nodbear (nodbear) wrote in following_sea,

Discussion: shore leave - additional information

As a contribution to the Shore leave discussion I started a response to anteros and eglantine_br discussion of the issues but then thought it was perhaps more helpful to post some information I have - though I am not any kind of expert and this is mostly what I have gained from current reading, illustrated by scenes from the books or from the TV version, or from the life of Edward Pellew,illustrated by actual admiralty manuscripts anteros and I are in the process of transcribing, as for obvious reasons this latter is what I most about. Hope it is useful.



Shore leave was, certainly, often very dependent on hierarchical systems.This was partly because of the nature of the Navy anyway, and partly because people were bound together in their work- Midshipmen to divisions, midshipmen and petty officers to their lieutenant, and then captains who were responsible for the whole shebang.

As Dr Roger Morriss writes, in an inset article in Fleet Battle and BLockade,The French Recolutionary War 1793-1797 edited by Robert Gardiner:

Captains were given responsibility for larger ships as they obtained expereince in smaller ones.Their burden was comprehensive, a captain being answerable for any questionable conduct in action, in navigation, in his ship's equipment, in the management of his subordinates, and, through them, in the behaviour of his crew.From the time of the receipt of his commission, he was expected never to sleep out of his ship until that commission was ended.( page 93)

In an ideal world, a ship would complete a particular commission and return to port and its crew be paid and the dockyard turn it around for sea again in no time. This occasionally worked ! Here is an example involving the Indy:

Indefatigable, Spithead, 16th February, 1795

Sir, I have the honour to inform their Lordships that I this day have brought his Majesty's Ship under my command to Spithead. that her ship's company will be paid tomorrow whn she will be ready for sea.
I have the honour to be, sir , your most obedient, humble servant,
Ed Pellew

( letter in ADM1/ Captain's In -letters to Admiralty, 1795, surname P)

but this was the exception that disproves the rule. If a ship had been in action of course, she would very likely need considerable work - and it was more or less up to the captain if he could beg, borrow and bribe his way to get his ship prioitised. The Captain Pellews of this world, of course knew when to offer a few bottles of Madeira from a prize ship, when to beg and when to throw an almighty strop - but of course even that didn't always work. This kind of hiatus was often a chance for shoreleave for some officers and warrant officers and petty officers, depending on what work was still needed aboard and who was needed to supervise that . So in the exmaple of eglantine_br's latest fic for example, it would have been quite likely that Captain Keane might have used the changeover of the large number of the crew of the Justinian to grant members of the changing group some shore leave particularly if, as would be the case here, that once aboard the Indy, they would be part of the cruising and blockading channel fleet for months at a time.

Captains often used this time to arrange for officers to transfer in and out - and in particular to nominate officers for whom they were specially concerned. Captain Philemon Pownall, who in 1780, was in port,refitting his command the Apollo was therefore able to transact some typical business - actually three types,
all recorded in letters in ADM1/2306 Captains' in -letters 1780 surname P

He wrote twice - in March and April asking for shore leave to conduct personal business- which he was granted, but he also was in fact engaged in arrangments concerning his ship at the same time and therefore in the interim he also wrote concerning a prize that he was bringing in and,he being about to lose a lieutenant , writes the following:

I beg to acquaint you that Lieuenant Goode of His Majesty's ship under my command is in so bad a state of health from the wound he received in the Action with the Oiseau French Frigate as to make it necessary for him to spend some time on shore for the recovery of it, and is forced to go upon half pay, which if their Lordships are pleased to indulge him,I should be obliged to them to appoint Lieutenant Pellew of the Licorne to the Apollo...
...I am Sir, your most obedient humble Servant, Philemon Pownall

the rest, as they say, is history - of course Philemon died only a short while later in Edward Pellew's arms after being mortally wounded during another action in which the Apollo was involved but Pellew had, of course, learned much from his mentor - including it would seen from the examples here, how to write an elegant letter to their Lordships at the Admiralty!

