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The Channel Squadron visit to Cherbourg in 1865
|► Royal Navy|
In 1865 the Royal Navy's Channel Squadron visited Cherbourg (and Brest) to join in the celebrations of the birthday of Emperor Napoleon III, and a French squadron subsequently visited Portsmouth; these events were extensively reported and commented on in the columns of the Times newspaper
|Extracts from the Times newspaper|
|Th 20 April 1865||The Vigie of Cherbourg states that the roadstead of that port will present an interesting sight next summer in consequence of the creation of a second fleet of ironsides, to which will be given the name of the Channel squadron, and for which all the arrangements are made. The iron-coated squadron will consist of the iron-plated frigate Flandre, which is being completed with all speed; the Magenta, Héroïne, and the Gauloise, which is to be launched on the 23d of the present month. Two foreign squadrons, it is said by the Vigie, are expected to visit Cherbourg this summer. An English fleet is expected towards the end of July, and a Russian fleet, composed of the iron-coated frigates Sébastopol and Pétropawloski, the iron-coated corvette Smerch, built after the model of the Danish corvette Rolf Krake, and the iron-coated tower gunboats Vechoun, Koldoun, and Edinogor, lately fitted out for sea. This squadron is to sail from Cronstadt at the beginning of June, and to proceed direct to Cherbourg.|
|Tu 23 May 1865||The Edgar, 71, screw line-of-battle ship, Capt. G.P. Hornby, flagship of Rear-Admiral Sir Sydney Colpoys Dacres, K.C.B., will, it is expected, receive orders to sail from Spithead for Portland to-morrow or Thursday morning, to join that portion of the Channel fleet now lying there. According to present arrangements it is very probable that Admiral Dacres will take the Channel fleet on a cruise to Cherbourg and Brest or Lisbon.|
|Ma 10 July 1865||The Patrie of this evening says:-|
"The Minister of Marine will go witlh the French squadron to England, in order to return the visit to be made by the Duke of Somerset to Cherbourg."
|Fr 14 July 1865||The Patrie of this evening says:-|
"Upon the invitation of France and England several Powers will send vessels to be present at the fêtes at Cherbourg and Brest.
|Th 10 August 1865||The Chatham yacht left Chatham harbour yesterday, for Cherbourg, to be in attendance on the officials on the occasion of their visit to the French squadron at that port.|
|Tu 15 August 1865||The Osborne, steam yacht, Commander D'Arcy, left Portsmouth yesterday morning for Cherbourg, with the Duke of Somerset, K.G. (First Lord), Admiral the Hon. F.W. Grey, K.C.B., and Rear-Admiral E.G. Fanshawe, Lords of the Admiralty; Capt. Hall, Secretary to the First Lord; the Earl De Grey and Ripon, Secretary for War; and Sir Richard Mayne, Chief Commissioner of Police. On leaving the harbour the Admiralty flag received the customary salute from the Admiral's flagship Victory. The Enchantress, Admiralty yacht, Staff-Commander Petley, with Lord Clarence Paget and Lady Paget, and Mr. Hugh C. E. Childers M.P., and Mrs. Childers, followed the Osborne. The Fire Queen, steam yacht tender, Staff-Commander Paul, conveyed the Naval Commander-in-Chief, Admiral Sir M. Seymour, K.C.B., and Rear-Admiral Wellesley, Admiral Superintendent of Portsmouth dockyard; the Sprightly, steam tender, Master Commander Allen, conveying the Admirals boats and boats' crews. The Urgent, troop-ship, Capt. Henderson, also left the harbour about 11, having been especially appropriated for the use of naval and other officers. The Royal Sovereign, turret-ship, Capt. Herbert, left Spithead, yesterday morning, for Cherbourg.|
The Channel squadron left Portland Roads for Cherbourg on Sunday evening. The whole of the vessels of the Channel squadron, under the command of Sir Sidney Colpoys Dacres, K.C.B., Rear-Admiral, consisting of Her Majesty's ships Edgar, 71, (flagship), Capt. Geoffrey T.P. Hornby; Achilles, 20, Ironclad, Capt. Edward W. Vansittart; Black Prince, 41, ironclad, Capt. Lord Frederick H. Kerr; Defence, 16, ironclad, Capt. Augustus Phillimore; Prince Consort, 35, ironclad, Capt. George O. Willes, C.B.; Hector, 24, ironclad, Capt. George W. Preedy, C.B.; Research, 4, ironclad, Capt. Arthur Wilmshurst; Liverpool, 39, screw wooden frigate, Capt. Rowley Lambert; Octavia, 39, screw wooden frigate, Capt. Charles F. Hillyar ; Constance, 39, screw wooden frigate, Capt. Edward Barnard, Trinculo, gunboat, tender to the Edgar; and Salamis, paddle, despatch vessel Commander Francis G. Suttie, left Portland Roads at a quarter to 7 o'clock. Anchors were hove short at 6 p.m., and at the time first stated all weighed anchors. The Defence was the first off; she was followed in Indian file by the Achilles, Prince Consort, Hector, Black Prince, and Research, under steam. The Edgar (flagship) was followed by the wooden frigates Liverpool, Octavia, and Constance, all being under plain sail, the rear being brought up by the Trinculo and Salamis, under steam. After rounding the breakwater, the fleet were divided into two divisions, all of them being under plain sail; the ironclads to leeward, and the rest of the fleet to windward. The departure of the fleet was witnessed by hundreds of people, the "Look-out" and the "Nothe" at Weymouth being lined with spectators. The wind was fresh from south-west.
It is understood that the French fleet will arrive at Spithead on the 28th inst., and their stay will extend to the 2d of September, during which time the flag officers will be entertained on board the Osborne by the Duke of Somerset, as First Lord of the Admiralty. General invitations will be issued for a dinner at the Port Admiral's, and also on board the Duke of Wellington. A review of the troops will take place on Southsea-common, on the evening of which day the French officers will be the guests of Lieut.-Gen. Sir C. Buller, and a banquet on a grand scale to be followed by a ball from the Mayor, town council, and inhabitants of the borough generally will probably close the festivities.
Admiral Sir M. Seymour's flag on board the Victory was struck last evening at sunset. During the absence of Sir Michael and also Rear-Admiral Wellesley the duties of the port will devolve on Capt. F. Scott, C.B., Flag-Capt. of the Victory.
|Tu 15 August 1865|
THE FLEET AT CHERBOURG.
One of the main features in the interest of the Cherbourg visit is the opportunity it will afford of seeing at leisure and critically the French ironclads, from an examination of which visitors have hitherto been almost excluded. A full knowledge of the armament and manning of these ships is naturally what is looked forward to with chief eagerness by the professional visitors. Our own Admiralty, however, have little to gain from such individual sources of information, seeing that they are already pretty accurately informed of what is doing in the French dockyards. Among other vessels filled with naval and military officers are the Salamis, Osborne, Enchantress, Fire Queen, and Sprightly. The Enchantress takes the Lords of the Admiralty and their friends. This vessel, the Urgent, is almost entirely devoted to senior naval officers, and its passengers include half the admirals on the navy list.
|Fr 18 August 1865|
THE FLEET AT CHERBOURG.
This morning was ushered in by a heavy, southwesterly gale, with torrents of rain and fierce squalls, which, as sailors say, struck like a hammer. Boating to reach the shore became doubtful, and as the day wore on almost impossible, except under circumstances of the greatest discomfort and even risk. It was and is still, in truth, the "dirtiest" of "dirty" Channel weather. None but the large launches of the men-of-war have been about, and these have only made their way against the wind and sea with the utmost labour. But the French vessels have been much less affected than our own, for every French man-of-war carries a steam launch, working at high pressure, and going at great speed. These have been going backwards and forwards all day, sometimes with three or four other launches in tow. Only the flagship of the English squadron has one of these most useful auxiliaries, so that the communications between the other ships and the shore have been few and far between.
