on the Royal George until 1795.
Jemmett Mainwaring may have been on the Royal George at the Glorious First of June, also known as the Fourth Battle of Ushant of 1794. This was the first and largest fleet battle during the French Revolutionary Wars. The French admiral, Rear-Admiral Louis-Thomas Villaret-Joyeuse, had sailed from Brest to intercept a valuable grain fleet from America, urgently needed in famine-stricken France. The English commander-in-chief, Lord Howe, sailed with the Channel Fleet to intercept the convoy; neither the French battle fleet nor the British encountered the convoy, which reached Brest in safety. Instead the two battle fleets made contact on 28 May, some 365 nautical miles (673 km) off Ushant, Brittany.
Only a few British ships managed to pierce the French line and engage closely with the enemy. The Royal George, Admiral Hood‘s flagship, was one of these. It engaged closely with two French ships but lost its foremast and suffered damage to the rigging during the battle.
In June 1795 Jemmett Mainwaring was commissioned with the rank of commander and was appointed to HMS Espiegle, a 16 gun French-built sloop captured by the British in 1793. When the Royal Navy took her into service they retained her name. Six months later in December 1795 Mainwaring was transferred to the command of HMS Victorieuse.
Victorieuse was a brig of the French Navy, launched at Honfleur in 1794. The British captured her in August 1795 and took her into service as HMS Victorieuse. She was fitted out at Portsmouth dockyard at a cost of £890. On 22 February 1796 she sailed for the Leeward Islands, a group of islands colonised by the British and situated where the northeastern Caribbean Sea meets the western Atlantic Ocean. Victorieuse was at the attack on St. Lucia on 24 May 1796 and was one of the vessels covering the landing of troops at Choc Bay. She shared in the prize money paid in June 1800.
In July 1796 Jemmett Mainwaring was promoted to Captain, with command of HMS Aimable, a 32 gun French frigate built in 1776 and captured by the British in 1782. The Aimable had a complement of 192.
On the evening of 22 July 1796, shortly after taking command, Mainwaring in the Aimable engaged the French frigate Pensee (44 guns and 400 men; Seine class frigate originally named La Spartiate) off Guadeloupe. Although the Pensee was a significantly more powerful vessel, the men of the Aimable were, so it is reported, more than willing to take her on, crying “To glory or to death!” when Mainwaring pointed out the superior force of their opponent. Mainwaring himself said that he would lead them into action against their republican foe with sincere pleasure.
In the exchange the Pensee suffered losses of 28 men killed and 36 wounded. The Aimable had two men wounded. The next morning the Aimable was preparing to capture the Pensee, making preparations to lash the Pensee’s bowsprit to the Aimable’s main mast when the French commander and his crew greeted the British frigate by pulling off their hats and waving them. The British sailors returned this chivalrous salute but then the Pensee sailed away and escaped. Three days later the Aimable arrived at the island of St Thomas, then a Danish colony, and found the Pensee there undergoing repairs. The British and French commanders subsequently dined together with the Danish Governor.
In other engagements under the command of Jemmett Mainwaring the Aimable captured the French Privateer L’Iris (6 guns) in September 1796 and in April 1797 took the Privateer Le Chasseur (6 guns).
…TO BE CONTINUED.
UK, Commissioned Sea Officers of the Royal Navy, 1660-1815 retrieved through ancestry.com
Marshall, John (1825). Royal Naval Biography : Or, Memoirs of the Services of All the Flag-officers, Superannuated Rear-admirals, Retired-captains, Post-captains, and Commanders, Whose Names Appeared on the Admiralty List of Sea Officers at the Commencement of the Present Year, Or who Have Since Been Promoted, Illustrated by a Series of Historical and Explanatory Notes … with Copious Addenda: Superannuated rear-admirals. Retired captains. Post-Captains. Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown. Volume II Part II pp. 600–5. [Biography of John Wight Esq who was lieutenant on the Aimable in July 1796.]
James, William (1826). The Naval History of Great Britain from the Declaration of War by France, in February 1793 to the Accession of George IV in January 1820. Harding, Lepard, and Company. pp. 484–6.
