Charles William de la Poer Beresford, First Baron Beresford

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Admiral Lord Beresford.

Admiral Charles William de la Poer Beresford, First Baron Beresford, G.C.B., G.C.V.O., Royal Navy (10 February, 1846 – 6 September, 1919) was an officer of the Royal Navy. Of Irish stock, Beresford enjoyed a varied career in the Royal Navy and as a Member of Parliament for the Unionist cause. He became a household name for his actions in Egypt and the Sudan, and his efforts at expanding the navy. Eventually Beresford was given fleet command, but the relationship between him and the First Sea Lord, Sir John Fisher, descended into a bitter feud which threatened to tear the navy in half in the early years of the Twentieth Century.

Contents

Early Life & Career

Charles William de la Poer Beresford was born at Baronstown, County Louth, on 10 February 1846, the second son of the Reverend Lord John de la Poer Beresford and his wife, Christiana, eldest daughter of Charles Leslie, M.P., of Glaslough, County Monaghan. Lord John Beresford was the younger son of the Second Marquess of Waterford and a member of the Church of Ireland. Having married Christiana in January, 1844, Lord John had been appointed to the parish of Baronstown, where his first four sons were born; John Henry, Charles, William and Marcus. In 1849 Lord John was appointed Prebendary at Mullabrack, County Amagh. The father apparently had "the most frightful temper"; when Charles fell off his pony, "his father thrashed him with orders not to remount until he learned to ride." The third son William later declared, "that he would rather meet an army of Zulus than his reverend father in a bad temper."[1]

He was educated at Bayford School, where he was a schoolmate of Lord Rosebery and Lord George Hamilton (who recalled that they "sat for two years at the same little table");[2] by a tutor, the Reverend David Bruce Payne, at Deal; and at Stubbington House, near Fareham, Portsmouth. Beresford had been earmarked for a naval career on account of a "delicate constitution" and a need, "perhaps justified" he later wrote, for discipline. He received a nomination from Captain Charles Eden, and passed a "not very formidable" qualifying examination in December, 1859.[3]

Early Naval Career

He entered the Britannia as a Naval Cadet on 13 December, 1859.[4] In his own words Beresford had a "very happy time" in Britannia. "Book-work did not interest me, but I took great pains to become proficient in seamanship."[5] On 22 March, 1861, he was appointed to the Marlborough, 121 guns, flagship in the Mediterranean, one of the last built and finest of the old wooden line of battleships. He was rated Midshipman on 21 June, 1862. He was transferred in July, 1863 to the Defence, a new wooden hulled ironclad which he later described as "a slovenly, unhandy tin kettle" [6] On 15 July, 1864, he was appointed to Clio, 22, in which he sailed to the Falkland Islands and round Cape Horn to Honolulu and Vancouver. On 9 December, 1865, he was lent to to the frigate Tribune, 31, Captain Lord Gilford. On 2 January, 1866, he was promoted to the rank of Sub-Lieutenant. He joined the Sutlej on 15 February.

He returned home and on 1 July, 1866, was appointed to Excellent at Portsmouth for his gunnery examination for the rank of Lieutenant. Whilst at Excellent he broke a bone in his foot, which, although it healed quickly, never quite healed properly.[7] On 6 November Beresford's father died.

On 29 January, 1868, Beresford was appointed to the royal yacht Victoria and Albert, additional, from which it would appear he was appointed to the Research at Holyhead,[8] until 9 May, before being appointed to Victory until 17 July, before serving in the royal yacht proper. Whilst at Holyhead he hunted a great deal, both there with, Mr. Panton's hounds, and with the Ward Union in Ireland.[9] On 21 September he was promoted "out of" the Victoria and Albert to the rank of Lieutenant and on 17 October he was appointed to the frigate Galatea, 26, Captain H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh, in which he made a voyage of two and a half years, visiting the Cape, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, India, and the Falkland Islands. On 1 November, 1872, he was appointed Flag Lieutenant to Sir Henry Keppel, Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth.

In his memoirs Beresford recounts driving back to Plymouth one night with a "brother officer" after dining outside town. Having come to the toll-gate on the outskirts, Beresford attempted to rouse the keeper but to no avail. He then threw a stone threw a window, which brought out the keeper. Beresford a sovereign to pay for the toll and for the broken window, and the keeper went back inside the house, without opening the gate! As Beresford recounted, "There was nothing for it but to break the rest of his windows." He and his companion then stole the gate, lashed it to the cart, and reduced it to firewood before the night was out.[10] In his own memoirs Admiral of the Fleet Sir William H. May identifies the "brother officer" as Admiral Sir Henry Keppel![11]

Through the influence of his brother Lord Waterford, Beresford was Conservative M.P. for County Waterford from 1874 to 1880, opposing Home Rule but supporting denominational education, and opposing abolition of naval flogging. In September, 1875 he went as aide-de-camp to the Prince of Wales on his tour in India. He was promoted to the rank of Commander on 2 November of that year in the haul-down promotion of Sir Henry Keppel.[12] In May, 1877, after a short period in the Vernon for torpedo instruction, he was appointed executive officer of the Thunderer, Channel Squadron, until April, 1878. Beresford married, on 25 April 1878, the "picturesque" Ellen Jeromina (d. 26 May 1922). Called Mina by her friends and Dot by her husband, she was the daughter of the late Richard Gardner, M.P. for Leicester, and his wife, Lucy, Countess Mandelsloh. Beresford and his wife had two daughters. Shortly after Beresford's marriage the Prince of Wales requested that he be given command of his paddle yacht, the Osborne, a post which Beresford retained until November, 1881. During these years, 1874–1881, he was known chiefly as a dashing sportsman, a friend of the Prince of Wales, and a prominent popular figure in smart society.

