A port and shipping control exercise involving HMS Mersey and significant numbers of reservists is taking place in Milford Haven – full story here. This harks back to the harbour’s late nineteenth century heyday as a base for major naval manoeuvres; see this previous post.
Peter Schofield’s North Wales listing of Warship Week adoptions throws up a real mystery – namely, the question of what happened in Merionethshire. The Imperial War Museum has a Welsh-language poster encouraging fund-raising for a Warship Week in 21-28 March 1942, the aim being to raise £500,000 for a destroyer to be named HMS Meirionydd – although in reality, this would presumably have had the English spelling, Merioneth. However, no such ship was ever built; the poster shows one of the fifty old ‘four stack’ destroyers transferred from the US Navy in 1940, but these had all been named and commissioned long before. Merionethshire actually seems to have sponsored HMS Celt, a new destroyer ordered in 1942, but this ship was later renamed Sword as part of the new Weapon-class, and was never actually completed, being scrapped on the slipway at the end of the war without even being launched. So the question of what happened to the money raised in Merionethshire remains a mystery.
|Talybont||Type III Hunt Class Destroyer|
|Menai Bridge, Beaumaris||Beaumaris||Bangor Class Minesweeper||£113,898|
|Bangor and District||Bangor||Bangor Class Minesweeper||14-22 Mar 1942|
|Bethesda UD||MGB 333||Motor Gun Boat|
|Caernarfon||Arctic Pioneer||Trawler APV|
|Conwy||Erica||Flower Class Corvette||15-22 Nov 1941|
|Criccieth UD||MGB 334||Motor Gun Boat|
|Llanberis and District||MTB 339||Motor Torpedo Boat|
|Llanfairfechan UD||HM ML 150||Motor Launch||14-12 Mar 1942|
|Llandudno||Llandudno||Bangor Class Minesweeper||15-22 Nov 1941||£222,000|
|Penmaenmawr||MTB 223||Motor Torpedo Boat||14-21 Mar 1942|
|Pwllheli||Usk||U Class Submarine|
|[Possibly add Betws-y-Coed]||MTB 233||Motor Torpedo Boat|
|Abergele UD||Hollyhock||Flower Class Corvette||28 Feb to 7 Mar 1942|
|[Hollyhock lost Apr 42, Abergele then adopted]||Derg||River Class Frigate|
|Ceiriog Valley||MTB 27||Motor Torpedo Boat|
|Cerrigydrudion||MTB 344||Motor Torpedo Boat|
|Colwyn Bay||Jackal||J Class Destroyer||15-22 Nov 1941|
|[Jackal lost May 42, Colwyn Bay then adopted]||Cambrian||C Class Destroyer|
|Denbigh MB and District||Hyderabad||Flower Class Corvette|
|Llangollen||Dianella||Flower Class Corvette|
|Llanrwst and District||Othello||Shakespeare Class Trawler|
|Rhosllanerchrugog||Anenome||Flower Class Corvette|
|St Asaph Civil Parish||Dittany||Flower Class Corvette|
|Tanat and Cynllaith Valleys||Acacia||Bay Class Trawler|
|West Wrexham||Begonia||Flower Class Corvette|
|Wrexham, Holt, Isycoed, Marchweil||Veteran||Admiralty Modified W Class Destroyer||29 Nov to 6 Dec 1941||£366,000|
|Cefyn, Ruabon||Wistiria||Flower Class Corvette||29 Nov to 6 Dec 1941|
|Chirk||TBC||Motor Torpedo Boat||29 Nov to 6 Dec 1941|
|Buckley UD||Foxtrot||Dance Class AS Trawler||7-14 Mar 1942||£65,332|
|Connahs Quay UD and District||Tuscan||T Class Destroyer||Mar-42|
|Flint and District||Felixstowe||Bangor Class Minesweeper|
|Holywell and District||P48||U Class Submarine|
|Mold||L26||L Class Submarine|
|Prestatyn and District||Boston||Bangor Class Minesweeper|
|Rhyl and District||Rhyl||Bangor Class Minesweeper|
|Montgomeryshire||Montgomery||Town Class Destroyer Type 5||7-14 Mar 1942|
Appendix Two of Britannia’s Dragon provides a list of adoptions of warships by Welsh communities during World War II, as they were known to me at the time of completing the book. I knew that my list was very unlikely to be comprehensive, hence my comment that I would publish any additions or corrections notified to me on my website. This statement has been overtaken by events, namely my decision to launch this site, which is where all such amendments will now be posted. I’ve also been corresponding with Peter Schofield, a volunteer with the Imperial War Museum, who has been carrying out extensive research on Warship Weeks. He has provided me with both a list of corrections to the listing I provide in the book and with his Excel files of known adoptions. Peter has generously agreed to allow me to publish the latter on this site, with that for South Wales appearing below, and I am very grateful to him for allowing this invaluable information to come into the public domain in this way. The table below gives the name of the community, the name and type of ship that was adopted, the dates of the community’s ‘Warship Week’ if known, and the total amount raised if known. Additional information from those with local knowledge of what happened in particular communities would be very welcome!