This day's dreary and damp festivities were ushered in at 6 a.m. by a somewhat intermittent salute fired from Fort Homet, the ruined-looking, but really the most powerful work which covers the Arsenal and Dockyard from the west entrance, but by no means protects them from injury and attack by shelling from the sea. This salute, as we have said, was very irregularly given, So irregularly, in fact, that at times it seemed to cease altogether. As 8 o'clock drew near all the quays and wharves west of the forts and along the line of shore became crowded with thousands, who patiently braved the sweeping wind and rain to see the fleets exchange salutes. The sight was well worth seeing. With the first note of eight bells the Edgar and Magenta fired almost simultaneously, and in a second afterwards up and down the roadstead, from high-placed forts and detached rock batteries, out came regular pulsations of flame and smoke, with a sharp smashing boom, which, seeming to echo back itself, swelled gradually into a din so tremendous that it really shook the air. But that the ships were not in motion it would have seemed like a naval engagement on the most slaughterous scale, as the ships lying broadside to broadside kept blazing at each other till all were hid in the smoke, from which, even amid the noise of the guns, could be heard the shrill boatswain's whistle and hoarse shouts giving directions. What these directions were was soon seen, for as the firing ceased, and the bank of smoke was sent rapidly to leeward, each ship emerged from its cloud "dressed" as if by magic from stem to stern with arcs of coloured bunting, and the English ships with their topgallant yards crossed. All the French ships dressed athwart ships from the yards, while the English, as usual, hoisted their colours fore and aft over the mast heads and down astern. The effect of both was very pretty, though on this occasion the wind, being violently dead ahead, showed the French mode off to the greater advantage. All the English vessels carried the French flag at the main, and when the salute was over the Lords of the Admiralty paid the high compliment of lowering their own flag from the Enchantress and hoisting that of France in its place. The rest of the day's programme was to be a procession of boats from the French ships, to attend the Te Deum in Cherbourg Cathedral in honour of the Emperor's birthday, a grand salute from all the ships and forts for the same auspicious occasion, a review of the garrison in the Place Napoleon, and fireworks in the evening. Up to the present each and all of these solemnities have been utterly marred by the weather. Soon after 10 the glass began to fall rapidly, and as it fell the wind and sea rose higher and higher, till it is now (3 p.m.) blowing a violent gale, with the glass still falling, and every prospect of the bad becoming worse before the night is over. A more severe summer gale has seldom risen so suddenly to such a height, and even now it is more than probable that the despatch of this letter may have to be delayed for it least a day, for the Urgent is lying nearly a mile and a half from the landing place, and to send off a small boat in the teeth of such weather might be hazardous. This miserable visitation of inclemency has, of course, marred everything. The procession of boats from the French squadron, which was to have taken place at 10, was put off till 11, when it virtually had to be abandoned, inasmuch as only five of the largest cutters could take part in it, and even these had to be towed through the wind and sea by steam launches in two detachments to the shore. A more dreary spectacle than the harbour then presented can scarcely be imagined. The vessels were almost hidden from view by the mists of driving rain which covered land and sea far and near. The wind was blowing fiercely, carrying the spray in fleecy drifts like snow. The distant lumps of fortresses upon the rocks looked like mere fogbanks, and the great ironclads themselves were watery and indistinct, like shadows of ships - a sort of phantom squadron. The very breakwater looked a mere streak of fog upon what seemed a distant horizon, and the hills and headlands around had become invisible in the clouds of wind and rain. As a matter of course, no weather put a stop to the salute at 12 o'clock; but, though it could not stop, yet it certainly spoilt it. Even the thunder of the guns was almost swept away by the gusts of wind, while the concussion, as a matter of course, only brought down the rain more violently than before.
The Te Deum on shore was sung with magnificent pomp and ceremony - such gorgeous ceremony, indeed, as only the Church of Rome can show, and only she in France or Italy. It was attended by all the chief naval, military, and municipal officers, in full uniform. The Review, held in storms of wind and rain, was necessarily a failure - not, of course, as to the movements of the troops, but the attendance of spectators.
Cherbourg is crowded from floor to roof, and accommodation is almost as scarce as it was when the Queen visited the place in 1858. The weather is moderating, though it is still blowing heavily; and it is even now more that doubtful if any fireworks can be exhibited this evening.
|Fr 18 August 1865||The entertainment of a British fleet in a French harbour on the fête day of the French Sovereign would once have been considered a portent, and is still a phenomenon. Happily the prognostic foretells nothing but good. When France and England are of one accord the affairs of the word are likely to run smoothly; and there is something, indeed, significant in the telegrams which actually follow the announcement of this naval visit. Austria and Prussia, we are told, are beginning to understand one another, and to lay aside their thoughts of quarrel. Spain justifies her recognition of the Italian kingdom, and throws her influence into the scale of liberty and peace. Europe is naturally attentive to this proceeding of the Western Powers. It is not a parade of strength, or a symbol of defiance, but it is a demonstration of concord, and of a material identity of interests.|
The spectacle at Cherbourg is all the more remarkable from its special and limited character. Time was when we should have taken alarm at any naval display of our neighbours, and almost resented any pretensions to maritime power apart from our own. It is, indeed, but a very short time since that every ship in Cherbourg harbour and every gun in Cherbourg batteries were set off and balanced against our armaments at home, and possibly against our strength abroad. We now look at these things differently, and are disposed to take the sum of the two navies, instead of the difference between them, as the available power for insuring peace and order. The fleets of France added to the fleets of England could nowhere find a rival - hardly an antagonist. Navies in these days are not creations of an hour. Years and millions are required for the fabrication of a modern squadron, and the outlay represented by the combined fleets at Cherbourg is something beyond ordinary reach. Yet our naval strength is rather represented than displayed in this exhibition. It may be almost said, indeed, that our best ships are absent. With the exception of the Achilles - a specimen quite unique - no British vessel at Cherbourg is to be regarded as the model of her class, and some classes of our modern navy are not represented at all. We have sent but five ironclads across the Channel. There are the Black Prince, as beautiful a looking ship as the best of our sailing frigates; the Royal Sovereign, an experimental turret ship; and the Achilles, Hector, and Defence - three vessels which are certainly not pleasing to the eye at first. We have sent no specimen of the Minotaur class, supposed, though, perhaps, erroneously, to be an improvement on the Warrior model; no specimen of Mr. Reed's new vessels, expected to surpass all precedents in strength and power; no specimen of our iron-cased two-deckers suggested by the French Gloire, and no representative of our smaller craft. Nevertheless, the display is imposing, and as the eye rests upon the long black hulls of these modern fighting ships, an impression of power grows rapidly upon the mind. The French ironclads, at least the two-deckers, are less strongly contrasted with the models of former days; indeed, it is more the ram than anything else which gives novelty and ungainliness to the new ships of war. It is not to be forgotten, however, in looking at the combined squadrons, that not a single model of either fleet has ever been tried in battle. The array is almost a parade of experiments, but we know at least this, that every vessel in the line can keep the sea, and is competent to serve in any part of the world.
