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 Recruitment 
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Post Recruitment
I came across the following in THE TIMES, July 16, 1788.

" ... The new Naval Administration intend to propose a nouvelle measure in the ensuing Sessions of Parliament, viz. the Enregistering a certain number of Seamen at all the Sea-ports of the kingdom; in a similar manner to what is practiced in France, in order that a number of sailors may be ready to man the ships of war in an emergency. ...."

Two questions spring to mind:

a) To what new naval administration does this refer, please?

b) I thought initially this was referring to the men supplied under the Quota Acts, but I note from Lavery's Nelson's Navy, that the acts are dated 1795. Can anyone elaborate, please?

I'm paricularly interested as my home town of Wisbech supplied seamen under that act.

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Wed Nov 30, 2005 12:07 pm
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Admiral Richard, Viscount Howe, was replaced as First Lord of the Admiralty in June, 1788 by John, Earl of Chatham. I think you will find that there was a general change in the cabinet at that time, with a new prime minister, too. Although registration of seamen along French lines was often proposed in Britain, it was never adopted. The French Inscription Maritime was a list of all qualified seamen, maintained at the various seaports and coastal fishing villages by an elaborate administrative staff. Seamen were supposed to be called up for the navy on a rotating basis, although a "class" could be held over. In theory, this guaranteed that service in the navy was spread evenly across the entire seafaring population, rather than concentrated "for the duration" on those unlucky enough to be caught by an Impress Service or shanghaied (yes, a later term than 1788) at sea. Registered seamen were also entitled to pensions and some other benefits. There's an extensive description of the French system under the ancien régime in the English translation of Boudriot's The 74-Gun Ship, and I presume in the original French version, Le vaisseau de 74 canons. But all such proposals in Britain foundered on objections that they were incompatible with "English liberties." If the proposal referred to was actually introduced in Parliament, it was not enacted. It is not related to the Quota Acts, which did not set up written registers of qualified seamen.


Wed Nov 30, 2005 10:32 pm
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Post Recruiting future seamen using boys.
Recruiting future seamen using boys.

This was taken from page 199 of the 1999 reprint of "Reminiscences of a Naval Officer" by Captain A Crawford.

One mode of recruiting for the navy, recommended by Lord Collingwood, always to have an additional number of boys supplied to each ship, was admirable, and, had it been acted upon, would no doubt have been attended with the most beneficial effects. But, although he reiterated his requests to the Admiralty, and tried to impress his own wholesome views upon the subject on that Board, I cannot call to mind that more than one batch of boys for general distribution throughout the fleet, ever reached the Mediterranean during the eight years that I was upon that station, and then not as an addition to the crews, as he requested, but merely to fill up the vacancies caused by death, removals, or other casualties. But had boys been constantly supplied to the ships on foreign stations, according to his Lordship's views and suggestions, each would have had a nursery on board, which would furnish her at need with expert and active topmen.

Don

Note: I moved this post so that the posts on recruitment are in the same thread. 12/1/05 Don


Fri Dec 02, 2005 4:43 am
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Albert Parker wrote:
Admiral Richard, Viscount Howe, was replaced as First Lord of the Admiralty in June, 1788 by John, Earl of Chatham. I think you will find that there was a general change in the cabinet at that time, with a new prime minister, too..



... thanks, Albert, for elaborating. I confess the politiical side of things I find tedious, although then, as now, military situations etc are dominated by those in Parliament.

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Sun Dec 04, 2005 11:31 am
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Mil Goose wrote:
... thanks, Albert, for elaborating. I confess the politiical side of things I find tedious, although then, as now, military situations etc are dominated by those in Parliament.

Well, not exactly, and in the sail era not in most navies. But internal politics, whether in Parliament, Congress, the Staaten-Generaal, or among the elites in other countries, determined the size and composition of the navy as well as, in this case, its personnel policies. It should not be supposed that a Parliamentary system was required for "politics" to affect navies. Even the most autocratic king or emperor depended on the support of the aristocracy--the nobility and the wealthier "commoners"--to enforce his rule. They might be officers in the armed forces, tax collectors, or local judges and administrators. Ultimately, they paid for the armed forces, whether taxes formally fell on them directly or on the peasants or serfs on their rural estates (since there was a limit to the amount of wealth that could be extracted from the peasantry--the more that went to the king, the less left over for the nobles). The king or emperor could only have the navy that the aristocracy was willing to support. As you probably know, even the House of Commons was a relatively aristocratic institution before 1832. The British peerage was much smaller than in many other European countries and many of the wealthy and influential "commoners" who served in Commons (including younger sons of peers who would have been "nobles" elsewhere) and cast most of the votes in elections would have had their own titles of nobility in other countries. (The exception was the United States after 1776, where the state legislatures, and the House of Representatives after 1789, had a much wider franchise than the House of Commons. Partisan politics and ideology greatly restricted the size of the U.S. Navy, but it is hard to conceive of any circumstances in which it would have become as large as the British, French, Russian, or Spanish navies.)

