Nelson & His World

Discussion on the life and times of Admiral Lord Nelson
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 Post subject: When a man's rating was changed . . . .
PostPosted: Sat Sep 12, 2009 10:57 pm 
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When a man was rerated e.g. from Landsman to Ordinary Seaman, Ordinary Seaman to Able Seaman or any other change that would change his rate of pay . . . .

. . . . was he given any kind of document or certificate to confirm that change.

I have seen "mix ups" regarding pay grades in modern, well run companies. So I can imagine how easy it would be for the wrong rating to be recorded in the muster book of an eighteenth century ship.

I don't see anything to cover this eventuality in the Statutes of 1757 or 1792.

Maybe the rating was read out when the weekly muster was taken? Just a thought??!!

MB


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 13, 2009 9:21 am 
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As far as I am aware, there would have been no 'document or certificate' issued. The rating would have relied entirely on the Purser / ships officers to record his rating correctly and pay him accordingly.

Bruno Papparlardo in "Tracing Your Naval Ancestors" states that "...the information containing in surviving muster and pay books was normally copied from rough musters kept by the captain and purser, so mistakes easily occurred and sometimes details were omitted altogether."


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Sep 13, 2009 8:50 pm 
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Thanks

I guess that if there had been an official document for such changes one would have cropped up somewhere e.g. in a book, online or in an auction.

It's only guesswork but I favour my assumption that a man's rating was confirmed each time the crew was mustered.

I hadn't realised that a "rough" muster was taken - but it makes perfect sense. I believe the musters were taken on the main deck so if "official" books were used they could have ended up in a real mess.

I think it was the same with log books wasn't it?

MB


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 13, 2009 9:10 pm 
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I have come across a couple of instances where a midshipman only discovered that he had been rated midshipman when he looked in the ship's muster himself. One, when writing to his parents, asked them not to let on to his captain (Duckworth) that he had looked!

If ratings were not made known during a muster, it would have helped to avoid embarrassment to all concerned when a captain was carrying more that his complement of young gentlemen and had disrated a midshipman in order to make room for another of his protégés - as was the case when Captain Farmer re-rated Nelson from midshipman to AB to make room for his own son.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Sep 15, 2009 2:13 pm 
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Tony,

That's interesting about Nelson and Captain Farmer. I haven't seen this with my own eyes - but a friend checked out the muster of H.M.S. Raisonable when Nelson first joined - and confirmed that from Day 1 he was rated as Midshipman.

This struck me as unusual as I thought most boys would spend some time as e.g. Vol. 1st Class. But I guess that this was at the whim of the Captain - especially as in this case he was Nelson's uncle.

But I hadn't realised that he was then re/de-rated by Captain Farmer in his own bit of "familial preferment".

Do you recall where you came across that information. I know a biography of Farmer came out a couple of years ago but I never got round to buying a copy.

MB


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 15, 2009 2:26 pm 
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Mark, my source was Anna! Anna's source was Clennell Wilkinson's biography of Nelson (Harrap, 1931). See this thread from last year.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:38 pm 
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Oh crikey - that had slipped from my memory!

I know I have said this before. But it still makes me smile how some things in the Geogian (Nelson's) Navy were obeyed absolutely to the letter of the law - and then other things seemed almost lackadaisical. i.e. down to the whim of a particular individual.

I imagine by our standards it would be very galling if you were on the wrong end of one of these decisions.

But I suppose for people back then it was just a case of "grin and bear it".

MB


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 Post subject: Musters
PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2009 5:16 pm 
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Muster Books were important official financial documents on the basis of which pay. allowances and deductions were calculated and, when decommissioned, the ship was paid off by a bevy of Navy Board clerks.

Records relating to commissioned and warrant officers and the crew were kept scrupulously, noting (as you know) dates of arrival on board and departure, changes in rate and therefore pay, deductions for slops, hammocks, tobacco, dead men's clothes etc.

Some entries were vague or lax it is true - but, as far as I have seen, only in regard to items which had no financial implication - like place of birth or recruitment. (Of no importance to Pay Clerks if to genealogists).

Captains, Pursers etc were not paid until their books and accounts had been cleared by the Navy Board so care was taken vis a vis Muster Books as with everything else.

