THOMAS PILCHER PRITCHARD
Title: 1873 - 1879 ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT DIARY HANDWRITTEN BY A REAL LIFE BRITISH NAVY BLUE JACKET WHOSE NAVAL CAREER READS LIKE A FORESTER NOVEL
Book Condition: Good
Size: 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall
Publisher: ABOARD THE HMS ARGUS  1873
Seller ID: 0002196
On offer is an original, significant 1873 through 1879 manuscript diary and scrapbook memoir of one 'Blue Jacket's' service in the Royal Navy. Handwritten by Thomas Pilcher Pritchard's (1851-1932) who retrospectively begins detailing his early naval career under Earl De Gray and Ripon in 1867, Lord Hardinge in 1869, the cutter Raglan in 1872 until March 1873 when Pritchard joins the HMS Argus. Pritchard's 120+ page narrative together with pasted in photograph, newspaper cuttings tipped in over manuscript and colour prints of flags describes an enviable career for those salty 'tars' that seek to see the world: Madeira, St. Vincent, Cape Coast, West Africa, (he transfers from the Argus to HMS Dromedary for a spell and then back), Lagos, Ascension, Bermuda, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Barbados, Demerara, South American ports, Newport and Providence, Rhode Island, and back to the West Indies, including Barbados and Jamaica, Havana, Nassau, Tobago, and Bermuda, the St. Lawrence River and Quebec in Canada, finally returning to Portsmouth in 1877. [Jack Aubrey and Horatio Hornblower's crews have nothing over Pritchard!] The journal continues to 1879 when he is on half pay and working in dockyards. Great descriptions abound on the places visited, shipboard crew and local shore life, HMS Argus' involvement in a number of conflicts. Here are some snippets: "13 June 1873: 'joined the boats of H.M. ships Barracoutta, Druid, Sea Gull, Decoy and others and went ashore up the river and anchored off the town of Elmina, close to the houses, and in sight of some thousands of natives who were all armed and waiting for us to begin. At 12 at noon, the first shot was fired and we kept up continually firing shells and rockets, for about and hour, by this time the town was in flames, and the cries of the women and children mixed with that of pigs, goats, sheep, dogs &c, was almost defening, in the midst of this confusion we landed, and drove every one who had stopped, out of the town, shot some, made several prisoners, and came on board in the evening tired out, the heat in the day was something awfull. The Town burnt for about a week, over two hundred bodies, were buried in a large hole, and there must have been several hundred wounded. Loss to the English, one marine of H.M.S. Barracoutta.' There is an extended nine page description of engagements and casualties in the Third Anglo-Ashanti War: 29 April 1876 'Saturday arrived at Barbados .... Landed the troops, there has been an insurrection here the rebels have burnt and destroyed a lot of property mostly sugar plantations, and killing the cattle, several lives lost and lots of prisoners' …… 'Saturday May 6th, 1876. HMS Argus arrived at the island of Tobago …... there is a row on here the same as Barbadoes, the rebels threatening the town of Scarborough. Sunday May 6th took on board the Governor and others, and steamed full speed to another part of the islands, arrived in the full noon, rig of the day, blew working rig white capcovers. Monday our boats brought off several prisoners, one woman, charged with murder…..... Tuesday 9th took on board nine prisoners taken on shore, and landed twenty armed men, eight blue jackets and the gunners mate, and ten marines, and a sergeant, in charge of our first lieutenant and left them on shore ...' Pritchard does a yeoman job as a diarist adding much depth describing his social life, his strong religious convictions, church going at Wesleyan chapels, and of no surprise as a naval rating he frequently 'got drunk' as he openly noted, had fights and mayhaps the odd time he wakes up in a cell. He took himself in hand by joining temperance organisations in 'Bermuda….. Dec19th 1874 ….. joined Providence Lodge No.3 of the Independent Order of Good Templars, Bermuda'. Other lodges were joined at other ports of call and back in England. He meets many ladies with special mention of Miss Constance Miles of Halifax, Nova Scotia, with whom he develops a close relationship, and corresponds regularly. The pages proper have some marking and light soiling, text block loosened and detached from covers, and some frayed on the right hand margins. The 8 x 6 inch cloth-backed board is worn. Overall Fair+. BIO NOTES: Thomas Pilcher Pritchard was born in Swanage, Dorset, in 1851, the son of a seaman and sailmaker Charles Pilcher Pritchard (b.1823) and wife Hannah (the portrait photo from the journal is I believe of his father Charles). His early life was spent in the navy, the most significant years of which (1873-1877) are covered in the journal. Upon his return from active service Pritchard in 1880 married Alice Crossman Rogers (b.1857 in Portsea), the daughter of William Fuller Rogers, a butcher, and Jane Crossman. They settled in Portsmouth and had 8 children, 6 of whom survived into adulthood (their details are recorded in the rear of the journal). Thomas died in Portsmouth in 1932 at the age of 81, and his wife Alice in 1937 at the age of 79. HISTORICAL NOTES: HMS Argus was a wooden-hulled paddle sloop launched in 1849 and broken up in 1881. She took part in engagements on the Pekin and Taku forts 1858 - 1860, and was a transport during the Abyssinian Expedition in 1866. She played an important role throughout the Third Anglo-Ashanti War 1873-1874 as witnessed by Pritchard.
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