In May 1795, at the age of twelve, Rowland Mainwaring (1782 – 1862), my fourth great grandfather, joined the Royal Navy as a ‘young gentleman’, an aspiring officer. He was under the patronage of Admiral Sir John Laforey. His first ship was the Jupiter, a 50-gun fourth-rateship of the line commanded by Captain William Lechmere.
In the same year he became a midshipman on the Scipio, a 64-gun third rater, serving on the West Indies Station. He also served for a short while on the Beaulieu, a 40-gun fifth-ratefrigate, and on the Ganges a 74 gun third-rater. In just over a year Mainwaring had served in four ships, ranging in size from 40 to 74 guns. The Beaulieu had a notional complement of 320 officers and men and the Ganges 590 (naval vessels of the period were usually short-handed).
HMS Majestic under Westcott then joined the Channel Fleet, and was present at the Spithead Mutiny in April and May 1797. The mutiny at Spithead (an anchorage near Portsmouth) lasted from 16 April to 15 May 1797. It was one of two major mutinies in 1797. Sailors on 16 ships in the Channel Fleet protested against the living conditions aboard Royal Navy vessels and demanded a pay rise, better victualling, increased shore leave, and compensation for sickness and injury. During the mutiny the mutineers maintained regular naval routine and discipline aboard their ships (mostly with their regular officers), allowed some ships to leave for convoy escort duty or patrols, and promised to suspend the mutiny and go to sea immediately if French ships were spotted heading for English shores. Because of mistrust, especially over pardons for the mutineers, the negotiations broke down, and minor incidents broke out, with several unpopular officers sent to shore and others treated with signs of deliberate disrespect.
The mutiny ended with an agreement that saw a royal pardon for all crews, reassignment of some of the unpopular officers, a pay raise and abolition of the purser’s pound. Afterwards, the mutiny was to become nicknamed the “breeze at Spithead”.
The Battle of the Nile was fought from 1 to 3 August 1798 at Aboukir Bay, on the Nile Delta, 20 miles (32 km) northeast of Alexandria. The British fleet, led by Nelson, decisively defeated the French under Vice-Admiral François-Paul Brueys d’Aigalliers.
At this time Rowland Mainwaring was 15 years old. He never forgot the experience and frequently mentioned the anniversary in his diary entries. In later years he commissioned the marine artist Thomas Luny to paint the battle, himself sketching what he remembered of the scene, in particular the terrible moment when the flagship of the French Navy, L’Orient, was hit by a cannonball in her gunpowder magazine and exploded. The painting by Luny showing the battle at 10 p.m. on 1 August 1798 still hangs in Whitmore Hall.
Although it was late afternoon and the British fleet had no accurate charts of the bay, Nelson ordered an immediate attack on the French who were unprepared and unable to manoeuvre as the British split into two divisions and sailed down either side of the French line, capturing all five ships of the vanguard and engaging the French 120-gun flagship Orient in the centre. At 21:00, Orient caught fire and exploded, killing most of the crew and ending the main combat. Sporadic fighting continued for the next two days, until all of the French ships had been captured, destroyed or had fled; eleven French ships of the line and two frigates were eliminated.
Majestic was towards the rear of the British line, and did not come into action until late in the battle. Together with HMS Bellerophon, Majestic, passed by the melee and advanced on the so far unengaged French centre. In the darkness and smoke Majestic collided with the French ship Heureux and became entangled in her rigging. Majestic then came under heavy fire from the French ship Tonnant. Unable to stop in time, Westcott’s jib boom became entangled with Tonnant‘sshroud. Trapped for several minutes, Majestic suffered heavy casualties. The captain of the Majestic, George Westcott was hit by a musket ball in the throat and killed. Lieutenant Robert Cuthbert took command and was confirmed as acting captain by Nelson the day after the battle.
The Battle of the Nile was a great defeat for the French. The Royal Navy lost 218 killed and 677 wounded; the French losses were 2,000–5,000 killed and wounded, 3,000–3,900 captured, 9 ships of the line captured, and two ships of the line and two frigates destroyed.