At the beginning of 1882 Beresford took command of the barque rigged screw gunvessel Condor, 3 guns, under Sir Beauchamp Seymour (afterwards Lord Alcester). At the bombardment of the Alexandria fortifications (11 July 1882), Beresford took the little Condor close in under Fort Marabout and she took the leading part in silencing its guns. Seymour signalled "Well done, Condor" and the crews of the great ironclads cheered her. Aboard the Condor were the Times correspondent and the Graphic special war artist, Frederic Villiers. Beresford's role was fully reported. After the bombardment Beresford was sent ashore under Captain John Fisher and appointed Provost-Marshal and chief of police, and efficiently restored order.

Captain

Captain the Rt. Hon. Lord Charles Beresford in 1896.
Photograph: Navy & Army Illustrated.

On 7 August he was specially promoted to the rank of Captain, dated 11 July,[13] and mentioned in dispatches for gallantry. "Charlie B" became a national hero and celebrity, from then on much featured in the illustrated and other press, and later also on picture postcards. He was offered an appointment on the staff of the Khedive and also as war correspondent of the New York Herald, but Sir Garnet Wolseley refused to release him. Beresford returned home to public adulation and royal congratulations, and remained on half pay until August, 1884, when he was appointed to the Alexandra, to act on the staff of Lord Wolseley (as he now was) during the Gordon relief expedition. He afterwards commanded the naval brigade on the Nile, with which he took part in the battle of Abu Klea on 17 January, 1885. He also commanded the expedition which went to the rescue of Charles William Wilson in the Safieh, when he kept his ship steadily engaged under heavy fire while his engineer, Benbow, repaired her disabled boiler (4 February). He was commended in the House of Commons, and described by Wolseley in his dispatch as "an officer whose readiness and resource and ability as a leader are only equalled by his daring". He was appointed a Member of the Third Class, or Companion, in the Military Division of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (C.B.) on 25 August, 1885.[14]

Beresford came home in July, 1885 and was elected Conservative M.P. for East Marylebone, London; he was re-elected in 1886. The Prince of Wales, to whom he had become close, urged Lord Salisbury, on the formation of the 1886 Conservative government, to give him political office, but Salisbury appointed him Junior Naval Lord of the Admiralty under Lord George Hamilton. He secured the establishment of the Naval Intelligence Department, but was a difficult colleague and early showed himself hostile to the policy of the Board. He criticized the shipbuilding programme and the organization and pay of the intelligence department, and objected to the supreme authority of the First Lord of the Admiralty in naval administration. He resigned over the naval estimates in January, 1888. Salisbury commented to the Queen that he was "an officer of great ability afloat, but he is too greedy of popular applause to get on in a public department. He is constantly playing his own game at the expense of his colleagues."[15] In March he proposed that all ships overseas which were unfit for repair ought to be "got rid of" when they came home,[16] anticipating by over a decade Fisher's plan to rid the navy of ships which couldn't fight or run away.

He was appointed in command of the cruiser Undaunted on 19 December, 1889.[17] She commissioned at Keyham for service on the Mediterranean Station on 18 February, 1890.[18]

Beresford returned to England in June, 1893 and paid off Undaunted at Devonport on 20 June.[19] By his account, he had requested a dockyard appointment[20] and he took command of the Medway Dockyard Reserve on 15 July, 1893.[21] While Bennett claims that Beresford's duties were "no light task", Penn suggests it was "an undemanding task", and went to sea on average only once a month. He similarly rubbishes Beresford's claim that he was the "executive officer" of the Admiral-Superintendent.[22] For example during the trials of the cruiser Theseus in December, 1893, owing to the "indisposition" of Beresford Commander Baynes had to take charge of the ship.[23]

Flag Rank

On 16 September, 1897, Beresford was promoted to the rank of Rear-Admiral, vice Dale.[24]


In a minute to the First Lord dated 25 September concerning an unauthorised visit by Beresford to a Royal Naval Reserve battery, the First Naval Lord, Sir Frederick W. Richards, acidly noted:

It is very bad form, but it is the action of a Naval Officer who on about the very day he completed the qualifying service for Flag Rank resigned an appointment, in which he was doing good service, for the avowed purpose of stumping the Country as a political talker on Naval subjects, and the proceeding is characteristic.[25]

In 1898–9 Beresford visited China on an investigative mission for the Associated Chambers of Commerce—one of his indiscreet speeches led Salisbury to comment "C.B. is an ass"[26]—and published his report, The Break-up of China (1899), advocating British reassertion of the "open door", and Chinese reforms, and warning against the Russian threat.

