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Having grown up in north Kent, I always keep an eye out for archive material relating to shipping on the River Medway and the naval dockyard at Chatham. During cataloguing work earlier this year, I was drawn to some papers from the period when Admiral Sir Gerard H.U. Noel was commander-in-chief at the Nore station. They include an appeal for the extension of Chatham Dockyard; see the items numbered NOE/51/5/9 in the Archive Catalogue.
Regular readers may be familiar with the Lloyd’s Register Survey Reports; a collection of detailed surveys on ships’ materials and construction, used by underwriters and others in the shipping industry for reliable information on these vessels. What you may not be aware of, is that this collection has been on loan to the National Maritime Museum for some 50 years.
Journals written by seamen can provide a rich source of information about life onboard both naval and merchant ships, and also provide a glimpse into how those seamen viewed the people and places they visited.
Montagu’s journals revealed a subtle ability and versatility of character and in many ways he was quite similar to his cousin, Samuel Pepys, whom Montagu was patron to. He was many things: an able soldier, a distinguished admiral, a Fellow of the Royal Society and an ambassador and diplomat. He was highly valued and liked by both Cromwell and Charles II; and praised by Clarendon and Milton. He delivered Charles II to England from exile and fought in the Dutch Wars, but was killed at the Battle of Solebay before he could reach the age of fifty.
The Caird Library’s collection of masters’ and mates’ certificates dating from 1850 -1927 (also available via Ancestry.com) is probably the most well-known example of evidence showing the capabilities of the those in charge of merchant vessels but what happened before 1850?
Many of the common seamen of Nelson’s time were not literate, meaning letters of the ‘Lower deck’ are rare. Nelson probably received a great deal of correspondence asking for help or influence of one kind or another, but was his reputation for benevolence towards those that had served under him sometimes exploited or taken advantage of?
The Caird Library has recently installed a new display of archive and library material. The theme is Medicine and Health at Sea and reveals the main diseases particularly prominent during long sea voyages. These included scurvy and yellow fever.
One hundred and twelve years ago on the 27 May 1905 the Imperial Japanese Navy achieved a major victory at the Battle of Tsushima, destroying or capturing much of the Russian fleet that had sailed 18,000 nautical miles from the Baltic in an attempt to reinforce the Russian Pacific Squadron at Port Arthur.
This June marks the 350th anniversary of the Dutch Raid on the Medway which took place 9-14 June 1667. It was humiliating for the English Navy resulting in the loss of thirteen English ships, with the Unity and Royal Charles captured. Mike Bevan, archivist at the Caird Library, takes a closer look.