Nelson & His World

Discussion on the life and times of Admiral Lord Nelson
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 Post subject: Ralph Dixon
PostPosted: Wed Sep 24, 2008 8:02 pm 
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I am posting this request for information about Ralph Dixon on behalf of another forum member:

In August or September 1805 an aide-memoire in Nelson's writing began:

'Ralph Dixon of Doris transport lost an arm in carrying my dispatches. Wants a pension.' It continued, proposing reward/recompense to others.

And on the reverse side was a rough diagram of the Trafalgar battle tactics.

I'd like to find out more about this incident involving Ralph Dixon and about his RN career.

His pension - 1820, Establishment number 130, has him serving on Doris. But no musters for transport - as opposed to HMS - Doris have been found.

Ralph joined the RN as a seaman on board a transport in January 1805, and his pension records reder to service pre-1806.

He was born in Branxton, Northumberland and died at Spittal, Tweedmouth (which was classed as being County Durham, like the rest of NE Northumberland, until about 1845) in 1860. He was a pilot, reg Berwick, from 1816 to 1849, was skipper and owner of the four crew fishing boat, 'Hero' of Spittal, and was a Greenwich Out-Pensioner. And he occupied copyhold property in Spittal (transferred to him c. 1816 from William Dixon, Blacksmith (his father?)

Back to 1805 - according to a life of Nelson published in 1806, on June 11th 1805 HMS Wasp (there were two HMS Wasps at the time!) and transport Doris received Nelson's dispatches. I think they were somewhere near Cape St Vincent.

Family legend has a Dixon with Nelson at Trafalgar. No relevant Dixon seems to have been there, though the name does appear, so I assume the legend relates to this, earlier, connection.

Any information/suggestion would be welcome.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 26, 2008 6:16 pm 
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I came across a snippet suggesting the Doris Transport was run down and sunk in the Bay of Biscay by the Royal Navy sloop Bonne Citoyenne, but after a bit of digging it looks like this was probably in 1809, so has to be discounted. It may also be a different Doris.

The date of 11 June 1805 for receiving Nelson's dispatches is a slight error. According to James Harrison's 'Life of Nelson', Nelson sent the Wasp and the Doris transport to England with dispatches on the 11th May 1805. At that time Nelson's fleet was anchored in Lagos Bay, and later that day he sailed for the West Indies in search of the combined enemy fleet.

The date of the 11th May seems confirmed by Nelson's letter to the Admiralty of that date in which he refers to another letter sent by the Wasp sloop.

I see that Paul Benyon has come up with the information that the Wasp is reported, in the Times, to have arrived on the 30 May 1805 at Limerick with despatches from Nelson.

I would suggest the best avenue for research would be the log of the Wasp for that month, which is at the National Archives. Perhaps it will describe events that account for Ralph Dixon's injuries. I also wonder why the Wasp put in at Limerick when carrying dispatches to the Admiralty.

According to the Parliamentary Papers of 1837, the date of the order of Ralph Dixon's pension was the 8th July 1805. If this date is correct, it is earlier than the supposed date of Nelson's aide memoire, and is earlier than Nelson's return to England. Indeed he was still in mid Atlantic prior to his return to Gibraltar. It also seems remarkably quick for the award of a pension for an injury received perhaps less than two months previously, so I wonder if the order was backdated to the date of the injury, or perhaps to Ralph Dixon's discharge from the Doris. If so, it narrows down the date of the incident to somewhere between 11 May and 8 July 1805.

I also wonder whether it is correct to describe him as joining the RN as a seaman on board a transport? The Doris transport may have been a hired transport ship and Philonauticus has previously explained in this forum that the crew would be employed and paid by the ship's owners rather than by the Navy, even if the ship was commanded by a RN officer. This may explain the lack of Admiralty records for the Doris transport ship, but transport ships were the responsibility of the Transport Board, under the Navy Board, and I am not familiar with the records for the Transport Board.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Sep 30, 2008 12:49 pm 
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Many thanks, Tony, for all that information - much appreciated.

Perhaps Ralph Dixon was on the Doris - built in his native N E England if we can class Whitby as N E !) - as a merchant seaman and converted to RN when Doris was taken over.

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Aug/Sept 1805 Nelson wrote 'Ralph Dixon of Doris Transport lost an arm in carrying my dispatches. Wants a pension.' 11. 6. 1805 Doris and Wasp - dispatches nr Cape St Vincent. Info sought. Pension 1820 - est no. 106. No Doris musters!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Sep 30, 2008 5:45 pm 
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Ps to my reply

I have been told that there were two HMS Wasps at this times. And Nat
Maritime Museum has one set of logs and Nat archives another.

About six weeks ago I visited Greenwich and examined Wasp's log for
around 11th June - THE WRONG DATE! And I found she'd been in Irish waters but was then berthed on the English south coast.

