The Coastguards go to War, 1854

1854. The Coastguard go to War

 With the outbreak of war in the Crimea the Fleet needed volunteers to man warships in home waters and maintain blockade of ships carrying goods to Russia. A number also manned fighting vessels in the Mediterranean Sea.

Royal Naval Coast Volunteers.

Captain Jerningham, RN. commanding the R.N. Coast Volunteers in Ireland has arrived in Cork for the purpose of enrolling men under the Act Vict.c 73. For the defence of the coasts of the United Kingdom. Every volunteer is to receive a bounty of £6, 10 shillings of which will be paid on enrolment, and the remainder to be extended over the period of service, and will be entered for a period of 5 years, which may, by Royal proclamation, be extended to 6. Twenty-four days in each year will be devoted to drill, during which time the men are to receive the daily pay of one shilling and six-pence, clothing, a billet, and marching money to and from their homes. Should these men at any time be called into actual service afloat, the term of one year will exempt them from further service ( although the five year term may not be completed), unless extended in time of emergency as above, for the further term of one year, in which case the men are to receive 1/9 per diem.

The act prohibits these men being sent under any circumstances to a greater distance from the shores of the United Kingdom than 100 leagues. Men taking service under this Act will be protected from impressment is a matter of no small importance at this moment, as it is hard to tell at what time the Naval power of the Empire may be called into active requisition, and a necessary arise for the adoption of extreme measures of compulsory recruitment . This service, be it also remembered, is for the protection of our own ports and our own shores - which we have said 100, times over, were shamefully neglected. Candidates for entry can obtain blank forms from the nearest Coastguard station, to be filled up, and given at the time of enrolment, which begins in this neighbourhood on the 1st.February and of which notice will be given by handbills. (Cork Examiner) (1)

The Navy

"The Coastguard force is being collected from the respective Stations and berthed on board the ships fitting out at the port. Clothing, hammocks, kit etc. are to be provided for this fine and most proficient body of gunners and sailors. Here is the nucleus of the complements of ten efficient ships of line. No country in the world - Russia included - can match the ability, skill, steadiness and pluck of these fine fellows". (2)

War Steamer in Belfast Lough - Manning the Navy.

A War Steamer of 1,400 tons burden and 400 hp. Whose name we are unable to learn, arrived in Belfast Lough on Saturday morning for the purpose of taking on board the Coastguard men of the several stations along the Antrim and Down coasts. Sixty Coastguards were taken on board and the steamer after surprising the 'natives' by her sudden and unexpected appearance in the Lough, got up her steam, yesterday evening, and proceeded on her trip to Cork, where another batch of Coastguards await her arrival. After receiving the complement of men at cork, she starts immediately for Portsmouth. ( Belfast Mercury of yesterday) (3)

The Crimean War.

During the war, 3,000 men of the Coastguard were drafted to the fleet. The Revenue Cruisers were sent to intercept the enemies shipping in the channel and in this they were remarkably successful. Parliament was told in 1856 that the cruisers had captured eleven vessels and that eight had been condemned.

The vacant places in the Coastguard were filled by pensioners and ‘extra men’. These were civilians engaged for temporary service- a practice which had grown up over many years when men were absent from stations because of illness or other duties. When the war was over and the Coastguard Act was being debated in Parliament, in 1856, it was stated that the Coastguard might have been more useful than they were if sufficient attention had been paid to rendering the service efficient in all its branches. The Lieutenants appointed to the Coastguard had grown old in the service and many had become utterly incapable of performing any active duty.

The Admiralty spokesman declared that the men had been good seamen but were too long in the Coastguard service without naval refresher courses. They proposed to pension off the older men and replace them. Admiral Sir Charles Napier said, in the debate, that the men of the Coastguard who served in his flagship were bald-headed and needed spectacles for reading but ‘they were a fine example to the young men sent to sea without proper training and were the steadiest men in the service’

The successes of the Revenue Cruisers in intercepting Russian ships in the Channel was due to information supplied by British Ambassadors and consular officials in neutral countries.

On 21st.April 1854 a message was sent to Coastguard H.Q. from the ‘Argus’ Revenue Cruiser, Spithead:

“Having during last night guarded the eastern entrance of the Wight with this steamer and a boat at a suspected spot inside: and nothing suspicious seen, I steamed out after daylight to the offing in search of smuggling craft, and to examine vessels likely to have on board contraband stores of war. At noon after examining several vessels, I boarded the Russian barque ‘Froija’ of Lisbon bound for the Baltic laden with salt; and I have detained her and towed her to this port”. J.S.W. Grandy, Commander.

The ‘Froija’ was condemned and sold with her cargo for £3,144 15s.0d. Within four days two more ships were seized and later sold for over £4,000. Before the war ended the enemy had lost another seven vessels to the Revenue Cruiser patrols. (4)


  1. Daily Express 6th January 1854.
  2. Daily Express Saturday 11th.February 1854.
  3. Daily Express 14th. February 1854.
  4. “Shipminder” The Story of Her Majesty’s Coastguard, by Bernard Scarlett. P65 & 66.

1 Comment · 8705 Reads · Print  -> Posted by Tony on April 29 2007


#1 | crimea1854 on 11/12/2008 12:24:55
I would also draw the attention of anyone interested in the involvement of the CG Men in the Crimea war to also read the following:


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