But the example shows that of Pownall's four letters during his ships time of refit two were about his own need for shore leave, one about a prize ship and one about crew arrangements - this is fairly typical.They would then have been a possible lee-way for Edward Pellew to have had brief shore leave between his two postings, just as the midshipmen do in the story mentioned above. Another side light is cast on the fact that Lieutenant Goode, the injured officer whose bad luck was young Pellew's gain, is having to request to go on half - pay - he is not being paid to go on sick -leave at this point. If his injury did not recover, he would then eventually be discharged to a pension.

There was often a tacit agreement that shore leave would almost autonatically be granted to those who had been imprisoned by the enemy and then exchanged or returned.The crew of the Amazon who were in the famous action with the Indy against the French ship of the line, the Droits de l'homme" were all taken prisoner and interred at Quimper following the action in January 1797 but by August of that year they were all home. Captain Reynolds was court matialled that September, with witnesses including his brave first lientenant Ben Littlehales, but we see from the Admiralty in -letters from Lieutenants ( ADM1/2985 for lieutenants , surname L, 1797)that Lt Littlehales is replying to an admiralty query from Lincolnshire, where he has gone on release and return from captivity.

Otherwise shore leave for higher ranking officers would depend very much on the officer's superiors .So a captain could be given permission to sleep ashore by the Commodore or Admiral commanding him - as we see Admiral Pellew doing for Horatio on the day of his marriage to Maria in the TV version - and indeed Horatio being hardly grateful for the privilege...

For the real Pellew, his own marital cicumstances were not at first to be the beneficiary of such generous thought from his commander Lord Bridport in 1799 when he was forced to relinquish command of the Indy much against his wish and become captain of the Ship of the line the Impetueaux - the former being in dock in Falmouth and the latter,complete with mutinous crew, being at Spithead. Although such an occasion was, as we have seen, often an occasion for shore leave and although Pellew's family lived in the south west, he was initially ordered to proceed straight from one ship to the other, depsite almost 6 years of near continuous service. He actually ignored this and went home for a few days - and indeed it is because of this visit that his and Susan's sixth and last child, named Edward after hsi father, was born at the end of that year!

Going higher up the chain Lord Bridport himself spent some time of his command in the Mediterranean, actually in London giving orders from there, while transacting business for his wife, who had recently had a death in the family- and in his case it took the First Lord of the Admiralty, and even the king himself, George III, to get him back to sea again.
The letters dealign with this incident are in the excellent book The Channel fleet and the Blockade of Brest,1793-1801 edited by Morris and Saxby, published by Ashgate for the Navy Records Society, vol 141, 2001 as are the details for what follows:

The era we are dealing with, also contained the infamous mutinies at Spithead and the Nore and one of the points at issue for the delegates presenting demands from the ordinary crew members at Spithead which had not been resolved there and so dragged on into the Nore mutiny, made to a special convening of the Admiralty Board on board the Queen Charlotte by Lord Spencer , concerned shore leave for common sailors. Because of the risk of desertions, shore leave for crew members had not been offered for several years and while captains of good judgement at least allowed crew members days of rest when conditions permitted and they were safe at anchor somewhere - days with games,competitions, music etc, not at all captains allowed this and some crews were at the end of their tether( see chapter 5: 191-237).

All in all, shore leave in this period was not easy for anyone certainly at the rank of captain and below- though ironically of course the moment there was a truce or time of peace thousands of men were simply paid off unwantedand without pension rights unless they were wounded and hundreds of officers too were 'beached' on half pay, as is the case for Bush and Hornblower in both the book and TV canon versions (and was the real experience of Edward Pellew in the lull between battles of 1791-1793.)His experience then was typical of many officers.Having to face the dual hazards of being at home - half-pay but at the same time the birth of two more children !- he tried farming at which he was about as dire as he was brilliant at being a frigate captain.

Tags: character: edward pellew, character: horatio hornblower, discussion: history
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