Corrections to Appendix 2 of Britannia’s Dragon
- Cwmbran adopted HMS Turquoise and not MTB 79; this vessel was adopted by Blaenavon
- Gwendraeth Valley adopted MGB 51
- HMS Gardenia is repeated (Cowbridge and Llangan); the vessel was adopted by Cowbridge
- Radnorshire adopted HMS Scorpion which was ex HMS Sentinel, both destroyers
- Lladridnod Wells UD did not adopt the submarine HMS Sentinel as the town was part of the Radnorshire effort
- Pembroke adopted HMS Nubian,
- HMS Coventry (adopted by Coventry) lost 14 Sept 1942 and then adopted HMS Argonaut, therefore not adopted by Pembrokeshire south
List of Adoptions in South Wales
|Brecon MB and RD||Brecon||Type IV Hunt Class Destroyer||Mar-42|
|Brynmawr||MTB 104||Motor Torpedo Boat|
|Builth Wells and District||Cordelia||Trawler – Minesweeper|
|Crickhowell RD||Drangey||Trawler – AS|
|Hay UD||MTB 226||Motor Torpedo Boat||7-14 Mar 1942|
|Llanwrtryd Wells and District||HM ML 137||Motor Launch|
|Sennybridge||HM ML 136||Motor Launch|
|Talgarth||HM ML 106||Motor Launch||29 Nov to 6 Dec 1941|
|Ystradgynlais RD||Rosalind||Shakespeare Class Trawler|
|Cardiganshire||Tanatside||Type IV Hunt Class Destroyer||14-21 Mar 1942|
|Amman Valley||Holderness||Type I Hunt Class Destroyer||28 Feb to 7 Mar 1942|
|Bettws||MTB 233||Motor Torpedo Boat|
|Carmarthen and RD||Penylan||Type III Hunt Class Destroyer||28 Feb to 7 Mar 1942|
|Gwendraeth Valley||MGB 51||Motor Gun Boat|
|Llandeilo and District||Juliet||Shakespeare ClassTrawler|
|Llandovery, Llandeilo (part)||Cornelian||Trawler Minesweeper|
|Llanelly MB and RD||Echo||E Class Destroyer||Mar-42|
|Newcastle Emlyn UD||Quadrille||Dance Class AS Trawler||28 Feb to 7 Mar 1942|
|Aberdare||Aberdare||Albury Class Minesweeper||21-28 Feb 1942|
|Barry||Vanessa||Admiralty V Class Destroyer||Dec-41||£214,000|
|Bridgend||Urge||U Class Submarine||15-22 Nov 1941|
|Caerphilly||Caldwell||Town Class Destroyer Type 5||17-24 Jan 1942||£123,309|
|Cowbridge||Gardenia||Flower Class Corvette|
|Cardiff RD||Albury||Albury Class Minesweeper|
|Cardiff||Cardiff||C Type Light Cruiser||17 Jan 1942?|
|Glyncorrwg UD||MGB 58||Motor Gun Boat||15-22 Nov 1941|
|Gwynfr RD (part)||MGB 329||Motor Gun Boat|
|Gower||MTB 18||Motor Torpedo Boat||18-25 Oct 1941||£120,000|
|Llantristant and Llantwit Fardre||Minuet||Dance Class AS Trawler|
|Llwchwr||Unseen||U Class Submarine|
|Maesteg||Mallow||Flower Class Corvette||21-28 Feb 1942|
|Merthyr Tydfil||Beverley||Town Class Destroyer Type 4||Feb-42|
|Mountain Ash||Exe||River Class Frigate||7-14 Mar 1942|
|Ogmore Valley and District||Quannet||Boom Defence Vessel||7-14 Mar 1942|
|MGB 57||Motor Gun Boat|
