Diaries of Lieutenant Albert Smith, RN, 1867-1897 and 1914 to 1919, describing tours of East Africa and the Mediterranean, and giving a first-hand account of the sinking of HMS Victoria following its collision with HMS Camperdown, 1893.

Lieutenant Albert Smith (1844-1928), RN [Royal Navy; Naval and Maritime; Collision of HMS Victoria with HMS Camperdown, 1893]
Publication details: 
1867-1919. From various locations in England, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
SKU: 10428

Ten notebooks, nine of them 4to and the other folio, totalling in excess of a thousand pages. Not uniform. In original worn bindings, five with marbled boards and the others in full cloth. Internally all ten volumes are sound, with their texts neatly-written, clear and complete. Numbered 2 to 18 (lacking 1, 7, and 12 to 17). The dating of the diaries is as follows. ONE ('2'): 15 May 1867 to 1 September 1868. TWO ('3'): 4 September 1868 to 19 September 1870. THREE ('4'): 20 September 1870 to 7 September 1872. 'A diary written by "Albert Smith" G.M. & G.S. now serving on board HMS "Boscawen"'. FOUR ('5'): 8 September 1872 to 27 November 1877. FIVE ('6'): 24 September 1877 to 31 October 1879. SIX ('8'): 1 March 1883 to 31 December 1884. SEVEN ('9'): 1 January 1885 to 15 March 1890. EIGHT ('10'): 1 September 1892 to 7 June 1894. NINE ('11'): 1 June 1894 to 31 December 1897. 'Work Book' while 'Serving as Chief Gunner on board HMS Camperdown Meditteranean [sic] Fleet Salonika ancient Thessalonika'. TEN ('18'): 1 November 1914 to 16 February 1919. 'Diary of HM Lieutenant Albert Smith commenced at Dorking Surrey 1st November 1914 The Year of the Great War'. An eleventh diary volume (4to, 114 pp) is included. It is in the hand of a woman initialed 'E S' (Smith's daughter Ethel Eugenia?). It covers the period 1 January 1919 to 31 October 1921 and is written from London in pious terms. Albert Smith (1844-1928) was the ninth child of Charles Smith and his wife Ann (née Duffett) of Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire. (Smith gives details of his family on the inside covers of TWO and FOUR, down to the time of birth of each of his siblings and seven children.) The diaries show him to be an affectionate and dutiful son: in September 1867, on visiting the family home in the Cotswolds, he has to pay a debt of £4 15s 0d to release his father's goods. Smith was a Plymouth Brother (attending meetings at Chandos St and Yorke St when in Portsmouth), and describes himself (at the start of THREE) as 'A seeker after Wis-dom - Natural - Spiritual - Celestial' and 'A follower & Believer of Jesus of Nazareth The Son of "God" The Eternal Lord The First Cause The Father in Truth and Love'. Smith's religious convictions permeate the diaries, which are punctuated (despite indicating an interest in phrenology, astrology and other unorthodoxies) by regular passages of spiritual rumination and self-examination. The diaries provide a fascinating insight into the life of an ordinary lower-middle-class officer in the Victorian Royal Navy. On returning from Malta in 1867, Smith served on the 'Boscawen training Ship for Boys' and lived at Portland until the end of 1872, when he was promoted to the rank of warrant officer, and joined HMS Excellent. After tours of the East African Coast and Mediterranean, he was promoted from Gunner to Chief Gunner (22 December 1892). 1892 sees a second journey to the Mediterranean, and it is while on this tour that his ship HMS Camperdown collides with HMS Victoria, resulting in the loss of 21 officers and 348 men. Smith's interests are wider than might be expected; he reports reading 'the Word in bed - also a paper on Political Economy' (1 December 1870), and learns Old Testament Greek. His piety occasionally strays into priggishness: he writes at the beginning of his War Diaries (TEN), 'Let truth brevity and clearness mark these pages'. The first volume contains references to his efforts to find himself a suitable wife: despite his declaration of having been in love with the daughter of a Mr Gortley, head of the Jews' Orphan School, for three years, he also considers a 'Lizzie' and 'my little Jewess'; and declares his love to a 'Miss Hyde' ('A H'), but is rejected (he gives the text of his letter to her). He eventually marries Elizabeth ('E B') on 31 December 1870. The diaries commence with the twenty-three-year-old Smith serving on HMS Victoria on the day it sails from Malta for England. On 20 May 1867, while anchored off Algiers, he describes how 'A number of the French colonists and Natives came on board, some of the females of the latter class were enveloped in white clothes from head to foot, excepting a small place for the Mouth and Eyes. The Native Arabs are in general in a very low state, of civilization, and the poor people seemed destitute of both food and clothing.' On 6 June 1867 he arrives back in England, reflecting 'So once more after an absence of two and a half years, am I spared to see my native land, during my absence I have been abundantly blest with good health while others around me on every hand have been languishing, on a bed of sickness'. He describes (9 July 1867) the arrival of 'a part of the Channel Fleet' to take part in a review. At the same time he boasts that he has 'Committed to the deep 2 lbs of Tobacco', rather than taking it home to his father, being 'diametrically opposed to smoking myself'. 