The strategic situation between the two nations’ forces in the Mediterranean was reversed, and the Royal Navy gained a dominant position that it retained for the rest of the war.
A medal was issued for those who took part in the Battle of the Nile. Rowland Mainwaring claimed his medal only in 1847 and received it in 1850 with a medal for the Siege of Copenhagen. I am not sure why he left it so late to claim these honours.
In 1826 the English poetess Mrs Felicia Hemans wrote her well-known ‘Casabianca‘, which begins:
The boy stood on the burning deck Whence all but him had fled; The flame that lit the battle's wreck Shone round him o'er the dead.
The poem commemorates the young son of the commander of the French ship L’Orient who refused to desert his post without orders from his father.
(I will write separately about the rest of Rowland Mainwaring’s career.)
Parallels with the fictional Horatio Hornblower and Jack Aubrey
Horatio Hornblower and Jack Aubrey are fictional Royal Navy officers of the Napoleonic war years. Hornblower is the protagonist of a series of novels and stories by C. S. Forester published 1937 to 1967; Jack Aubrey is a fictional character in the Aubrey–Maturin series of novels by Patrick O’Brian published 1969 to 2004. Hornblower and Aubrey are both a little older than Rowland Mainwaring.
In Forester’s novel ‘Mr. Midshipman Hornblower‘ his hero has that rank between 1794 and 1799. In his fictional career Hornblower served under the famous admiral Sir Edward Pellew; Mainwaring also served under Pellew, evidently with respect and admiration, for he christened his second son ‘Edward Pellew’.
In ‘Master and Commander‘ O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey, at the time lieutenant on HMS Leander, earns a silver Nile medal. The medal is mentioned every time Aubrey puts on his dress uniform.
Sources and notes
O’Byrne, William R. A Naval Biographical Dictionary: Comprising the Life and Services of Every Living Officer in Her Majesty’s Navy, from the Rank of Admiral of the Fleet to that of Lieutenant, Inclusive. 1849. Page 711. Retrieved through archive.org.
Marshall, John. Royal Naval Biography : Or, Memoirs of the Services of All the Flag-officers, Superannuated Rear-admirals, Retired-captains, Post-captains, and Commanders, Whose Names Appeared on the Admiralty List of Sea Officers at the Commencement of the Present Year, Or who Have Since Been Promoted, Illustrated by a Series of Historical and Explanatory Notes … with Copious Addenda: Captains. Commanders. 1832. Pages 126 – 130. Retrieved through Google Books.
Cavenagh-Mainwaring, James Gordon. The Mainwarings of Whitmore and Biddulph in the County of Stafford; an account of the family, and its connections by marriage and descent, with special reference to the manor of Whitmore, with appendices, pedigrees and illustrations. 1934. Pages 104, 114, and 115. Retrieved through archive.org
Cavenagh-Mainwaring, Christine and Britton, Heather, (editor.) Whitmore Hall : from 1066 to Waltzing Matilda. Adelaide Peacock Publications, 2013. Page 82.
Note: Although the birthdate of my fourth great grandfather Rowland Mainwaring is usually given as 31 December 1783, he was baptised at St George, Hanover Square London on 18 January 1783 and thus his date of birth is actually 31 December 1782. [City of Westminster Archives Centre; London, England; Westminster Church of England Parish Registers; Reference: SJSS/PR/5/16 retrieved through ancestry.com]
In compiling this brief biography of my 1st cousin 5 times removed Pulteney Sherburne (1802 – 1831), I have tried to flesh out the bare record with a few inferences and conjectures but, with little material to draw on beyond names, dates, and the sparse chronology of his army career, I am afraid the portrait I have drawn of the man may be a little distorted. It’s the best I can do.
Born in India
Pulteney Johnstone Poole Sherburne, the son of Joseph Sherburne (1751 – 1805) and Frances Johnstone Sherborne née Dana (1768 – 1832) was born in north-east India and baptised in Bhagalpur in 1802. Joseph Sherburne was a Magistrate Collector and senior merchant with the East India Company. Pulteney was the oldest child. A sister, Frances, was born in 1803. Joseph Sherburne died in 1805 and Frances Johnstone Sherburne returned to England with her two children.