|Porthcawl||MTB 84||Motor Torpedo Boat||21 Feb 1942?|
|Pontypridd||Tamarisk||Flower Class Corvette||Mar-42|
|Penarth||Sharpshooter||Halcyon Class Minesweeper||Mar-42|
|Pontradawe||Umbra||U Class Submarine|
|Port Talbot||Wishart||Thorneycroft Modified W Class Destroyer||Feb-42|
|Pontllotyn and Gelligaer||Gnat||Insect Class Gunboat|
|Rhondda||Velox||Admiralty V Class Destroyer||Mar-42|
|Swansea||Arethusa||Arethusa Class Light Cruiser||15-22 Nov 1941|
|Abergevenny MB and RD||MGB 332||Motor Gun Boat|
|Abercarn||MTB 256||Motor Torpedo Boat|
|Abertillery||Nigella||Flower Class Corvette|
|Bedwas and Machen||MTB 62||Motor Torpedo Boat||21-28 Feb 1942|
|Bedwellty||Buttercup||Flower Class Corvette||14-21 Feb 1942|
|Blaenavon||MTB 79||Motor Torpedo Boat|
|Blaina and Nantyglo||Cedar||Trawler – Minesweeper|
|Caerleon UD||HM ML 147||Motor Launch|
|Chepstow and District||Cape Warwick||Trawler|
|Cwmbran and Pontnewydd||Turquoise||Trawler||17-24 Jan 1942|
|Ebbw Vale||Alresford||Albury Class Minesweeper|
|Magor and St Mellons||Magnet||Boom Defence Vessel|
|Monmouth MB and RD||Coral||Gem Class Trawler|
|Mynyddislwyn||Sapphire||Trawler||17-24 Jan 1942|
|Newport||Newport||Town Class Destroyer Type 6||31 Jan to 7 Feb 1942||£854,106|
|Penygroes||Corena||Trawler – Minesweeper|
|Risca||Primrose||Flower Class Corvette|
|Tredegar RD||Inkpen||Hills Class AS Trawler|
|Usk||Tango||Dance Class AS Trawler|
|Pembrokeshire||Nubian||Tribal Class Destroyer||24-31 Jan 1942|
|Radnorshire||Sentinel||S Class Destroyer||21-28 Mar 1942|
The following newspaper account of the launch of a warship at Pembroke Dock is one of several that will be featured on this site. As is clear from this article, until the end of the nineteenth century the Welsh dockyard was building some of the largest warships in the world, while as I have argued in Britannia’s Dragon, ship launches there were some of the largest, if not the largest, public events in Victorian Wales. As this account of the launch of HMS Renown demonstrates, special excursion trains were laid on from other parts of South Wales; in earlier years, steamers brought in crowds from all along the shores of the Bristol Channel.
Despite the journalistic hyperbole of the article, the Renown was swiftly rendered obsolete by developments in warship design. She was converted into a ‘royal yacht’ for the Duke and Duchess of Connaught’s tour to India, but was sold for scrap in 1914, less than twenty years after being launched at Pembroke Dock. Contrary to the statement at the end of the article, she was the sixth British warship to bear the name, discounting the two renamings mentioned here.
