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The Royal Hibernian Military School (1765-1924)
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To China in Nine Months and Seven Ships in 1857

About the 15 March, 1857, the Officer Commanding the 12th Depot Battalion at Athlone received an order from the Horse Guards to prepare a draft of the Depot 59th Regiment, consisting of two companies fully armed and equipped to proceed to Hong Kong to reinforce the Regiment at the station. When the preparation was completed the two companies, nos. 5 and 6, to which latter I belonged, paraded at 9 a.m. on the 25th for inspection by the Colonel Commanding, who made to us a rousing speech, after which we marched to the railway station, where we entrained for Dublin. On arrival at the Knightsbridge terminus, we were marched to the Linen Hall Barracks, where we had some refreshment. When it was reported that the ship was ready for us, we were marched to the north wall, and embarked. As soon as the tide served the vessel steamed out, and the next morning we found ourselves at Liverpool. Immediately after breakfast we disembarked and were marched to Lime Street Station, where we had to wait until 1 o’clock for a train to take us to Manchester to be billeted. On arriving at Manchester the authorities there knew nothing about our billets. We were then ordered to proceed to Warwick to be billeted for the night.

We arrived there about 11 p.m., and proceeded to our billets and had our dinners. Before being dismissed at the railway station we were ordered to parade next morning at half-past five to entrain for Basingstoke, where we eventually arrived on the 27th March, and stayed in billets until the 30th March, when we left by train for Winchester. After a stay of a week there in barracks we again entrained on the 6th April for Portsmouth. On arriving at the Dockyard, and having handed in ammunition for stowage in the ship’s magazines, we embarked on board H.M.S. Transit and were told off to our messes. We left Portsmouth next day, 7th April, and proceeded to the Needles passage when we encountered a most dense fog; I could not see my hand when I held it close in front of my face. We were obliged to drop anchor for the night. Next morning when getting the anchor up, something caught, but whatever it was it had to give way to the power of the windless. The anchor was brought up and securely "fished", as the nautical saying is. It was afterwards said that one of the flukes of the anchor hammed in between two places of the vessel, causing the temporary stoppage in getting it up. In the mean time we were steaming away, heading down channel. It is one of the duties of the Master-at-Arms in a warship to sound the ship’s well at stated times. In the performance of this duty the Master-at-Arms in sounding the well found four feet of water in it. He immediately reported this to the captain, who thought it an error and told the Master-at-Arms to take soundings again. This done, he reported to the Captain, "four feet six inches of water in the well, sir." The ship was then turned back for Portsmouth. By the time we arrived there the water had increased to eleven feet. All the troops on board, consisting of three companies of the 90th Regiment, two Companies of the 59th Regiment, and two Companies of the Medical Staff Corps were them remover to H.M.S. Bellerophon ‘on the 8th April and the Transit' was taken into dry dock. It may here be stated that the late Sir Garnet Wolseley was a Captain, commanding one of the companies of the 90th Regiment. The Bellerophon was the ship on board of which Napoleon was held a prisoner until he was removed to St. Helena, where he died.

