20 February 2009

Back to the West Coast of Africa

On page 109 is the following passage:

While still on the Gold Coast, we called in at a village known on the Chart as Ambrezette, an anchorage a few miles from St. Paul de Loanda. We observed a peculiar round column on an embankment near the beach, evidently composed of marble or granite of about 150 feet in height, the base several feet in circumference and running up to a fine point. On examination we could not find joints or anything to give us an idea of how it was constructed, nor could we find anyone to give us its history. I have many times thought over this peculiar construction, and have come to the conclusion, it must have been cemented foot by foot with a conglomerate of crushed marble and some strong cement.

Well, "Ambrezette" appears to have normally been spelt Ambrizete, and is now N'zeto on the coast of Angola (see sat. pic). However, no mention of a "granite or marble column" can be found anywhere in other contemporary or recent accounts. There is nothing marked on any map that I can find - nor anything visible on Google Earth, though the patch for the N'zeto vicinity is quite high resolution. Was RRA mistaken? Was the 150 foot high column somewhere else on the coast? It's a mystery!

However, a clue to RRA's possible confusion maybe in the opening phrase of the passage, "While still on the Gold Coast..." Ambrizete/N'zeto was not, and still isn't on the Gold Coast: it is much further south, south of the Bight of Benin. Maybe the strange column was really on the Gold Coast, somewhere near Elmina, perhaps? I will keep looking...

7 February 2009

The Wrong Kennedy...!

I have made a silly mistake with the identification of one of RRA's colleagues in the Naval Brigade ashore in the Crimean War.

On page 408, in the Appendix 2 piece about the death of Lieutenant Kidd at the Redan on 18 June 1855, I confused two men called Kennedy who were young officers in the Naval Brigade and were both part of the ladder parties that tried to storm the Redan. This doesn't affect the overall piece, but it is a sloppy mistake - especially as (modesty aside) I probably know more about the 150 officers who served ashore with the Naval Brigade than anyone else! So, for the sake of honour, I must set the record straight:

In fact there were three unrelated officers called Kennedy who served ashore with the Naval Brigade during the Crimean War. The most senior was John James Kennedy (1821-1885). He was a Commander by the time of the Redan assault and was effectively 'brigade major', not being part of the ladder parties. His life was a very intriguing one and I cover it in some detail in the investigation of 'Mrs. and Miss Dunn' starting on page 429.

The second was William Robert Kennedy (1838-1916), later a full Admiral; well known and much respected (photo, above). It was he that I carelessly assumed was the 'Kennedy, Mate' that appears in the list of officers attached to the ladder parties. I even went so far as to point out that the official list was wrong in calling him a Mate because I knew he was still a Midshipman at the time. If nothing else, this should have alerted me to my mistake. W.R. Kennedy was part of the ladder parties, but in one of those which never made the assault, watching the action from the forward trench. This explains the lack of detail concerning his own activity in his autobiography.

The real 'Kennedy, Mate' of the No.3 Ladder Party led by Lieutenants Cave and Kidd was of course Andrew James Kennedy (1834-1895). His life was very low profile compared to either of the other two. He is quite difficult to research: his Times obituary is very brief and lacking in detail and he does not appear to be included in anyone's detailed family research. However, the following is known about him and comes from my file for him:

Andrew James Kennedy, Admiral RN, b. 21 Jan, bapt. 16 Feb 1834 Princes Street Independent, Devonport, married 1QTR 1871 Stoke Damerel, Cordelia Mary Gill (daughter of Thomas H. Gill, solicitor, and his wife Elizabeth, of Devonport), and died 17 Feb 1895 at the Hotel International, Nice, France. Only known child: Ethel Annie Kennedy, b. c.1875 Devonport. 6 August 1855 Lieutenant; 11 April 1866 Commander; 13 October 1876 Captain.

His brief obituary in the Times of Thursday 21 Feb 1895, reads as follows:

Admiral Andrew James Kennedy, who died at Nice on the 17th inst., entered the Navy in 1847, and served in the Black Sea and Crimea 1854-5, receiving the 5th Class of the Medjidieh and a knighthood of the Legion of Honour. He was captain of the Briton during the naval and military operations in Eastern Sudan in 1884, and was placed on the retired list in 1889. He was promoted to be rear-admiral (retired) in 1891.

However, this does miss the fact that he was awarded the Sardinian Medaglia Al Valore Militare (photo, left) for his service in the Crimea. The citation reads:

Served with the Naval Brigade nearly nine months, and at every bombardment except the first. Was one of the scaling-ladder party at the attack on the Redan, on the 18th of June, and was mentioned in the despatches of the late Lord Raglan, for his conduct on that occasion with especial praise. Also especially recommended by Sir Stephen Lushington, for good service during the siege of Sebastopol.

[Dougla-Morris, Kenneth J., NAVAL MEDALS 1793-1856, Privately Printed, London, 1987.]

1 February 2009

RRA's Second Commission

The lines of 'Star Class' brig/packets. Both Cygnet and the infamous and unhappy Hound were brigs of this class.

RRA's second commission (now as a fully-fledged Midshipman), was on the west Coast of Africa, 1850 to 1853, travelling out in Firefly as a supernumerary, and then serving in Cygnet, Commander Richard Dunning White, 1819-1899.

A brief summary of White's career is given here:

Date Rank
15 April 1826 Entered Navy
5 November 1840 Lieutenant
28 August 1847 Commander
10 May 1856 Captain
19 January 1874 Retired Rear Admiral
1 February 1879 Retired Vice Admiral

Date from Date to Service
December 1843 March 1847
Lieutenant in Sealark, commanded by Thomas Lewis Gooch, west coast of Africa

1 March 1847 September 1847
Commander in Skylark (until paying off at Chatham), west coast of Africa

1 July 1850 May 1853
Commander in Cygnet (until paying off at Portsmouth), coast of Africa

6 January 1855 10 May 1856
Commander in Desperate, the Baltic during the Russian War

15 September 1859 1863
Captain in Madagascar, storeship, Rio de Janeiro

26 May 1865 23 February 1867
Captain in Cossack (until paying off at Sheerness), Mediterranean

186? January 1869
Captain in Mersey, flagship, Queenstown.

His obituary appeared on page 9 of The Times on Monday 31 July 1899:

Vice-Admiral R.D. White, C.B., died on Saturday, at his residence, Heavitree, Exeter, in his 80th year. He was the youngest son of the late Admiral Thomas White, of Buckfast Abbey. In 1826 he entered the Royal Navy as a volunteer of the first class. After filling various minor appointments, he served in Syria, and was present at the capture of St. Jean d'Acre. From 1844 to 1847 and from 1850 to 1853 he was employed on the West Coast of Afica in suppressing the slave trade, and captured many slavers. As the senior officer of the Sierra Leone Division, Admiral White was also employed in settling a somewhat difficult diplomatic question that arose with the French, owing to a French vessel having been captured in error by a British ship. During the Russian war he commanded the Desperate in the Baltic, and captured the first prize of the season. Admiral White was present at the attack on the forts and batteries at the entrance to the river Dwina, near Riga, and at several operations on land in the gulf in command of sailors and marines. He afterwards commanded for four years the Madagascar at Rio de Janeiro, the Cossack in the Mediterranean from 1865 to 1867, and the Mersey at Queenstown from the latter year to 1869. At the conclusion of the Russian war he was officially gazetted and promoted in consequence of "special and distinguished individual services" performed during the war. Admiral White held the medals for Syria, Turkey, and the Baltic, and he was made a C.B. in 1881. He was a justice of the peace for Devon.

The Old Howe

The Old Howe in 1859