On 20 April 1813 Pulteney Sherburne was appointed as an ensign with the South Hants Regiment of Militia. The militia was designed to serve as a home guard or reserve force. In 1813 England was at war with the French. Sherburne was aged 11 and it appears that this was intended as a first step in a military career. In modern terms he had become a part-time officer cadet.
All three of Pulteney’s surviving uncles were in the army at this time:
George Kinnaird Dana (1770 – 1837) was Lieutenant-Colonel of the 6th garrison regiment serving in Nenagh, Tipperary, Ireland.; he was promoted to Major-General on 4 June 1813
William Pulteney Dana (1776 – 1861) was paymaster in his brother’s regiment, also serving in Ireland
Charles Patrick Dana (1784 – 1816) served with the East India Company and was a captain with the 23rd Regiment of the Bengal Native Infantry at the time of his death at sea travelling back to England in 1816
On 27 July 1815, a month after the Battle of Waterloo, Volunteer Pulteney Johnstone Poole Sherburne was commissioned as an Ensign (without purchase) in the First Regiment of Foot, the Royal Scots. An ensign was the most junior rank of commissioned officer in the army. Pulteney Sherburne was about 13 years old. At the time the Royal Scots had four battalions. I am not sure which battalion Sherburne served in. The first was stationed in Ireland from 1816 to 1825; the second was in India and involved in the Third Anglo-Maratha War; the third formed part of the Army of Occupation following the Battle of Waterloo. It was disbanded in 1817. The fourth battalion was used mainly as a depot battalion for providing the other three battalions with drafts and it was recruited mainly from the militia. It was disbanded in 1816.
In 1818 Sherburne transferred from the 1st Foot where he had been on half-pay to the 70th Foot. In 1818 and 1819 the 70th Foot was serving in Canada: at Fort George from April 1817, Kingston from June 1819 and Quebec from May 1821.
The Gazette of 18 April 1822 announced the promotion of Ensign Pulteney J. Poole Sherburne, from the 70th Foot, to Lieutenant (without purchase) in the First Regiment of Foot. The Gazette of 11 May 1822 updated the announcement to say the Commission of Lieutenant Sherburne, of the 1st Foot, has been antedated to 18th October 1820, but that he had not been allowed to receive any back-pay. It seems that although Sherburne had been a lieutenant with the 1st Foot from 1820 he had been paid as such only from 1822.
In the Gazette of 24 October 1822 Pulteney J. Poole Sherburne of the 1st Regiment of Foot exchanged with Lieutenant Daniel Keogh of the 58th Foot who was on half-pay. The 58th Foot was in Jamaica, the West Indies, from 1816 to 1828 when it was deployed to Ceylon.
I can find no further notices in the Gazette revealing Sherburne’s military career.
Bruce Bassett-Powell who maintains a website devoted to the study of military uniforms at Uniformology.com, commented:
Lieutenant Sherbourne’s experience as a company officer would be fairly typical. … The dramatic draw down of regimental personnel after the Napoleonic Wars left many career officers without a regiment of their choice, so officers were transferred with or without purchase to any regiment they could find. … [Sherburne’s] career was so very typical of the era in which he served.
email correspondence July 2020
From about 1825 (possibly as early as 1822) when he exchanged out of the 1st to the 58th on half-pay, Lieutenant P. P. Sherburne held the position of Barrack Master at Berbice in the British West Indies, now in present-day Guyana.
Barrack masters oversaw individual barracks and their role was to see that the blocks were properly equipped, maintained and run in accordance with a bureaucratic system of regular returns.
In the 1826 Army Ordnance estimates Berbice had 10,000 pounds allocated for a new Barrack, Commissariat and Ordnance Establishment at Canje Point to replace the Barrack Establishment at St Andrews which was not worth repairing.
The army in Berbice used slave labour hired from others. There were several complaints about Lieutenant Sherburne and his treatment of slaves while he was barrack master; in at least one instance Sherburne was investigated for alleged cruelty and the charges were disproved.
