Albert Hastings Markham

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Admiral Sir Albert Hastings Markham, 1904.

Admiral SIR Albert Hastings Markham, K.C.B., F.R.G.S., Royal Navy (11 November, 1841 – 28 October, 1918) was a naval officer and Polar explorer of the late nineteenth century. He is perhaps best known for his pivotal rôle in the loss of H.M.S. Victoria in 1893.

Early Life

Markham was born at Bagnères-de-Bigorre, Hautes Pyrénées, France, on 11 November, 1841, the fifth of six sons of Lieutenant John Markham, Royal Navy (b. 1797) and his wife, Marianne (née Wood). When Albert was young the family moved to Guernsey, and by 1855 he was the youngest surviving son of the family.[1] Educated at home and at Eastman's Royal Naval Academy, Southsea, he entered the Royal Navy in 1856 and served eight years on the China station, fighting pirates; in 1862 he was promoted Lieutenant. He took part in the advance on Peking (Beijing) in 1860 and the suppression of the Taiping uprising in 1862–4. After serving in the Mediterranean, where he delighted in the ruins of antiquity, he spent several years on the Australian station, where he attempted to suppress the "blackbirding" quasi-slave trade from the South Sea Islands to Australia, and punished Nakapa islanders for murdering missionaries.

Arctic Adventures

Markham was promoted to the rank of Commander on 29 November, 1872,[2] and in 1873 (after the Admiralty refused his offers of Arctic service) he took advantage of a period of leave to sail as second mate in the whaler Arctic to Davis Strait and Baffin's Bay in order to study ice conditions; his account of the voyage was published as A Whaling Cruise to Baffin's Bay (1874). In the Arctic expedition of 1875–6, under George Strong Nares, Markham commanded H.M.S. Alert. His sledging party, in an attempt to reach the pole from winter quarters in Latitude 82°27' N on the western shore of Robeson Channel, reached Latitude 83°20'26" N, Longitude 64° W, in May, 1876. This was gained without dogs and remained the record for the northernmost point reached by explorers until it was broken by Nansen in 1895. The achievements of the expedition were marred only by an outbreak of scurvy resulting from Markham's forgetting to take lime juice for his party. In recognition of his services Markham was promoted Captain, and received a gold watch from the Royal Geographical Society. Markham accompanied Sir Henry Gore-Booth on a cruise to Novaya Zemlya in 1879, described by him in A Polar Reconnaissance (1879), and in 1886 surveyed ice conditions in Hudson Strait and Bay, for which he received the thanks of the Canadian government.

Later Career

On 8 October, 1879, Markham was appointed Captain of the H.M.S. Triumph, battleship, flagship on the Pacific Station. He paid Triumph off on 24 October, 1882, and was appointed to the torpedo school ship at Portsmouth, H.M.S. Vernon, additional, on 15 November. On 15 February, 1883, he assumed command of Vernon. In 1884 he served as Temporary President of the Torpedo Discharge Committee and on 5 March, 1885, was appointed its Chairman. He was lent as acting Captain of the torpedo tender Hecla for service in the Particular Service Squadron on 2 June of that year, and remained in command until 3 August. He was superseded in command of Vernon on 22 February, 1886, but was retained there by order until 28 May, when he went onto Half Pay.

Commodore of the Training Squadron

On 1 November, 1886 Markham was appointed to the Active as Commodore, Second Class in command of the Training Squadron.[3]

An officer who spent two years in Active, Lieutenant (later Admiral Sir) Sydney F. Fremantle, later devoted some space to Markham (a friend of the family) in his memoirs:

It was difficult to please the Commodore, who was probably very weary of the effort to make a continuous succession of young officers and men, most of whose service had been in modern ships, into sailors of the old type, but the understanding, consideration, instruction, and good advice which we received from the Commander (Robinson) and the first lieutenant (Coke), both charming characters who knew their work thoroughly, quite made up for the Commodore's harshness. He seemed to think it necessary in the first place to break the spirit of the young officers, and we found that once he had subdued us to his particular form of discipline we were able to satisfy him, while he perhaps turned his attention to a newly joined officer. In my case the preliminary breaking in lasted for about three months, after which I had secured his confidence sufficiently to be given charge of the mizen mast in a ship-rigged man-of-war, a conspicuous post for a young lieutenant.
The Commodore was at the time an old bachelor, but very hospitably inclined, and made the ship popular wherever we went. We were young; the Commodore's secretary (Robinson), two of my fellow watch-keepers (Arthur Taylor and Frank Ryan), and Sub-Lieut. Bradshaw were congenial companions; the thirteen members of the ward-room were all good fellows and made the mess-life very cheerful. We had plenty of fun on shore, and our time both on board the ship and otherwise was fully occupied.
The Commodore had strong prejudices against smoking in any form, and against spirits. He once gave us a lecture which ended up, "A gentleman may be excused an occasional cigar, cigarettes are only for effeminate weaklings, but the low, filthy, and nauseous black pipe can only be compared with gin and other disreputable liquors which ruin mind and body."[4]

On 14 November, 1889, Markham was succeeded by Armand T. Powlett and appointed to the Asia,[5] as Captain of the Steam Reserve at Portsmouth.[6]

Flag Rank

On 3 April an officer in the Colossus, Lieutenant (later Admiral Sir) Edward F. B. Charlton, noted:

Lord Walter Kerr left us on Wednesday for Malta and was heartily cheered as he passed through the Fleet; he was immensely popular as the Admiral. His successor Markham, the Arctic explorer, is a bit of a nugget.[7]

Victoria & Camperdown Disaster

Further Career

On 11 October, 1894, Markham married Theodora Chevallier, daughter of Francis T. Gervers of Brighton, late of Kimberley. The service took place at St. Michael's, Chester Square. Rear-Admiral Edward H. Seymour acted as Best Man. The couple then proceeded to Wiesbaden on their honeymoon.[8] Their only daughter, Joy Mary Minna Markham, was born in 1900. She died in 1935.

