HM Steam Yacht Venetia: A luxury yacht in Royal Navy service, 1914–1919
This article tells the story of the steam yacht Venetia as seen through the experiences of its fireman, Edward Beckwith. Originally a luxury yacht, Venetia was handed over to the Admiralty in 1914 and took part in the Northern Patrol based in Kirkwall before transferring to Falmouth to take on patrol duties in the Western Approaches to the English Channel. The yachts’s fireman Edward Beckwith entered naval service under a T124 agreement, serving as a merchant seaman under naval discipline. His yarn about serving with Thomas Lipton and searching for the body of Lord Kitchener following the sinking of HMS Hampshire provides a focus for this investigation, and although it contains a grain of truth it ultimately demonstrates a sailor’s gift for tall tales and embellishment. The true story of Edward Beckwith’s wartime experience aboard Venetia demonstrates the important role that these coastal auxiliaries played in the First World War and highlights the bravery of the merchant marine who served on the lower decks of these small temporary naval craft in dangerous conditions.