The 1838 report of the Army Medical Services observed that the climate of the whole of British Guiana was noted for its extreme moisture, the rate of annual rainfall being six times that of Great Britain. The average temperature in Berbice was 80 degrees Fahrenheit with a minimum of 75 and maximum of 86. The Berbice district was the most southerly British possession in the West Indies. It extended 100 miles along the coast and the ground was so low that at high-water it would be completely inundated were it not protected by strong dams (dykes). Where the country was not under cultivation in the 1830s it was a succession of forests, savannahs and marshes. The soil was said not to absorb the moisture and became very muddy. The air was consequently reported as extremely humid.
It was always a sickly piece of land. Even now, few people live out here, on the swamps formed at the confluence of the Berbice and the Canje. The clay is always weeping oily water, and the air is itchy with mosquitoes. … There was no view beyond,just an enormous burning sky and a fringe of thick mangrove.
In 1838 there was a barrack with an hospital and offices within the fort for the accommodation of the troops. The barrack was an oblong wooden building with a basement used for stores and two upper stories each divided into four apartments for the soldiers with some smaller rooms for non-commissioned officers. The hospital was also built of wood with a basement and two stories.
British Guiana was not a healthy place. In 1826 there were 1162 white troops and 74 black troops in the colony. In that year there were 115 deaths among those troops. In 1831 there were 968 white troops and 2160 black troops with 113 deaths that year. Most of the deaths among white troops at that time were from fevers, particularly yellow fever.
Leave in England
In 1830 Sherburne was on leave in England and he signed his final will on 7 August 1830 at Burton in Wiltshire. He described himself as “Lieutenant in His Majestys Army and Barrack Master to the forces serving in the Colony of Berbice”. He appointed his cousin Joseph Coxon of Burton, Wiltshire, as executor and the main beneficiary was Joseph Coxon’s daughter Isabella Coxon.
Pulteney Sherburne died in Berbice on 28 June 1831 aged about 28.
At the time of his death he was Barrack Master, with the rank of Lieutenant. His death notices in The Asiatic Journal, Gentleman’s Magazine, and New Monthly Magazine describe him as “late of the “Royals” but the army death notices state he was of the 58th Regiment of Foot on half pay. As the 1st Regiment of Foot was more prestigious than the 58th Foot his family perhaps wanted to retain that association from before he transferred out.
The motto is unusual but as Arthur Fox-Davies notes in his Complete Guide to Heraldry, mottoes do not form part of the grant of arms in England but are “ left purely to the personal pleasure of every individual”. The phrase “Je ne cede a personne” or in Latin: Concedo Nulli– I yield to none – appears associated with the Dutch philosopher Erasmus in the 1805 book “Memoirs of Angelus Politianus, Joannes Picus of Mirandula, Actius Sincerus Sannazarius, Petrus Bembus, Hieronymus Fracastorius, Marcus Antonius Flaminius, and the Amalthei : translations from their poetical works: and notes and observations concerning other literary characters of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries”.
The uniform in the miniature portrait could be either the 58th or the 70th regiment. Bruce Bassett-Powell confirms both regiments had black facings with gold lace, evenly spaced. Bassett-Powell suggests it is possible that the portrait of him was done in Canada, that is when he was serving with the 70th Foot.
Frances Sherburne, Pulteney’s mother, made her will not long after she heard of Pulteney’s death – sadly both her children predeceased her and there are no descendants. She specifically mentioned the portrait in her will, leaving it to her niece and goddaughter.
In his portrait Pulteney Sherburne looks bright, determined and optimistic. The role of Barrack Master in Berbice would have been demanding as he was in charge of constructing a new barracks and dealing with living in a challenging humid climate. Sherburne’s army career, cut short by his premature death aged 28, was not notably successful. He maintained his career despite the army being reduced following the end of the Napoleonic wars. Born in India and serving in Canada and the West Indies, Pulteney Johnstone Poole Sherburne (1802 – 1831) was one of the many men who contributed to the making of the British Empire across the globe.
