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Manuscript Journal of a Royal Navy officer, including voyages on HMS Nelson and HMS Tamar,

[recorded in:] Journal and Remark Book. For the use of the officers of H. M. Navy.

Portsmouth: Griffin & Co., 1884-5 Stock Code: 131132
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Royal Navy service in Papua New Guinea and Australia

Punctiliously maintained and engrossing journal largely devoted to service on the Australia Station aboard HMS Nelson - including an eye witness account of the ceremony whereby Papua New Guinea was established as a British Protectorate.

The journal was kept by Lieutenant the Hon. Gerald FitzMaurice Digby (1858-1942), inscribed on the verso of the front free endpaper: "G. Digby, Lt., HMS Nelson Jany. 1884 to January '85 - HMS Tamar January 1885 to March 1885". Digby was the son of Edward, ninth Baron Digby, and grandson of Admiral Sir Henry Digby, who commanded HMS Africa at Trafalgar. He joined the Navy in July 1871, was later, with the rank of captain, ADC to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and a member of the select Castaway's Club (founded 1895), a dining club membership of which is limited to 120 retired naval officers. Service aboard Nelson is followed by a record of his lieutenancy with HMS Tamar (Feb. -March 1885) and as lieutenant-commander with HM Torpedo Boat No. 2 (April 1885).

The log opens with the Nelson moored in Sullivan's Cove, Hobart, during January, February and the first week of March, 1884. Over some 26 pages Digby gives the required readings of wind and weather, barometer and thermometer. They then sail north to Half Moon Bay, Tasmania, Farm Cove, Sydney, and Moreton Bay, Brisbane, before returning to Farm Cove (some 15 pages are devoted to Australian waters); this circuit continues through to November when the Nelson weighs anchor at Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, remaining in these waters before returning to Sydney in December. Digby notes visits to Motu-Motu, Killerton Island (Haro Wani Island), Teste Island (Wari) and Dinner Island (Samarai). There are some 33 pages of notes kept in journal form, creating an absorbing narrative of events focused around the establishment of New Guinea as a British Protectorate on 6 November 1884: "consequently on the 6th we landed two companies of bluejackets, one of marines, each of the other ships sent some men. They were drawn up round three sides of a square the flagstaff being in the middle & after the Protectorate had been formally proclaimed the flag was hoisted & the band played a feu-de-joie rifle salute was fired & three cheers given, the Commodore spoke a few words which together with the proclamation was translated into the native language by the Rev. Mr. Lawes". He also mentions that an "assembly of chiefs" was brought on board the Nelson from "all parts of the coast which we had annexed", each bringing a quota of food; they gathered on the quarter deck and "a large tub of rice & sugar was put down, served out to them by the native teachers after which the Commodore addressed them & told them what the protectorate meant & gave the head chief a stick of office as token of his being responsible & on the head was a half crown set in".

HMS Nelson was an armoured cruiser laid down in Govan in 1874, launched in 1876, and commissioned in 1881, after which she sailed for the Australia Station, becoming flagship there under the command of Commodore James Elphinstone Erskine (1838-1911). The establishment of Papua New Guinea as a British Protectorate was celebrated by Erskine himself with the publication of his lavishly-produced Narrative of the Expedition of the Australian Squadron to New Guinea (Sydney, 1885), illustrated with photographs; also, Charles Lyne's New Guinea: An Account of the Establishment of the British Protectorate over the Southern Shores of New Guinea (London 1885) gives a full account and mentions Digby as one of three lieutenants commanding companies among the landing parties from the Nelson. This section of the journal closes toward the end of January 1885 when they sail from Fort Macquarie to Albany, Western Australia (noting the Tamar moored at Fort Macquarie on 15 January).

HMS Tamar was a troopship built at Cubitt Town, London, and launched in 1863. Digby devotes a total of 14 pages to her passage from Sydney to Albany and then via Diego Garcia, Aden, Suez, Port Said, Malta and Gibraltar to Plymouth. Following this, in April 1885, Digby was appointed lieutenant-commander of HM Torpedo Boat No. 2 (launched 1878) during the Berehaven Trial in Ireland, which involved the Royal Navy's new torpedo ram HMS Polyphemus. He gives over some 13 pages to these exercises, including "accidents & injuries received by Torpedo Boats", a crew listing and a journal of events. The "main object of the 1885 maneuvers led by Sir Geoffrey Hornby with the 'Particular Service Squadron', assembled in the light of threatened conflict with Russia, was to try ships and their machinery, torpedo boats, offensive and defensive mines and other obstacles in the context of attacking a fleet in a defended anchorage such as Kronstadt. The real importance of this exercise has been obscured by the dramatic action of Polyphemus breaking the boom The exercise was of great value but further exposed the weakness of the Navy" (David K. Brown, Warrior to Dreadnought: Warship Design and Development 1860-1905, 1997).

The journal concludes with two pages covering service with the Royal Yacht, HMY Victoria and Albert II (launched 1855), which he joins on 2 January 1886. This is a brief record of events, including the conveyance on different occasions of Queen Victoria, Prince and Princess Wilhelm of Prussia, the Crown Princess of Germany, Duke and Duchess of Connaught, and the Prince and Princess of Wales (during Cowes Week).

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Small quarto (225 x 186 mm), 100 pp. Original deep purple half morocco-grain skiver, slate-blue pebble-grain cloth sides, gilt lettered on front cover, blue edges, marbled endpapers.


Extremities lightly rubbed, front cover sunned and a little marked, otherwise in excellent condition.


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