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 Disharmony 
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From The Times, of October 25, 1788:

" .... It is somewhat extraordinary for the officers of a ship to disagree; but Lord Howe had not the happiest mode in the world of appointing so as to preserve harmony in the fleet. The Phæton frigate is in a bad situation as to its officers. There will be cashiering no doubt, if not shooting, for without the strictest discipline in the fleet, the navy would soon be at an end ....."

Can anyone add the circumstances to the above, or make comment, please?



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Mon Feb 18, 2008 1:07 pm
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There appears to have been a major 'falling out' on the Phaeton - The Times of October and November 1788 also reports several courts-martial, on Captain George Dawson; Lieutenant William Wall and Lieutenant Lucas plus the Master, John Wilkins. It appears that they all accused each other of a range of offences; disobedience; contempt; neglect etc. etc.

Dawson was dismissed the service


Mon Feb 18, 2008 5:29 pm
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David H wrote:
There appears to have been a major 'falling out' on the Phaeton - The Times of October and November 1788 also reports several courts-martial, on Captain George Dawson; Lieutenant William Wall and Lieutenant Lucas plus the Master, John Wilkins. It appears that they all accused each other of a range of offences; disobedience; contempt; neglect etc. etc.

Dawson was dismissed the service




...thanks, David; appreciated. I will seek out the other reports.


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Sat Feb 23, 2008 11:26 am
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From The Times, of November 1, 1790:

" .... We sincerely hope that the remonstrance made by 27 Senior Captains of Lord Howe's fleet in regard to the promotion of Sir Roger Curtis will have no further influence in creating party disputes in the navy. The misfortunes which occurred in the beginning of last war from this spirit of jealousy, are too recent to be forgotten ....."




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Sat Mar 01, 2008 10:30 am
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Another bunch of unhappy people...from the 3 Nov 1807 edition of The Times. Courts martial were held on Gladiator involving several people from Jamaica.

W.W. Hutchinson (surgeon) was tried for making provoking speeches and gestures towards Lieutenant J. Mascall (Royal Marines)

During the trial of Hutchinson, he called the purser as a witness. Mascall objected on the grounds that the purser was an atheist. Lieutenant Philip Helpman gave evidence upon the conduct of the purser. In consequence the purser was dismissed from the service.

Then...Mr. Hartree (master) was tried for drunkenness and contempt towards the commander of the ship, Captain Lysaght.

Then...Mascall was tried for drunkenness and abusive behavior towards Hutchinson.

Then...Helpman was tried for striking a marine sergeant and sentinel while on duty.

Finally...Hutchinson was tried for using gross and abusive language to Hartree.

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Sun Mar 09, 2008 4:41 am
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From The Times of November 6, 1810:

" ..... Last week the Nymphen frigate, Captain Maxwell, arrived at Leith, from a cruise in the North Sea. Owing to some misunderstanding betwixt the Captain and his Officers, there are at present under close arrest on board, the three Lieutenants of the ship, the two Lieutenants of Marines, and the Surgeon and Purser ..."

Can anyone throw any light on this incident?





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Sun May 18, 2008 10:15 am
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From The Times, July 25th, 1815:

" ... A singular occurrence took place at the Admiralty...yesterday. Upwards of 200 seamen, who have been discharged from the navy, attended at that office in procession, with the Union Jack, and a clarionet playing 'God save the King.' They had a petition to present to their Lordships, of the distress in which they are plunged from the conduct of several person employing foreign seamen in merchants ships, at a less rate of wages. Every attention was shewn to these defenders of the country, and a deputation was sent for by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, who, it seems, recommended them to remonstrate with the persons by whom they are aggrieved, and that they had no doubt but, if proper means were resorted to, the foreign seamen would be removed. The men were satisfied with this answers, and, giving three hearty cheers, retired very peaceably. ....."


p.s. 'clarionet' is the spelling used in the extract; either a spelling error, or the spelling used then, or alternatively some instrument I have never heard of. :)



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Wed Oct 29, 2008 9:57 am
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From The Times of November 15th, 1793:

" ..... An insurrection in Quiberon-Bay, occasioned the French fleet to return to Brest. A Lieutenant of the Navy who was instrumental to it, was condemned to die, and a sailor, who cut the cable of the Bretagne while at anchor, was sentenced to the galleys for five years.

Since the return of the fleet, the discontent still continued, but without coming to any act of violence, until it was ordered that a guillotine should be put on board the Côte d'Or. The crew refused to receive so unwelcome a stranger, which occasioned their being threatened to be fired upon from the batteries on shore; but the people, particularly the women; solemnly declaring that if the troops put their threats into execution, they would burn the town, it had the desired effect, and the guillotine was not sent on board. ..."