Perhaps the demonstration, like all demonstrations, may be taken for more than it is worth, and construed into some special alliance; but it is really worth much to the two nations concerned, and all the more, indeed, from its natural origin and unartificial character. We could hardly tell how or by what sequence of events or sentiments French and English have become to each other what they are now, instead of what they were five years ago. The change has been effected gradually and almost insensibly. It is not that we have had no differences of opinion; on the contrary, more than one European question has tried the tempers of the two Governments and brought their respective traditions into conflict. But all this while the social as well as commercial intercourse between the two countries was maintained and extended; a trade mutually advantageous did its natural work; a certain assimilation of popular sentiments presently commenced, and Frenchmen learnt English sports, while Englishmen accustomed themselves to French wines. In the end, we have come to look upon any international festivity almost as a thing of course, even when it takes the unusual form of a mutual naval visit.
It is a great thing to unlearn national jealousies and to get rid of the idea that the strength of one country must mean the weakness of another. We may look with advantage on the French ships, and they may examine ours with as much benefit. Hitherto there has been a certain mystery made of these things, although modern naval architecture is still only in its experimental stage. It deserves to be remembered by all who gaze upon this instructive spectacle, that though ironclad ships have now been introduced for some six or seven years, nobody yet knows what is the true model for an ironclad, nor even whether a fighting ship ought really to be clad in iron at all. The French Solferino bears no resemblance to the British Black Prince; the American Dunderberg is not in the least like either. Even in our own dockyards the vessels we are actually building are entirely different from the vessels we have already built. If the Royal Sovereign is successful, the Achilles is a mistake, as our clever neighbours will soon discover; and if Mr. Laird's Wyvern is matched with Mr. Reed's Research, we could hardly fail to glean a fact or two from the comparison. As to the Americans, it is very remarkable that, though they have built more ironclads after a fashion than any other nation, they have been the first to question the essential merit of the new invention. Admiral Farragut invariably went into action in a wooden ship, and another American Admiral reported to his Government a deliberate opinion that naval armour would go out as rapidly as it had come in; that it would be found inconsistent with seaworthiness and speed, and would be ultimately relinquished in favour of other tactics. With a science in such a condition, and with the whole question, in fact, still open, such an opportunity of instruction as is presented at Cherbourg ought to be carefully improved.
At Brest the English squadron will meet the French fleet from the Mediterranean, and a return visit of the French ships to Portsmouth is expected in the course of next week. For a fortnight or more therefore, the fleets of the two nations will be in company, and may symbolize and confirm the good understanding between their respective countries. We trust that good understanding may be long maintained and usefully employed. It may operate with no small influence on the peace and progress of other States, and it is at least certain that it must actively promote the best interests both of this country and of France. We want, in fact, nothing more than to know each other better, and be better convinced of each other's intentions. That is the kind of knowledge required for peace and friendship, and if it can be diffused by the visits of our Channel Fleet to France, it would be hard to find a better occupation for the squadron.
|Sa 19 August 1865|
The Fleet At Cherbourg.The terrible weather here yesterday may be said to have emphatically spoilt all but one festivity of the long day's programme, and the one which was left unscathed was exactly that about which the general public, either English or French, felt the least interest - namely, the dinner which was given by the Minister of Marine to the Lords of the Admiralty and Captains of ships of war in the harbour. It happened, as we have said, most fortunately for the success of the matter that the weather modified sufficiently to admit all the gallant and distinguished visitors landing with perfect safety and even comfort, and it also enabled a large crowd to assemble and witness their landing This was not a very striking feature, inasmuch as most of the English officers came wrapped in cloaks as they always do when wearing full uniform and not on actual duty. The French officers, however, rewarded the patience of the bystanders by disembarking in their fullest magnificence, and their appearance was respectfully acknowledged by the people, who, not unnaturally, beyond a most passing glance of interest, took little heed of those wearing the English uniform. A strange contrast to this, however, has been shown in the visits of excursion steamers to the fleets, The Magenta, as the French Admiral's vessel, has been visited, no matter what the weather - this was a matter of course. Yet equal in interest, even to our neighbours flagship has been the Black Prince, and this solely and wholly because all the Cherbourg world had been informed that the vessel was a copy of the famous Warrior. This ship, the Achilles, and the long, low hull of the Royal Sovereign have carried off all the honours of the English iron ships at Cherbourg. Indeed, even French officers have expressed their opinion that the latter vessel, with its four turrets and hull scarcely visible above the sea, would in smooth water, be the most formidable assailant of all the armour-clads now lying in Cherbourg roadstead. No vessel certainly has excited more surprise here, surprise which it is fair to say is not always mingled with admiration. Of the comparative merits of the English and French vessels, however, it will be time to speak hereafter, suffice it to say now that none express themselves more astonished at the beauty, size, and speed of our iron fleet than the French naval officers themselves. At sunset last evening Fort Homet again saluted with one of the most irregular and intermittent cannonades of honour that probably have ever been offered as a Royal salute. To this the usual reply gun for fun was given, the French, according to their custom, getting through theirs at a lightning pace, like a file fire of artillery, the English slowly and with a stately regularity that kept solemnly booming on like thunder long after the French frigates were silent, and stood out sharp as rocks from their background of smoke. Little more need be said of yesterday's proceedings beyond that at night the Lords of the Admiralty and Captains were embarked in state after their banquet between lines of troops carrying flambeaux, and the fireworks were displayed in front of the open space called by courtesy the Place Napoleon, though nothing more than an open wharf or quay. The fireworks were really very good, and would have been thought bettor but for the fact that many of those who saw them yesterday were also present at the unequalled display of the same kind which was given by the Emperor in honour of the visit of our Queen in 1858. The recollections of that magnificent fête can never pass from the memories of those who were fortunate enough to witness it. In comparison with that all that is now being done at Cherbourg seems tame and trite. Yet the concluding grand shower of rockets and bombs at the close of the pyrotechnics yesterday was a spectacle of rare brilliancy, and one worthy of any national entertainment. There had been plenty of flights of bombs, which had lit up with red, green, or white fire every part of the harbour, showing out all the ships in a lurid sort of daylight, bringing into relief the distant forts and low, dim outline of the breakwater. The last display, however, was in its way unsurpassable, and as the great crowds of coloured rockets shot up in flights of hundreds, tier over tier, exploding in masses of sparkling fire of every tint, it was difficult to imagine how anything more rich and beautiful in fireworks could be devised. To-day the weather has been fine with rather a keen cold wind from the north-west, and quite as much of it as is wanted. Nevertheless, the atmosphere, though still unsettled, is a brilliant contrast with the fierce inclemency of yesterday.