Mediterranean Squadron

According to Bennett, Beresford hoisted his flag as Second-in-Command of the Mediterranean Fleet on 12 January, 1900.[27] This is incorrect since Beresford didn't depart for Malta until 1 February,[28] and didn't reach there until 5 February.[29] Rear-Admiral Noel didn't leave until 7 February.[30] More importantly, an officer in the fleet, Humphrey H. Smith, recording how Beresford was treated, noted that he didn't even have a flagship on arrival:

Although the Ramillies was in dockyard hands for nearly three months after his arrival on the station, Lord Charles Beresford was not allowed to hoist his flag temporarily in one of the other battleships, and he lived on shore with absolutely nothing to do. If he tried to take an interest in the work of the fleet he was always severely snubbed for pains. On one occasion Jacky had arranged some night operations for destroyers and torpedo boats, and Lord Charles arranged to go to sea on board one of the destroyers as a guest of the captain, so that he could witness the operations from close quarters. Jacky found out about this, and stopped Lord Charles Beresford from going. This sort of thing went on during the whole two years that Lord Charles Beresford spent on the station. Whenever he was allowed to get away on his own, in command of a few ships, there was always trouble when he rejoined the flag of the Commander-in-Chief. Lord Charles was very fond of trying schemes, For instance, he would let each captain manœuvre the squadron in turn; he would carry out equal speed manœuvres by night, and he would manœuvre one division of the squadron against the other, he taking command of one division and the senior captain taking command of the other. But when Jacky heard of these goings-on he soon put a stop to them.[31]
Beresford, sat fourth from left, second row, with other players at an inter-service cricket match at Gibraltar, 1901.
Photograph: Navy & Army Illustrated.

Captain George F. King-Hall, captain of Revenge and soon to become Fisher's Chief of the Staff, noted in his diary on 2 March, 1901: "This evening 2nd March, I dined at Auberge Castille, RA and RE Mess dinner given to Lord Charles Beresford. Governor was there as private guest, Fawkes, Burr and Lowry the other Captains. About 70 present. General O’Callaghan made a very fulsome speech about CB who replied very well. (He speaks very well). Then CB proposed Grenfell’s in a very nice speech, who replied simply and to the point."[32] On 19 March King-Hall noted: "Had a talk yesterday with Store Officer on our coal supply. It is certainly very alarming to find that we have only a fortnight’s coal supply, if at war, in Malta. We have only 40,000 to 60,000 tons. The French have along the African Coast 175,000 tons. Charles Beresford anxious to stir everyone up at home on this and other matters. John Fisher, who is looking towards the same object, not anxious CB should know too much."[33]

On 25 December, King-Hall complained in his diary: "Fisher a difficult man to get on with, jealous of delegating any thing to any one. However, I find lots to do, I think it is a pity the C-in-C does not take me into his confidence in some little measure. It is the same with Beresford, he tells him nothing and won’t let him do anything."[34]

On 25 April, 1902, Beresford was elected unopposed as the Member of Parliament for Woolwich.[35] He was promoted to the rank of Vice-Admiral on 3 October, 1902, vice Bedford.[36]

Channel Squadron

On 18 February, 1903 Beresford announced to the Woolwich Conservative and Unionist Party that he had been offered command of the Channel Squadron, and would be standing down to take command of the Channel Squadron.[37] At 0800 on 17 April he hoisted his flag in the Hero at Portsmouth. Later that day Admiral Wilson received him and his staff aboard the Majestic and introduced him to the crew. Wilson hauled down his flag at sunset and Beresford transferred his flag to Majestic the following day.[38] Beresford apparently requested Percy Scott as his Flag Captain, but, in Bennett's words, "accepted Fisher's argument that this gunnery genius could better spread his gospel by taking command of H.M.S. Excellent." In his place Captain Hugh Evan-Thomas was appointed.[39]

Upon the occasion of the King's visit to Ireland, on 11 August, 1903, Beresford was appointed a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (K.C.V.O.).[40] On 9 November, 1903, he was appointed a Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (K.C.B.) on the occasion of the King's birthday.[41]

In a letter of 1 October, 1904 to the Admiral Superintendent of Devonport Dockyard, William H. Henderson (not Wilfred Henderson as Bennett has it), Beresford boasted:

I have instituted a system by which the fleet carries out as far as possible its own repairs and maintenance, using the ships' artificers. This has saved the state a good deal and keeps the ships efficient, compared with the old plan of leaving things till they got to a dockyard.[42]

As Geoffrey Penn points out, this "'system' is quite inexplicable, since ship's staff had always carried out its own maintenance, even in the days of sail, leaving for dockyards only defects too great in magnitude or volume."[43]