'At 8 o clock we hoisted the Flag of Admiral Sir Thos Paisley who is Chief in Command'. 11 July 1867: 'This morning at 10.45 The British Squadron weighed anchor. The "Victoria" leading ahead the port division consisting of Wooden line of Battle Ships 2 Frigates & few smaller craft The "Minotawr" [sic] led the van of the Starboard Division consisting of Iron Clad Ships most of them of a very powerfull [sic] character. Among the novelties to be see [sic] is a small ship driven by hydraulic power, & another has her masts sustained by "tripods" instead of wire or hempen ropes. We steamed outside in two lines performed a few evolutions and returned to Spithead under plain sail. it was an imposing sight to see many large ships in perfect order under Canvass. Abreast the Nav light, four Iron Clads of the Sta[rboar]d D[ivision]s. shortened sail and were detached from the Squadron, to proceed to the Strait of Dover to escort the Sultan of Turkey from Calais. The remainder brought up at their original anchors everything passed off very creditably. Afterward I went ashore with special leave men.' Describes the review of the fleet, 17 July 1867, by the Sultan of Turkey, who is received by Queen Victoria on board her yacht. (In December of the same year a 'Japanese Prince' comes on board.) At the end of 1867 he resolves to train as a gunner, in order to help his parents and support a wife; is disappointed in January of the following year on failing the test. 12 June 1868: 'Forenoon The Battalion of Seamen and a battery of 6 Guns manoeuvred on the Common I was captain of the 3rd. Gun returning on board the Order came along the column to return. Just as we were going through the heart of the town my Gun reversed close to a Confectioners Shop. The noise and confusion brought all the inhabitants out of their houses & customers out of the shop, among the latter who should I see but the jewess, the very person I have been trying to see for 9 months. We recognised each other, but didnt speak as the order was given to advance.' Has a 'very eventful day' on 22 October: 'Forenoon drafter as Gunners Mate & Gunnery Instructor to the Boscawen, her Com came on board I also got my first Class Certificate for a Gunner'. At the beginning of THREE he describes how he has been 'using my gift to impart truth to others - especially to the Boys whom I have to Instruct for the Navy - in addition to Seamanship & Gunnery I teach them in my spare time - the sublime truths of Moral Philosophy and Religion'. On 5 February 1871 he takes part in a rescue: 'A Boat Capsized by a sudden gust of wind round P. hill - I run on deck & down into the Life-boat Penman - in a jiffy the 1st Lieut took charge - & we off to the rescue - as we approached we saw a number standing on the boats keel - another boat took them off - & put three or four into our Boat others what were bad - were sent on board our Ship - it was the Achille's launch returning with Boys from the Shore, under jib & mainsail went right over in a puff of wind, we took the boys on board of their own ship - & shoved off set the foresail - & away goes our foremast over the side [...]'. Later that year he comments on the court martial of Brothers Harvey and Fulford of the Achilles, who would not 'got to the Established Church - in the D. Yard were put under arrest - did testify for Jesus'. Describes a collision in March 1874 while travelling on the Salamander: 'off we went steamed out of Harbour set sail directly we got outside of the Isle of Wight, a fair wind & lovely weath at 7 o clock I went on deck for a walk and heard the man on the bridge call out to the man at the helm hard a port, so I run on deck, and saw we where [sic] running into a schooner, on we went she closed hauled, we steaming and sailing we caught her in the quarter with the stock of our anchor - the crew called out to us for help as they passed by.' He goes on to describe the rescue. Towards the end of 1877 he travels to the East Coast of Africa on SS Loanda (Captain Hamilton) to join HMS Pioneer: the account of this eighteen-month journey contains Smith's impressions of the Island of Gorée (Senegal), of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Fernando Po (Guinea): 'Another touching sight I must record I was standing by the main mast about 8.30 when the Black men called Kroo Boys spread their mats for the night four of them together, when all at once they went on their knees their faces to the earth and prayed to God to watch over them to bless them to bless the Englishmen and give them grace to perform their duties, ending I think with the Lords Prayer'. On 17 October 1877 the ship stops 'at Grand Bassa and the natives came off in their Surf Boats took away cargo, put on board