From the Evening Express, 9 May 1895
LAUNCH OF A WARSHIP AT PEMBROKE.
Great Concourse of People Witness the Floating of the Heaviest and Largest Ship in the World.
On Wednesday afternoon, at 5.30, the magnificent first-class battleship Renown was successfully launched from Pembroke Dockyard, in the presence of some thousands of spectators, and will, when completed for sea, be a grand addition to her Majesty’s Royal Navy. Excursion trains were run from all parts of South Wales, and, as the weather was fine, a considerable influx of visitors to the town was the consequence. There has not been a launch from this dockyard since February 17, 1894, when the Hazard, of six guns, was sent afloat. The Renown is a fine specimen of advanced marine combative architecture, and from the details that we append it may readily be perceived that she is within herself a veritable fortress of enormous powers of offence and defence, and displaying a very marked contrast of improvement collectively as to weight, armament, and speed to her predecessors launched from this yard and from other establishments, public and private, in the kingdom. The Renown was laid down on January 30, 1892, and is Ship No. 230 of all classes that have been built and launched from Pembroke Dock, the first ships built at Pater Dockyard being the “single-banked” sailing frigates Valorous and Ariadne, of 28 guns each, sent both afloat the same day—February 10, 1816.
The gates of the dockyard were thrown open to the public during the afternoon, when a vast concourse of people commenced wending their way to the scene of the launch at the north-west portion of the yard. The huge ship almost completely filled the dock and shed, her upper structure nearly reaching the high and spacious roof. At her head the Union Jack was flying all day. Her bow was decorated with a shield bearing the Royal arms, encircled by the words, ‘Success to the Renown’, the whole being surmounted by a crown and set off on either side by bannerettes. This appeared to be a new feature, introduced by Mr. Cock, the chief constructor. The platforms erected for the accommodation of visitors, particularly that set apart for the more distinguished ones, were gaily draped with flags, etc. As the stem of the ship and on the port and starboard bows to a distance of some 70 feet towards the stern spacious enclosures had been formed and galleries erected, forming almost an amphitheatre, a raised dais fronting the stem, where the christening function was carried out. and from all these ‘coigns of ‘vantage’ the proceedings could be witnessed. There were several entrances to the enclosure, by tickets, A, B, &c., not necessarily indicative of class, but to prevent accidents by overcrowding and to facilitate ingress and egress to the respective galleries, the arrangements to this end being satisfactorily carried out by the Metropolitan Police, under Superintendent Smith and Inspector Young. The enclosure and galleries were thronged with ladies and gentlemen, including naval and military officers of all branches’ of the service, presenting a most festive and brilliant spectacle, whilst the dock sides, jetty heads, and all other available spaces were filled with the general public. The famous band of the 41st (Welsh) Regiment, under Mr. Monk, played ever and anon until the time for the launching, considerably en- livening the occasion.
The preliminaries of the launch having been arranged, the religious service observable on such occasions was read by the naval chaplain, the Rev. A. Nicholls, M.A. The ceremony of christening was then gracefully performed by Mrs. Balfour, wife of Captain Charles J. Balfour, R.N., the new superintendent of the dockyard. Mrs. Balfour’s first public appearance at Pembroke could hardly have taken place under more auspicious circumstances, and among others in the enclosure with her were Captain Balfour. Lady Catherine Allen, Sir Charles and Lady Philipps, Sir Owen Scourfield, Air. A. P. Saunders Davies, Mr. Wilneld. Mr. A. P. Saunders Davies, Mr. Williamson (director of the dockyard), Colonel Goodeve (commandant of the Pembroke Garrison), Colonel Saurin, Mr. Seymour Allen, and Mr. Cock (chief constructor at the dockyard). A pedestal of carved wood had been erected by the stem of the ship, over the top of which a cord had been drawn, that had been ingeniously fixed and continued round the basement, and from thence leading to the grooves on either bow in connection with the weights suspended over the ‘dog shores’. A very elaborately carved box, lined with blue plush velvet, having within the lid a drawing of the ship, &c., covered with glass, and which contained an exquisitely-formed mallet and burnished steel chisel, was then presented to Mrs. Balfour by the Chief Constructor (Mr. Henry Cock), under whose instructions the lady dexterously severed the cord on the apex of the pedestal, when the suspended weights fell, and the huge fabric glided out into the waters of the haven most majestically, with the Royal Standard of England flying, amidst great cheering, and the band playing ‘Rule, Britannia’. As the huge vessel was leaving the ways a bottle of champagne was smashed on her bows, and Mrs. Balfour, amid the cheers of the spectators, said, ‘I name this ship the Renown; success to her’. The powerful Government steam-tugs Meteor, from Chatham, Perseverance from Devonport, and Stormcock were in attendance, and the Renown (the biggest ship now afloat) was safely moored off the yard. Mr. Williamson, director of dockyards, was present at the launch. The launch was held later in the day than usual on account of the serving of the tide.