It was announced in November, 1904 that Beresford would succeed Admiral Sir Compton E. Domvile as Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean, and be succeeded by Rear-Admiral William H. May.[44]

On 3 March, 1905, Rear-Admiral George F. King-Hall made the following entry in his diary:

Lunched with Barlow [Second-in-Command, Home Fleet] on board Royal Oak, who told me all the details of the row between Beresford and Fisher. Beresford heard from May that he was going to supersede him 7th February, and not on the 7th March as Beresford had arranged with Lord Selborne. Beresford wrote back that he would be very glad to give him lunch or fight him, but he would not be superseded. Beresford then went up to see Lord Selborne who said he could do nothing, but referred him to Fisher. Fisher said to Beresford that all arrangements had been made for May to supersede him, that he wanted Beresford to come on a Committee. Beresford said, he did not intend to be superseded, nor would he go on a Committee. Fisher then replied "Well then you will not go to the Mediterranean", upon which all the pent up wrath of years, between the two men broke out. Beresford said "You dare to threaten me, Jacky Fisher, who are you? I only take my orders from the Board. If I have to haul my flag down on the 7 February, I will resign the Service, go down to Birmingham, get into the House and turn out both you and Selborne. What is more I will go to the Mediterranean and I will not go on a Committee"- and more words passed.

The result being that Beresford had his way, but I shall be surprised if J. Fisher does not play some trick on him, pay him out in some way or other.[45]

In fact, Beresford was relieved by Vice-Admiral May on 1 March, 1905 (not 5 March as Bennett claims[46]). As Cæsar left Gibraltar for Britain to pay off, Beresford was "loudly cheered by the seamen of the Atlantic Fleet …"[47] He returned to Portsmouth on 5 March then immediately left for London.[48] The following day he was received by the King at Buckingham Palace on the occasion of his relinquishing his command as Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet.[49] On 8 March Beresford left Southampton in the North-German Lloyd steamer Kronprinz Wilhelm for New York City, proceeding to Mexico to transact business, and then Florida for fishing.[50] While in Florida he visited the United States Navy's Atlantic Fleet under Rear Admiral Evans at Pensacola, and was the guest in Washington, D.C., of Senator Stephen Elkins.[51]

While Beresford was still in North America, Captain Osmond de B. Brock had been appointed his Flag Captain in the battleship Bulwark, and Captain Doveton Sturdee had been appointed his Chief of the Staff, both dated 1 May.[52] On 19 May the Dowager Marchioness Beresford died in London.[53] On 28 May Beresford had an audience with the King before taking up his command in the Mediterranean.[54] On 2 June he left London from Victoria Station on the boat train to Dover, bound for Genoa, accompanied by several staff officers. He was seen off by a distinguished crowd, including Lady Charles Beresford, Admirals Fisher and Fremantle, Vice-Admiral Drury, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Charles Hotham, General Lord Grenfell, Lieutenant-General Sir Seymour Blane, Captains Warrender and Fawkes and Commander Pelly.[55]

Mediterranean Fleet

Beresford officially succeeded Domvile as Commander-in-Chief with the Acting Rank of Admiral on 6 June 1905 at Malta, with his flag in the Implacable, which had transported him from Genoa. The Bulwark, flying Domvile's flag, took him to Genoa for passage home.[56][57]

On the occasion of the King's visit to Corfu Beresford was appointed a Knight Grand Cross in the Royal Victorian Order (G.C.V.O.) on 16 April, 1906.[58]

In a letter to the First Lord, Lord Tweedmouth, Beresford remarked in response to an unknown comment, "Yes, you were quite right about my teetotal habits, and not eating meat. I am over sixty now, and am certain that I can do quite as much work, perhaps more, than when I was thirty, when I used to drink a bottle of champagne a night for dinner."[59]

On 11 November he was confirmed in the rank of Admiral, vice Markham.[60]

Tweedmouth asked Bridgeman to talk with Beresford and find out what he objected to and what alternative plans he had and on 13 January, Bridgeman did as he was requested and attempted to get out of Lord Charles "something definite as to his requirements." In a letter of 14 January, Bridgeman reported to the First Lord that Beresford would be "content" with fourteen "good battleships", six large cruisers and three divisions of destroyers. He wanted plans for a Home Fleet "swept off", and proposed in its place a "Home Division" of six or eight battleships, supported by smaller craft under the command of a Vice-Admiral responsible to the Commander-in-Chief of the Channel Fleet. When informed that the Board of Admiralty would find it difficult to meet his plans, Beresford supposedly said that he would settle for "nothing less." In closing, Bridgeman agreed that Beresford had "real & solid grounds of complaint", but that to be effective the Home Fleet would have to be a powerful, independent command.[61] According to Admiral Sir George F. King-Hall, who heard from his brother, Admiral Sir Herbert K. King-Hall, Bridgeman was acting as go-between to Beresford, in his yacht, and Tweedmouth who was aboard the Enchantress:

Bridgeman then second in Med. was used as go between C.B. and Lord Tweedmouth, then in Admiralty yacht. C.B. said he would take it for six months, Lord T. sent Bridgeman back and said he must say “yes” or “no.” He shillied and shallied, first saying he would and then he would not and at last just as Bridgeman was going over the side of the Surprise he said, he would take it under the usual conditions.[62]

Channel Fleet

A stylised Vice-Admiral Beresford in the Conning Tower of a battleship, with Kora.

