Saturday, 1 January 2022

Thomas Jones' goes to war in the Baltic 1854-1856

HMS Duke of Wellington in drydock at Keyham, Devonport Dockyard, 5 Mar 1854

Thomas Jones, I imagine, must have been happy to get the equivalent of a desk job - or at least become captain of his own rowing boat - for the Coast Guard Service, which allowed him to stay at home and have some family life. It cannot have been easy to marry in 1844, then go off to sea for three years. He won't have seen his daughter, Mary Ann, until she was around 2 years old. 

At Sutton Bridge, in 1849 and 1850, Thomas and his wife Mary had added two sons and, in Ireland, while at Baltimore, West Cork, they added another daughter and son, in 1851 and 1853, respectively. Then along came the Crimean War

Whether he volunteered or was required to do so, Thomas Jones then joined the crew of HMS Duke of Wellington (1852) on 14 Feb 1854, as a Petty Officer First Class - sufficient to distinguish him from ordinary ratings. (The timing of which means that Thomas could well be 'in the photo' (somewhere inside the ship) at the time the above photo was taken on 5 Mar 1854.)

Thomas' 4th son and namesake was born, in 1854, after he'd sailed, so he won't have met this child either until he was around 2 years old. And, one must remember, Thomas was going to war: no guarantee he ever would. 

On 11 Mar 1854 Duke of Wellington, it's reported, departed Spithead (which infers that she had sailed from Plymouth to Portsmouth during the intervening six days), with the fleet, for the Baltic, where, on 15 Apr 1854 she captured Russian brig Patrioten [Prize Money per London Gazette of 21 Jul 1857].

On 13 Jun 1854 the French fleet joined the British in the Baltic at Baro Sound

On 10 Aug 1854 guns were landed and sent up to the British battery, in charge of men under officers from the EdinburghDuke of Wellington, and Euryalus.

The Bombardment of Sveaborg, 9 August 1855 by John Wilson Carmichael
Duke of Wellington is 2nd from left, with Thomas' previous ship, from his expedition to China during the First Opium WarHMS Belleisle (1819), alongside on the far left.

On 9-11 Aug 1855Duke of Wellington was involved in the Bombardment of Sveaborg, a.k.a. Battle of Suomenlinna, during the Åland War:

"British and French naval forces consisting of 77 ships arrayed for the long-expected battle on 6 August 1855. They formed into a battle line more than 3 km off shore beyond the range of the defenders' obsolete artillery. Three days later the bombardment commenced. It continued for 47–48 hours. All the while, the attacker sat beyond the range of the defenders' guns. The British and French bombarded only the fortress of Viapori and avoided firing at the town of Helsinki directly. While the bombardment caused damage to the structures above ground, including to several gunpowder magazines which exploded, the bulk of the defending forces survived unscathed with their weaponry intact, leading to a draw stalemate." 

After the bombardment, the Anglo-French fleet sent no troops ashore and instead set sail for Kronstadt. Then, with little more fanfare, Duke of Wellington is listed, on 4 Feb 1856, "At Spithead".

Review of the Fleet at Spithead by the Queen, April 23, 1856

On 23 Apr 1856 Present at Fleet Review, Spithead; under Captain Caldwell CB.

From February until April, one can imagine, were several weeks of scrubbing, polishing and painting every component of the vessel until it was 'shipshape'. 

In April 1856 the first recorded evening illumination of the fleet took place.

The Illustrated London News, 26 April 1856 reported the event:

"On Saturday, after some days spent in evolutions of a preparatory nature, the fleet anchored in a stately line, with the Duke of Wellington at its head, bearing the Admiral's (Vice-Admiral Sir Richard Saunders Dundas, KCB) ensign." [...] "At the head of this imposing squadron was the Duke of Wellington, her 131 ports shining in the sun, which showed her chequered sides, bright with paint."

"The Queen's yacht, emerging from the surrounding smoke, proceeded rapidly past Fort Monckton, meeting everywhere the same enthusiastic reception, and, having rounded into a position to return down the centre line, entered the squadron of gun-boats, disposed in double rows on each side of her course, and majestically proceeded on her way. She glided past the small vessels of the flotilla, passed steam-frigates of various strength and speed, passed the giant screw line-of-battle ships, till she reached the Duke of Wellington, greeted in all directions by the most enthusiastic cheers." 

What a finale for such a fascinating career. It will have been a proud moment.

Further reading: 

  1. Star of the show: HMS Duke of Wellington (1852)
  2. HMS Duke of Wellington (launched as Windsor Castle, 1852)
  3. Royal Navy ranks, rates, and uniforms of the 18th and 19th centuries
  4. Life at sea in the age of sail

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