This day has been given up entirely to visits of inspection — the French vessels, dockyards, arsenals, and forts being for this day and to-morrow thrown open to all guests or officers from the British fleet. This is a rare concession, though there is not a dockyard, arsenal, or port in England which any French officer could not see any day in the year. The two great objects of curiosity have been the breakwater and its defences, and the iron flagship, the two-decker the Magenta, a sister to the celebrated Solferino, two of the ugliest vessels that ever floated since the days of Noah. The stupendous breakwater, which the statue of the first Napoleon pointing to it from the shore says has renewed the marvels of Egypt, has now a very composite character, and is quite as much a battery as a breakwater. No detailed account of the labours by which this tremendous work was completed is needed now. It will suffice to say that it was originally designed by Vauban, and commenced by Louis the XIV. The slow labour of dropping stone over stone and rock over rock into the sea to form its foundation was, after many years of toil, discontinued for nearly half a century, when it was again renewed, and continued more or less steadily till the whole was completed under the present Emperor. It is easy enough to build a breakwater which runs out from the land like that at Portland or Holyhead, but very difficult to construct one in mid sea like this at Cherbourg or that at Plymouth. The latter is little over a mile in length; Cherbourg is rather more than two miles. Its height from its foundation varies from 60ft. to nearly 150ft., and the width of its stone base from 300ft. to 600ft. Every individual stone of this vast artificial mountain was carefully carried and carefully dropped into its place. The Wall of China, one of the old wonders of an old world, is a mere nothing now — a work for which Sir Morton Peto, or any of our great contractors, would at once "take out the quantities,” give in an estimate, and complete it in a few years. The mass of the Cherbourg breakwater would make some 200 miles of the wall of China, and yet it has been built, and built, too, under a very stormy sea. The part above water is beautifully finished, and formed into three terraces, or platforms, on the inner side. Four formidable forts guard its entire length. Those at the extreme east and west ends are for three tiers of guns — two in casemate stone works; the upper tier just showing their grim black muzzles over a belt of stone work. Each mounts about 40 of the heaviest guns. The two others, which are along the middle part of the breakwater and divide its whole length into four equal parts, are less heavily armed except on the sea face. They are all closed works pierced for musketry so as to protect the rear and also sweep the platform of the breakwater itself. On the occasion of Her Majesty's visit in 1858 these forts were perfect; but since then the gradual settlement of the foundation of the breakwater which goes on incessantly, and which always will go on, has cracked the walls of the forts in all directions. At present they are capable of repair, but the repairs must be almost annual to keep them up as forts even for a few years longer. It is, no doubt, owing to this failure of the forts that the greater part of the sea face of the breakwater itself has been converted into a solid battery. Between each of the four forts we have described are four batteries, each battery being formed of eight guns of very heavy calibre, similar to the French guns tried last year at Shoeburyness. Here, then, are 128 formidable pieces, even supposing, the forts to be incapable of using theirs. Forts Querqueville and Hornet protect respectively the east and west entrances. The former is a picturesque mass of rock very like Elizabeth Castle at Jersey, only about 50 times as strong. The latter is a large repetition of the citadel at Halifax, and higher praise it would be difficult to give it in fewer words. These forts, though they form the piéces de résistance' are by no means the only ones. In fact, every rock capable of fortification, every point on which artillery can be placed, is covered with guns, while the citadel La Raoul, a lofty, inland peak, scarped like the Matterhorn looks gloomily down into and over every gun in the harbour. If Cherbourg can protect the Emperor from all the naval world, La Raoul can certainly protect him from Cherbourg. Yet though from one point of view Cherbourg is one of the strongest places in the world, far stronger than the overrated Quebec, and as strong as either Cronstadt or Gibraltar, yet from another and far more important point Cherbourg is among the weakest of weak defences. There are guns enough in and around Cherbourg to sink the united navies of Europe; ironclads or not, if they attempted to force the harbour. Yet all the defences of the harbour were formed to protect the arsenal and dockyard, and both these could be shelled almost with impunity. When the plans of these buildings and docks were made, rifled guns of immense range were not even among the hopes of the future any more than turret-ships or ironclads, and even as recently as when the Queen was here in 1858 the proud title of mistress of the Channel seemed to have been fairly won by the defences of Cherbourg. A few years have changed all this. The Warrior, Achilles, and Black Prince, or, indeed, any of our ironclads steaming their 12 knots an hour backwards and forwards off the breakwater could drop broadside after broadside of shells into either arsenal or dockyard at will. It is quite true that they, too, would be exposed to a fire of rifled guns in return; but the difference between hitting a black line running 12 knots an hour, and 2,000 yards off, and throwing shells at random over buildings as large as a town is very great indeed. Where the shells fell they would burn and destroy, what shots the ironclads got at 2,000 yards they could well afford to disregard. Against such dangers nothing can guard Cherbourg while France is not supreme at sea but a removal of the dockyard buildings further inland, and, apart from other reasons, the very configuration of the country seems to render this almost improbable. Cherbourg, however, is not alone in this peril, for since the introduction of rifled ordnance there is hardly a seaport in the world, save Gibraltar and the works of the Verne at Portland, which can be said to be wholly free from it.
This evening all the chief naval officers in harbour dine with the French Admiral on board the Magenta. To-morrow the town of Cherbourg, that is to say its maritime Prefect, entertains all the officers of the fleet and the leading English visitors here at a grand ball at the Hotel do Ville. How Cherbourg Proper — that is to say, the crowds of peasantry who have flocked in from all parts of the country are amusing themselves must be deferred to another letter. On Friday, at noon, the English fleet leave here for Brest to meet the other vessels of the French fleet and return in company to Portsmouth, where they are expected to arrive on the 24th. All the yachts and pleasure-boats, with the Urgent, Enchantress, Osborne, Fire Queen, &c., are expected to leave on Friday evening so as to make Portsmouth harbour at daybreak on Saturday morning.
Aug. 17.At the least nearly two-thirds of the English visitors and officers here in harbour availed themselves yesterday of the permission to visit and inspect the Magenta. The Lords of the Admiralty made what may be called an official inspection of the dockyard. They had little to learn about the Magenta which they did not know before they came; and, in fact, there are only two places that we know of where the fullest and most complete information as to the size, speed, tonnage, sea-going qualities, and strength of armour of the French fleet can be obtained, and those two places are the French and English Admiralties. All that is done in French dockyards is known very well at Whitehall, quite as well as the French authorities know all that is done in England from our own publicity; yet, up to the present, all that is known, is that the French have done literally nothing in armour-plated ships which we need care to either imitate or admire. Strictly speaking, only two of their vessels are iron ships at all, the rest are all wooden — two or three-deckers altered and strengthened to bear armour-plating. Only two or three of our so-called iron ships are armour-plated on wooden frames, and these, no matter what their defensive strength, have not sufficient sea-going qualities to justify the building of anything but iron in future. The Magenta and the Solferino are the only two-decked armour-clads in the world. Anything more ugly than those vessels never floated. The likeness of one will do for both, as they are sister ships, the Magenta being considered of the two the better. She is a very high, wall-sided looking ship, very low by the stern, and her stem so much elevated as to show most prominently the large beak-shaped "ram" with which she is fitted forward. Unlike the small, narrow portholes in our armour-clads, the Magenta, in common with other French ships, has the old wide, square openings in her side as large as ever, and these occur so close together and in such numbers as to quite realize the old American saying of a "box of guns," as applied to their own over-gunned frigates. But in the truest sense of the word is the Magenta only a box of guns, inasmuch as only on a part of the broadside and along the water-line is she plated with 5-inch armour, six of what seem gunport-holes on each side aft, and four on each side forward, being only cabins, with neither guns nor armour. This, however, it may be said, is like the Warrior, which has only her broadside plated with armour. But, then, it must not be forgotten that the Warrior has transverse bulkheads of armour plating, which protect her at stem and stern as well as on the broadside, while the