Email correspondence July 2020 with Bruce Bassett-Powell who maintains a website devoted to the study of military uniforms at Uniformology.com
Great Britain House of Commons (1826). Journals of the House of Commons. H.M. Stationery Office. p. 710. Army:- Ordnance Estimates 1826/7 Appendix to the Supplementary Estimate Item no. 2 Barrack Masters and Barrack Serjeants: list by station.
Greswell, William Parr & Poliziano, Angelo, 1454-1494 & Pico della Mirandola, Giovanni, 1463-1494 & Sannazaro, Jacopo, 1458-1530 & Bembo, Pietro, 1470-1547 et al. (1805). Memoirs of Angelus Politianus, Joannes Picus of Mirandula, Actius Sincerus Sannazarius, Petrus Bembus, Hieronymus Fracastorius, Marcus Antonius Flaminius, and the Amalthei : translations from their poetical works: and notes and observations concerning other literary characters of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (The 2nd ed., greatly augm). Cadell & Davies, London. pp 90-1 retrieved from archive.org.
Our house in Ballarat is two blocks from Dana street, named after Henry Edmund Pulteney Dana (1820-1852), commander of the native police corps in Victoria, who was responsible for collecting the first gold licence fees in Ballarat in 1851. Henry Dana was the brother of my third great grandmother Charlotte Champion Crespigny née Dana; he was my fourth great uncle.
The Dana family is a notable American family, and when in 1989 Greg and I spent a few days in Massachusetts, we visited some places there connected with my Dana forebears.
This was through the kindness of my great aunt Nancy Movius née Champion de Crespigny (1910 – 2003), sister of my paternal grandfather. Nancy, born in Australia, had married an American and settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Some of our Dana forebears lived in this area, from as early as 1640. Nancy shared my interest in our family history, and during our visit she drove us to the nearby town of Concord, where, it is said, “the shot heard round the world”, the first shot of the American Revolutionary War, rang out on 19 April 1775.
As they neared Lexington, the report came to them that some five hundred men were under arms; and I am not disinclined to reconcile their testimony with the facts, by the consideration that they heard the roll of our drums, and perhaps saw the flash or heard the report of our signal-guns, intended to call our men together, and thought them a defiance ; and perhaps officers in the centre or rear might have thought them hostile shots. But the front knew they had not been fired upon, and saw the short, thin line of sixty men with arms at rest. Pitcairn, when he rode up to them, and ordered them to surrender their arms and disperse, knew they had not fired. He was not the man to talk after hostile shots. Pitcairn has had the fate which befalls many men who carry out orders that afterwards prove fatally ill-judged. When he ordered our men to surrender their arms and disperse, he was executing the orders of his commander-in-chief and of his King. If Britain was in the right, Pitcairn was in the right. Twice they were ordered to surrender their arms and disperse; and twice they refused to obey, and stood their ground. Then came the fatal fire; and why not? General Gage had been authorized to use the troops for this very purpose. He was authorized to fire upon the people, if necessary to enforce the new laws, without waiting for the civil magistrate. He had resolved to do so. Had that volley subdued the resistance of Massachusetts, Pitcairn would have been the hero of the drama. Was he to leave a military array behind him, and not attempt to disarm and disband them? If they refused, was he to give it up? I have never thought it just or generous to throw upon the brave, rough soldier, who fell while mounting the breastworks at Bunker Hill, the fault which lay on the King, the Parliament, the Ministry, and the commander-in-chief. The truth is, the issue was inevitable. The first force of that kind which the King’s troops found in martial array was to be disarmed and disbanded; and, if they refused to obey, they were to be fired upon. Both sides knew this, and were prepared for it.
Hudson, Charles & Lexington Historical Society (Mass.) (1913). History of the town of Lexington, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, from its first settlement to 1868. Boston and New York Houghton Mifflin company. pp. 284-5 retrieved from archive.org
I have a further Dana connection to the beginning Revolutionary War.
One of Richard Henry Dana’s cousins (and my first cousin seven times removed) was George Dana (1742 – 1787), a Sergeant in Captain Jonathon Gates’ Company of Minutemen, which marched from Ashburnham on the Lexington Alarm of 19 April 1775.
Dana, Elizabeth Ellery (1956). The Dana Family in America. Wright & Potter Printing Company, 32 Derne Street, Boston. p. 482.
Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the Revolutionary War volume 4 page 388 retrieved through ancestry.com
Stearns, Ezra S (1887). History of Ashburnham, Massachusetts, from the grant of Dorchester Canada to the present time, 1734-1886 : with a genealogical register of Ashburnham families. Pub. by the town, Ashburnham, Mass. pp 139 – 145 – retrieved through Hathitrust and p. 674 retrieved through Hathitrust
In Australia today is ANZAC Day, the anniversary of the first large (and pointless and losing) military action by Australian and New Zealand soldiers (the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps), their landing at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915.
11 November 1918, when WWI came to a halt, was called Armistice Day. It was a truce, not a victory. Armistice Day is set aside as a day to remember all the men and women who served in Australia’s armed forces.
When WWII in Europe ended with the surrender of Germany on 8 May 1945, the day was known (on the Allied side) as V-E (Victory in Europe) day. In London there was great celebration.
V E Day began with Mr Churchill’s broadcast officially announcing the end of war in Europe. Londoners took to the streets in celebrations which continued for nearly two days. Outside Buckingham Palace the crowds chanted ‘we want the King’ and were rewarded by the Royal Family appearing on the balcony. At nine o’clock in the evening the King broadcast to Britain and the Commonwealth.
The war was not finished for Australians, however. The Japanese had not yet surrendered and Australia and its allies were still fighting in the Pacific. The Adelaide News noted that “the Allied victory in Europe, V-E Day, was [celebrated] in Adelaide in an atmosphere of sober satisfaction and thanksgiving rather than one of wild rejoicing.”
(News (Adelaide), 8 May, p. 3.)
“The Fallen of World War II” is an animated documentary about war and peace that looks at data on the human cost of the wars in the twentieth century and how these compare to wars in the distant past and more recently.
I hope we never forget the suffering and misery of war and the unspeakable wickedness and stupidity of people who let it happen.
When in 1914 what came to be called the Great War broke out, men of our families, mine and Greg’s, enlisted and fought for their country. This happened again in the war that followed the war to end all wars.
Taken together their determination to serve had a measurable affect on the shape of the conflict and its outcome, of course, but in each case their personal decision also had deep private consequences for their friends and family. Mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, children, girlfriends, mates, and acquaintances all became willing or unwilling partners in a man’s choice to join up, and one way or another they all suffered for it.
At the very least the father, son, husband, brother, or friend was taken from their lives for a long time, and it very soon became clear that the person finally returned to them, if he returned, might now be a sad maimed and crippled shell of the young man who had gone away.
Both Greg’s grandfathers fought in WWI. Both were wounded and returned to ordinary life more or less incapacitated, a burden to themselves and their families. Greg’s paternal grandfather Cecil lost a brother, a half-brother, and a cousin. His maternal grandfather Arthur Sullivan came back wounded and ‘shell-shocked’, to use the euphemism of the day.
All four of my great grandfathers fought in WWI. All were wounded or became ill. Both my grandfathers fought in WW2.
Family tree chart showing the men of our family who fought in WW1: all eligible men of our family in that generation fought and all of them were wounded or ill as a result. Men highlighted in grey: Peter, Geoff and Hans fought in WW2.
The brothers of Greg’s maternal grandmother, Stella Esther Gilbart Sullivan née Dawson (1894 – 1975) were all too young to enlist and her sisters did not marry until after the war. Her husband fought. An uncle was killed in action and a cousin of her mother’s also fought.
Francis Walter Roy Rawe 1889 – 1969 cousin of mother
On my side of the family my father’s paternal grandfather, Constantine Trent Champion de Crespigny (1882 – 1952), fought as did three of his brothers, one of whom was killed. There were also several maternal cousins who fought, however because his mother had died when he was young, I am not sure that he would have known these cousins well.
Francis George Travers Champion_de_Crespigny 1892 – 1968 brother
My father’s paternal grandmother was Beatrix de Crespigny née Hughes. Her husband fought as did two of her brothers; the other brother had been rejected on medical grounds. One brother was killed. One of her cousins also died. Two cousins of her father’s also fought.
