Chris Donnithorne

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  • in reply to: 18th Century Impressment #21343
    Chris Donnithorne

    Capt Henry Dyve was one of the Regulating Captains in 1762 – see for example TNA Catalogue Entry – ADM354/168/121

    Chris Donnithorne

    I believe we may be talking about two individuals here. I have:

    1. Captain John Lindsay, Captain of the Trent, from 29 Sept 1757 to 9 Sept 1763
    2. Lieutenant John Lindesay [sometimes Lindsay], appointed Second Lieut. of the Trent on 13 Oct 1757, being re-appointed as First Lieut. on 1 July 1760. For what it is worth, Commissioned Sea Officers, p. 274, gives his date of death as 1763.

    in reply to: Hotshot during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars… #20976
    Chris Donnithorne

    In 1796, in Blockhouse Fort at the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour, a furnace was installed for heating shot, at a cost of £78. There is no evidence of use in anger.

    in reply to: Locating Cadet Papers #20048
    Chris Donnithorne

    Regret I do not look at the forum very often, and have only just seen this. The attached might be helpful; it is the information I currently hold regarding the early employment of Thomas Lynn. He joined the Somerset[t] from the Dursley Galley, and left the Guarland’s Prize to join the Princess Carolina.

    You must be logged in to view attached files.
    in reply to: THE NAVAL SERVICE #19122
    Chris Donnithorne

    The term ‘Naval Service’ was certainly in use in the 1670s, in the Duke of York’s Instructions

    in reply to: Mystery Machine in RN Submarine Museum #17629
    Chris Donnithorne

    Described as ‘a very large piece of Victorian machinery’, it is the Buckton Machine, a 200 ton tensile machine, acquired second hand by Vickers in 1901 to provide testing capabilities for Holland 1 and, I understand, in use until recently. My source, and a bit more information, is available in the All Round Look, 2019-2020 edition, a yearbook produced by the Friends of the Submarine Museum.

    in reply to: Information on the ship "Success" in/around 1743? #16931
    Chris Donnithorne

    Chris Donnithorne
    Captain Bradwardine [sometimes Bradwarden or Bradshaw] Thompson relinquished command of the Success on 5 Nov 1742 and John Wickham [appointed 1 Nov] was entered for pay the following day. [Naval Biographical Database]
    It is noteworthy that the Success Merchant, William Thomson, Master, was involved with Oglethorpe in 1745 and it is just possible that this might be a more productive line of research. [TNA ADM106/1018/255]

    in reply to: Naval Gunnery in the 17th and 18th centuries #13450
    Chris Donnithorne

    Good afternoon Sam,

    There are a number of books but I suspect the best starting place is The Sea Gunner, by John Seller, published in 1691. Although deficient in a number of ways, it was supposedly the first written specifically for the sea-service gunner, if we disregard the odd piece in more general publications such as The Seaman’s Grammar produced rather earlier. The Sea Gunner, which was produced in facsimile in 1994 [ISBN 0-948864-26-5], shows a marked similarity in content to the requirements for the Master Gunner’s exam being updated some four decades later.

    Regards Chris Donnithorne [Naval Biographical Database]

    in reply to: Vice-Admiral Sir William Mitchell, KCB (1745/6 to 1816) #12482
    Chris Donnithorne


    I have done a fair amount of work, using just the Pay Books, to assess the ability to track sailors from one ship to another, mainly
    for the period covered by the War of Jenkin’s Ear. I have found it to be perfectly possible in many cases albeit time-consuming.
    Having now entered several hundred such people, it is obviously perfectly possible with a number of important caveats. There is
    bound to be some duplication particularly with breaks in service. Equally, much additional information has been gleaned by
    selected ‘blanket input’ of the sources, which allows correlation between entries [in different Pay Books] which would otherwise
    have been impossible to link due to widely differing spelling of the name, or mistakes in the source documents themselves.

    For those who subsequently gained a Commission, as in this case, I have found the Passing Certificates invaluable with the
    proviso that accuracy here cannot be assumed. I have come across instances where ships have been left out, or where even the
    wrong ship has been recorded.

    Given the above, I think it should be possible to find more of the early service of William Mitchell. If he was rated AB in 1766, we can
    be certain that this was one rate which was very rarely used as a suitable ‘slot’ to put someone in. In practice, he had to be
    qualified to carry out the duties of an AB which would have required him to have served at sea before although not necessarily in
    the RN. Helpfully, from the early 1760s, year and place of birth start to appear routinely in the Muster Lists, giving additional
    clues to assist realistic correlation between entries.


    in reply to: Vice-Admiral Sir William Mitchell, KCB (1745/6 to 1816) #12480
    Chris Donnithorne

    Frank [if I may],

    The Naval Biographical Database currently holds the following information for Wm Mitchell.

