The Coastguard Cutter Vol6 No3

The Coastguard Cutter

March 2008
Vol 6 No. 03.

"The Lady Margaret"


Hello Friend,

In the early years of the Coastguard the men were sent on retraining exercises yearly to enable them to function as a reserve force for the Navy. On station there were regular sessions of marksmanship with rifles and revolvers.


The Arms of the Irish Coastguard. 1854


Dublin, Wednesday morning. An English gentleman who has been making a tour in the West of Ireland, writes that within the last month at one of the places in which he happened to be, was alarmed by the report that the Coastguard had been turned out to examine and, if necessary, to board a suspicious looking brig, supposed to be a privateer. Anxious to ascertain the truth of the report, the tourist visited the adjacent Coastguard station, where he learnt that it was quite true, and that the men had general orders to capture any doubtful looking craft that might be seen in those waters.

Some conversation having taken place between the stranger and the men on the nature of the service, the former remarked some old flint muskets that were ranged along the wall, and asked if they were retained as momentos of by-gone times; but to his manifest surprise, he was told that such were the only arms they were supplied with. One of the party observed -“We will do our duty, Sir; we are not afraid ; But it is hard to ask us to risk our lives where we have no chance. You know, Sir, it is most difficult to keep the flints dry from the sea and spray and what chance have we against even a common percussion musket, much less a Minie rifle or a Colt’s revolver? Why, every man of us would be shot down before we got at them with those old flint muskets. We are ordered out to almost certain death.” Upon making further inquiries, the tourist ascertained that all the Coastguards were supplied with no better description of arm than the old condemned flint musket.

Ref: The Time. London  15 June 1854.


Cutlass Drill


Arms. 1892.

Every two months each man fires thirty rounds with a rifle, and seventy-five rounds with a pistol. Every coastguardsman has to go to sea once during the year, either for fourteen days for drill, or twenty-eight days for cruise; in the latter case they are exercised in target practice with heavy guns.

Ref: "Our Coastguard" The Graphic June 18 1892.




Dangerous Firing Practice at Bembridge. 1908.    (Friendly Fire)

Twelve-pounder shells from torpedo destroyers at target practice, with searchlights, between the Nab and Bembridge Fort, two or three miles off the Isle of Wight, passed over some houses in Bembridge and embedded themselves in open fields beyond, on Monday morning. The first shell passed over about six o’clock, and others followed during the next hour and a half. As soon as possible the Coastguards were informed of the occurrence, and a telephone message was sent to the Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth, with the result that orders were given to cease fire, or to alter targets. Altogether seven or eight shells reached the shore, and most of them fell in the open country within a mile of the coast. It is thought that an experiment was being tried by playing a searchlight on the vessel about to fire at the target and that there was a slight error in the elevation of the guns when firing in a choppy sea.

Some of the shells traveled through the tops of some fairly high trees, cutting off small branches. Three struck the ground within a short distance of some houses and rose again before they finally became embedded in the soil, several hundred yards further on. One projectile passed so near a labourer that he was thrown down and covered with the earth which was thrown high into the air by the missile, which had scooped out a large hole in the ground. Another shell passed through a woolen shawl which was hanging on a clothes-line in a cottage garden. Two of the shells have been recovered and have been taken charge of by a Coastguard. The Naval authorities were busy yesterday with investigations on the spot.

Ref: The Times London 4 November 1908.


CutlassThe cutlass is a short sword similar to a sabre, with a curved blade and a plain guarded hilt. It is a cutting, slashing weapon. The dangers involved in apprehending the determined smugglers led to the need of the Coastguard to be armed. Smugglers have often been romanticized, but the reality was brutal. Local people lived in fear, with violent reprisals on informers and the murder of conscientious Revenue Officers.

Accidental Discharge

PistolErnest Baird, a Coastguard on duty at Wicklow was the victim of an accidental discharge of a firearm on Monday night. He was on the Murrough at 11 o’clock having in his possession a loaded revolver, and by some means or another, the weapon went off, and a bullet passed through his left hand, and entered his left leg below the knee. Dr. J.H.Halpin, the Coastguard doctor, was immediately summoned and dressed the wounds, and the injured man was subsequently conveyed to the County Infirmary, where he is detained, and is making satisfactory progress.

Ref: Wicklow News-Letter Saturday 12th. June 1915.

Son of a Gun.
When in port, and with the crew restricted to the ship for any extended period of time, wives and ladies of easy virtue often were allowed to live aboard along with the crew, infrequently but not uncommonly, children were born aboard, and a convenient place for this was between guns on the gun deck. If the child's father was unknown, they were entered in the ship' log as "son of a gun".
A long thin knife. It was used for fighting in close quarters, as well as cutting rope.

 Revenue Fleet NewsRevenue Fleet News

We are concerned to state that 44 half-bales of contraband tobacco contraband have been found on board the ‘Thetis’ by Lt.Triphook and crew of the ‘Hamilton’, Revenue Cruiser, and Mr.Dexter,Chief Officer and men of the Coastguard at Beale. The greater part was secreted in the seamen’s berths, and five bales among the cargo (timber). The crew have been marched in custody from Tarbert to Tralee gaol, to abide the usual investigation. The vessel herself will, it is feared become a complete wreck, but the cargo is safe.


Ref: Saunders News-Letter Tuesday 9th.December 1834.
Ref; The Irish Times 23 July 1867.

UK CG NewsCoastguard News from England

The Late Gales. 1827.

Hastings December 9.  This morning a fine brig of 250 tons was suddenly perceived to be on fire and the flames in a few minutes were seen to be bursting out from the fore-deck and aft.. A very short time had elapsed when the vessels boat was seen to leave her. The galleys belonging to the Customs and Preventive service and others instantly put off and rowed with all their might towards the ill-fated vessel, the crew having been picked up by a fishing vessel. The Captain told the Preventive men that only one barrel of gunpowder had been on board and it must be that, that exploded. With that two of the Preventive men jumped aboard and lashed two ropes around the bow-sprit and the boats commenced towing her towards the shore. At this period the vessel was nearly enveloped in flames, but the fore-mast was still standing and all the sails in full play. With extraordinary exertion the boats crews succeeded  in towing her ashore near the ‘Tower’ No. 24 in Bulverhithe Bay. She was then nearly burnt to the waters edge. She proved to be the ‘Albion’ of Newcastle, with a cargo of rum, flax and general goods.

The master states that the only reason for the fire was that a boy went into the after part of the hold with a candle to get some potatoes and in a few minutes a dreadful smoke issued from the hold. The smoke was so intense that it was with difficulty that the master could make to the deck. No cargo was saved.

Ref: Freemans Journal  Saturday 15 December 1827.

Ajax. 1858

On 11th.October 1858 the schooner Ajax of Plymouth, was werecked off Kenfig Sands near Porthcawl. Seven coastguards pulled a gig along the foreshore and put out to the rescue in heavy seas. They saved all six crew members, James Callopy and Daniel Shea, (Chief Officer of the coastguards) were awarded the RNLI Silver Medal and the other rescuers received cash rewards for their bravery. Daniel Shea won the Silver Medal four times in all but was eventually drowned when the Padstow Lifeboat capsized in 1867.

Coming in April Edition.

 Robert's Cove Station.





With more and more people enjoying the beach and sea, the RNLI has never been busier - rescuing an average of 22 people every day. It now costs over £330,000 a day to run this essential service - to train their volunteers and maintain their craft and equipment. So however you choose to support them, every penny really counts.

To donate to the RNLI, simply call 0800 543210 or visit
(for Republic of Ireland call (01) 800 789 589 or visit



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