a few passengers, one a mullato woman going to Palmas - it came on to rain as it only can in tropical countries, it streamed down'. On 21 October the Loanda arrives at Cape Coast Castle and he joins the Pioneer, which he finds has been under a 'bad system': 'the commonest precautions usually prevailing in a Ship of War has [sic] been entirely disregarded, and the Pioneer internally like house painted outside but internally allowed to run to rack and ruin. Discipline nowhere'. On 26 November, at 'Waydah' in Dahomey (Ouidah, Benin), the 'Captain S. Lieut and Doctor landed to read Our Queens letter to Dahomeys head man the Avoga - he did come [sic] so they returned and we weighed and proceeded Westward to Quitta'. In August of 1878, near the village of Wilberforce, Sierra Leone, 'from whence came the strains of a Hymn floating on the breeze', he encounters 'the most

specimen of humanity I ever saw, naked except for an old kerchief round her head, & another rag round her loin, she begged hard for food, pointed at her mouth then her empty belly. I thought I couldn't be far wrong in giving so I did She seemed quite overcome hobbled into the hut & sat down before a few sticks smouldering on the earth, thanked God, and complained of her head, I looked in saw no food, but in one corner a little

a few old rags on which she lay'. After further adventures he arrives back at Liverpool in March 1879. The volume preceding SIX ('8') is missing, and it begins with him on board ship in the south of France, with Admiral Lord John Hay arriving 3 March 1883. The volume is almost entirely filled with impressions of Marseilles, Malta, Syracuse, Corfu, Italy (Trieste, Venice, Naples), Albania, Greece, Cyprus. In September of 1884 he is appointed to HMS Excellent, 'for Instructing duties'. While sailing with HMS Camperdown (Captain C. Johnston) to join the Mediterranean Fleet (passing through Gibraltar, Malta, Marathon, Suda Bay, Volo, Salonica, Zante, Malta), September 1892, he has to report to the Captain his reasons for not attending church services (transcription of the letter given). He describes a 'Journey to Nazareth' in June 1893, as a guest of Commander Daniell. Gives an account of the collision of his ship HMS Camperdown with HMS Victoria, 22 June 1893: 'all at once I heard a commotion a tho the Ship had grounded or struck a rock. I hastily put on a coat left my cabin and rushed up the fore hatchway over the Barbette round the upper deck, saw the life buoys all correct opened the locker in case we wanted to fire a signal gun. We had run into the Flag ship Victoria - at least we collided she crossed our bows we were going astern with our own Engine but still had headway on the Ship. I went down to the fore compartment - the water was rushing in fast. I then changed Coat & Cap put my Watch in my pocket, went on bridge asking that boats might be lowered & told the Flat Lieut that we were making water fast'. Of the Victoria he writes: 'the sides of the Ship was crowded with human beings struggling jumping hurrying to save their lives some jumped into the Sea some run down the bottom of ship, and some jumped over the quarter right on to the Port propeller which was now revolving with rapid rate out of the water. We were all staggard [sic] in a minute she turned over went down bow first and left nothing but a mass of debris and struggling humanity in the water, she had sunk a little way beneath the waves, when a uprising [sic] like the bursting of her boiler occurred which caused the sea to rage and boil like a geyser [...]'. The account of the incident and its aftermath (headed 'Malta Dockyard') covers several pages, and includes a diagram of the collision. The beginning of 1894 sees Smith in Smyrna, where he receives his promotion. At this point in EIGHT is placed a fold-out map, with dates, of the 'Winter Cruise of HMS Camperdown Commencing 27 Sep 1893', with a line indicating the 'Course steering' in red. At the end of EIGHT, 7 June 1894, Smith is in Salonika. At the end of the volume is a list of names and addresses, a dated list of departures and arrivals on the cruise, with mileage, and lists of letters sent and received. Inserted in EIGHT is a printed extract from a magazine, giving an early account of the collision, within a black border. NINE features a number of inserts including a 'Chart of Movements in the Levant 5 May 94 to 27 June 94', a 'Programme of Detached Squadron Mediterranean Station' and '2nd Part Mediterranean Cruise'. Around the first third of NINE is describes the second part of the cruise. Thereafter Smith returns to England and the entries that follow hint at disquiet ('Very bad dream', 'Unfortunate day'. By the time of the resumption of the diary in 1914 Smith has retired and is living in Dorking, Surrey. Although the diary covers the period of the Great War (to which Smith attributes his bad health) it is concerned with his day-to-day activities (praying, gardening) and those of his family, including accounts of a visit to Gloucestershire with his wife, and of her death in February 1915.