The Hannibal, a considerably bigger battleship than the Renown, will be launched from this yard in May 1896. It is anticipated that a huge first-class cruiser, to be called the Andromeda, of 435ft. in length, to steam 20 knots, with a coaling capacity to run 2.000 miles, will be laid down in the slip the Renown occupied, orders for building which were received at Pembroke Dockyard a day or two ago. The Renown, one of the earliest of the battleships built outside the scope of the Naval Defence Act, is a sheathed armour-clad of light draught, designed to pass through the Suez Canal and to keep the sea for long periods of time in foreign waters. The ship will have a complement of 674 officers and men, and is intended to be fitted as a flagship. Her principal dimensions are—Length between perpendiculars 380ft., breadth extreme 72ft. 4in., mean, draught of water 26ft .9in., with a load displacement of 12,350 tons. Her indicated horse- power is specified at 10,000 with natural draught and 12,000 with forced draught, the estimated speeds to be produced being respectively seventeen and eighteen knots per hour. The Renown is built of steel, with the exception of her stem, sternpost, and shaft brackets, which are of phosphor bronze, the lower part of the stem being so shaped and constructed as to constitute a formidable ram. She is of the central citadel type; the sides of the citadel are constructed of two strakes of ‘Harveyised’ armour, the lower stroke 8in. and the upper one 6in. thick. The ends of the citadel are similarly formed, the thicknesses of the strakes being 10in. and 6in. respectively. Within the citadel the space occupied by the engines, boilers, &c., is protected by a steel deck worked level to within a few feet of the ship’s side, whence it slopes to a point some distance below the water-line. This protective deck consists of two thicknesses of 1in. steel plating on its level part and of 1in. steel plating on its slope. The magazines, torpedo-rooms, &c., are in like manner protected by a steel underwater deck, composed of two thicknesses of 1in. plating, and extending from the ends of the citadel to the stem and sternpost. At the fore and after ends of the citadel redoubts, plated with 10in. armour, are constructed for carrying and protecting the 10in. breech-loading guns, their centres by this means being raised to a height of 27ft. above the water-line. These guns command an all- round fire over the stem and stern, and are revolved and worked by machinery supplied by Sir J. Whitworth and Co. In the event of damage to the steam machinery, provision is made for working them by hand. The armament of the ship, in addition to the four 10in. 29-ton guns situated in the redoubts, includes ten 6in. quick-firing 100-pounder guns located in casements on the upper and main decks. The auxiliary armament is made up of eight 12-pounder 12cwt. quick-firing guns; two 12. pounder 8cwt, quick-firing guns; twelve 3- pounder quick-firing guns, and seven 0.45 Maxims, distributed between the several decks and the military tops. The ship is fitted with five torpedo tubes, four of which are submerged, and provision is made for carrying 22 torpedoes. The complement of boats, armed and otherwise, is similar to that usually allowed to first-class battleships, and is fully competent to perform any service that may be required of them. In action the ship will be fought from either of two conning towers, the forward one being protected with 12in. and the after one. with 3in. armour. The engines are of the vertical triple-expansion type, and are to be supplied and fitted on board by Messrs. Maudsley, Sons, and Field, under their representative, Mr. John Vernon. The ship is fitted with the usual auxiliary machinery, steering, windlass, electric light, fire, &c., is well supplied with all fittings, and commodious quarters for officers and men effectively ventilated. The Renown has been built from the designs of Sir W. H. White, director of naval construction to the Admiralty, and Mr. James Owen, assistant constructor at Pembroke Dockyard, has been in charge of the building operations. The ship, since her stem and keelson were laid, was under the immediate supervision of the then chief constructor of the yard, Mr. J. C. Froyne, who retired from the service on February 5 last, since which time his successor, Mr. Henry Cock, C.C., has carried out the duties most efficiently. The Renown, although a massive structure, is built on fine lines, and is comparatively light in appearance, which is much enhanced by the provision, from quarter to quarter, of a stern balcony, or ‘pleasaunce’, for the use of the admiral or the officer in command, and is enclosed by metal network artistically designed, having a most graceful and picturesque appearance.
