[ A Royal Navy midshipman in the build-up to the Crimean War. ] 'Private Journal' of George Tate Medd, in autograph with illustrations, describing service, mainly on HMS Rodney in the Mediterranean, includig an account of Christmas at sea.

George Tate Medd (1837-1907), Royal Navy officer, later Vicar of Whitchurch [ HMS Britannia; HMS Rodney; Rear-Admiral Charles Graham (1792-1857); Crimean War ]
Publication details: 
Stockport, Plymouth, Jamaica, Gibraltar, Malta, Greece, Turkey. Between 1850 and 1853.
SKU: 19374

The vivid and entertaining material in this volume is the work of an author who as it begins is a naval cadet aged twelve, and by its end is a sixteen-year-old midshipman. It includes a splendid account of Christmas at sea on HMS Britannia in 1852, and another (with two illustrations) of a 'Row about the Wine bills' between Medd, together with other midshipmen of the Rodney. and its captain Charles Graham. Medd was the son of John Medd of Mansion House, Stockport, Cheshire. He had enlisted as a naval cadet at the age of twelve, and before the age of seventeen had seen active service in the Crimean War. Rising to the rank of Lieutenant, he served in the China War, 1857-58 (medals with 2 clasps). He retired in 1861 invalided. Turning to the church he was made a deacon in 1868 and a priest in 1870. He was Curate of Rotherfield, Sussex, 1868-70; Curate of Harrietsham, Kent, 1870-76; and Vicar of Whitchurch, near Aylesbury, from 1876 to his death. More material from the Medd papers, including two log books, is offered separately. The present volume is 360pp., 12mo. A sturdy little volume, in brown-leather half-binding, with marbled boards and endpapers, and brass clasp. Internally in good condition, on aged and worn paper, in worn binding with clasp prised open. At the front Medd has written 'Private Journal' and 'G. T. MEDD.' The last page is signed 'G T Medd', with a note on the day of his birth, 25 June 1837, and a couplet in praise of England. Eight engravings are laid down, together with two small coloured sketches of ships (by Medd, who was a capable artist), the first captioned by him 'SHORTENING PLAIN SAIL TO TOPSAILS', the second of 'HMS Arrogant 46. Capt R. S. Robinson | 1852'. There are two drawings in the text, relating to a 'Row' between Captain Graham of the Rodney and his midshipmen over the 'Wine bills'. At the start of the volume is a note regarding the officers of 'H.M. Steam sloop “Hornet” 17 Guns | China Station [...] Paid off at Portsmouth July 30th. 1859.' The journal entries start as Medd is a twelve-year-old naval cadet, with 27pp. covering a period (11 June to 4 August 1850) spent at Plymouth on board HMS Inflexible (consistently misnamed by Medd' Impregnable'). A sporadic 13pp.follow, made during the journey 'From Plymouth to Jamaica' and 'Anchored at Port Royal [Jamaica]'. In November 1850 he travels to Bermuda to join HMS Wellesley. A block of 212pp. begins on 18 February 1852 and ends on 17 November 1853. As it starts, Medd is on HMS Alarm at Port Royal. He is soon (March 1852) 'On his passage to England' on RMS Great Western. On his arrival he travels home to Stockport (being 'Anchored at the Angel hotel Oxford') and enjoys a few days with his family (including 'A Day at Marple Cheshire', 'Teviot Dale' and 'To Lyme Park. | Mr. Legh's place Nr. Disley Cheshire') before reporting to 'HMS Victory 104 Guns Portsmouth'. After a month he transfers at Spithead from the Victory to HMS Arrogant. A month later (4 August 1852) he is on HMS Britannia, 'Cruising off Cape de Gatte & Malaga'. For the next seven months the Britannia cruises around the Mediterranean (Greece, Corfu, Malta) with Gibraltar as its base. In Malta, 14 March 1853, he transfers to HMS Rodney, his ship until the end of the journal. The Rodney leaves Malta in June 1853, 'On her way to Besika Bay', which it reaches on 14 June 1853, and where it will stay until the end of the volume. The final 20pp. are miscellaneous entries, including 4pp. dating from 1850, written by Medd while at King William's College, Castletown, Isle of Man, one of them an account of the death of a schoolfellow named Woodhouse, who 'fell from the rock when trying to reach a bird's nest', and another carrying three diary entries, 19 to 21 March 1850, signed at the end 'George T. Medd | 2nd Form'. The first of these entries begins: 'King Williams College Castletown Isle of Man. Looking forward to my appointment in Her Majesty's naval service.' Laid in at the rear is a good silhouette of 'Auntie Emily's likeness | A.D. 1853 | She was born in 1828.' The first entry in the journal from 1850, dated 11 June, reads: 'Fine day but blowing very hard Papa & I got a good wetting going to the Impregnable | AM | Left home for Plymouth – Passed for a Naval Cadet and joined Her Majestys Naval Service on board HMS “Impregnable” | Rather dull – Went to Stone in a skiff to see Malcolm G | PM Raining cloudy weather. First Watch with Harris second Master | Went on board, dined in the Ward Room with Mr. Veitch 1st. Lieutenant. | 8 Turned into my hammock the first time. Thought of those in Teviot Dale | 9 Some one lowered me down, I dont know but I think it was Power. With the aid of the sentry I slung my hammock again & was soon in the hands of Morpheus. | GTM'. These early entries describe his training and pastimes. On 10 July, for example, he writes: 'AM At school all the forenoon, learnt to work at star's altitude. Went out for a sail in the dingey | Came on board and had dinner. Went up to gun drill. Kept 6 to 8 watch with Harris 2nd Master, a very nice fellow.' On 4 July he is at school, had has 'a slight row with Mr. Wilson'. 