There is actually a long history of proposed reforms to the impressment system that had developed in the 17th century. They were generally designed to make more rational use of the national corps of experienced mariners while making service more palatable, and thus more enthusiastic, by spreading and limiting the burden. But apart from stopping ships at sea and raiding seaport towns, and grabbing anyone who appeared to be a British seaman, all such systems would have required a central, national registry or list of them (or lists at the various ports that could be sent to Whitehall to make a national list). At least in the U.S., we still have civil liberties qualms about such lists, founded on traditions of "English liberties."

Politics definitely affected the strategic employment of the British navy. The War of Jenkins's Ear was more or less forced on the Walpole cabinet by merchant interests who demanded that the expensive navy they had paid for through customs duties be used aggressively to protect their attempts to penetrate the Spanish American market. In wartime, the best protection for British merchant shipping was aggressive blockading and patrolling the kept enemy cruisers (whether government or private) off the ocean. This also served other strategic purposes. When it was not possible, as in what the British call the "American War," covering merchant convoys became a major responsibility of the navy, as it was for the French navy.


Sun Dec 04, 2005 11:49 pm
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Sample of a recruitment ad from The Edinburgh Advertiser, 22–25 Jan 1799 edition (Vol. LXXI, No. 3660):

"WANTED. For his Majesty's Hired Armed Cutter, KING GEORGE, Lieut. RAINS, Commander, lying at Burntisland, and on this station, A NUMBER of SEAMEN, who will receive Good Wages, and every encouragement, by applying to Mr. Shairp, the Master, at Mrs. Cree's, vintner, Leith, or James Potts, the Mate on board, at Burntisland. LEITH, 23d January, 1799."

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Thu Jun 08, 2006 8:00 am
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In The Times of July 28, 1794, I happened acoss a notice:

"Bounties to Seamen & Landsmen, Entering into the Service of the Navy."

I know Brian Lavery addresses this subject in a little detail, but the notice in The Times gives the full information. The bounties, paid by subscription (a list of subscribers is included in the notice) which would be "over and above those allowed by the Government .....

To every able-bodied Seaman, Ten Guineas... ordinary Seaman, eight guineas ...Landsman, six guineas..."
and, interestingly, "...boys, from 4ft 4 ins to 4 ft 8ins, one guinea; from 4 ft 3ins, upwards, two guineas...."

The total subscriptions received at that date was £8,636.10s. and the names listed include both companies and individuals. Also listed are the banks where subscriptions could be lodged.

There is a footnote to the public stating that " ... 319 men and 48 boys have already been sent to Lord Howe's fleet, and that the entry of men continues to increase...."

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Mon Jul 31, 2006 8:21 am
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Some officers didn't have to worry about recruiting, due to their reputation:

"He [James Richard Dacres 1788–1853] was always popular in the service. His ships were fully manned, and seamen would wait for vacancies in them. When the President was commissioned for his flag-ship for the Cape station, she was so quickly manned at Portsmouth that when the seamen who had entered for her at other ports arrived, there were no vacancies for them."

From Dacres' obituary in the February 1854 issue of The Gentleman's Magazine.

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Mon Sep 25, 2006 5:51 pm
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Naval bait and switch:

"...but in former days the formation of a ship's company was a gradual process lasting for weeks, and sometimes for months if the captain had a very bad name. When in 1848–49 the Admiralty determined to send 'Bully Wyvill' as commodore at the Cape in the Castor, they had recourse to a stratagem which the reader may characterise as he pleases. Knowing that Wyvill's name would not attract men, but quite the reverse, they appointed a very popular frigate captain, Sir Sabine Pasley, who quickly got together a magnificent ship's company, and then, just before the ship sailed from Plymouth Sound, Pasley was suddenly superseded by Wyvill!"

:?

From "Martello Tower" in China and the Pacific in H.M.S. "Tribune" 1856–60 (1902) by Francis Martin Norman.