The Renown was launched from No. 1 Slip. and from the same spot the following heavy fighting ships were launched:—Edinburgh, March 18, 1882; Howe, April 28, 1885; Aurora, October 28, 1887, and Repulse, February 27, 1892. The only serious accident during the building of the Renown, we believe, was to a shipwright, William Smith, who fell from the ship into the dock (30ft.), on February 26, 1894, and died two days after from his injuries.
The Renown is the third vessel originally possessing that name. The first Renown was launched on the Tyne by Armstrong, Mitchell, and Co., Elswick, for the Royal Navy, in 1887. She was christened Victoria, in honour of the Queen, it being Jubilee Year. The Admiralty transferred the name afterwards to a ship building at Pembroke, which was launched on May 7, 1891, by their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Connaught, but ‘My Lords’ again changed the name, and the second Renown became the Empress of India. The present Renown will be taken to Hobb’s Point to have her boilers and machinery placed on board and fitted. In a few weeks she will proceed to Devonport to be fitted for the pennant. The total cost of her armament alone will be £102,458.
A 200 year old model of the fifth rate frigate Severn, built in Bristol in 1786 and wrecked in Jersey in 1804, has been discovered locked in a cupboard at Berkeley Castle – story here. She spent much of her service in the West Indies, but when wrecked she was the command of one of the most unusual British naval captains of the Napoleonic Wars, Philippe d’Auvergne, the Prince de Bouillon.
HMS Cornwall to be scrapped in Swansea – story here.
Captain, later Admiral, Sir Thomas Williams (1761/2-1841), was a successful frigate captain of the French wars, who was knighted for capturing two French frigates in 1796. He was also married to Jane Austen’s cousin, hence his appearances in the author’s letters and diaries; but the wife in question was killed in 1798 when she was thrown from her gig when it collided with a runaway dray horse. Unfortunately, though, Williams is one of those infuriating people whose origins are very difficult to track down, principally because the combination of names is so common. In this case, the combination suggests that he might well have been Welsh, especially as he was the son of a Captain William Williams RN, and he also became the first captain of the frigate HMS Cambrian, the first warship to bear the name. Some have duly jumped to that conclusion: Thomas Williams was included in a collection of Welsh book plates assembled by Sir Evan Davies Jones (1859-1949), MP for Pembrokeshire, and in 1946 General Sir Henry ap Rhys Price included Williams in an article about ‘Some Famous Welsh Leaders in War’.
