24 November 2009

Hubert Campion

Hubert Campion (1825-1900) was First, or Senior Lieutenant in Vesuvius in the Black Sea under Richard Ashmore Powell. Richard Ramsay Armstrong would have known him well, despite not mentioning him by name in the Book of His Adventures. Sadly, I can find no photograph of the man.

Hubert Campion's obituary on page seven of The Times of Tuesday, 17 April, 1900, reads as follows:

"The death is announced as having occurred at Lee, Kent, on Good Friday, of REAR-ADMIRAL HUBERT CAMPION, C.B., aged 74 years. He entered the Navy in 1848, and rose through the usual grades, becoming commander in 1855, and captain in 1863. Seven years later he retired, and was made rear-admiral on the Retired List in 1878. During the Crimean War Rear-Admiral Campion was senior lieutenant of the Vesuvius, the only ship which took part in the battle of the Alma, covering the attack of the French by shelling the Russians. He was in command of the same vessel during the hurricane at Balaclava, when the Vesuvius narrowly escaped destruction by a transport crossing her bows carrying away the bow-sprit and otherwise damaging the vessel. The abilities he had displayed thus early in his career led to his being selected as harbour-master of Balaclava until he was relieved by Admiral Boxer. He took part in both Kertch expeditions and in all the operations in the Sea of Azoff, during the latter part of which he commanded the Ardent. At the fall of Sevastopol he was gazetted promotion for his gallant services, and received the Crimean and Turkish medals. He was also a Knight of the legion of Honour. The deceased officer took a deep interest in the Royal Navy Scripture Readers Society, of which he acted as secretary."


Typical of the briefer type of naval obituary in The Times, this is clearly short of personal and family information, and really only pads out what can be found in the Navy Lists. However, the writer must have had one informant who claimed to know the deceased: the factually incorrect anecdote about Campion "being selected as harbour-master of Balaclava until he was relieved by Admiral Boxer" does not appear in any of the Navy Lists, or anywhere else other than this obituary as far as I am aware. The truth is that Admiral Boxer (see the Appendices of RRA's book for more details) was not appointed harbour-master at Balaklava. He was appointed Port Admiral. Furthermore, Leopold George Heath was the harbour-master and Powell - Campion's boss - was in charge of pilotage, assisted by his officers and men of Vesuvius, including Campion and Armstrong of course. [Heath, Admiral Sir Leopold George, K.C.B., LETTERS FROM THE BLACK SEA DURING THE CRIMEAN WAR, 1854-1855, Richard Bentley and Son, London, 1897.]



Campion was born in Exeter, Devon, on the 18th of June, 1825, and was baptised on the 2nd of August at St. Paul, Exeter. He was the third child of seven - two girls and five boys. They were the children of Thomas Campion, a local wharfinger, prominent businessman and merchant who had been born circa 1780 and died in 1859. An uncle, Richard Crudge Campion, was an Exeter solicitor who died in 1863. In fact Hubert was something of an oddity in the family for joining the Navy - most of his male relatives joined the legal or medical professions. His elder brother John Thomas Campion became a GP and his younger brother Henry a dentist. (The youngest brother, George Frederick, apparently died in childhood.)

There is a rather peculiar 'blank' at the beginning of Campion's naval career. It will be seen that his obituary in The Times states that he joined the Navy in 1848. If true, he would have been about 23 years old. However, an examination of his service record in the National Archives (see below) explains the author's mistake: unusually Campion's career record starts on the 22nd of June, 1848, when he was promoted to Mate, ignoring his time as a Naval Cadet and Midshipman, for time there must have been. In fact, 23 was quite old to still be without a Lieutenant's commission, and horribly old to still be a Midshipman, the rank he must have held before the 22nd of June, 1848.

The Navy Lists have the same blind spot too: Flag rank officers are given a landscape-view chart with their entry-through-promotions-to-retirement dates shown in columns. Campion's first two columns (entry and Mid.) are blank. Not actually uncommon in itself - many old Admirals don't have these early career dates recorded - but it does become a bit of a mystery when they are not recorded anywhere.