On 4 March, 1907, Beresford formally relieved Wilson as Commander-in-Chief of the Channel Fleet, his flag being temporarily hoisted in the battleship Centurion at Portsmouth. His flag was then struck at sunset the same day and he officially went on leave of absence, command of the fleet devolving on Custance, the Second-in-Command.[63] For this ceremony, however, Beresford was not present, as on 30 January he had set off for North America[64] to settle the affairs of his youngest brother, Lord Delaval Beresford, who had been killed in a train accident in the United States of America on 26 December, 1906.[65]

On 19 March, he was in Winnipeg, where he went on record as being "greatly pleased at the prospects for Western Canada."[66] He arrived back in Britain at Liverpool with his daughter Kathleen in the Teutonic on 10 April.[67] [68] His flagship was, ironically, the new battleship King Edward VII and he "lived in great style" (Bennett, 283), attended by his Irish servants and his bulldog bitch Kora—with whom he was repeatedly photographed—and kept his motor car stowed amidships.

As early as 28 July Lord Tweedmouth, the First Lord, was hinting to Beresford that he might want to take the Plymouth command when it fell vacant in March, 1908, after only a year in command of the Channel Fleet.[69] He replied to Tweedmouth on 4 August:

It is very kind of you to have thought of me & to offer me the Devonport command next March but at present I have no wish to leave the most interesting & highly responsible position that you have put me into as the officer responsible to the Admiralty for the defence of Home Waters under whose command whole of Fleets come in time of war.[70]

In November, 1907 he publicly reprimanded the Fisherite Sir Percy Scott for his insubordinate "paintwork" signal. It was a time when, against the German threat, the naval forces in home waters were being gradually but radically reorganized by Fisher, First Sea Lord from 1904 to 1910; Fisher's 1905 promotion to Admiral of the Fleet dashed Beresford's hopes of succeeding him as First Sea Lord. Beresford opposed many of the changes, and relations between him and Whitehall became very strained; the gradual development of the Home Fleet as an independent command in peacetime, resulting in a significant diminution of his command, angered him.

He seemed particularly peeved at a lack of readiness in the Channel Fleet due to excessive time spent in refit. His detailed catalogues of these shortfalls were encapsulated in a mid-April summation addressed to the Secretary of the Admiralty to the effect that "The Channel Fleet is therefore now short of.– 3 Battleships. 1 Armoured Cruiser. 1 Protected Cruiser Second Class. Of these vessels, four will have been absent for 66, 70, 61 and 68 days respectively, and the remaining one has defective primary armament."[71] This letter received a very frosty reply to the effect that "Their Lordships are quite aware of the facts, and consider that they are better able to judge as to the strength necessary to keep the various Fleets around the coast of Great Britain than an officer who is in command of only one of them."[72]

In March, 1909, following McKenna's decision, he was ordered to haul down his flag and come ashore a year short of the normal term of command, the Channel Fleet being abolished as a separate command and absorbed into the enlarged Home Fleet. Beresford, greeted by cheering crowds at Portsmouth and London, next challenged the policy of the Admiralty and its organization of the fleets in a long polemical letter (dated 2 April 1909), particularly on the necessity for a war staff, to the prime minister, Asquith.

Referring to the 1908 manœuvres in a letter to Sir Gerard Noel, Beresford wrote that the arrangements "were really planned to show the utility of sub-marines" and concluded that "we have deserted the only true and traditional policy of the British - i.e. to find out the enemy in Blue Water and destroy him, and the General has been informed that the submarines will prevent invasion and put down any enemy even in their own ports. Total falsity. Sub-marines were within 120 miles of me for three days and did nothing."[73]

Controversy

Politics and personalities played a major role. Beresford was a Unionist, Fisher a Liberal. Beresford accused Fisher of operating a system of espionage against him when he was Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean, and ruthlessly crushing all opposition at the Admiralty. However, there were also solid professional reasons for the dispute. Beresford believed that Fisher's division of the forces destined to defend home waters into separate Channel, Home, and Atlantic fleets was potentially disastrous and that these forces should be under a single Commander-in-Chief who would manœuvre and train them for war. Beresford alleged that the policy of scrapping obsolete warships had gone too far and left the navy with too few cruisers for trade route protection in war. Furthermore, there were not enough British destroyers suitable for work in the North Sea and they compared poorly with their potential German foes. Money spent on submarines was also wasted, they were purely defensive craft and not suited for an offensive fleet like that of the British. Beresford also asserted he had not received proper war plans from the Admiralty and that it was necessary to establish a real naval staff. Beresford's charges were referred to a subcommittee of the Committee of Imperial Defence, composed of the Prime Minister, Crewe, Morley, Grey, and Haldane. Asquith defined the inquiry very narrowly, excluding the 1904–5 reforms. Beresford, McKenna (who put the Admiralty case), and others presented evidence. Beresford showed up very badly under Asquith's penetrating examination and he gave an impression of incompetence. The committee's report (published August 1909) on the whole vindicated the Admiralty, though in certain respects—notably that the Admiralty had insufficiently informed Beresford—it justified some of his criticisms. In 1912, Beresford published his views in The Betrayal. The Betrayal's publication was delayed after Reginald McKenna was replaced as First Lord by Winston Churchill. Major Adrian Grant Duff of the Committee of Imperial Defence wrote in late 1911 that Beresford "has providentially been persuaded to withhold from publication a denunciation of Admiralty policy with bell book and candle which was to have been published to-day."[74] Grant Duff also recorded that The Betrayal's publishers, P.S. King & Son, "asked for an indemnity of £20,000 - against probable actions for libel!"[75]