In fact, research that I’ve undertaken since completing the book suggests that Williams’ immediate antecedents were actually in the Isle of Wight. Indeed, his first wife’s death provides a clue, as her fatal accident took place on the island. William Williams and his wife Elizabeth had at least five children at Ryde, then in the parish of Newchurch, in the 1750s and 1760s: Thomas, who was christened at Ryde on 20 June 1762, Edward, Charles (who probably died young), Anne and Elizabeth. William’s will, made when he was first lieutenant of the Southampton in 1757 and proved over twenty years later, makes the Isle of Wight connection clear, as does the will of his widow Elizabeth from 1805, which mentions all four surviving children. In turn, Anne’s will of 1834 mentions her nephew Edward Richard Williams, the son of Edward, who served as flag captain to his uncle Sir Thomas and also served as captain of HMS Victory. None of this precludes the possibility that William Williams was a Welshman domiciled in the Isle of Wight, but both my own researches and the staff of the Isle of Wight Record Office have failed to turn up any evidence one way or the other. Moreover, as anyone who’s ever done any Welsh genealogical research knows, pinning down one individual with a name like William Williams really is ‘needle in a haystack’ territory! So unless other evidence emerges, Sir Thomas Williams is going to need to remain on the fringes of Welsh naval history, with a very large question mark against his name.
Today (25 August) marks the anniversary of the death of one of Wales’s most famous seafarers, Sir Henry Morgan, and this was duly marked on social media. Unfortunately, many tweeters chose to describe Llanrumney-born Morgan as a ‘Royal Navy admiral’, apparently relying on his Wikipedia entry, which describes him as such. (To add insult to injury, some tweeters – invariably from across the pond – described him as an ‘English’ Royal Navy admiral…) This might be excusable for those who aren’t expert in the field and have only had time to refer to the most obvious online source, but there’s simply no excuse when the same claim is made in the Twitter feeds of the likes of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, which should surely be authoritative.
To clarify: Morgan never held a Royal Navy commission of any sort. He was granted a local commission as admiral by Sir Thomas Modyford, governor of Jamaica, in 1667, but this was in command of local privateers and ‘irregulars’, not official naval forces. Samuel Pepys, a near-contemporary of Morgan, was holding high administrative office in the navy throughout the time period in question, and was thus in a much better position to know the truth of the matter than any Wikipedia editor: and Henry Morgan is omitted from Pepys’s definitive list of those who held flag office between the Restoration and the Glorious Revolution.
I’ve said very little about Morgan in Britannia’s Dragon, partly because he never served a ‘proper’ navy – the central criterion of the book’s focus – and partly because he has been written about in so much detail elsewhere. Covering Morgan (and other Welsh ‘pirates’ like Bartholomew Roberts) would simply have forced the deletion of less well-known material elsewhere in the book, and that wasn’t something I was prepared to do. Fortunately, my first guest submitter on this blog, Josh Provan of the Adventures in Historyland blog, has solved the problem for me by providing links to his three posts (to date) about Henry Morgan!
Britannia’s Dragon names several Welshmen who are known to have served in both the Confederate and Union navies during the American Civil War, including an account of the most famous of them – Henry Morton Stanley, the future discoverer of Doctor Livingstone. There were Welshmen aboard the USS Monitor and CSS Virginia (formerly Merrimac), which fought the world’s first battle between metal warships, and one of them has been the subject of a recent, if slightly macabre, news story. As I wrote in the book,
‘Aboard the USS Monitor as it sailed into battle against the CSS Virginia (and their fellow Welshmen) were coal heaver David Ellis, a trainee teacher from Carmarthenshire, and fireman Robert Williams, who later went down with the ship when it sank in a storm in December 1862. A skeleton likely to be that of Williams was discovered when the Monitor’s turret was raised in 2002. In 2012 his face was reconstructed by a team from Louisiana State University, and on 8 March 2013 the body believed to be his received a funeral with full military honours at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, making him probably the last sailor of the American Civil War to be honoured in this way.’
When Britannia’s Dragon had already gone to press, I came across a reference to a memoir that Ellis had written about his time aboard the Monitor. It was too late to do more than work in at the proof stage the brief reference to him having been a trainee teacher; this was a pity, as Ellis’s memoir provides a rare first-hand account of a Welshman’s experiences during the American Civil War at sea. Fortunately, the memoir is freely available online, and can be read here.