1875. HMS Vanguard


1875. HMS Vanguard

Extract from letter from Lieutenant William C S Hathorn to his sister, written aboard HMS Vanguard at Galway, 9th August 1875. This letter was sent a few weeks before the ship’s sinking on the 1st.September 1875.

By my heading you will see that that I am actively employed onboard one of our enormous Iron Clads – we are at present in company with six other Iron Clads viz “Warrior”, “Achilles”, “Hector”, “Iron Duke”, “Penelope” & “Defence” besides two very pretty little Despatch Vessels called the “Imogene” & “Hawk” – on the 23rd of last month we sailed from Kingstown Dublin and arrived at Portland 3 days after – here the Fleet assembled & took on board Coal provisions & other necessities for sea life in the present day – on leaving Portland we were favored with beautiful weather & a fair wind so we did not take long booming down to Bantry Bay on the SW coast of Ireland – and altho’ we were kept constantly employed at different Drills with the Sails, great guns, torpedoes, Rifles, Swords & Revolvers not to speak of what we call Steam Tactics ie the evolutions which a Squadron would perform with an end to ram & therefore sink an enemy’s fleet, still All Hands are enjoying the trip in spite of the mimic warfare (without any glory) which we are involved in – I must tell you that we are the Reserve Iron Clad Squadron, we are manned by Coastguards men (those fellows you used to see at Dover), who have to go for a months or six weeks cruise every other year – the total number of souls in our Squadron including officers is 4029. On leaving Bantry Bay we shaped course for Tarbert on the left bank of the Shannon – but I did not notice anything of particular interest except that the officers in the Coast Guards appear to be well contented with their lot – it is a remarkably cheap country this side.

We arrived at our present anchorage yesterday – Galway – it is called the “City of Tribes”. I have not had much opportunity for seeing at all inland – and about the Coasts the chief attraction appears to be “Whisky & Milk”* – the Natives are quite uncivillized compared to the Hindoos - & they (the majority) do not understand a word of our language – the lower classes require great persuasion to come up the Ship’s side – and when they get inboard they give expression to great wonder, muttering (praises or curses) to themselves all the while. They walk about with great stealth like wild animals – in this particular they remind me of the N.W. American Indians. I should like to plan out a more descriptive & interesting yarn – but the “enemy” prevents me - & we sail early tomorrow – I send this through Mug at Liverpool & am in hopes that it will reach Dover in time for your Mail of the 12th inst or 13th.

* A most inviting tipple.

Reference; A ‘Private Letter’

1 Comment · 9959 Reads · Print  -> Posted by Tony on May 02 2007


#1 | jdonovan on 05/06/2010 16:17:24
My Greatgrandfather (William Donovan) was on the HMS Vanguard at the same time. He was sunk a few weeks later and transferred to the Iron Duke which replaced Vanguard as the Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire) guardship.

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