13 July is 'The worst day on board ship all the decks being scrubbed & washed no place to go to.' On 19 July 'Sir Thomas Maitland Captain sent for all the Cadets I felt very cold about my heart, when we went into his cabin he asked us how much gunnery we knew. We told him & he dismissed us saying we were to learn the First instructions by next week.' On 23 August 1850: 'Tip anchor for Jamaica West Indies in company with “Alban” Steamer. Bid Adieu to old England's white cliffs steaming & sailing 8 & 9 knots per hour | P.M Alban broke down, took her in tow with 2 hawsers – 9 Lost sight of Old England. “Midnight”'. Five days later, at two in the afternoon: 'Went and laid down by some cutlasses, had a long sleep St. Clair Gun room steward woke me up at 9 couldn't think where I was at first, till I saw Brown with a glass of water just going to throw at me. Got up and walked the deck to refresh myself. Had a long yarn with Hammond. 11.30 Turned in.' On 18 September 1850 Medd observes 'The Blue Mountains of Port Royal, steaming & sailing along the land. Very hot w[eather]r. 9 [AM] Arrived in Port Royal harbour. Commodore Bennett came on board and said we were (<?> Supery) to go on board the Imaum 72 Recy ship'. In Port Royal, on 13 October: '3.40 Just after church departed this life J. Devonport Private Marine effects of cholera 5.30 after tea went on shore to the dockyard to answer & signal the Comdore. Gave me some sherry & water. Fired 4 guns to clear the air 8.30 Turned in'.A note, written later, refers to November 1850: 'I go on board the old Weymouth hulk at Bermuda - | All alone with the Rats, till an old Warrant Officer came and shared my 14 days in Quarantine. | G. T. Medd'. On 18 February 1852 he writes, while on board HMS Alarm: 'After my being in the Wellesley for 6 months I joined this ship May 6th. /51 & have been in her cruising up Newfoundland most of the time and the Windward Islands & Halifax Nova Scotia | P.M | I have just got the intelligence I am appointed to the Britannia 120 Flag ship Mediterranean & am to go home in the next steamer due to morrow Felt highly delighted at the idea of seeing old England again & dear home. 9 Turned in could hardly sleep was thinking of what fun I had to come.' After a short and enjoyable stay with his family, he travels to the Victory at Portsmouth via London, staying on the ship from 19 April to 15 June 1852. On 15 August 1852 he is on leave in Gibraltar, and goes for a ride with five other cadets: '3 Left the convent and after riding a short way met a lot of muleteers who gave us most awful cheek by way of revenge we all formed a line & charged them they being on small mules after charging them we rode away & looked at the wreck Some were knocked off one fellow had a bag of flour it was capsized on the ground it served them right. We suffered little Paul only had a slight cut on his left writs, after laughing at them & abusing them we made our exit more sharper'. At sea on 30 September ('anchored about 40 miles from Salamis Bay Athens': 'When furling sails John Smith an old man fell off the main yard close to me and was killed not speaking a word or uttering any sound before life was extinct, his grey hairs stuck in the deck, he made a deep mark where his head came down poor fellow, frightful to look at and within 3 yards of me. His neck was broken.' While arriving at Athens in a jolly boat, 19 October 1852: 'I was in the act of landing when my sword slipped out of the scabbard overboard. When I was just stepping out of the boats; the coxswain of the boat dived after it two or three times but failed; of course my scabbard & belt was no good so I sent it back to the ship'. He describes 'Christmas day on board H.M.S. Britannia 1852' as follows: 'AM Excused school of course | Wrote home | All the messes outside decorated with all kinds of green stuff | 12 The admiral and all the officers preceded by the band (dressed in grotesque costumes) went round the decks | A man at the head of each mess holding a plate of duff started most plates, the viands in the men's tables being of the best quality. | P.M The gun room officers piped to dinner We had all the Warrant officers to dine with us Amongst them was my old shipmate Mr. May the Carpenter, he had the honor of sitting at dinner with me on board the