Basil Lubbock.

The Blackwall frigates online

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On the Saturday which saw the rescue of Johnstone,
the Black Swan, steamer, with the Superintendent of
Police, Captain McLerie, on board, commenced a
search of the harbour.

The searchers picked up several bodies in the harbour,
three were found on the beach at Man ley, others at
the Quarantine Station, whilst two coffins were filled
with the remains which were foimd on the rocks of the


Gap. Most of the bodies were unrecognisable, and out
of the 122 on board numbers were devoured by sharks.
The body of a man was picked up quite undisfiguerd
except that it lacked the head, and as it was supposed
to be that of an heir to some property, the fact that his
identity could not be entirely proved caused years of

The inquest was a most distressing affair. The
little dead-house near the Mariners Church was quite
full of the mangled remains and more than one juror

The funeral was long remembered in Sydney ; a long
line of hearses, headed by a band playing the "Dead
March" in "Saul" and followed by every kind of
vehicle from private carriages to omnibuses, wound
its way along George Street. Every ship half-masted
her ensign, minute guns were fired and bells tolled,
whilst all Sydney mourned.

Willis' Wonder, "The Tweed "

Some ships seem to have the finger of God in
their design, the supreme of man's craftmanship in
their building and the touch of genius in their character.
Such ships stand out above all their contemporaries.
Old seamen speak of them with the affection of lovers.
Poets sing of them. Chanteymen glorify their qualities
and their deeds in hundreds of verses. Journalists
pigeon-hole the pages of their log books as if they were
public men. And those who have sailed in them lord
it regally over their fellows and begin every yarn with
the stock phrase, "When I was in the old so and so."
These divinely inspired ships sail like witches, come
unscathed through the severest storms, bring up fair
winds and break up calms, coin money I'or their owners.


and are never sick or sorry from their launch to their


Of such was Willis' wonder The Tvceed, which for the
first eight years of her existence was the paddle wheel
frigate Punjaub of the Indian Navy.

Lloyd's Register gives the date of her launch as 1857.
This is indeed a curious slip, for the Punjaub had a
well-known share in the making of history at the
bombardment and capture of Bushire during the Persian
War in 1855.

In 1852, the Punjaub and Assaye, the last two frigates
to be built for the old Indian Navy of the Hon. East
India Company, were laid down in Bombay Dockyard
by Cursetjee Rustomjee, master builder, and the fifth
of the famous Parsee family of Wadia to hold that post.
The world has seen many great shipbuilding families,
and by no means least of these were the Wadias.

In 1735 Lowjce Nusserwanjee was foreman of the
East India Company's yard at Surat. Mr. Dudley, the
Master Attendant of the company, sent Lowjce in this
year to Bombay to start a yard there.

Lowjee, like all the Wadias, combined great skill in
his profession with great honesty of work and great
integrity in the purchase of materials and handling on
moneys. And from the first the ships built in the
Bombay Dockyard by the Wadia family were celebrated
for their strength, for their durability, and for their

The workmanship of the Wadias could not be excelled
in Europe; their material, Malabar teak, owing to its
natural oil was the best and most long wearing of ail
the woods used in shipbuilding, and in the design
their ships were kept well abreast of the times.

There was, however, a touch of romance in the design



Half Midship

[To face Page 212.


of the Punjaub. Actually the credit lor her lines has
been given to Oliver Lang, but he was always supposed
to have drawn his inspiration from the hull of an old
French frigate, one of those beautiful shapes from the
pencil of the French naval architect, which were the
wonder, envy and despair of our own designers during
the eighteenth century and early part of the nineteenth

If we compare the measurements of the Punjaub and
the Assaye, we at once see in the additional overall
length of the Punjaub for the same gross tonnage a
reason for her greater speed.

Tons length length beam depth engines

overall regd.

Punjaub 1745 net 285 250 39.6 25 700 h. p.

Assaye 1800 gross 277 250 39.6 25 650 h. p.

Both ships were built of carefully picked Malabar
teak, and no ships were ever better or more honestly
constructed. Their engines seem to have given little
trouble, but the cumbersome paddle-wheel boxes
undoubtedly took off from their speed through the
water and spoilt their appearance when under sail.
They were armed with ten 8 -inch 68 -pounders.

The Assaye was launched on the 15th March, 1854,
at midnight, in the presence of Lord Elphinstone,
Rear -Admiral Sir Henry and Lady Leeke and nearly
300 guests, who had been celebrating the occasion by a
ball at the dockyard.