Meanwhile, I've ordered photo-copies of Nat Archives Wasp log for 11th
June and just after. So, it's back to the drawing board - or back to Greenwich, it seems. (I'll probably order photo-copies of the Wasp log
held by Nat Archives for around 11th May but that the Nat Mar Mus Wasp
had been in Irish waters before 11th June suggest that's the one.)

Renee Orr of Nat archives pointed me in direction of Lloyd's Register details of what's probably the relevant Doris. She was built in Whitby
in 1803 and weighed about the same as Cook's Endeavour. But Doris was
a 'ship', unlike Endeavour.

I've got a traditional boat at Whitby and a wooden boat builder there told me that Doris' draught of 15 ' would make her fast - ideal for a transport, I suppose.

Ralph Dixon came from Tweedmouth Parish and I imagine it's possible
he joined the Doris, as a more or less local ship, as a merchant seaman
and transferred to the Royal Navy (at least for pension purposes) when
Doris was taken over as a transport.

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Aug/Sept 1805 Nelson wrote 'Ralph Dixon of Doris Transport lost an arm in carrying my dispatches. Wants a pension.' 11. 6. 1805 Doris and Wasp - dispatches nr Cape St Vincent. Info sought. Pension 1820 - est no. 106. No Doris musters!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Sep 30, 2008 5:48 pm 
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P ps

Could the awarding of R Dixon's pension in July suggest an earlier date for
Nelson's Aide Memoire. (I think the tenateive Aug/Sept dating was because of it's position in amongst Nelson's letters.)

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Aug/Sept 1805 Nelson wrote 'Ralph Dixon of Doris Transport lost an arm in carrying my dispatches. Wants a pension.' 11. 6. 1805 Doris and Wasp - dispatches nr Cape St Vincent. Info sought. Pension 1820 - est no. 106. No Doris musters!


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 Post subject: Comment by Colin White
PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2008 5:30 pm 
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A colleague has drawn my attention to this fascinating thread. As the man who 'discovered' the famous battle-sketch with the aide memoire on the back (NB six years ago now!) I would like to congratulate the various contributors to this thread for the new light they have shed on Ralph Dixon, who has hitherto been one of the lesser-known names on the famous list.

This is another small piece of evidence confirming that the battle sketch and list must date from Aug/Sept 1805. Within hours of sending Dixon off with his dispatches, on 11 May 1805, Nelson started on his long chase to the West Indies and back. So he cannot have heard of Dixon's fate until his return to European waters in late July 1805 - and my guess is that he only heard when he got back to England in mid-August.

If anyone can throw any light on how Dixon actually came to lose his arm I should be most interested to hear of it. I shall watch this thread with interest!!

Colin White


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2008 6:04 pm 
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Many thanks for the comment.

I hope you'll forgive my reducing things to the parochial BUT - I'm Peter Ralph Dixon Davison and family legend has 'a Dixon' at Trafgalgar with
Nelson. I'm confident this relates to Ralph and the dispatches - pre
Trafalgar.

My grandfather, Ralphn Dixon Davison (born 1870), g grandson of Ralph, had a Dixon Uncle who idolised Nelson and used to get sloshed every Trafalgar Day!

In Autumn 1975 on my second (or first) venture onto the internet I keyed
onto Google 'Ralph Dixon Doris' - and, at one remove, up popped
the Aide Memoire story. And the hairs on the back of my neck stood Dixon up. Many thanks Dr White!

I've a locally built, traditional clinker boat at Whitby, named 'Ann Dixon'
years before the discovery of the Aide Memoire. (Ralph's wife was Ann Dixon and his grand daughter was Ann Davison nee Dixon - born Whitby to Tweedside/North Northumberland parents. And Doris was built in Whitby in 1803 - with 15' draught, 'a fast ship', says Steve Cook, the last traditional boat-builder in Whitby.

My father was a great Nelson's navy enthusiast and could identify barques,
sloops, frigates, ships ----.
ut it's been wonderful to look more deeply into the maritime history of the time and learn more of Pitt's, Nelson's and Napoleon's tactics and strategy - and for the unfortunate Villeneuve tp come to life.

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Aug/Sept 1805 Nelson wrote 'Ralph Dixon of Doris Transport lost an arm in carrying my dispatches. Wants a pension.' 11. 6. 1805 Doris and Wasp - dispatches nr Cape St Vincent. Info sought. Pension 1820 - est no. 106. No Doris musters!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2008 7:12 pm 
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Not doing very well with dates at the moment - the discovery of the Aide Memoire on the internet was Autumn 2005!

Peter Davison.