Magenta is not only without these on her lower dock, but actually — and this is scarcely credible — without water-tight doors in the doorways made in her thwartship bulkheads on the main dock. There are two smooth-bore pieces of the 1850 pattern, 50-pounder solid shot guns, mounted under her forecastle, to fire on each side of her stem when the bulwarks are let down, as in the Achilles and Minotaur. All the masts are of wrought-iron, and very light, giving a spread of canvas which would be invaluable to her when under sail. On the upper deck is a "rifle tower" of iron, formed by four belts of armour one above the other, and each about 4ft. high, making the whole structure rise to a height of nearly 14ft. from the deck. It is elliptical in form, and the plates are backed with as much, solidity as behind the armour of the broadside - i.e. with about 3ft. of oak. The lower compartment contains the wheel for steering when in action, which is certainly a very good idea. The upper story is for the captain and master, and is fitted very completely with voice tubing and signal dials for communicating with the engineroom and main and lower deck batteries. The entrance to both stories is by open doorways in the after part of the tower, in a line with the vessel's keel. The roof of the tower is of boiler-plating, fixed on iron stanchions about 12in. above the upper edge of the tower armour, and the openings through these stanchions give a clear look-out in-all directions. There are no other guns on the spar deck but the two smooth-bores forward that we have already mentioned, the upper hatchways being quite open. On the main deck of the ship are mounted 24 three-groove rifled breechloading guns — 12 on each side. These pieces in their mode of rifling in no respect differ from the French gun tried last year at Shoeburyness, and the powers of which, both in accuracy and penetration, were proved to be so inferior to either the Armstrong or Whitworth ordnance. The breechloading apparatus is of the roughest and, apparently, of the most inefficient kind. It consists merely of a screw plug in the breech. A half-turn with a lever handle locks or unlocks it. When unlocked the screw plug draws out from the rear of the gun on to a rest, both rest and plug being sufficiently clear of the breech opening to allow of easy loading by the arm. The rest has a quarter-circle motion on a brass seating fixed on the right and a little below the chamber of the piece. The whole form of the gun is, in fact, the same as our 68-pounders would be if their breech were cut off close at the rear of the chamber and a screw plug with an ordinary lever handle inserted in its place. How this gun works in practice the cautious reticence of the French officers prevented our ascertaining, but it needed no more than a glance to see that with such a rough and comparatively loose-fitting plug the escape of flame through it at each discharge must be something fearful. From the peculiar conformation of the raised screws, and the plug, also, its fouling and jamming during rapid firing would be a matter of almost absolute certainty. This main deck battery of rifled guns is protected at each end by a powerful athwartship armour-plated bulkhead, in which, however, there are literally open doors. On the lower deck, however, where, as being nearest the water-line, such a protection is most urgently needed, strange to say, there is nothing of the kind. This lower deck mounts 26 guns, 13 on a side — five of which, forward, are rifled, and eight of which, aft, are the common smooth-bore of the old pattern of 1859. The calibre of all in this battery appears to be 50-pounders, 8lb. being the full powder charges used. All told, therefore, the Magenta only mounts 52 guns. It is not too much to say that their united discharge would be absolutely harmless against the 5-inch iron-plating and teak backing of our own iron frigates. The port-holes are very close, the distance between them being only about 10ft., scarcely allowing the room actually necessary to work the guns. They are also, as we have said, very large — so large, indeed, as to altogether give an open space actually larger than that covered by the armour. The lower tier of ports is about 6ft. from the water-line, the lowest in our frigates being 9ft. 3in. The lower, ports of the Magenta, therefore, could not be opened if there was the least swell on, — in fact, as she rolls violently, they are all regularly closed and caulked in before she goes out to sea. There is no inner iron skin in any part of the ship. Her engines are of 1,000-horse power, and her speed is said to be very good. On the whole, then, the Magenta is a very lightly-armed wooden ship, of no great length, with a belt of iron, round her at the water-line, and with about a third of her broadside space covered with armour, all the rest being a common wooden man-of-war.
In the afternoon the Duke of Somerset and the Lords of the Admiralty disembarked from the Enchantress, and, accompanied by Rear-Admiral Sir Sydney C. Dacres, C.B., commanding the English fleet, Admiral Sir Michael Seymour, G.C.B., and a number of English and French officers, paid a visit to the dockyard, where their Lordships wore received with a guard of honour on landing, and escorted by the authorities over the establishment, the naval officers and other English visitors to Cherbourg on board Her Majesty’s ship Urgent being landed at the dockyard at the same time, and admitted to every part of the yard and arsenal. Admiration was freely accorded by all to the comprehensive proportions and arrangements of the yard and arsenal, with the noble Napoleon dock and basins, the admirably-constructed workshops and stores of every kind, the extensive armoury and stores of large guns, rifled and smooth-bore, which lie in almost innumerable piles outside the armoury gates, with their shot and shell; to the interesting museum and model-room, the vast barracks, building sheds slipways, and the unrivalled enclosed water space of its basins and cambers, with their large quay accommodation for expediting the repair or refit of squadrons of men-of-war at the same time, and the wonderful facilities it possesses in these advantages for the assembling and simultaneous despatch by sea transport of large bodies of troops. Cherbourg dockyard at present, however, is not a busy place. There is a silence and want of life about it strangely at variance with its great proportions, but which may also be seen, to a lesser extent perhaps, in some of our own dockyards since iron superseded wood in the construction of ships of war. Shipbuilding, however, is still going on in some degree in Cherbourg yard, as the keels and beaks of two rams of the Magenta class — wooden hulls, with partial armour-plating and a water-line belt — are now in position on the blocks of two of the building sheds. There are also three avisos of the first class and a corvette on the stocks, and near completion, building of wood. The two rams with the beak, or rather "plough bow" of the Magenta, will both be of large tonnage and engine-power. The Iowa, a large merchant steamer, which foundered off the coast some time since, and was afterwards raised, lies in one of the large docks of the Napoleon basin, but with very few hands engaged on board of her. With some light forgings in the smithery and small jobs of work in the other metal and the carpenters' shops, this about represents the whole of the visible work going on in Cherbourg yard, although upwards of 5,000 hands are stated to be employed at the present time within its walls. There is a row of time-honoured wooden ships moored side by side in one of the basins, but otherwise, with the exception of the Guard or Flagship and the instruction vessel, there is no occupancy of the vast basins, which cost so much in their construction, and, like the majority of the docks and slipways, they appear utterly abandoned. There were many objects of interest in Cherbourg yard, however, which, whether busy with the hum of labour, or deserted for the time, secured the interest of the English visitor, and chief of which, possibly, was the submarine gunboat Le Plongeur. This novel creation of naval architecture is shaped externally like a tortoise, is be-tween 40ft. and 60ft. in length, and propelled by a kind of locomotive engine of about 12-horse power, driving a pair of screws at her stern. Its bow consists of a sliding port, fixed at an angle of about 45 deg., and which forms the gunport. Le Plongeur has been experimentally constructed to attack and destroy an enemy's feet with perfect immunity to herself. This is to be accomplished by approaching the enemy under water, and when his keel becomes visible to the pilot of La Plongeur the latter rises from underneath and discharges its terrible gun at the bottom of the unsuspecting ship, which, of course, immediately after goes down with all hands, while Le Plongeur dives again and screws away in search of another vessel. The French officers and officials of the yard, however, appear to have very considerable doubts as to Le Plongeur being anything more than an expensive experimental toy. The English Government, in fact, tried something similar in the Baltic during the war with Russia, and failed in producing anything at all destructive. We have a very Excellent form of submarine gun, however, on the plan suggested by Captain C.P. Coles, and which has already been tried with success on several occasions by the officers of Her Majesty's ship Excellent. Another curiosity in naval architecture is the Trireme, built for the use of the Emperor and Empress, after the style of the triremes of the Romans, which when in use is propelled by 130 oars. The nine wooden vessels which lie moored side by side in one of the basins are all of wood, some of very old form and build, and all of them necessarily quite useless now as ships of war. Among them are the Bayard, Clorinde, Austerlitz, Ville de Nantes, and the Napoleon screw liner.