The Punjaub was launched on the 21st April, 1854^
but her glide into the water does not seem to have
attracted so much attention, though she was the finer
ship of the two.

Both ships were some months fitting out, the Assays
owing to the non-arrival of her engines from England
not being ready for sea until October.


On the 1st November, 1854, Bombay was devastated
by a cyclone, which nearly finished off the Assaye
though the Punjaub escaped damage. The pressure of
the wind registered 35 lbs. per square foot; the gardens
of Bombay were flattened out as if a roller had passed
over them, houses were unroofed and otherwise damaged,
whilst the shipping had the worst time of all. Five
square-rigged ships and three steamers went ashore,
most of them dismasted, and 142 native craft were
wrecked or sunk.

The Assaye broke adrift and carried away her bowsprit
against the Castle walls, and with difficulty was saved
from total shipwreck.

The Hastings, receiving ship, sprang a leak and drove
from her moorings. The Queen got a line aboard her
but failed to hold her. She fouled the ship Mystery,
and then battered herself almost to pieces against the
Castle walls. All the yachts and the state barges of
the Governor and Sir Henry Lecke, moored off the
Apollo Bunder, were lost.

The Elphinstone was only saved by the skill of her
crew. She grounded off the Custom House basin, but
managed to back off, and with only a staysail set,
contrived to get clear of the crowd of distressed ships and
make the outer anchorage.

The surveying brig Palinurus was dismasted and
grounded off the dockyard breakwater.

The cyclone burst over the city at midnight on
1st November, was at its worst at 3 a.m., and with the
usual shifts round the compass lasted till daybreak on
the 2nd.

It was The Tweed's first baptism by the elements and
she came out of it unscathed. I shall refer to her as the
Punjaub until her name was changed.

From a Painting



[To face Page 214.


On the 2iid January, 1855, she was taken over by
Commander John W. Young, who afterwards distin-
guished himself on the Assaye at Bushire and Mohamra.
He had already been employed in the fitting out of the
two ships, but the time had now arrived when they were
to begin their sea lives.

*'Punjaub" takes the 10th Hussars to the

In the winter of 1854 orders came out from home
for the 10th Hussars and 12th Lancers to go to the
Crimea. They were badly wanted as reinforcements in
the struggle before Sebastopol, and the quickest
possible despatch was urged.

To the Punjaub was assigned the honour of carrying
the Colonel and nearly half the 10th Hussars.

In six days she was fitted with stalls for 250 horses:
and on the 9th January, 1855, she sailed for Suez with
the steam frigate Auckland, steam sloop Victoria and
sailing transport Sultana with the rest of the regiment
and their horses.

On the 21st February, the Queen, Precursor, Earl oj
Clare, Earl Grey and Jessica embarked part of the 12th
Lancers at Bombay and also sailed for Suez. The
rest of the 12th were picked up at Mangalore by the
Assaye and Semiramis; the Assaye, however, broke
down, and had to tranship her men on to the

On the passage to Suez the Punjaub first gave a taste
of her sailing powers; and so superior did she prove
herself to her consorts that though she put out her
fires and lowered her topsails on the cap whilst they
staggered along under full head of steam and press of
sail, she ran them hull down in spite of the impediment


of her great paddle boxes. Commander Young and
his first officer, Lieut. Worsley, were both in despatches
by the Governor of Bombay, for the part they played
in this important piece of transport work.

The *'Punjaub" and "Assaye" in the
Persian War.

On the return of the ships from Suez, there was a
general shift over of the commanders in the Indian Navy.

Young was transferred to the Assaye on 11th May,
1855, and a very well-known officer. Commander
Montriou, was given the Punjaub. He had hardly
taken over before he was made Master Attendant of the
Dockyard and the command of the superb frigate fell to
the luck of Lieut. Alexander Foulerton, who was made
Acting Commander.

In June, 1855, the Indian Navy commenced fitting
out a squadron for the Persian War : the fighting ships
consisted of: —

Assaye — Flagship of Rear- Admiral Sir. Henry J. Leeke, Captain

Griffith Jenkins (Captain of the Fleet). Acting-Commander

G. N. Adams.
Punjaub — Acting-Commander .\. Foulerton.
Semiramis — 1031 tons, 250 horse-power, 6 guns. Captain J. W.

Ferooz — 1450 tons, 500 horse-power, 8 guns. Commander J. Rennie.
Ajdaha — 1440 tons, 500 horse-power, 8 guns.
Falkland — 494 tons, 18-gun sloop of war. Commodore Ethersey

Lieut. J. Trouson.
Berenice — 756 tons, 220 horse-power; 4 guns. Lieutenant A. W^

Victoria — 705 tons, 230 horse-power, 5 guns. Lieut. E. Giles

(and later Lieut. Manners).
CUve — 387 tons, 18-gun sloop of war. Commander Albany Grieve.

