Illustrated logbook of Francis Meynell

An illustrated journal written by Francis Meynell, a naval officer during the Crimean War.

The Baltic Fleet, from Francis Meynell's logbook, 1853–55. MSS ref: MEY/1. ©National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
The Baltic Fleet, from Francis Meynell's logbook, 1853–55
Meynell entered the navy as midshipman during the campaign in China, on board the Calliope. He was mentioned for the assistance rendered at the capture on 13 March 1841 of the last fort protecting the approaches of the city of Canton (now Guangzhou). 

Serving as mate in the Penelope during anti-slavery operations off the west coast of Africa, he then went on to be promoted Lieutenant in 1846 to the Penelope. The focus of this logbook is from when he joined the Royal George, which was involved in the Baltic during the Crimean War, 1853–55.

The logbook is illustrated throughout and includes watercolours of the Royal George at Plymouth Sound, February 1845; the 1st division of the Baltic Fleet on 12 March 1854; Sir Charles Napier’s declaration of war by signal; and a further table of all the flags and pendants for the fleet. 

The message was:

Lads war is declared with a bold and numerous enemy to meet should they offer battle you know how to dispose of them should they remain in port we must try and get at them success depends on the precision and quickness of firing also Lads sharpen your cutlasses and the day’s your own.

Meynell describes the signals having been explained to the ships company by Captain Codrington and how they all followed the senior officer’s example of cheering.

After his service in the Crimean he visited Muskow, Sweden and produced some interesting watercolours of mills, the countryside and sketches of the church. His log, at this point, becomes a wonderfully detailed narrative. The church was built during the reign of Gustavus Adolphus, made of wood and Meynell is surprised that the building had resisted the attacks of time. Interestingly, a model of a ship hung from the roof of the church over the organ, which apparently is a custom in all island churches. The sketches and narrative provide a personal and intimate aspect to the logbook which enhances its value to research.

Mike,  Assistant Archivist