The Napoleon Dock, 460 feet in length, and hewn out of the solid rock, naturally attracted much attention from the visitors. The armoury is kept with great care, as might be expected, and is ornamented with much taste. The principal room contains 15 large arm-racks standing down its centre, which at the present time hold about 9,000 muskets of the old smooth-bore pattern, not quite half of the French army being armed with rifles. Outside the armoury are ranged numerous piles of ordnance, for the greater part ordinary smooth-bores of small calibre, many being guns of similar weight and calibre to our own old medium 32-pounder. A few of the guns are, however, rifled, — on the ordinary three-groove principle, and on the two-rounded groove principle, both of small calibre, and muzzle-loading. The smithy and machine-shops are large and lofty buildings, all capitally arranged, but with tools and machinery neither very good nor modem in design or construction, unable to bear favourable comparison with our own yards East or West. The museum and model room of Cherbourg yard is always eagerly visited by strangers, containing, as it does, the slabs of stone from Napoleon’s grave at St. Helena, with models of the Digue and the whole of the docks, basins, and cambers of the yard. It also contains models of the various proposed plans for the creation of the yard and arsenal previous to the final plan being selected. To any person familiar with Lorient and Toulon, or with our own ports of Portsmouth, Chatham, and Keyham, Cherbourg dockyard offers a strangely deserted appearance in the absence of all bustle in its workshops and docks, and the presence of none but useless vessels for war purposes on the ample water spaces of its granite basins. The cavalry transport Avoyron, the only vessel whose decks give much signs of life in the yard, is a very handsome three-decked vessel, with a fine bold sheer of outline. She is fitted with stalls for 430 horses, with accommodation for the same number of troopers, and storage for the accompanying accoutrements and the necessary provisions and forage for a 30 days' voyage. She is now fitting for a voyage to Cochin China, We may remark here that Her Majesty's screw troopship Himalaya on one occasion conveyed from Portsmouth to the Crimea 386 horses, with officers and men, in 14 days. The capabilities of Cherbourg dockyard and its arsenal are to a great extent latent, and waiting occasion for their being called into life. It is simply a great naval rendezvous at present for the repair and refit of fleets — not singly, as with our dockyards, but in squadrons at one time, if the necessary plant or machinery were only erected in its vast shops and smitheries. Whatever its use may be in any war with a powerful maritime foe, it is certain for some time yet to come, by its perfect communication by rail with Brest and Paris, its unequalled, but as yet undeveloped powers, and its position as an advanced military position on the south shores of the Channel, to retain its present great importance as one of the most valuable Imperial ports in the possession of France.
During all these official doings Cherbourg has enjoyed itself after its own fashion — that is to say, after the fashion of provincial France suddenly hurried into gaiety and dissipation. The town itself differs little from the other towns of northern France, and the quaint streets of graystone gable-ended houses might all have been brought here from Caen or Abbeville for anything one can see to the contrary. Its naval and military importance is little shown, or shown, at most, in an increase of "bureaus" and houses with flags above and sentries beneath. Just now, however, every house is bedizened with flags, and every second house bright by night, and greasy and blotched about by day with oil-lamp rejoicings. The bridge that divides the upper and lower basins of the inner harbour is crowded with booths, merry-go-rounds, theatres, and Aunt Sallys, with the only difference that in France Aunt Sallys are shot at, never pelted. But Aunt Sallys here are like the straws that show the way the wind blows. When the Queen was here after the Crimean war the effigy was the Russian Emperor, with its inscription, "Un sou pour l'homme qui tue Nicholas." In the Austrian war it became a sou for the man who shot "Josef." It is a gratifying sign of the political quietude that none of the potentates of Europe are personified now, their place being filled ad interim by a nameless personage (the Emperors re-painted), whose familiar aspect excites no animosity and collects no sous. Old visitors to Cherbourg, too, will be amused to hear that at the foot of the bridge the "clerc dentiste" still plies his avocation as of yore. We are always complaining that the French cannot understand us — they may have as much to complain of ourselves, for at a glance it seems difficult to understand a people among whom public tooth-drawing enters into one of the chief attractions of a fair. Yet such is the fact. The mountebank, operator, dentist, or whatever the profession may choose to call him, has a large public practice. Mounted on the box of an old fiacre, and clad in the warlike costume which pictorial tradition ascribes to Hector, he drives what — but for his sole assistant, a drummer — would no doubt be literally a "roaring" trade. From under his Greek helmet he draws such a moving picture of the maladie des dents that scores come forward to be operated on. There is no deception in this case. There is no subterranean communication with confederates. Even the most enthusiastic “bonnet” would shrink from having his teeth drawn to induce others to follow his maimed example. What takes place after the harangue is very soon told. The sufferers, or wouldbe sufferers, are admitted by twos to the highest honours of the vehicle, and once before the gazing crowd there is no retreat before extraction. The instant the chief operator proceeds to business, the assistant rolls his drum with stunning vigour. What exclamations of human agony are stifled by that roll only Heaven and the sufferers know, but the public can guess at it from the peculiar look of stupid pallor with which the patients gaze around. Enough of this, however. It is sufficient to say that the drum is nearly always rolling, and when the clerc dentiste knocked off work yesterday evening there was quite a tray full of old teeth and stumps open to public admiration and a little puddle of blood on each side of the old fiacre. These, however, have not been the only "amusements" of Cherbourg. There has been and still is a fair, where, with the usual foresight of a paternal Government, everything is arranged and guarded by the military authorities — where there are sentries with fixed bayonets to examine your tickets to see the fat child, and cordons drawn around the booth where the wonderful ape exhibits in uniform. The whole fair, however, has really been most amusing. There were poles to climb for quarters of mutton or gaudy handkerchiefs, and at the end of the day, after scores had misadventured and a few had won, all the mutton had been gained and claimed and the handkerchiefs fluttered alone, not unconquered, but unsought for. It is hard to say what the cattle disease may bring us to in England, but if it ever leads the best of our peasantry to risk life and limb in crawling a pole for a leg of mutton it will have to be very bad indeed. Climbing the greasy pole was always thought to be merely a rustic feat of country fairs in England. Yet here it is carried to its highest climax, for the pole is slim and its summit very lofty indeed. Another most amusing game consists of blindfolding a number of men in grotesque masks and turning them loose into the arena armed with hooked sticks to find a rope in the centre. To this rope a bell is attached, and he who pulls it gains a pair of boots. Anything more absurd than the appearance of those men as with heads of lions, birds, or cats, they go blindly hitting each other and wandering in all directions in their vain search it is difficult to conceive, and the whole square where the fair was held echoed with roars of laughter. Of course the whole populace enter into the spirit of the fair with rather more than the usual French enthusiasm and impetuosity. Poor Leech's picture of the excitement on the bridge at Paris when Alphonse catches a goujon the size of his little finger is a grave and sober tableau compared to the ovation which greets a successful climber for a leg of mutton at the fair.
Last night the fleet illuminated. The sight was very beautiful, and the outlines of every vessel were distinctly seen by their lamps on the yards and mastheads, and twinkling rows of fire which marked the lights on every gun.
To-day has again been devoted to visits, and most of the French officers have been on board the English vessels. The chief attractions for beauty of outline have been the Black Prince and Achilles, The Hector also has found crowds of admirers, though no one has been regarded with such respect for its defensive powers as the turret ship Royal Sovereign.
A sad accident occurred here yesterday to a French pleasure party, whose boat was capsized while carrying too much sail to avoid an English steamer coming into the inner harbour. Four out of 10 were unfortunately drowned. It has been something marvellous that there has been only this accident, for the high wind and squally weather have rendered boating of all kinds unusually dangerous.
To-night all the officers of the fleet will be entertained at a magnificent ball at the Hôtel de Ville.