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Sun Nov 02, 2008 11:32 am
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The Times, November 3rd, 1786:

" ... The cause of Capt. Sutton against Commodore Johnstone, is appointed by Lord Loughborough to be argued before him next Saturday morning at nine o'clock, at Serjeant's Inn Hall. ......"


Does anyone know what that was about, please?

p.s. I've found another piece about it dated the following year which says that the "cause" had been going on for six years, and " .... which so greatly affects the justice, order, and discipline of our navy, and which so materially connects itself with the honour of an officer....".

It further mentions a Mr Erskine, who I think was representing Sutton, (please correct me if I am wrong) said that he did so ".... not only for his client, but of all the officers in the navy, who happen to be under any commander that may have passions of revenge, spleen, or other purposes to gratify....."


I am really intrigued now!






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Tue Jul 21, 2009 9:06 am
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This would, I think, relate to the battle between a British squadron under Commodore Johnstone and a French squadron under the Bailli de Suffren at Porto Praya in the Cape Verde Islands on 16th April, 1781.

The ISIS 50, Captain Evelyn Sutton, was in the British squadron.

Johnstone was entrusted with escorting a military force to capture the Cape of Good Hope and his squadron had some twenty transports and victuallers under escort. The British force was at anchor in the bay taking on board wood, water and livestock when the French arrived. Johnstone had allowed his ships to anchor haphazardly rather than in a prepared defensive arrangement.

The engagement was marked by some errors and confusion on both sides and the French accomplished nothing but the capture of one Indiaman (subsequently retaken), a fireship 9subsequently retaken) and a storeship who were lying far out. The French withdrew with some damage to their ships (one dismasted) and Johnstone ordered his captains to slip or cut and pursue them. Sutton stated that his spars, standing and running rigging were so cut up that he could not obey the order until repairs had been affected. He was ordered to sail nevertheless. The ISIS proceeded to sea but immediately lost her fore topmast. The pursuit was called off at sunset and the British ships returned to the anchorage where Johnstone ordered Sutton into arrest. He was later brought to trial but the court-martial acquitted him.

Subsequently Sutton brought a civil action for damages against Johnstone and was awarded five thousand pounds. Johnstone demanded a new trial but again lost with the damages being increased to six thousand pounds. This judgement was subsequently reversed on appeal and this was confirmed by the House of Lords in May, 1787, Lord Howe stating that a decision in Sutton’s favour would subvert the good order and discipline of the Navy.

We should remember that political discord was rife in the Navy at this period (Johnstone’s appointment to this command being a case in point).


Tue Jul 21, 2009 10:59 am
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The Times, November 3rd, 1786:

" ... The cause of Capt. Sutton against Commodore Johnstone, is appointed by Lord Loughborough to be argued before him next Saturday morning at nine o'clock, at Serjeant's Inn Hall. ......"


Does anyone know what that was about, please?



This refers to the action at Porto Praya, Cape Verde Islands, 16 April 1781.

Commodore George Johnstone had been sent on a 'secret' expedition, with a sizeable force of warships and transports to attack and capture the Dutch settlement at the Cape of Good Hope. The force stopped to water and replenish victuals at Porto Praya, where it was caught in an unprepared state by a French squadron commanded by Suffren.

The French failed to inflict a full defeat on the British, but did inflict a lot of damage, and put out to sea. Johnstone "....thus luckily escaping the consequences of his neglect, now called his captains together to learn the condition of their ships, and then ordered them to cut cables and pursue. All obeyed except Captain Sutton of the Isis, who represented that his ship could not bear sail.....Johnstone ordered him out anyhow, which he did, and his fore topmast shortly went overboard." (Laird-Clowes).

The pursuit achieved nothing, all ships soon returning to port. Johnstone then relieved Sutton of his command and placed him under arrest, blaming him for the delay in pursuit.

Suffren meanwhile pressed on the the Cape, to provide protection; Johnstone arrived later, but finding a strong defence gave up on the invasion, contenting himself with picking up some Dutch East Indiamen.

On return to England Sutton was brought to court-martial, and acquitted of all charges. Sutton then brought a suit against Johnstone. Protracted by appeals, it preoccupied Johnstone for most of the remaining years of his life and was decided in his favour only two days before his death in 1787.


Tue Jul 21, 2009 11:14 am
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Thanks, David, for that very comprehensive explanation which is much appreciated and provides the missing links.


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Wed Jul 22, 2009 9:10 am
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Disharmony of a different type.....

The Times, September 8th, 1791:

" .... PLYMOUTH, September 5th.... No disturbance whatever had happened at this place since the fleet commenced paying off; the sailors, as usual, spend their little all in a day or two, and depart with empty pockets to their wives and families in different parts of the kingdom.

The animosity which lately manifested itself between the soldiers and seamen at Dock, has totally subsided. ...."





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