Tuesday, April 26, 2016

V is for HMS Vernon



V is for HMS Vernon


Figurehead of HMS Vernon in Gunwharf Quays

James Cook's register of service (ADM 196/31) shows him serving on the Ship Vernon during the following dates:

10 May 1880 - 30 September 1880
1 October 1880 - 20 November 1882
18 August 1886 - 28 January 1887
18 April 1890 - 19 July 1890
10 Sept 1890 - 29 January 1891
30 November 1896 - 2 March 1898
10 March 1901 - 20 May 1901
21 March 1902-15 Sept 1902

Comments on his service 1880-1882 report:
Sobriety and to my entire satisfaction - Mr Cook has had considerable experience in the instruction of Cransus (?) torpedo classes, and is a steady and fully qualified Torpedo Gunner.  J.O. Hopkins
And again in 1886-87:
With sobriety and to my entire satisfaction a trustworthy officer & a good instructor. S. Long
Bruno Pappalardo in Tracing Your Naval Ancestors advises that: 
Torpedo training was provided from 1872 in HMS Vernon, in Portsmouth...(p, 9)
When I look at the register of service, I notice that there are lots of "S"s and "H"s marked next to the names of the ships.  I'm guessing that is an abbreviation for Ship and Home or maybe Hulk.

If you read the Wiki article on HMS Vernon here you will learn that she was a torpedo school ship.

Good old Trove comes up trumps again with this marvelous article describing what it was like training in the Royal Navy.  Could you ask for more?




1881 'Training for the Royal Navy.', Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907), 10 September, p. 30. , viewed 25 Apr 2016, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70959935, courtesy of Trove, National Library of Australia

Here is the transcription for those of you who find the image difficult to read:

IN our great-grandfathers' days,-when the "wooden
walls" of Old England were a literal fact, the
training of seamen for service in the Royal Navy
was a very different thing from what it now is.
The education of the Jack Tars of that period was
mainly confined to the manipulation of the compli-
cated system of ropes, sails, and tackle upon which
depended the management and manoeuvring of
the vessels, the gun exercises necessary for the
effective delivery of tremendous broadsides, and
the boot drill and pistol and cutlass practice which
made an attack by our gallant blue-jackets so for-
midable when an enemy's ship was grappled yard
arm to yard-arm, and the boarding-parties swarmed
eagerly over the sides of their own vessel to cap-
ture that of the foe. Nous avons change tout cela,
Heart of Oak has given place to iron and steel,
and the wet sheet and flowing sail to the " kettle
of steam," and with these changes have come
others so great and so numerous that Nelson
and Drake would stand aghast with amazement
could they once more revisit the glimpses of the
moon, and witness our method of naval warfare
as conducted on board one of our gigantic modern
ironclads.' The means of locomotion, manoeuvring,
steering, &c., of the huge monster are now fur-
nished by the engineering staff, subject of course
to the command of the captain, whilst the fighting
portion of the crew, officers and men alike, being
thus relieved to a great extent of the care and
management of the vessel itself, have to undergo
a course of scientific instruction of a most ela-
borate character in order to familiarize them
selves with the manifold and curiously contrived
weapons of offence and defence which of late
years have been adopted in the Service.
The principal school of instruction is located in
Portsmouth Harbour, on board the four dismasted
hulks, Calcutta, Excellent, Ariadne, and Vernon,
which are moored stem and stern in line near the
new extension works of the Dockyard. These
vessels are fitted up with all the multiform ap-
pliances necessary for the practical explanation of
the working of all the various scientific engines of
marine and submarine warfare : electric,magnetic,
and voltaic batteries, torpedoes of all sorts, from
the frame-and-stake torpedo and the "turtle,"
which are fixed-beneath the surface of the water
ready to blow -up any vessel which passes over
them, to the Whitehead and "fish" torpedoes
which speed with terrible rapidity through the
water on their mission of destruction ; sea-mines
of many kinds, some intended to lie perdu in the
bed of a river or harbour, and others semi
buoyant; and innumerable sorts of primers and
fuses, frictional, percussive, chemical, electric,
and mechanical, together with a multitude of
other contrivances for increasing the deadliness
of their effect, upon a hostile fleet, and also for
rendering their manipulation comparatively safe
to those by whom they are employed.
In our engravings we have first the canteen and
the recreation room on board H.M.S. Excellent,
which need no special explanation. "After
Dinner Drill" on board the Calcutta shows a
squad of blue-jackets going through the musketry
exercise, under the direction of one of the
instructors. Our fourth sketch is a stern view
of H.M.S. Excellent, with the three other vessels
above-named in perspective and the tender gun
boat Medway steaming up to the left. No. 5 is a
bow view of the Calcutta and the Excellent.
No. 6 shows the second-class torpedo school on
board the Vernon, where the seamen are being
initiated into tho scientific mysteries essential to
the effective use of those deadly instruments.
No. 7 is the first-class, or officers' torpedo-school
on board the same vessel, a perfect museum of
scientific models of every variety of infernal
machine. No. 8 shows the quarter-deck of
H.M.S. Vernon, with ...the instructor demon-
strating to his class the harmlessness and in
explosive character of gun-cotton when in its
pure state. A disc of this substance about the
size of a biscuit is placed upon a block of wood
and touched with a red-hot iron, and the effect is
merely that it flames with a slight hissing noise,
and burns away, doing no visible injury to the
block of wood upon which it rests. If, however,
a disc of tho same size charged with fulminate of
mercury, be ignited by electricity, the result is a
sharp explosion, which shatters the block to atoms.
Gun-cotton, when stored on board-ship, is kept
moist, and as 15 per cent, of water is sufficient to
prevent it exploding, even if thrown into a fire, it
seems clear that the destruction of the Doteral
cannot have resulted from the explosion of its
store of this material as some writers in our con-
temporaries have supposed. In No. 9 the Excel-
lent is shown at target practice, whilst the boats
of H.M.S. Vernon are engaged in blowing up with
countermines the submerged torpedoes which are
supposed to have been placed in position by the
enemy for the protection of the waterway. This
is done by a grappling iron or fork, to which is
fixed a canister charged with some powerful ex-
plosive and trailed over the the stern of the boat
or launch. When a torpedo wire is gripped either
the electric wire is detached, rendering the tor-
pedo useless, or the latter is blown up by the
countermine on the grappling iron, which is fired
by electricity from the boat. Thus the boats keep
on " creeping" till the passage is clear for the
ships to proceed. In actual warfare such work:
would, of course, be carried out under cover of the
darkness of night. No. 10 shows the lower deck
of the Vernon with the instructors explaining the
use of tho electric wires ; whilst in No. ll we have
the figure-heads of the four vessels. The Ariadne
and the Vernon are connected by means of a light
suspension-bridge or gangway, which is often
crowded with sailors going to and fro. The
figure-heads of these two vessels face one another
in close contiguity, and have been nicknamed
by the blue-jackets " Beauty and the Beast."
Finally, we have a view of the gun-deck of
H.M.S. Excellent, with a portion of her crew
engaged in exercise at heavy gun drill.