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Aug/Sept 1805 Nelson wrote 'Ralph Dixon of Doris Transport lost an arm in carrying my dispatches. Wants a pension.' 11. 6. 1805 Doris and Wasp - dispatches nr Cape St Vincent. Info sought. Pension 1820 - est no. 106. No Doris musters!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2008 7:23 pm 
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And apologies ro Renee Orr - of National Maritime Museum, not National Archives.

Further, it was John Chandler ('Ship Info') who pointed out tat there were two HMS Wasps at the time. Many thanks to him.

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Aug/Sept 1805 Nelson wrote 'Ralph Dixon of Doris Transport lost an arm in carrying my dispatches. Wants a pension.' 11. 6. 1805 Doris and Wasp - dispatches nr Cape St Vincent. Info sought. Pension 1820 - est no. 106. No Doris musters!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Oct 24, 2008 9:01 am 
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Hi Peter, sorry for not responding to your posts sooner, but I didn't manage to find time to revisit this thread before going away on holiday.

Colin White has answered the question about the dating of Nelson's aide memoire, and my guess is still that Dixon's pension was awarded later but backdated to his discharge from the Doris or to the date of his injury.

I am interested in the info that there were two HMS Wasps. I can only find details of one in commission in 1805, although there was also a Wasp that was a victualling vessel at Portsmouth Dockyard. It seems pretty certain that the Wasp in question was the 18-gun sloop (although I have seen it listed as a 14-gun sloop), commanded by Lieutenant Joseph Packwood, acting Commander at the time. This Wasp was the French Privateer La Guepe, captured in 1800, purchased by the Navy in 1801 and re-rigged as ship-rigged sloop. I think the the relevant logs at the National Archives are:

ADM 51/1475 WASP 1805 Mar 29 - 1805 June 13
ADM 51/1493 WASP 1805 June 13 - 1805 Oct 3

The NMM catalogue shows Packwood's Lieutenant's Log for the Wasp to be within ADM/L/W/37: HMS WASP 1803 - 1807: Act/Cdr J Packwood 29 Mar - 13 Jun 1805

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Oct 25, 2008 6:26 pm 
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Thanks again, Tony.

I hope to have photo-copies of National Archives held
log for about four days from 11th May 1805 within the
next few weeks.

I'm a bit puzzled by the NMM holding. Are those logs
duplicates or are they from a different perspective.

Ralph Dixon's career as a pilot might be recorded
in Tyne and Wear or Northumberland Archives' collections
and there might be some reference to his RN/Transport
origins. And I intend exploring this possibility. (Berwick
Harbour Authority records, held by Berwick Record Office,
just have his registration and renewals of licence as far as
I've seen to date.)

_________________
Aug/Sept 1805 Nelson wrote 'Ralph Dixon of Doris Transport lost an arm in carrying my dispatches. Wants a pension.' 11. 6. 1805 Doris and Wasp - dispatches nr Cape St Vincent. Info sought. Pension 1820 - est no. 106. No Doris musters!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Oct 29, 2008 9:39 am 
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The log at the NMM is a lieutenant's logbook. As Packwood was still a lieutenant while acting commander of the Wasp, presumably he kept both a lieutenant's log (now at the NMM) and a captain's log (now at TNA).

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Oct 29, 2008 10:46 am 
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Thanks yet again, Tony.

_________________
Aug/Sept 1805 Nelson wrote 'Ralph Dixon of Doris Transport lost an arm in carrying my dispatches. Wants a pension.' 11. 6. 1805 Doris and Wasp - dispatches nr Cape St Vincent. Info sought. Pension 1820 - est no. 106. No Doris musters!


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 Post subject: Log of HMS Wasp - 7 to 13 May 1805
PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 12:05 pm 
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I've examined Wasp's Log entries for 7-13May 1805. Whilst they make
fascinating reading, with Wasp policing the seas off Cape Vincent busily
- (a lot of traffic by Danes, Swedes, Americans and 'Imperials'!), there's
no mention of transport Doris.

There's reference to having 'made sail with two Transports under convoy' on 7th May, the Captain's boarding Victory on 10th and returning on 11th and, on 12th, in 'fresh gales' having Ship Queen with a large convoy of Transports At 2 hove too The Captain went on board the Queen at 2.30inc'
(The wind moderated to 'fresh breeze' - same on 13th.)

So, it occurs to examine Wasp's Log for the following few days, as well as
that of Queen, to see whether they were continuing to escort the Transports and whether there was any relevant incident.

Peter Davison.

_________________
Aug/Sept 1805 Nelson wrote 'Ralph Dixon of Doris Transport lost an arm in carrying my dispatches. Wants a pension.' 11. 6. 1805 Doris and Wasp - dispatches nr Cape St Vincent. Info sought. Pension 1820 - est no. 106. No Doris musters!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 6:18 pm 
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Thanks for the update, Peter. I look forward to hearing more in due course.

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