    Entry Discharge Rate Event
    00 1746 Born
    27 Apr 1782 Seniority as Commander
    01 May 1782 30 June 1783 Sl Captain, PIGMY (Sloop), 1781-1783
    10 Feb 1787 23 Aug 1790 Sl Captain, CALYPSO (Sloop), 1783-1803
    08 Oct 1790 14 Dec 1790 5 Captain, REGULUS, 1785-1816
    22 Nov 1790 Seniority as Captain
    10 Apr 1794 16 May 1794 3 Captain, COLOSSUS, 1787-1798
    07 Aug 1794 00 Dec 1794 3 Captain, EXCELLENT, 1787-1835
    10 Jan 1795 15 Jan 1795 3 Captain, CAESAR, 1793-1821
    26 Feb 1795 16 June 1795 3 Captain, NONSUCH, 1774-1802
    17 June 1795 4 Captain, SALISBURY, 1769-1796
    27 Aug 1797 28 July 1799 4 Captain, ISIS, 1774-1810
    29 July 1799 09 Jan 1800 3 Captain, RESOLUTION, 1770-1813
    23 June 1800 13 May 1802 3 Captain, ZEALAND, 1796-1814
    11 Mar 1803 04 Apr 1803 5 Captain, WINCHELSEA, 1764-1814
    05 Apr 1803 01 Sept 1804 3 Captain, ZEALAND, 1796-1814
    10 Dec 1805 22 Aug 1807 Captain, Sea Fencibles, Emsworth to Beachy Head
    23 Aug 1807 14 Oct 1807 Captain, Sea Fencibles, Emsworth to Beachy Head
    28 Apr 1808 Promoted Rear Admiral, Blue
    31 July 1810 Promoted Rear Admiral, White
    01 Aug 1811 Promoted Rear Admiral, Red
    04 Dec 1813 Promoted Vice Admiral, Blue
    04 June 1814 Promoted Vice Admiral, White
    02 Jan 1815 Knight Commander of the Bath
    07 Mar 1816 Died, at Camberwell-grove, Surrey, aged 70

    The Pigmy was a Sloop, rather than the Cutter taken by the French, although she was herself subsequently re-commissioned in 1783 as a Cutter.

    Chris Donnithorne

    in reply to: Duties of the Gunner in a naval ship “In Ordinary”? #8815
    Chris Donnithorne

    The larger ships in Ordinary were valuable assets, there was a need for ship-keepers to look after such vessels and, in their wisdom, their Lordships had decided that certain Warrant Officers could fulfil this function. It was an important position. Certainly for the first half of the C18th, formal watch-keeping was required (usually amounting to a one in three [and sometimes shorter] roster), the whole being overseen by the Master Attendant who was expected to be afloat in one of the ships in his port every night to ensure the Standing Officers were doing their duty. Three Standing Officers had to be onboard every night (of which two shared the watches), and the Cook was only allowed to keep certain daytime watches – what an existence.

    In the circumstances, little maintenance was demanded of the Standing Officers in their professional capacity. For senior Gunners, there was an expectation that they would be involved in the training and examination of new people. For most ships, a small amount of powder and shot was usually kept onboard and care of this would naturally fall to the Gunner. But as to blacksmithing duties, I have seen no evidence to support such an idea, nor any evidence that any inferior warrant Officers served onboard in these conditions.. I hesitate to say it never happened, having found exceptions to virtually every rule, but I think it extremely unlikely.

    in reply to: HMS Bellona 1760 – question regarding crew’s duties #2820
    Chris Donnithorne

    With the Naval Biographical Database, I am starting to explore the early ship’s company in rather more detail than has previously been possible. I am currently working with representative pay books for the first half of the C18th, and come across the Midshipman Ordinary infrequently.

    Entick’s New Naval History, p.xxx1, describes this individual thus: ‘None are to be rated Midshipmen Ordinary, but such as have served as Voluntiers [sic] per Order; and they who are so rated, shall receive the Pay of an able Seaman, upon their producing a Certificate from their Captain …’

    In practice, it seems that Captains did what was necessary in the prevailing circumstances.

    Numbers allowed varied from 4 in a 3rd rate to 1 in a 6th rate

    in reply to: The History of English Sea Ordnance #2482
    Chris Donnithorne

    It might be helpful to put the reviews of The History of English Sea Ordnance in context. The author was a man of great integrity and immense knowledge of his subject, and the review by Lyon was taken by some to be a quite unacceptable and unwarranted personal attack.
    Adrian Caruana was an experienced professional gunner and, in life, forthright. While being almost obsessively thorough in his research, he was also the only man of his time who routinely fired early ordnance with a full service charge. From this unparalleled position of theoretical and practical knowledge, it was almost inevitable that there should be some conflict with historians whom he felt had reached questionable conclusions.
    For interest, the third volume was completed before his untimely death, and there were plans to publish but I am uncertain of progress, and the author also planned an accompanying ‘data’ volume.
    Chris Donnithorne

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