The expeditionary force consisted of 5670 combatants
(2270 Europeans), 3750 camp followers, 1150 horses
and 430 bullocks.


Some of tlie Infantry were taken by the warships;
but 20,000 tons of transports were also required.

Perhaps their names may be of interest ; there were
6 steamers and 23 sailing ships.

The steamers consisted of the Precursor, Pottinger
and Chusan, all belonging to the Peninsular and Oriental
Co.; and the Sir J. Jejeebhoy- Lady Falkland and
Bombay, of the Bombay Steam Navigation Co.

The sailing ships for the transport of the Artillery
were: — Rajah of Cochin, Melbourne, Madge Wildfire,
Sibella, Dakota, Merse and Mirzapore.

For Light Cavalry — Abdulla, Bayne, Alabama and
Fair lie.

For the Poona Uorse— Arthur the Great, Thames City
and Clifton.

For the Infantry (besides the wsiTships— Result and
Maria Grey.

For Stores — Futtay Salam and Philo.

CoWievs— Bride of the Seas, British Flag, Somnauth,
Defiance and Rhoderick Dhu.

The expedition sailed from Bombay during the
second week in November, 1855, the way being led by
the Punjaub which left on the 8th.

On 24th November the whole force rendezvoused off
Bunder Abbas. By the 6th December the ships,
which left Bunder Abbas in three divisions, had all
arrived in Hallilah Bay, where the troops were landed
under the fire of eight 24 -pounder howitzer gun -boats,
which drove off a column of the enemy, who were
evidently meant to dispute the landing. On Sunday,
9th December, the troops, aided by the fire of the ships,
stormed the Fort of Reshire, 4| miles below Bushire.

The following quotations from the despatch of
Commander Felix Jones, the Political Agent, to the


Government of Bombay, give a graphic account of the
storming of Reshire and capture of Bushire.

After relating the difficulties of landing the Cavalry
horses and Artillery equipage owing to the lack of
native boats, he goes on to say : —

Forty-eight hours sufficed to put the troops in motion northward,
the ships of war, led by the Admiral, advancing along the coast to their
support. This was on the morning of the 9th, and by noon the enemy
were observed to be in force in the village of Reshire. Here, amidst
the ruins of old houses, garden walls, and steep ravines, they occupied
a formidable position; but, notwithstanding their firmness, wall after
wall was surmounted, and finally they were driven from their last
defence (the old fort of Reshire) bordering on the cliffs at the margin
of the sea. This was carried at the point of the bayonet, the enemy
then only flying in despair down the cliffs, where many met their death.
. . . Brigadier Stopford, C.B., met his death here, and other loss was
experienced. The wounded were received into the ships the same
evening, and provisions were thrown into the fort from seaward during
the night.

An attempt was now made to parley with Bushire,
but Commander Jones with the flag of truce was fired
on and had to retire, and he goes on —

While this was going on, a note from the Major-General (Stalker)
commanding announced his intention of advancing on the town thd
following morning, and the Admiral disposed his fleet in order of battle,
first dismantling the newly erected outworks, and then moving with a
view of breaching the south wall of the town.

The following morning, as the tide served, the ships were in the
positions assigned to them. A second flag of truce had come off.
begging 24 hours' delay, but this was promptly rejected, and at near
8 o'clock the signal was hoisted to engage. Shot and shell were aimed
at the redoubt south of the town, but with little effect owing to the
great range, though eventually tlie enemy assembled there to oppose
the troops were dislodged and beat a retreat with their guns into the
town. The ships, in the meantime, had moved upon the town, and
such was the ardour displayed to get close to the works, that every ship
was laid aground at the turn of high water, and for four hours continued
to cannonade the defences, which were active in replying the whole
time. Many of their guns, however, were not of sufficient calibre to
reach the ships, but the perseverance of the Persian gunners in firing from
the more heavy pieces was admired by every one.