Most 'elderly' Midshipmen were considered duffers by their contemporaries and pitied or despised depending on their charm, or lack of it. Perhaps young Hubert had shown himself to be 'academically challenged' and there was no way he was up to following a legal or medical career like his family would have wished, so he was bundled off to the Navy. He wouldn't have been the first, or last, to find himself defending the Empire at sea by that route. (In fact Armstrong rather suggests in the opening passages of the book that he was propelled into the Navy for much the same reasons.)



However, an examination of Campion's career doesn't really show him to be a duffer. In fact he was very nearly in the 'stellar' category, and it seems fairly clear that he, a man of independent means due to his family's wealth, chose to let his career peter out allowing him to become a real family man ashore. Once he had passed the exam for Lieutenant and got that late (for whatever reason) promotion to Mate, he moved forward fairly quickly for the time. You very definitely did not get chosen to serve in the Royal Yacht Victoria & Albert if you were a duffer. Furthermore, he was chosen as one of the four officers of the Royal Yacht to get the traditional annual promotion for 1849, the others being Edward Vansittart to Commander and Mates Charles Trelawny Jago and Beville Granville Wyndham Nicolas also getting their commissions for Lieutenant. (Nicolas was one of the rare unfortunates the spelling and construction of whose name was an intangible mystery to the compilers of the Navy Lists and journalists alike. Not surprising really...and I am not 100% certain I have it right here!)

Few naval officers in the Black Sea got a chance to distinguish themselves, and it was especially frustrating for those who didn't serve in the Naval Brigade. However, service at Kertch and particularly in the Sea of Azoff did provide opportunities for those involved to get noticed, as Armstrong himself records. Campion clearly did everything that that was asked of him; got his name in the papers several times, and was gazetted Commander in recognition of his efforts. Incidently, as well as becoming a Knight of the Legion of Honour for his Crimean service, he also got the 5th Class of the Turkish Order of the Medjidie (right).



His naval career:

DatesShipRank
22 June 48Promoted to Mate
22 June 48 - 29 Nov 48NimrodMate
30 Nov 48 - 6 Feb 49Presidentditto
2 May 49 - 11 June 49Castorditto
5 June 49 - 31 Oct 49Victoria & Albertditto
23 Oct 1849Discharge promotion to Lieut.
11 Oct 50 - 5 Dec 51GeyserLieutenant
3 Apr 52 - 10 May 52Hecateditto
11 May 52 - 17 JuneGeyserditto
22 June 53 - 14 Sept 55Vesuviusditto
15 Sept 55 - 15 Feb 56Ardentditto
7 Dec 1855Promoted to Commander
15 May 56 - 25 Aug 57FalconCommander
3 March 58 - 21 Aug 60Elkditto
22 Aug 60 - 23 Aug 60Wellesleyditto
21 Apr 62 - 23 Sept 63Boscowenditto
19 Sept 1863Posted Captain


On the 2nd of October, 1860, at Walthamstow, Essex, Campion married Elizabeth Gilmore (born circa 1830, Ilford, Essex), the eldest daughter of John Gilmore, a Royal Naval lieutenant on half-pay who was also a ship owner. (Gilmore had been born circa 1794 and joined the Navy as an AB in 1806, a typical way for 'young gentlemen' to be introduced onto the books of warships. He had been involved in the latter stages of the Napoleonic Wars and had seen much active service on the North American station in the war of 1812. He had received his Lieutenant's commission in 1815 after a period as Acting Lieutenant in the Gulf of Mexico. Since that date he had been on half-pay and appears to have been a ship owner and registrant of several patents to do with ship ventilation and the like.) [Main source: O’Byrne, William R., A NAVAL BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY, John Murray, London, 1849. Reprinted by Vintage Naval Library, Dallington, 1997.]