The Transit having been repaired, we returned on board of her on the 14th April, and sailed the next day, thus creating a record of troops leaving England twice in a few days on the same ship. All went well for a few days until we entered the Bay of Biscay, where we encountered the fury of the elements which played in an amazing degree with the rigging, and set at naught the labour expended on it, both manual and mechanical, in the dockyard at Portsmouth, so much so that we had to run into harbour at Corunna on the 19th April. Immediately after breakfast we heard the boatswain's shrill whistle: 'All hands tighten rigging,' when the business began. For all the thousand men on board - crew and troops - set to work with a will and passed a most laborious day, and on a Sunday too, and made all taut again, at any rate to the Captain's satisfaction. We left the harbour at sunset and made for the island of St. Vincent, where we arrived on the 24th April, and started coaling ship. Having taken on board some 700 tons of coal, we left for Simon's Bay on the 27th, and arrived there on the 26th May. We remained there coaling, victualling and re-fitting, and left on the 2nd June, the Captain taking a southerly course to get the benefit of the 'trade winds'. When we had got well into those winds, the propeller was taken up and we proceeded as a sailing sip, thus saving coal. Had the propeller been left in its place, it would have acted as a drag and prevent the free running of the vessel. The trade winds were very strong, but steady. The Captain kept on shorting sail until there was only the treble-reefed foresail doing duty, and with this small spread of canvas the ship ploughed away very steadily at 16 or 17 knots an hour. As we worked out way out of the trade winds, and into a more congenial atmosphere, more sail was made progressively on the ship until the wind failed. The propeller was then refixed in its place and we resumed the steaming pace - about 10 knots and hour. This went on merrily for several days when we encountered heavy stormy weather, resulting on the 28th June in the main yard being fractured in the centre, where it was over 2 feet thick. To repair this damage the yard had to be taken down which was a full day's work for the crew. Next morning the repairing process was commenced with the blacksmith's crew having their field forges, bar iron, etc., on deck. The carpenter's crew were also busy with the timber work. It took several days to effect the repairs, and another day to rehoist and refix the yard in position, but all was cleared by the 7th July. We anchored in the Straits of Sunda on the night of 9th July. Out journey was resumed next morning, bright and sunny with hardly a ripple on the water, when, suddenly at 20 minutes past 9 o'clock the ship struck an uncharted coral rock and remained fixed. The order was at once given: 'All troops to their mess decks,' while the crew were getting down all top hamper from the masts and yards, getting our troop boats, etc. There we were with the ports closed, sitting at our mess tables, simply looking at each other by the light of a candle lantern, not allowed to move or speak. It was a very trying time, and seemed endless until 50 of us were ordered up on deck, some bare-footed, some without caps, some without jackets and all empty-handed, not being allowed to take anything from our kits. 'On Deck' was the order, and nothing else, and thus we entered the troop boats. There was a large rock, about 20 or 30 feet high half way between the ship and the nearest land, 6 miles away, which was the Island of Banca. The officer in charge of each boat had orders to leave the men at this rock and return at once to take others off the wreck. In this way all got off on to terra firma. Then commenced the removal from the rock to the island which was completed happily without loss of life. On the 11th July a boat with a full crew under a naval officer left the island for Singapore to report as to the wreck, and to arrange for ships to be sent to Banca to take off the wrecked naval and military officers and men. Consequently a ship arrived and took off the officers and men of the 90th Regiment on the 20th July. The sailing ship 'Beaver' of Boston arrived and embarked those of the 59th Regiment and the Medical Staff Corps on the 21st July and sailed for Singapore arrived there on the 25th July, where we were supplied with a few necessary articles of clothing, etc. We were quartered in hastily constructed bamboo huts thatched with bamboo leaves; no bedding. We remained at Singapore until the 1st August when we embarked on board the SS 'Landsfeldt' for passage to Calcutta. As the mutiny had broken out in India all troops arriving at Singapore were diverted to India, irrespective of where they were originally destined for. We arrived at Calcutta on the 13th August, and disembarked next day. We had to send into store at Fort William such arms, etc, as were recovered by Kroomen divers from the 'tween decks of the 'Transit' and were supplied with new arms and accoutrements, etc., from the same fort. It may be here stated that we were without beds or bedding of any kind from the 10th July to the 13th August (both dates inclusive), a period of 35 nights. I had become so accustomed to roughing it that when I got into a comfortable bed on the 14th August I could not sleep, and so I got out and lay on the floor, where I slept soundly until morning.

When we had received our new arms and accoutrements, a wing of the 53rd Regiment then stationed at Fort William, were ordered up country, and we took over and performed the duties of that wing. We all volunteered to go up country, but were deprived of that pleasure as our headquarters were in China and we were told that we should not be permanently retained. On the 21st August we marched to Alipore and formed the guard of the Residency, and of a very large civil prison in which were confined some 2,000 prisoners. In the meantime British troops kept on arriving, so when the authorities considered that they had sufficient troops in India to quell the Mutiny, we received orders to embark for Hong Kong. We, therefore, marched into Calcutta and embarked on board H.M.S. 'Assistance' on the 14th November, and arrived and disembarked, joining the Headquarters of the Regiment in the Murray Barracks at Hong Kong on the 7th December, after nearly nine months roughing it, but most cheerfully borne; yet, all the same I would not care to undergo the same experiences again.

D. Deeves, Major
(Late B44, 3/'51 - 1/'54)

Table of Contents - Royal Hibernian Military School
1769 Petition
1806 Pay and Allowances
1806 Weekly Governor's Report
1806 Time Table
1819 Charter
1819 Diet
1819 Staff Duties
1819 General Regulations
1844 Return of Religions
1849 S.S. Pemberton Orphans
1856 School Inspector Gleig
1857 China
1873 Religion
1900 Review at Phoenix Park
1918 Lost Boys
1919 Roll of Honour
1919 Recollections
1919 Lives of the Hibernians
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
1922 Last cricket match
1924 A soldier's orphan's story
1924 Last roll call
1924 Laying up the colours
1924 The final era
1937 A military misfit NEW
1969 The bicentenary reunion
1994 Capt. Harry Bloomer MBE
2001 IGS No.25 History
2004 Newsletter
2005 The last known Hibernian
2007 Sources of Hibernian documents

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