Wellesley in December /50. I drank wine with nearly every one not forgetting those at home the dinner was excellent and plenty of lush and good desert. I and Jemy Stephens (a midshipman) swearing Friendship over a glass of wine. | 3 P.M. Robarts a Cadet was taken away from dinner drunk and in hysterics in short crying drunk, he was taken down below and the doctor administered to him wat was requisite I myself felt very screwed, every one else being more or less intoxicated some asleep on the lockers & thus to[o] drunk to keep still great fun | 7 A bowl of punch was brought on the table & we all refreshed ourselves, and sang songs to our hearts content but I am afriad not much harmony as it was a perpetual roar. I had a good strong glass & relieved Dalyell it being my first watch. It is needless to say Mr D never made his appearance again 12 turned in'. On 27 February 1853 the Rodney arrives in Malta, and Medd considers her 'a beautiful ship'. On 12 March he is informed that he is to transfer to her, and prepares by 'paying all my debts and squaring up every thing'. He considers the Rodney's captain Charles Graham 'a funny old stick [...] After being in the gun room about half an hour Eden, a fat mate sung out I have the pleausure [sic] of shewing to you the Captain's rules, I had a good look at them I thought when I came to the rule Midshipmen only to have 5s a month wine bill I said to myself you must be a stingy old fellow but it is better at the end.' On 6 June 1853 he receives 'the startling intelligence we are going in a day or two to Besika Bay to be all in readiness to assist the Turks if they want us bring a row between them and the Russians, great excitement all the fellows singing out this day month we shall be a good many of us dead, most likely not I thought as I had been yarning with the Parson and he said it would be all those fighting the ships would only stop the traffic and blow up Russian merchant vessels great fun I fancy'. On 15 June 1853, at Besika Bay, he hears 'the news that the Russians have entered the Danatian Principalities, thought now there will be a war.' On 1 July 1853 he is on leave with other midshipmen ('Turned out in plain clothes, I looked like Mr Briggs at least they all said I did') he goes ashore for some hunting, 'but after an hour's walking we saw nothing but perfect myriads of locusts “Yes” I may say without any exaggeration we could hardly walk for them, we were all covered from head to foot'. The prolonged stay at Besika Bay proves irksome, and Medd writes 'This is a very dull place no fun of any description'. On 13 September 1853 there is a 'Row about the Wine bills', with Captain Charles Graham putting 'an end to our receiving any more spirits or wine in the mess as he said the seniors ought to have put a stop to Cooper & Agnew's drinking so much'. Two weeks later (28 September) the 'row of the wine bills broke out again Midshipmen wanting 15 shillings a month instead of 10'. The entry is accompanied by a drawing of Captain Charles Graham receiving a deputation of midshipmen (Graham: 'More wine bills by God! I'll consider'; midshipmen: 'Please sir allow 15 a month – Captain G. By God you all drink like bashaws Yes you may have 15'.). A similar drawing, two days later (30 September) shows the captain and Medd and shows 'a scene that took place between Captain G- and myself. I am asking the captain to allow me 10s a month he replies Mr. Medd beer will stop your growth, but I'll consider by G-d you all drink like bashaws. When I was a midshipman I never saw a drop of spirits or beer till I had been at sea nearly 10 years – The Captain is busy mixing some punch and wine amidships as he calls it, I thought well Sir if you didn't drink much in your youthful days you make up for it now You see he is surrounded at present with bottles of rum gin & c & c. The Captain is going to have a lot of French Captains on board to dine so there is an excuse for him.' The entry for 20 October 1853 is accompanied by 'a sketch of the cottage where we go & play cricket and where an old woman gave me a lot of grapes'. On 30 October 1853, 'In Parker's Bay': 'The French 90 gun ship “Jupiter” ran on shore coming up here and in trying to get off she lost several of her men, no one knows the exact number. The “Arethusa” has run on shore on a very dangerous point and she has been obliged to throw 35 of her guns overboard & she isn't off yet.' Disquiet on the ship continues as the journal ends, with Medd writing: 'I was thinking to myself last night when I was walking the deck! How well some undeserving Officers are treated for instance the Marine officers of a line of battle ship they do nothing all day but just say “To the right face” dismiss to the marines on the poop and then they go down below and do what they like or go on shore as they feel inclined. Well there are mates & midshipmen in this ship who have hard work to do and are in 9 cases out of 10 older and bigger (in this ship it is so)'.