Cedric Stuart Castlereagh Hughes 1893 – 1953 brother
My father’s maternal grandmother was Kathleen Cudmore formerly Cavenagh-Mainwaring née Cavenagh. Her husband fought as did two of her brothers; the other brother was rejected. Her brothers-in-law also fought.
James Gordon Cavenagh-Mainwaring 1865 – 1938 brother
A guest post by Diana Beckett; great great granddaughter of James Gordon Cavenagh.
Miniature of James Gordon Cavenagh in the possession of a granddaughter of Lt Col W.O. Cavenagh
Lt Col W.O. Cavenagh, (Wentworth Odiarne / WOC / Cousin Wenty) who did extensive research on our Cavenagh ancestry, was the grandson of the surgeon. The latter died in 1844 and WOC was born in 1856, so they never met. However, WOC knew as family tradition related by his father (Gen Sir Orfeur Cavenagh) that the surgeon had served at Waterloo, but was puzzled that he never received the Waterloo medal awarded to all those who served there. This therefore raised the question to later generations as to whether it was indeed true.
J G Cavenagh was the Staff Surgeon of the Royal Staff Corps, a regiment responsible for short term military engineering, which was stationed in Flanders from April to July 1815. The Battle was on June 28th.
In his book “The Bloody Fields of Waterloo”, M.K.H Crumplin, a retired surgeon, medical military historian much involved in Waterloo re-enactments, meticulously lists all the surgeons present at Waterloo or working with the wounded in the aftermath. Cavenagh is listed on page 157 as a late arrival. Presumably he was not ordered from his Flanders base to the battlefield in time.
On page 148 Crumplin explains that surgeons who arrived late were not awarded the Waterloo medal nor the two years added pension rights.
“There must have been many a military medical man who wished he had been present at this monumental battle. The staff who were there, were mostly surgeons both in regimental and staff posts. Some arrived late and would not receive the coveted Waterloo medal and two years added pension rights.” See Appendix below.
Arriving late, Cavenagh would have worked after the battle in one of the several hospitals in either Brussels or Antwerp where the wounded were treated. We do not know how long he stayed in Belgium but WOC records that sometime after the battle he proceeded to Paris where he was joined by his wife. (GO471 p 29)
An internet search shows that at least 3 officers of the Royal Staff Corps did receive the Waterloo medal.
Cavenagh is also mentioned in the Medico Chirurgical Transactions 1816 (Volume 7, part 1) when he was consulted about an operation on the jaw and mouth of a young drummer. The wound healed and the young man was discharged on August 16th.
George Symes enlisted in the British Army in 1915 at the age of nineteen. In June he was commissioned with a war service commission (for the duration of the war) into the Durham Light Infantry as a 2nd Lieutenant. He was seconded to the Machine Gun Corps on 22 February 1916, and was sent to France and Belgium on 23 February 1916. On 1 November 1916 he was promoted to the rank of Temporary Lieutenant. On 21 June the following year George Symes was granted a regular commission in the York and Lancaster Regiment, with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.
George Symes during WWI
Between WW1 and WW2 George remained a professional soldier. At the outbreak of the Second World War he was rapidly promoted, appointed Major-General in command of the 70th Division in Africa and then in India. The 70th Division was broken up, however, to form part of the “Chindit” Special Force under Orde Wingate, designed to operate behind the Japanese lines in Burma. George became deputy, but was stationed at New Delhi. He held command of Lines-of-Communications divisions in France and later in Burma, and after the war he was commander of the South-West District in England.
In 1949 he resigned his commission and emigrated to Australia.
George Symes in 1941
George was colonel of the York and Lancaster Regiment from 1946 to 48.
In 1968 the British army was reorganised. The York and Lancaster regiment was one of two infantry regiments that chose to be disbanded rather than amalgamated with another regiment.
When the regiment was disbanded George purchased some memorabilia including a drum.
On his death George Symes left a large sum to the Regimental Chapel for the York and Lancashire in Sheffield Cathedral, England. The ceiling of the chapel is a memorial to George and his first wife Katherine.