Hubert and Elizabeth had at least five children between 1862 and 1871, four sons and a daughter. The latter, Rose, who was the second child, was born in Hampshire in 1863 and appears to have never married, running the household for her widowed father until his death, and then living with her brother Ivon, who by 1901 was a solicitor in London.

The eldest child was Hubert Craigie Campion, born in 1862 at Ramsgate, Kent. He was educated at Tonbridge School between 1874 and 1881. He was a Smythe Exhibition Scholar of Keble College, Oxford, where he achieved a 1st class Mods. degree. He died at Oxford on the 2nd of February, 1883, two days after contracting scarlet fever. He was 21.

Arthur Goring Campion was born at Ramsgate in 1864. The Tonbridge School records him as "being with an estate agent", but in the 1891 census he is listed as a professional actor, and in the 1901 census for Scotland he was apparently in lodgings in Morningside, Edinburgh, and still listed as an actor. However, I can't find any more details of his career.

Harold Gilmore Campion was born at Ramsgate the following year. Also educated at Tonbridge School, he followed one of the family traditions and became a solicitor. He married Ellen Wilton Everet at Wandsworth, London, in 1893. They had a son, Hubert Wilton Campion, born in 1896, who was a Midshipman in the RNVR in the First World War. He served in the RN Division and then in the RN Air Service; became a Sub-Lieutenant and did a stint in the newly formed RAF before reverting to the RNVR when demobbed from the RAF in September 1919 and promoted to Lieutenant. He resigned from the RNVR in February 1922. He is recorded as an articled clerk to a solicitor in civilian life. [National Archives, Catalogue Reference:adm/337/117]

Ivon Hamilton Campion was born at Ramsgate on the 27th of June, 1870. Like his brothers before him, he was educated at Tombridge School and went to Selwyn College, Cambridge, entering October 1889. B.A. 1892. [Venn, J. A., comp., Alumni Cantabrigienses. London, CUP 1922-1954.] He became a solicitor and apparently an author of at least one published novel - A Dawnless Fate - though I can find nothing more about it than this Google Books listing.

Campion retired as a Captain on the 1st of April, 1870, and was eventually made a Companion of the Bath, dated the 2nd of June, 1877. (Left)

Hubert Campion's wife Elizabeth died on the 20th of January, 1888, at the family residence, 8, Marlborough Road, Lee, in SE London. [Deaths, The Times, Saturday January 21 1888, page 1.] Hubert lived on for another twelve years of so, looked after by his daughter Rose.

The Lower House of the Convocation of Canterbury produced a report in 1875 on "Church Work amongst Sailors in 64 Home Ports". It was published in London by W. Wells Gardner, 2 Paternoster Buildings, and was transcribed by Wayne Kempton, Archivist and Historiographer of the Episcopal Diocese of New York in 2008 and available online at anglicanhistory.org :

"On the west side of Portsmouth Harbour lies Gosport, chiefly frequented by colliers and other coasters, and also during the summer months by yachts; hence it has no non-resident seamen to provide for. The Missions to Seamen Society has a lay reader stationed at Ryde, who occasionally visits this place, and another stationed here, but who principally works in Haslar Hospital and the ships of the Royal Navy. Two other Societies seek to work for the spiritual benefit of the seamen of the Royal Navy. The first is the Royal Naval Scripture Readers Society. This was founded in 1860, for the purpose of giving spiritual aid to the seamen and marines of the Royal Navy, through the instrumentality of scripture readers. These endeavour to touch the hearts of the men by supplementing the labours of the chaplains, and acting under their superintendence in those ships of war which have no chaplains, and in the several naval hospitals and barracks, and, except the Missions to Seamen Society's agents, are the sole pastoral agency in that large section of H.M.'s fleet which is without chaplains. The readers, 14 in number, are stationed at six of the principal naval seaports, and have done much good service. Captain Hubert Campion, R.N., is the secretary of this excellent Society, which ought to be much better supported than it is."


(See pages 19-20 of http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/upload/pdf/Chaplain_RN_09.pdf for more about The Royal Naval Scripture Readers Society.)

No comments:

Post a comment