I'm sorry I haven't supplied the pictures for you...they are very dark and difficult to see but if you do want to look at them you can go here.

This is my contribution to Blogging from A to Z Challenge and the Trove Tuesday blogging theme.

14 comments:

Wendy said...

I have never seen a male figurehead before. I guess I assumed wrong that the figureheads were always female explaining why ships were referred to in the feminine gender, "she" or "her."

Jill Ball said...

I'm curious - Is this James Cook an ancestor?

Suzanne McClendon said...

It sounds like Mr. Cook was a very good worker. I am having trouble with my vision at the moment and couldn't read the text of the images shared. I hope to read them later as I know they must be very interesting.

Have a blessed day!

Dianne said...

You do such good research, all your posts have been so interesting.

Alex Daw said...

Do you know Wendy, when I think about it I don't reckon I have either. I think this one is called The Beast from something I read somewhere.

Alex Daw said...

Dear Jill..yes he is...my 2nd great-grandfather from memory...not THE James Cook of course.

Alex Daw said...

Dear Suzanne...I am sorry to hear that...if I can, I will do a transcription because it isn't very easy to read is it?

Alex Daw said...

Dear Dianne...many thanks for your kind comments...I am a bit like a dog with a bone when it comes to research...I keep gnawing away at it.

Alex Daw said...

Dear Dianne...many thanks for your kind comments...I am a bit like a dog with a bone when it comes to research...I keep gnawing away at it.

Suzanne McClendon said...

Dear Alex, that would be great. Thank you! Thankfully, my vision is not always blurry, but some days it is pretty bad.

Have a blessed day! Or rather, night. Whichever one you're at. :)

Alex Daw said...

Dear Suzanne - done xx

Fran Kitto said...

Alex, Thanks for the transcription. I needed that help. Only a few letter to go. Fran

Alex Daw said...

Dear Fran - Hallelujah!

Suzanne McClendon said...

Thank you so much for the transcription, Alex. I appreciate it very much. It was a very interesting bit of reading. It reminded me of my Uncle Earl, who was in the US Navy. During the Vietnam war, he was a mine-sweeper, going through the waters in wooden boats to find the mines. It sounded both exciting and very scary to me.

Thanks again. Have a blessed day!