In accordance with the provisions of the order in Council of 22 February, 1870, he was placed on the Retired List on 10 February, 1911.[76] On the occasion of King George V's coronation he was appointed an Additional Member of the First Class, or Knight Grand Cross, in the Military Division of the Order of the Bath (G.C.B.) on 19 June.[77]

From 1910 to 1916 Beresford was M.P. for Portsmouth. He continued in parliament, the press, and elsewhere his campaign against Fisher and Fisher's changes. Although he gained some right-wing support, Balfour and other leading Unionists refused to support him. He supported the National Service League and compulsory military training, and co-operated with Roberts on the invasion controversy. He supported and was supported by the more extreme and largely Unionist Imperial Maritime League (the "Navier League") which with his encouragement broke from the Navy League in 1908 and demanded Fisher's removal. Rebuffed by Northcliffe, Beresford was supported by the Daily Express and the Standard—H. A. Gwynne was probably his most important ally—both owned by Arthur Pearson, and by the Morning Post. In parliament he spoke vehemently but sometimes incoherently. He bitterly criticized Churchill (First Lord of the Admiralty, 1911–15) for his autocratic methods and interference in professional naval matters, and in 1914 for his apparent attempt to coerce the Ulster loyalists. In 1914 Beresford published his surprisingly non-controversial two-volume Memoirs, largely on his career to 1885.

In 1915 he went to Balfour and requested a peerage in order, in Balfour's words, to have "the right to answer for the Admiralty in the House of Lords." He seems to have implied that it would be in the government's best interest to do so. In communicating this desire to Asquith, Balfour wrote that while he didn't want Beresford speaking for the Admiralty in case of bringing up memoirs of the Fisher-Beresford feud, giving him the peerage would be acceptable. "He seems a quite fitting subject for a peerage. His professional career was distinguished; he has been many years in the House of Commons; he has no son; and moreover a debate between him and Lord Fisher might be entertaining if not edifying." He subtley suggested recommending him in the New Year's honours list.[78] The same day Asquith replied that Bonar Law too had been pressing for a peerage for Beresford. "I confess I don't like it, on the grounds on which it is put forward. But I have said that when the next list comes, with party peerages (of which there are none this time) he shall be included in the batch."[79]

On 22 January, 1916 Beresford was created Baron Beresford of Metemmeh and Curraghmore in County Waterford.

Character & Reputation

Beresford was one of the most remarkable personalities of his generation: colourful, idiosyncratic, maverick, brave, high-spirited, an enthusiastic sportsman, of noble birth, and with ample private means. He touched life at many points, and to the general public was the best-known sailor of his day. However, arguably there was truth in Lansdowne's criticism that "there never was a more cheaply acquired reputation than his" (Williams, 135). Beresford was passionately devoted to the navy and to his country, but his love of publicity and impatience of control sometimes led him into conduct alien from the strict traditions of the navy. He was not an original thinker. In parliament and on the platform, while not strong in argument—the pro-Fisher Garvin called Beresford "the great dirigible…the biggest of all recorded gas-bags" (Williams, 213)—he was a forceful speaker and was widely popular, usually confining himself to naval topics in which he was especially interested. Owing partly to his variety of interests and partly to his quarrels with authority, he had until late in life comparatively little sea experience, but from January, 1900, when he hoisted his flag in the Mediterranean, aged nearly fifty-four, he was for the greater part of nine years continuously afloat. He was an able and active flag officer; and he commanded the most important British fleet with energy and ability, enhancing fighting efficiency, and devoting personal care to the welfare of his men.

There are however widely divergent opinions about Beresford. Many of his ideas were sound and full of common sense, but his actions and statements, particularly in later years, alienated others. He was ambitious to reach the highest naval position, and it was unfortunate that the last years of his command were clouded by personal antagonism with Fisher. An admirable host, in London and in general society, he enjoyed widespread popularity.