To-morrow, at noon, the fleet gets under way. Only the two flag ships are to exchange salutes.
|Sa 19 August 1865||The following is from the Moniteur du Soir of the 16th inst.:-|
"The British squadron at Cherbourg yesterday joined our sailors in the celebration of the Emperors fête. The French squadron, in its turn, will shortly go to England. It is known how the two countries were brought to this exchange of visits. A report having been spread that ships belonging to the Imperial Navy would this year make an excursion in the Channel and the North Sea, several English seaport towns solicited the favour of receiving our flag; but this step having led to diplomatic communications, the two Cabinets agreed to send their squadrons reciprocally in the course of the season. England expressed a wish that her fleet should pass the day of the 15th of August at Cherbourg. France can but congratulate herself on the sentiments of friendship and courtesy which inspired the British Government with this thought."
The Moniteur Universel of the 17th repeats the above paragraph.
|Sa 19 August 1865|
THE NAVAL FETES AT CHERBOURG
The Duke of Somerset, replying to the toast, thanked the Minister for the sentiments he had expressed, and said they accepted the toast as a proof of the cordial friendship of the Emperor and the French nation for the English Queen and the English people. They also, on their part, entertained the same sentiments of esteem for the Emperor of the French. They trusted His Majesty might long continue to enjoy his present good health. This they desired, not only because it was for the welfare of the two countries, but also because it tended to guarantee the happiness and the pacific progress of Europe. In proposing the health of the Emperor he spoke not in the name of the Government or of any political party, but in the name of every enlightened Englishman.
|Sa 19 August 1865||The Fire Queen steam yacht, Staff Commander Paul, returned to Portsmouth harbour yesterday morning from Cherbourg with Admiral Sir M. Seymour, G.C.B., and Rear-Admiral Wellesley, when their respective flags were rehoisted on board the Victory and Asia. The Sprightly steam tender, Mater Commander Allen, followed shortly after. The Royal Sovereign, turret ship, Capt. Herbert, returned and anchored at Spithead yesterday afternoon from Cherbourg. The Octavia, steam frigate, Capt. C.F. Hillyar, C.B., and the Constance, screw frigate, Capt. E.K. Barnard, also arrived at Spithead (under canvas), the latter ship exchanging salutes with the Port-Admiral's flagship Victory, this being her first visit since she has been in commission. The Urgent troopship, Capt. S. Henderson, followed, and came directly into the harbour to land the naval and other officers to whom she had been appropriated. It is understood that the Admiralty yacht Enchantress, with the Lords of the Admiralty, with the Edgar, flagship of Sir S.C. Dacres, and the remainder of the Channel squadron, have gone to Brest, and may not be at Spithead for a few days.|
|Ma 21 August 1865|
THE FLEET AT CHERBOURG.
Many English visitors have, besides inspecting the Magenta, examined both the Flandres and Heroine. Each of those ships is so like the other that they may be almost called sister vessels. Both are certainly most decided improvements on the Magenta; but, besides the radical defects of widely-opened ports, common to all the ironclads of the French navy, they have other deficiencies which place them far below the standard of our own. One description will do for both, and may be very shortly given. They are wooden ships, having a framing altogether about 3½ft. in thickness. They have no inner iron skin, and the upper deck beams are fastened to the sides by what we may call very powerful oak and iron brackets. The iron armour is about 4¾in. thick, and is fastened to the wooden framework by what are termed "wood screws." Of course, this name only applies to the formation of the screw, which is made of iron of a peculiarly soft and stubborn nature. These screws bite into the wood to a depth of about 19in., and it must be said that this method of securing the plates is so infinitely superior to our own defective system of through bolts as really to leave no means of comparison between the two. It may be in the recollection of our readers that a target, built exactly to represent the broadside of the Flandres, was tried last year at Shoeburyness, and broke up at once before a few shots from a 150-pounder. The oak and iron brackets we have spoken of were wrenched away and scattered piecemeal to wide distances, while the splinters from the oak backing itself were forced like arrows through the supports of the target. Nothing could be gathered from the inspection at Cherbourg to show that what had happened to the target would not of certainty occur to the vessel itself. As a wooden ship she has, of course, no transverse watertight bulkheads. Her armament is of the same mixed description of rifled and smoothbore guns as on board the Magenta. She carries only 30 guns, and none are apparently above 60-pounders. Her ports arc large old-fashioned square apertures, like the windows of a house, and are close together. Both the Flandres and Heroine are said to possess high speed, almost a more important element of warlike strength than either armament or armour. In general outline they much resemble our own vessel the Prince Consort, which also is only a wooden ship plated, and has no armour bulkheads athwart ships.
After all the visiting was over on Thursday, the festivities at Cherbourg were brought to a close by a ball at the Hôtel de Ville. The night was not one that would be chosen on ordinary occasions for a ball to naval officers, for the weather was squally with showers of rain, and the visitor in full uniform who has to undergo a two miles pull in an open boat under such conditions has but small chance of appearing to advantages. But, nevertheless, nearly everybody went. To an English naval officer what is the worst of weather to the best of balls to which he is invited? So the boats were passing all night long between the fleet and the shore, the dim lights in which just sufficed to show the brilliant uniforms of the naval and military guests, and the gleam of the orders with which so many were decorated. Among the most remarkable of the celebrities who went from the Urgent was Dr. John Urquhart, a gentleman who was assistant-surgeon at the bombardment of Copenhagen, who was in the action off the Bay of Cadiz, an assistant-surgeon at Trafalgar, a surgeon in 1810 — just 55 years ago. This veteran wore the uniform which was the regulation more than half a century since — before the captains, or, indeed, most of the admirals, of the present day were born. It is needless to say, with what marked respect and deference the French officers received this relic of what we may almost call a past age.
The Hôtel de Ville was brilliantly illuminated. It consists of three fine saloons — the first the municipal hall proper; the second built since Cherbourg has expanded into its present importance, and called the Emperor's saloon; the third, named the Queen's, as having been used on the occasion of Her Majesty's visit, and as containing a magnificent picture of that event. All the halls and staircases leading to these rooms were profusely decorated with banks of flowers, mirrors, evergreens, and clusters of lights, while the saloons themselves were in keeping with their beautiful approaches. Everywhere were displayed splendid trophies of arms — stars, shields, and devices made up of weapons only — pistols, swords, muskets, and bayonets. Conspicuous for its merit, where all was good, was a wonderful representation of the Imperial Eagle, made entirely of bayonets and sabre-blades. It was difficult, even with the most careful examination, to understand how so perfect an effigy of the king of birds could have been constructed out of such inflexible materials. In the Emperor's saloon hung the magnificent silver-gilt chandelier presented to the Hôtel by His Majesty. The other saloons were lit by most curiously-grouped chandeliers made of pistols with wax-lights in the muzzles of the weapons. In fact, nothing connected with the saloons was left to be desired save that which was impossible — namely, that they could have been made larger. To accommodate 500 people at a ball they would have sufficed, but as more than 1,500 had been asked, and nearly 1,200 came, it followed as a matter of course that the throng was somewhat inconveniently dense. and dancing was almost impossible. Of course, nothing was done till the Duke of Somerset and the Lords of the Admiralty arrived, with Admiral Dacres, the Admiral of the squadron, Lord de Grey and Ripon, Lady Clarence Paget, Lord and Lady Wilton, and a few other distinguished visitors from the yachts. From the thronged state of the rooms, the whole entertainment partook more of the nature of a stately conversazione than a ball. Still, dancing to a certain, or rather to an uncertain, extent did go on under more or less of difficulties, and it was amusing to see how the "middies" and youngsters from the English fleet always selected the biggest ladies they could find as partners, and with what energy then bounced against group after group in the crowd in their untiring efforts to keep up the dancing. The supper was on a profuse scale of hospitality, though certainly not more than half the visitors partook of it, for most of the officers, English and French, were anxious to get on board early, not knowing at what hour to-day the fleet would sail. Fortunately the night was still and calm, and all were enabled to reach their ships with an ease and speed that was almost luxurious as compared with the stormy passages of previous days.
