Our Sailors

W.H.G. Kingston
Our Sailors
Gallant deeds of the British Navy during Queen Victoria's reign
by W.H.G. Kingston
"Let fall the topsails, hoist away--up anchor, round goes the capstan--
sheet home--haul taut the braces! and away we glide, to prove to our
countrymen that British sailors have not been sleeping on beds of roses
for the last quarter of a century since her gracious Majesty Queen
Victoria came to the throne." So wrote our author some forty years ago.
"Up anchor, full speed ahead," is, we suppose, the modern equivalent
for his nautical simile, and very prosaic and commonplace it sounds;
but we shall find that the romance of the Navy did not go out with the
last of the sailing frigates, and that the age of steam and electricity, of
enormous ironclads and rapid cruisers, affords as great a scope for
individual daring, resource, and heroism as the days of sailing frigates
and boarding parties; and that though in recent years our sailors have
not had many chances of using their weapons on the sea, the Naval
Brigade has taken its part in many an expedition, on land, and on all
occasions the British tar has proved himself a worthy successor to the
heroes of Trafalgar and the Nile.
During the earlier years of the Great Queen's reign her sailors had little
to do in the fighting line, though on the West Coast of Africa the slave
traffic gave occasion to many a lively skirmish, and on other seas
various events from time to time afforded an opportunity for showing
that their weapons were as effective as of old.

Somewhat of that character was the capture of Aden, an Arab town on
the entrance of the Red Sea. A former sultan or chief of Aden had by
treaty given up the place to the British; but his successor, not approving
of the bargain, refused to submit to it. As it was important for the
English to hold the place, to facilitate the navigation of the Red Sea, an
expedition, under Captain Smith of the Volage, was sent by Sir
Frederick Maitland, then Commander-in-Chief on the East India
Station, to bring the Sultan to reason.
It was not a big affair, though unhappily it cost several lives, but its
result was important and lasting. Captain Smith's expedition comprised,
besides HMS Volage, three smaller vessels and some transports. On the
19th of January 1839 he bombarded the town and landed his troops,
who after a short resistance overcame the Sultan's army, and hoisted the
flag on its walls, and Aden became a port of the British Empire, as it
has remained ever since.
From early times it had been a very important centre for the trade
between Europe and the East, but when the Portuguese opened up the
route to India by the Cape it lost its advantage. In the hands of the
British its prosperity has returned, and the return of the Eastern trade by
means of the Suez Canal to the Red Sea has raised it to a far higher
position than ever it possessed in ancient days; it is now the great
coaling station for the British fleet and merchantmen in the East. The
trade passing through it to and from Southern Arabia exceeds five
millions a year, and it is also a strongly fortified naval station.
The next affair in which our bluejackets were engaged was the war on
the coast of Syria, in 1840. The causes of this were as follow. Mehemet
Ali, Pasha or Governor of Egypt, wished not only to make himself
altogether independent of the Sultan of Turkey, who claimed to be his
sovereign, but also to hold possession of Syria. Into that country he sent
an army under the command of Ibrahim Pasha, who was everywhere

successful, and was approaching Constantinople itself. This so alarmed
the Sultan, that he was about to ask for assistance from the Russians.
On this, England, France, and Austria thought it high time to interfere;
for had the Russians once taken possession of Constantinople, it would
have been a difficult matter to turn them out again. Accordingly, those
three powers sent to the Turks to promise them assistance if they would
hold out, and immediately despatched a large number of ships-of-war
to the coast of Syria. Sir Robert Stopford was Admiral of the British
fleet, and Sir Charles Napier, having his broad pennant flying,
commanded a squadron under him.
The first place attacked was the town and fortress of Beyrout. The
English had thirteen sailing ships and four steamers. There was a
Turkish squadron of seven ships, under Admiral Walker, who was then
in the service of the Sultan, and three Austrian
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