Death & Funeral

Beresford attended a memorial service for President Theodore Roosevelt in Westminster Abbey on 9 February.[80] He then apparently had a heart attack,[81] and on 12 February it was announced in The Times that "Lord Beresford is confined to his house by ill-health, and has been forbidden by his doctor to receive either visitors or correspondence for the next 10 days."[82] In March he wrote to King George that he believed he would not live much longer.[83] In May he was fit enough to return to the House of Lords and he made his last speech there on 9 July on the subject of making adequate provision for ex-servicemen. He made continued contributions to The Times newspaper. At the beginning of September he visited the Duke of Portland at his Caithness estate, Langwell. On the morning of the 6th he felt unwell and declined to go out shooting. After dinner he complained of "indisposition" and went to bed, shortly after which he suffered a cerebral hæmorrhage and died in his sleep.[81]

Wealth at death; £13,122 11s. 0d.: Probate; 29 October, 1919.

Footnotes

  1. Bennett. Charlie B. pp. 8-9.
  2. Hamilton. Parliamentary Reminiscences and Recollections, 1886-1906. p. 35.
  3. Beresford. I. pp. 5-6.
  4. ADM 196/16. f. 471.
  5. Beresford. I. p. 7.
  6. Beresford. I. p. 41.
  7. Beresford. I. p. 71.
  8. "Military and Naval Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Thursday, 30 January, 1868. Issue 26034, col F, pg. 9.
  9. Beresford. I. p. 71.
  10. Beresford. I. pp. 113-114.
  11. May. p. 22.
  12. The London Gazette: no. 24267. p. 5452. 16 November, 1875.
  13. The London Gazette: no. 25136. p. 3689. 8 August, 1882.
  14. The London Gazette: no. 25505. p. 4050. 25 August, 1885.
  15. Bennett. p. 145.
  16. Hansard. HC Deb 21 March 1887 vol 312 cc946-947.
  17. ADM 196/38. f.90.
  18. "Naval & Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Wednesday, 19 February, 1893. Issue 32939, col A, p. 10.
  19. "Naval & Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Wednesday, 21 June, 1893. Issue 33983, col B, p. 8.
  20. Beresford. Memoirs. II. p. 393.
  21. "Naval & Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Thursday, 13 July, 1893. Issue 34002, col C, p. 11.
  22. Penn. Infighting Admirals. p. 58.
  23. "Trials of H.M.S. Theseus" (News). The Times. Tuesday, 26 December, 1893. Issue 34144, col F, p. 11.
  24. The London Gazette: no. 26892. p. 5162. 17 September, 1897.
  25. "Miscellaneous Papers dealing with the antagonism of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford to the Policy and Administrative Arrangements of the Board of Admiralty 1906-1909." The National Archives. ADM 116/3108. Unnumbered folio.
  26. Quoted in Bennett. Charlie B. p. 219
  27. Bennett. Charlie B. p. 227.
  28. "Court Circular" (Court and Social). The Times. Friday, 2 February, 1900. Issue 36055, col A, p. 10.
  29. "Naval & Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Tuesday, 6 February, 1900. Issue 36058, col B, p. 10.
  30. "Naval & Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Thursday, 8 February, 1900. Issue 36060, col F, p. 10.
  31. Smith. An Admiral Never Forgets. pp. 128-129.
  32. Diary entry for 2 March, 1901.
  33. Diary entry for 19 March, 1901. Emph. added.
  34. Diary entry for 25 December, 1901.
  35. "Election Intelligence" (News). The Times. Saturday, 26 April, 1902. Issue 36752, col B, p. 12.
  36. The London Gazette: no. 27483. p. 6569. 17 October, 1902.
  37. "Election Intelligence" (News). The Times. Thursday, 19 February, 1903. Issue 37008, col C, p. 5.
  38. "Naval & Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Saturday, 18 April, 1903. Issue 37058, col E, p. 8.
  39. Bennett. Charlie B. pp. 256-257.
  40. The London Gazette: no. 27586. p. 5057. 11 August, 1903.
  41. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 27613. p. 6851. 9 November, 1903.
  42. Quoted in Bennett. Charlie B. pp. 259-260.
  43. Penn. Infighting Admiral. p. 144.
  44. "The new Naval Appointments" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Saturday, 19 November, 1904. Issue 37556, col A, p. 15.
  45. King-Hall diary entry for 3 March, 1905.
  46. Bennett. Charlie B. p. 266.
  47. "Naval and Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Thursday, 2 March, 1905. Issue 37644, col A, p. 11.
  48. "Naval and Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Monday, 6 March, 1905. Issue 37647, col A, p. 11.
  49. "Court Circular" (Court and Social). The Times. Tuesday, 7 March, 1905. Issue 37648, col A, p. 8.
  50. "Court Circular" (Court and Social). The Times. Thursday, 9 March, 1905. Issue 37650, col A, p. 10.
  51. "Anglo-American Relations" (News). The Times. Monday, 8 May, 1905. Issue 37701, col B, p. 6.
  52. "Naval and Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Monday, 24 April, 1905. Issue 37689, col C, p. 8.
  53. "Obituary" (Obituaries). The Times. Saturday, 20 May, 1905. Issue 37712, col E, p. 7.
  54. "Court Circular" (Court and Social). The Times. Monday, 29 May, 1905. Issue 37719, col C, p. 6.
  55. "Court Circular" (Court and Social). The Times. Saturday, 3 June, 1905. Issue 37724, col A, p. 12.
  56. "Naval and Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Thursday, 1 June, 1905. Issue 37722, col C, p. 12.
  57. "Naval and Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Wednesday, 7 June, 1905. Issue 37727, col A, p. 8.
  58. The London Gazette: no. 27908. p. 2875. 27 April, 1906.
  59. Letter of 10 June, 1906. Tweedmouth Papers. National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth. MSS 254/117. f. 3.
  60. The London Gazette: no. 27967. p. 7627. 13 November, 1906.
  61. Letter of 14 January, 1907. Tweedmouth Correspondence. Admiralty Library, Portsmouth. Cited in Ross. Admiral Sir Francis Bridgeman. pp. 132-133.
  62. King-Hall diary entry for 17 March, 1909.
  63. "Naval and Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Monday, 4 March, 1907. Issue 38271, col D, p. 10.
  64. "Court Circular" (Court and Social). The Times. Thursday, 31 January, 1907. Issue 38244, col E, p. 7.
  65. Beresford. Memoirs. II. p. 548.
  66. "Court Circular" (Court and Social). The Times. Thursday, 21 March, 1907. Issue 38286, col A, p. 10.
  67. "Naval and Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Friday, 12 April, 1907. Issue 38305, col A, p. 10.
  68. Bennett. Charlie B. p. 282.
  69. Letter of 28 July, 1907. Copy in Tweedmouth Papers. National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth. MSS 254/582.
  70. Letter of 4 August, 1907. Tweedmouth Papers. National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth. MSS 254/583.
  71. Report from Charles Beresford No, 891/0139 dated 18 April 1908 in Naval Policy - Strategy - Tactics: Miscellaneous papers from Private Office received by record office at The National Archives. ADM 116/942, unnumbered folio halfway within series.
  72. Draft labelled M-4248 in Naval Policy - Strategy - Tactics: Miscellaneous papers from Private Office received by record office at The National Archives. ADM 116/942, unnumbered folio halfway within series.
  73. Letter of 9 February, 1909. National Maritime Museum. Noel Papers. NOE/5. Quoted in Dash. British Submarine Policy, 1853-1918. p. 174.
  74. Diary entry, 6 November 1911, AGDF 2/1, f. 110, Grant Duff MSS, Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College.
  75. Ibid.
  76. The London Gazette: no. 28464. p. 1042. 10 February, 1911.
  77. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 28505. p. 4588. 19 June, 1911.
  78. Letter of 30 May, 1915. Balfour Papers. British Library. Add. MSS. 29692. ff. 154-155.
  79. Letter of 30 May, 1915. Balfour Papers. British Library. Add. MSS. 29692. f. 156.
  80. "Memorial Service for Mr. Roosevelt" (News). The Times. Monday, 10 February, 1919. Issue 42020, col E, p. 5.
  81. 81.0 81.1 Bennett. Charlie B. p. 350.
  82. "Court Circular" (Court and Social). The Times. Wednesday, 12 February, 1919. Issue 42022, col B, p. 13.
  83. Beresford to George V. Royal Archives. Geo. V. AA 48/194.