Their shot told very often on the hulls of the Victoria, Falkland.
Semiramis and Ferooz, which latter vessels under Captain John Young
and Commander James Rennie had the posts of honour for the day.
Details of the affair it is unnecessary for me to enter upon. It will
suffice for me to report that, some of the guns being silenced, on the
approach of the army, under Major-General Stalker, C.B., to breach the
wall on the gate side before the assault the Persian flagstaff was felled
in token of submission.

The British colours were hoisted at the Residency
flagstaff in the town at 4.30 p.m., with a salute of 21
guns from the fleet, the ships being dressed.

The Governor of Bushire and his staff were sent on
board the Punjaub, which with the Assaye sailed for
Bombay three days after the capture of the town,
Admiral Sir Henry Leeke and staff, the three principal
prisoners and the captured Persian flag being on the

Whilst running through the Bassadore Gulf the
Assaye was boarded by a friendly Arab chief, who
told the Admiral of a Persian division, 3000 strong,
assembled at Lingah, with the purpose of capturing
the depot station on the Island of Kishm.

When the ships drew abreast of the Persian camp it
was bombarded by their 68-pounders; the Persians
thereupon drew off out of range.

The Admiral thereupon left the Punjaub and a force
of Marines to protect the island, and took the prisoners
on the Assaye to Bombay.

This diversion deprived the Punjaub of any partici-
pation in the gallant little action of Mohamra on the
Shatt-ul-Arab, where the Assaye so distinguished herself.
This took place on the 2eth March, 1856, the Punjaub
arrived at Bombay on 9th March and left for the Gulf on
the 20th, too late to take part in this operation, which
was a hot one.


The casualties on the bombarding ships would have
been very much heavier but for an idea of Commander
Rennie's, that of placing trusses of pressed hay round
the bulwarks of the ships to stop the Persian musket
balls. Vast numbers of bullets were shaken out of
these trusses, and no less than 300 bullets were buried in
the sides of the Ferooz.

All the ships, nsimely—Assaye , Ferooz, Semiramis,
Clive, Ajdaha, Victoria, and Falkland, anchored within
100 yards of the Persian earthworks, with the exception
of the Assaye, which owing to her length had not
sufficient room to swing on the ebb, so Commander
Adams kept steaming her up to the Ferooz, next ahead,
and then dropped back on the tide to the next astern,
all the time engaging the Persian batteries at pistol
shot range.

The Victoria grounded 200 yards off Huffer Creek
and being exposed to concentrated fire received 18 shots
in her hull, her rigging also being much cut up.

The sailing sloops of war Clive and Falkland drew the
admiration of all eyes as they took up their stations
under all sail. Simultaneously they hauled down and
clewed up every sail, dropped their anchors and fired
their broadsides into the opposing batteries.

At 10 a.m. the magazine in the north fort blew up
amidst deafening cheers from each ship ; this was
followed by three other explosions and the Persian fire
began to slacken. By 1 o'clock the chief works were
silent, and the steam transports, headed by the Berenice
with General Havelock and the 78th Highlanders on
board, moved up and began to land the troops. But
the honours of the day were entirely with the seamen,
the Union Jack being hoisted on the northern fort by
the First Lieutenant of the Assaye, whilst seamen from


the S emir amis, Victoria, Clive and Falkland stormed
the southern forts after they had been silenced.

The Persian army of 13,000 men and 30 guns broke up
and dispersed as soon as they saw the troops advancing
through the date groves. The leader Agha Than Khan
and 300 men were killed; but the state of the Persian
camp was nothing to that of the Persian forts which were
filled with dead and wounded. The British loss was
only 10 killed and 30 wounded. As General Havelock
wrote : — " The gentlemen in blue had it all to themselves,
and left us naught to do. "

"Mohamra" was one of those gallant little affairs
which have hardly been noticed by our military or
naval historians.

The retreating Persian army was pursued by a com-
posite force of seamen and Highlanders in small gun-
boats and the ships' cutters as far as Ahwaz, where large
stores of provisions, arms and transport animals were
captured. This force returned to Mohamra on the
4th April to learn that peace had been made with

Lord Canning in a General Order thus expressed his
appreciation of the little campaign: —

The surrender of Bushire on the 10th December, after a brief and
ineffectual opposition ; the operations against the Persian entrenched
camp at Borazgoon: and the complete victory obtained over the Persian
army at Khooshab on the 8tli February, the bombardment and
capture of Mohamra on the 26th March, and the brilliant attack by a
few hundred men against Ahwaz on the 1st April, followed by the
precipitate flight of the whole Persian army servins; in that quarter
have signally instanced the vigour, the enterprising spirit and the
intrepidity with which the operations against Persia, both by sea
and land, have been directed, and have earned for those who had a
share in their execution the cordial approbation and the thanks of the
Government of India.


