SKETCHES OF SERVICE.
SIR ROBERT STEELE, KNT., K.C.S.,
DEPUTY LIEUTENANT OF DORSET.
Admiral Reynolds arrives at
As the spring advanced, Anholt became, as usual, enlivened by the coming up of ships ; and at dusk, on the 7th of May, my old captain, Reynolds, with his flag now flying on board the St. George, anchored off the island with a large convoy. I was most happy to see him, and he received me in his naturally kind manner. He seemed the very type of what is called a " beloved commander."
With him, as flag-captain, was gentlemanly Guion, a man whom the men admired and the women loved, but whose fate seems to have been spun with malice aforethought by the weird sisters. It was while I was with Captain Reynolds in the Princess Royal that
Daniel Guion, then a post-captain, came on board to see his elder brother, the first-lieutenant of the ship. We were all dining with Captain Reynolds, and the conversation turned on the probable promotions in the navy. " It will not be long, I hope, before you get your flag, sir," said the first-lieutenant to Reynolds. " Not yet, Guion, certainly," he replied. "But when you do," said his brother, half jokingly, you must make me your flag-captain." "That I will, I promise you," rejoined Reynolds, holding out his hand as a pledge of his sincerity. Some years afterwards, when most likely all had forgotten what had passed, except he who made the promise, Rear-Admiral Reynolds was ordered to hoist his flag in the St. George ; and, by his special application, Captain Daniel Oliver Guion was appointed to command the ship. When I sat at dinner on board the St. George, off Anholt, the circumstance recurred to my mind, and I mentioned it; upon which these excellent fellows, whom I was with for the last time, shook hands, and said how happy they were together. The disasters that befel so large a part of our fleet in the Baltic, at the close of this year, are well known. They, alas, included the fate of the St. George, and with her the lives of two men I loved best in the world. But it seems wrong to talk of two only, when more than two thousand perished. The St. George had encountered a heavy gale of wind, in November, while passing the Belt, and many of her convoy (she having been compelled to cut away all her masts) fell into the hands of the enemy. After much danger, she got safe into Wingo Sound. There she rigged jury-masts, and fitted a temporary rudder. On the 17th or 18th of December, the fleet, consisting of eight sail of the line, several frigates and smaller vessels, and more than 150 merchant- ships, sailed from Wingo Sound.
From the crippled condition of the St. George, the Cressy and Defence were appointed to attend her. In the course of a few hours, a violent storm overtook and dispersed the fleet ; but the Defence stuck to the St. George, and they remained in the utmost peril together for five days ; at the end of which time, after a terrible struggle, both these magnificent ships were stranded on the west coast of Jutland. This happened on Christmas eve. The Defence struck first, and in less than half an hour was beat to pieces, and every soul perished, except five seamen and one marine, who were thrown upon the shore, as they clung to a beam of the wreck. There is little doubt but the Defence might have saved herself, by abandoning the St. George at the commencement of the gale. But her noble, brave, and humane commander risked all, and lost all, rather than forsake his consort. The St. George, on seeing the Defence strike, immediately let go her anchor ; but in bringing up she grounded abaft, and was deluged in foam.
Although so close, it was impossible to afford them any assistance from the shore. Even had " Pellew," the saviour of the Dutton's crew, been there, Reynolds could not have been rescued from the shore. Every boat was hoisted out, but they were unmanageable. The moment they touched the furious sea, they drifted from the ship, were upset, and lost. Out of all the crew only eleven were saved. At the time these men were washed from the wreck the Admiral and Captain (Reynolds and Guion) lay dead upon the quarter-deck, their hands pressed and frozen together in that friendship which death, even in this horrible shape, could not sever. More than 500 of the crew lay lifeless about them ; some fifty groaned and screamed in agony a few hours longer. Their shrieks were heard on the shore, but help could not reach them ; and, when the last remains of the St. George went down, they sunk with her, only 300 fathoms from the land. Many persons have blamed the risking a three-deck ship, under jury-masts, at such a season, and in such a sea. But both Reynolds and Guion were prime sailors ; and the ship was surveyed and reported on to the Commander-in-Chief at Wingo Sound, Indeed I was myself with the Admiral on a former occasion, when his ship was on shore, and I know how his seamanship saved her. But, as if to rescue their name and fame even from doubt, one of the finest men of war in the world, in complete equipment, and belonging to the same fleet, was wrecked on the same sea, at the same time. I allude to the Hero of 74 guns, which, on Christmas-day, was lost, with all her crew, on the Haak Sand off the Texel making the appalling amount of 2000 men swallowed by the sea! A circumstance worth relating occurred in con- nexion with the Island of Anholt this year. " My Lords " of the Admiralty had thought proper to appoint a " boatswain " to their anomalous island, or ship-island, or Phantom Ship, as above named ; and the said boatswain thought proper to do something which, had he been on board ship, would have subjected him to be tried by a naval court-martial. " My Lords," however, determined that the island was a ship and should be a ship, and subject to all the rules and ordinances " in such cases made and provided." Accordingly, a court-martial was as- sembled, with Sir George Hope ("The DoAvn- right") at its head. But they very soon came to the determination that, however potent the plan of Mr. Croker might be, it was not quite equivalent to an act of Parliament. In short, not wishing to bring a nest of hornets from Westminster-hall about their heads, they refused to proceed, and sent their reasons to the Commander-in-Chief, for the information of my Lords of the Admiralty. The Admiralty, however, resolutely wrong, re- mained stedfast in their purpose, and sent out a peremptory order to Sir James Saumarez to re- assemble the court-martial, and to give it positive instructions to proceed. But neither the president of the court, nor the honourable members of it, were to be intimidated. They would not act contrary to law. They came to the same reso- lution as before, and refused to go on with the trial. By this time the season was so far advanced, that the fleet was about to return home ; and the
Admiralty were rescued from public exposure by the death of their boatswain ; he and all the witnesses against him, and against them, being lost, either in H. M. S. Defence, or in the St. George. Shortly after this there was a change of Administration ; Lord Melville succeeded Mr. Yorke at the Admiralty ; and a corps of veterans were sent to relieve the marine battalion on the island