Bibliography

  • "Death of Lord Beresford" (Obituaries). The Times. Monday, 8 September, 1919. Issue 42199, col A, p. 14.
  • Bennett, Geoffrey (1968). Charlie B: A Biography of Admiral Lord Beresford of Metemmeh and Curraghmore [&c.]. London: Peter Dawnay Ltd.
  • Beresford, Admiral Lord Charles, M.P. (1912). The Betrayal: Being a Record of Facts Concerning Naval Policy and Administration from the Year 1902 to the Present Time. London: P. S. King & Son.
  • Beresford, Admiral Lord Charles (1914). The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford: Written by Himself. Vol. I. Boston: Little, Brown, & Company.
  • Beresford, Admiral Lord Charles (1914). The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford: Written by Himself. Vol. II. Boston: Little, Brown, & Company.

Service Records

See Also

Naval Appointments
Preceded by
James E. Erskine
Junior Naval Lord
1886 – 1889
Succeeded by
Charles F. Hotham

Preceded by
Sir Gerard H. U. Noel
Second-in-Command, Mediterranean
1900 – 1902
Succeeded by
Burges Watson

Preceded by
Sir Arthur K. Wilson
Vice-Admiral Commanding, Channel Fleet
1903 – 1904
Succeeded by
Fleet Reconstituted

Preceded by
New Command
Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet
1904 – 1905
Succeeded by
Sir William H. May

Preceded by
Sir Compton E. Domvile
Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean
1905 – 1907
Succeeded by
Sir Charles C. Drury

Preceded by
Sir Arthur K. Wilson
Commander-in-Chief, Channel Fleet
1907 – 1909
Succeeded by
Fleet Reconstituted

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