♦♦Punjaub " in the Indian Mutiny.

The war with Persia ended just in time to allow
the ships and troops to get back to Bombay and take
their part in the terrible struggle caused by the Indian

If the Assaye had been more in the limelight than
her sister ship during the Persian operations, the
Punjaub and her commander and crew came brilliantly
to the front during the Indian Mutiny. The Punjaub
arrived at Bombay from the Persian Gulf on the
22nd May, 1857, and was at once ordered with
all speed to Calcutta in the wake of the Assaye and
transports which had the 64th and 78th Regiments on

The Assaye left Bombay on the 23rd and the Punjaub
on the 25th May. They arrived in the Hooghly to find
Calcutta in a state of panic, which their 21 -gun salute
of the Viceroy did somewhat to allay; and we are told
that no complaints about broken windows due to the
salute were made, as was usually the case.

This was on the 4th June, and the Assaye was turned
short round and left for Bombay with treasure belonging
to the Government that very night, so great was the fear
of a rising.

The panic and excitement in Calcutta came to a head
on the 14th June, 1857, called afterwards "Panic
Sunday." A report had spread that the Sepoys at
Barrackpore had risen in the night and were marching
on Calcutta, also that the King of Oude's forces at
Garden Reach were to join them in a loot and massacre
of the city.

From an early hour the streets were filled with the
laden tongas and carts of fleeing citizens — all rushing
for refuge to the fort and ships.


Sir John Kaye in his Sepotj War thus describes the
panic: —

Within great long boxes on wheels, known as palanquin carriages,
might be seen the scared faces of Eurasians and Portuguese, men,
women, and children ; and without piled up on the roofs, great bundles
of bedding and wearing apparel, snatched up and thrown together in
the agonised hurry of departure. Rare among these were the carriages
of a better class, in which the pale cheeks of the inmates told of their
pure European descent. Along the Mall on the water-side or across the
broad plain between the city and the fort the great stream poured itself.

The fugitives poured in at the gates of the fort, and at
the ghauts shrieked for rowing boats to take them off
to the ships in the river.

Whilst Commander Foulerton, who was then Senior
Naval Officer at Calcutta, was at church, he received a
note ordering him to wait immediately on Lord Canning.

On proceeding to Government House he found an
Emergency Council sitting, consisting of the Governor-
General, the Foreign Secretary (George Edmonstone) ;
Major-General Richard Birch, the Military Secretary ;
Colonel Powell, Commanding the Troops ; Colonel
Cavenagh, Town -Major ; and Major Herbert, com-
manding the Calcutta Militia.

Commander Foulerton was then let into the secret.
He was ordered to take his ship down to Garden Reach
and anchor off the King of Oude's palace at daybreak,
when he was to land and assist the land party in seizing
the King and preventing anyone from leaving the palace.

He replied that he was not able to move the Punjaub
as her floats were off and she could not be fitted in time,
but that he would take the Semiramis and all the
Punjaub^ s company in her boats. This Lord Canning
agreed to and Commander Foulerton was dismissed to
make his arrangements, with instructions to report by
9 o'clock that evening.


Commander Foulerton first of all procured a reliable
pilot, whom he took with him aboard the Semiramis.
The pilot at first made objections to taking the Semiramis
down without orders from the port authorities, but
Commander Foulerton would stand no nonsense and
gave in sailor-like language the various things which
would happen to him if he remained obstinate, and
thereupon he gave in,

Lieut. Stradling commanding the Semiramis was
next warned to be ready to sail at daylight and to stop
all communication with the shore. Finally the First
Lieutenant of the Pmijaub received instructions to have
all boats manned and armed ready to be taken in tow by
the Semiramis.

A little before daylight the Semiramis with the
Punjaub's boats in tow got underweigh and presently
anchored off the King of Oudc's palace at Garden Reach.
Leaving the boats of the Semiramis to guard the
landing. Commander Foulerton with the Punjaub's
crew disembarked and closed in on the palace. Here
he was presently joined by Colonel Powell and the
53rd Regiment, some Artillery and the Governor's

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Online LibraryBasil LubbockThe Blackwall frigates → online text (page 17 of 26)