On 23 August, 1897, he was promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral, vice Erskine.[9]

From 1901 to 1904 he was Commander-in-Chief at the Nore. He was promoted to the rank of Admiral dated 21 January, 1903, vice Bowden-Smith.[10] On the occasion of the King's birthday, he was appointed an Ordinary Member of the Second Class, or Knight Commander, in the Military Division of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (K.C.B.) on 9 November.[11] In accordance with the provisions of the Order in Council of 22 February, 1870, he was placed on the Retired List on 11 November, 1906.[12]

During the First World War he devoted himself to the interests of the mine-sweeping service. In the latter part of his life he also wrote several books on geographical and biographical subjects, and contributed to various magazines.

Lady Markham, who married in 1921 Lieutenant J. Knel, Royal Netherland Hussars,[13] died on 3 November, 1962.[14]


  • "Death of Admiral Sir A. H. Markham" (Obituaries). The Times. Tuesday, 29 October, 1918. Issue 41933, col E, p. 8.
  • Gordon, Andrew (2005). The Rules of the Game: Jutland and British Naval Command. London: John Murray (Publishers). ISBN 0719561310. (on and
  • Markham, F. E.; Markham, M. A. (1927). The Life of Sir Albert Hastings Markham. London: Cambridge University Press.


Service Records

Naval Appointments
Preceded by
William E. Gordon
Captain of H.M.S. Vernon
15 Feb, 1883[15] – 27 May, 1886[16]
Succeeded by
Samuel Long
Preceded by
Robert O'B. FitzRoy
Commodore Second Class in Command of the Training Squadron
1 Nov, 1886[17] – 13 Nov, 1889[18]
Succeeded by
Armand T. Powlett
Preceded by
Robert O'Brien FitzRoy
Captain of H.M.S. Active
5 Nov, 1886[19] – 4 Jun, 1889[20]
Succeeded by
Albert H. Markham
Preceded by
Charles Johnstone
Captain of H.M.S. Volage
5 Jun, 1889[21] – 17 Jul, 1889[22]
Succeeded by
William A. D. Acland
Preceded by
Albert H. Markham
Captain of H.M.S. Active
18 Jul, 1889[23] – 13 Nov, 1889[24]
Succeeded by
Armand T. Powlett
Preceded by
Captain of Portsmouth Dockyard Reserve
14 Nov, 1889[25][26] – 31 Jul, 1891[27]
Succeeded by
Armand T. Powlett
Preceded by
The Rt. Hon. Lord Walter Kerr
Second-in-Command, Mediterranean Station
4 Mar, 1892[28] – 11 Apr, 1894[29]
Succeeded by
Compton E. Domvile
Preceded by
Sir William R. Kennedy
Commander-in-Chief at the Nore
1 Nov, 1901[30] – 1 Jan, 1904[31]
Succeeded by
Sir Hugo L. Pearson


  1. Markham; Markham. Sir Albert Hastings Markham. p. 1.
  2. The London Gazette: no. 23924. p. 5874. 29 November, 1872.
  3. "Naval and Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Tuesday, 2 November, 1886. Issue 31806, col D, p. 7.
  4. Fremantle. My Naval Career. pp. 42-43.
  5. "Naval and Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Saturday, 2 November, 1889. Issue 32846, col C, p. 10.
  6. "Naval and Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Monday, 14 October, 1889. Issue 32829, col A, p. 10.
  7. Quoted in Urban. Ned's Navy. p. 60.
  8. "Court Circular" (Court and Social). The Times. Friday, 12 October, 1894. Issue 34393, col E, p. 7.
  9. The London Gazette: no. 26885. p. 4726. 24 August, 1897.
  10. The London Gazette: no. 27518. p. 466. 23 January, 1903.
  11. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 27613. p. 6851. 9 November, 1903.
  12. The London Gazette: no. 27967. p. 7627. 13 November, 1906.
  13. "Marriages" (Marriages). The Times. Tuesday, 28 June, 1921. Issue 42758, col C, p. 13.
  14. England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966.
  15. The Navy List. (September, 1885). p. 256.
  16. Markham Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/15. f. 12.
  17. "Naval and Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Tuesday, 2 November, 1886. Issue 31806, col D, p. 7.
  18. Markham Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/15. f. 12.
  19. Markham Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/15. f. 12.
  20. Markham Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/15. f. 12.
  21. Markham Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/15. f. 12.
  22. Markham Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/15. f. 12.
  23. Markham Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/15. f. 12.
  24. Markham Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/15. f. 12.
  25. The Navy List. (April, 1891). p. 199.
  26. Markham Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/15. f. 12.
  27. Markham Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/15. f. 12.
  28. The Navy List. (July, 1893). p. 191.
  29. Markham Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/15. f. 12.
  30. Markham Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/37. f. 870.
  31. Markham Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/15. f. 11.