The notorious exception to this was in relation to 'young gentlemen' ie followers of the captain (mostly) who were being groomed for commissioned rank and who had to clock up recorded sea service before they could become lieutenants. Their ratings in the books was therefore often quite arbitrary - terms like captain's servant, able seamen etc were just plucked out of the hat in order to register their presence on board. There are well known cases (Nelson included) of young men suddenly reverting from Midshipman to AB soley because the captain had been forced to oblige an influential friend by asking his son on board when the quota of mids was already filled. It made no difference to either their duties of where they slept and ate. There was also of course the practice of false muster to give sea time - like Lord Cochrane who was (technically but not actually) a captain's servant on HMS Vesuvius at the age of 5!

Young gentlemen in the Muster Books were therefore the exception to the rule. Ironically, they were the only people who needed separate certificates of service!


Brian


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2009 10:33 pm 
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Cochrane's family was perhaps leaving it a bit late! In 1792, Lieutenant Charles Mansfield's son clocked up ten weeks sea time as Lieutenant's Servant at the age of two years, two months. I need to check out the dates properly, but I don't think Mansfield was laying his captain open to a charge of false muster. I think his son was probably on board while the ship was in port fitting out.

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 Post subject: Able Infants
PostPosted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 10:08 am 
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Tony!

I have to hand it to your ancestor - he must hold the record.

The son of Captain Alexander Cochrane (the uncle of Thomas - also on board as a Mid) was born on HMS Thetis off Halifax on 29 October 1794, but - remarkably - even he didn't have the cheek to rate him Able Seaman!

Brian


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 1:50 pm 
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Sadly the son in question did not survive long enough to avail himself of his acquired sea time, and died at the age of twelve. I am descended from the second son, who did not follow in his father's foot steps.

Brian, your point about the financial implications of irregularities in a muster is important. Before 1794, false muster or 'book entries' for captain's and lieutenant's servants had no financial implications as they were not paid directly by the Admiralty, and the captain or lieutenant received the same allowance irrespective of the number of servants actually on board. After 1794, young gentlemen entered as 'boys, 1st class' or 'volunteers, 1st class' and did receive pay. So from that time false book entries did amount to defrauding the Navy, and I would guess that the practice reduced significantly. Is that your impression?

Of course, false muster of able seamen or midshipmen always would have amounted to fraud if their pay was drawn.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 2:19 pm 
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After 1794, young gentlemen entered as 'boys, 1st class' or 'volunteers, 1st class' and did receive pay.


Tony

Were those 2 terms identical in meaning - or was there any difference at all?

Thanks

Mark


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 2:40 pm 
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They were the same thing. Admiralty Order of 1st April 1794 introduced three classes of Boys -

1st class : to consist of Young Gentlemen intended for the Sea Service...to be styled Volunteers and allowed wages at the rate of £6 per annum

2nd class : to consist of boys between 15 and 17 years of age, to be divided into watches with the seamen in order to make them such...£5 per annum

3rd class: to consist of boys between 13 and 15 years of age, of whom Lieutenants and other officers who are allowed servants.....to be the attendants upon such officers...£4 per annum

Boys 1st class were apparently usually referred to as Volunteers 1st class


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 3:35 pm 
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Thanks.

Is there somewhere that I can read more about "Admiralty Orders" or could you tell us a bit more about them.

i.e. I am aware of the "Regulations and Instructions relating to his Majesty's Service at Sea" - which were published periodically. Presumably Admiralty Orders were sent out in the interim periods and where applicable incorporated in the next "R & I".

What sort of matters did they cover. Did they (or maybe some of them) need an Act of Parliament to support them?

Were they published anywhere such as the London Gazette?

Thanks if you can enlighten me any further. :D

MB


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Sep 17, 2009 8:02 pm 
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I may have been guilty of some presumption here - the information I gave was taken straight out of Michael Lewis’ “A Social History of the Navy”. He stated that it was an Order, and I, rather rashly stated that it was an Admiralty Order.

A bit more research has revealed that it was actually an Order In Council (i.e by the King and Privy Council).



As to Admiralty Orders (AO’s) they were simply an instruction issued by the Board of Admiralty - it usually had the prefix “…we do hereby require and direct you …” They invariably covered administrative affairs. There is no reference that would contain them all, as they are part of the Admiralty Board Correspondence.

An example of an AO from August 1745, addressed to the Senior Captain of Ships in the Downs:

“His majesty’s ships fitting out for the sea being in great want of men, you are hereby required and directed not only to press every seamen from ships having no protection, but also to press every sixth man from all ships and vessels which have protections, but you are not to esteem boys under eighteen years or old men above fifty five years of age in the number of the crew. ….”


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