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Thu Mar 27, 2008 7:34 am
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susan wrote:
Naval bait and switch:

"...but in former days the formation of a ship's company was a gradual process lasting for weeks, and sometimes for months if the captain had a very bad name. When in 1848–49 the Admiralty determined to send 'Bully Wyvill' as commodore at the Cape in the Castor, they had recourse to a stratagem which the reader may characterise as he pleases. Knowing that Wyvill's name would not attract men, but quite the reverse, they appointed a very popular frigate captain, Sir Sabine Pasley, who quickly got together a magnificent ship's company, and then, just before the ship sailed from Plymouth Sound, Pasley was suddenly superseded by Wyvill!"

:?

From "Martello Tower" in China and the Pacific in H.M.S. "Tribune" 1856–60 (1902) by Francis Martin Norman.





.... sneaky! Was this a general practice, does anyone know?


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Thu Mar 27, 2008 10:26 am
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Mil Goose wrote:
.... sneaky! Was this a general practice, does anyone know?

That's a good question. I wonder how often something like this happened. I'm also curious about Wyvill now. I'll have to see what I can come up with when I have a moment.

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Thu Mar 27, 2008 6:51 pm
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susan wrote:
Mil Goose wrote:
.... sneaky! Was this a general practice, does anyone know?

That's a good question. I wonder how often something like this happened. I'm also curious about Wyvill now. I'll have to see what I can come up with when I have a moment.


I have been having a look at the Castor recently in researching family history. A relative was Boatswain's Mate 1849-53.

The story is possibly a little apocryphal. The Castor was refitted at Sheerness and Chatham between 6 April and 31 May 1849 before sailing to Plymouth. It was announced on 7 May in the London Times that Wyvill would hoist his pennant as Commodore of the Cape Station aboard the Castor and not Pasley as the Times had reported only two days earlier. The ship’s crew had been signed in March and from the reports it is not certain Pasley had been appointed at that time, not being announced by the Times until about two months later. It was of course possible since Pasley’s previous command, the Curacoa had been paid off in January. What is certain however is that the appointment of Wyvill was not a “last minute” change just before the ship sailed from Plymouth. The Castor probably sailed from Plymouth at the beginning of August since she arrived at Ascension Island on 2 September 1849 bound for the Cape. At the time of sailing Wyvill had been in command for at least three months.

I haven't found any real information on Wyvill's personality as such but no doubt he was a forceful character. As commodore of the Cape Squadron he spent some 10 months in 1849-50 patrolling the Mozambique Straits and severely curtailing the Slave Trade which was prevalent in the area. His ships attacked and captured a number of slaver ships and the boats and crew/marines from the Castor were involved in attacking and destroying a number of slaver compounds along the coast. Wyvill himself was instrumental in interceding with the Sultan of Angoche to stop slavers operating on the archipelago north of Mozambique in July 1850.

In 1851-2 the ship was stationed at Simon's Bay near Cape Town (apart from about 5 months again in the Mozambique Straits in 1852) and a contingent of marines and seaman were ashore fighting in the Frontier (or Kaffir) War of 1851-53, their contribution commended by Major-General Somerset. In February 1852 boats and crew were sent to assist survivors of the troopship Birkenhead which sank rapidly after hitting an uncharted rock after sailing from Simon's Bay. Of the estimated 648 crew and troops aboard only 193 survived. The Castor returned to Britain and was paid off in February 1853.


Tue May 13, 2008 6:13 pm
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Hi John,

Welcome to the SN Forum!

Thanks for reposting the information about Wyvill and Castor.

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"I was originally intended to join the CASTOR 36, Commodore Wyville, fitting out for the Cape; but some of my friends warned my father that "Bully" Wyville, rather a rough salt of the old school, was scarcely a suitable man for a youngster of thirteen to take his first servicelesons from; so this appointment was cancelled...."

Admiral Sir Edmund R. Fremantle: "The Navy as I have known it - 1849-1899"


Tue May 13, 2008 10:26 pm
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From The Times July 3rd,1795:

" ... The brave crew of the Mars, commanded by Sir Charles Cotton, who so conspicuously distinguished himself in the late gallant action between Admiral Cornwallis and the French, consisted almost entirely of Volunteers raised by the Commissioners of the Port of London, not more than six weeks ago; a circumstance that evinces the propriety of the measures lately adopted by Government, to procure a supply of men for the service of his Majesty's Navy ....."


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