At the departure of the fleet, reduced by the dismissal to Portsmouth, of the Royal Sovereign, Research, Octavia, and Liverpool, only the flag-ships exchanged salutes. The vessels of the English squadron that have been selected to go on will be met off Brest by four of the French ironclads, but, as we said before, no evolutions of any kind, combined or separate, will be gone through. The captains of the English men-of-war are to be entertained at dinner at Brest, and both English and French vessels will then return to Portsmouth, where similar festivities to those at Cherbourg will, it is expected, take place. It is mere justice to say, in conclusion, that this vessel - the Urgent - which has been fitted up by the Admiralty and placed at the disposal of a large party of most distinguished naval and military officers, has in point of comfort and care for all, answered even the highest expectations of those who knew they would have a pleasant cruise under Captain Henderson. It would be difficult to overpraise the genial and unwearying courtesy with which Captain Henderson himself attended to the convenience of his guests, or the zeal with which Mr. Morrison carried out his chiefs wishes and the wishes of his chiefs visitors. Rarely, even for such a holyday trip, has a more pleasant party assembled on board any of Her Majesty’s ships, and it was with real regret, on their return to Portsmouth on Friday night, that they wished "good bye" to the ship and its commander and officers.
At the banquet given in the Hôtel de Ville on the 15th inst. by M. de Chasseloup-Laubat, Minister of Marine, to the Lords of the English Admiralty, Rear-Admiral Dacres, and the principal naval and military officers, his Excellency delivered the following speech:-
"Gentlemen,- I propose to you the health of Her Majesty Queen Victoria. It is a great honour and a real satisfaction to me to have to propose this toast to-day. It is a very great honour, for I come here in the Emperor's name to welcome the representatives of the British navy, and I thank them, with the French navy, for having joined us on the fête day of our august Sovereign. It is also a very sincere satisfaction to me, and this feeling should be shared by every sincere friend to his country and humanity. It is a still greater satisfaction to see this cordial and fraternal union in a port which has already witnessed the meeting of the Queen and the Emperor. Thank God, gentlemen, the time of hostile rivalry is past, emulation alone remains in all that can advance the cause of civilization and liberty in the world. Believe me that will be a grand and noble page in which, narrating the reign of our Emperor and your Sovereign, history shall tell how, entering upon an entirely new era, our flags no longer met but to open in union now and vaster horizons to human activity, and how in our disinterestedness we summoned all nations to share the reward of our efforts. That will be a noble page, also, which will show old prejudices eradicated from the hearts of the two nations, and their manufactures, hand-in-hand, advancing unceasingly to diffuse prosperity among all men, and then displaying their wonders in those splendid tournaments to which we by turns invite the workers of the world. Yes, gentlemen, freedom of the seas, the pacific contests of labour, and the beneficent conquests of commerce - such is the signification of these two noble flags to-day united before us. May God ever protect them, and for you, gentlemen, may He preserve to you your gracious Sovereign. 'To Her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain!'"
After this toast, which was received with applause, the Duke of Somerset spoke as follows:—
"Gentlemen, — I have heard with great pleasure the toast proposed by the Minister of Marine, as well as the speech by which it is accompanied. All Englishmen will feel a strong sentiment of gratitude in learning that upon this auspicious day, in the midst of this select assembly, the first toast proposed by the French Minister was the health of the Queen of England. We accept it as a proof of the cordial amity the Government of France — and, I trust, the entire nation — feels for our gracious Sovereign and our country. I reply upon the part of the British Government — and I feel confident that I also express the views of the great majority of the English people — when I say that we are actuated by the same sentiments with regard to the Sovereign of France and the French people. We wish that the good understanding which now exists between the two countries may be of long duration. We wish it not only because such a friendship between the two nations tends to augment the welfare of England and of France, but also because it tends to secure the happiness and the peaceful progress of Europe. We accept with all our hearts the statement of the Minister that the days of hostile rivalry have disappeared, to give place to an epoch of generous emulation. Whenever the fleets of the two nations have acted together, as they have recently done in China and Japan, they have not been actuated by any egotistical feeling of aggrandizement, but have solely endeavoured to make the faith of treaties respected and to obtain for all other peoples the same advantages they procured for their own fellow-subjects. I hope that the two countries will always continue on this course. I propose the health of the Emperor, the elect of the French people, and in proposing this toast I wish to speak not only in the name of the Government of which I am a member, or of any political party, but in the name of every enlightened Englishman. 'To the Health of the Emperor, the Empress, and the Imperial Prince. Long live the Emperor!'"
This speech was received with the greatest enthusiasm.
|Ma 21 August 1865|
Some of the best letters that have described the fêtes are from the pen of the special correspondent of the Patrie, Mr. Launoy, an old Crimean, who is remarkably correct with respect to English details, names, titles, &c. In his last letter, dated Cherbourg Roadstead, August 17, he describes the great banquet of the 16th on board the Magenta, to which 60 persons sat down. He concludes as follows:-
"Towards 10 o'clock, at the moment when the Duke of Somerset and the Marquis of Chasseloup-Laubat, Minister of Marine, were getting into their boats to return to their respective ships, three rockets rose from the Magenta, and at the signal the whole of the French and English ships were illuminated as if by enchantment. Numerous Bengal lights, of various colours, fixed upon the yards and in the ports of the ships, threw a magical light over the whole roadstead, exciting the liveliest admiration among the population of Cherbourg, which thronged the quays. Some of the English vessels carried their attention so far as to illuminate the three mists with three different fires, to as to give the French national colours. Thus ended this memorable day. The. previous day's rain had been succeeded by a rather violent wind, which did not prevent the intrepid visitors from pulling about the roadstead in all directions. Some accidents, fortunately without bad consequences, added to the emotions of the day. Three boats were capsized, but all the persons on board them were saved. We make a point of mentioning this to refute any exaggerated reports and to save uneasiness to families."
On the 17th the French Admiral commanding in chief, Baron de la Roncière le Noury, gave a large breakfast on board the Magenta. The Minister of Marine passed the day in visiting the vessels of the English squadron, beginning with the Royal Sovereign. That night, as you doubtless know, a dinner was given by the Maritime Prefect, and a ball followed, given by the city of Cherbourg. The English vessels Enchantress and Osborne, with the Lords of the Admiralty on board, were to visit Granville, St. Malo, and other places, and will reach Brest only to-morrow. The rest of the squadron went direct. From Brest they write that the fêtes there will be very brilliant. On the second day there is to be a ball on board the French ship Ville de Lyon, lying in the harbour. That vessel has been disarmed, and has now been completely re-armed, in order to be in a proper state to receive the guests. The preparations making are on a prodigious scale; it is said the ball will cost 4,000l. It is given to the English navy by the French army and fleet, which give up a day's pay to meet the expenses. Any deficiency is made up by the arsenal. There is to be a regatta, probably lasting two days, and a grand dinner and evening party at the Maritime Prefecture will bring the fêtes to a close.
|Ma 21 August 1865||His Belgian Majesty's paddle despatch vessel Belgique, Commander Hoed, arrived at Portsmouth on Saturday from Cherbourg. The Belgique has 24 officers of the Belgian army and navy on board, sent by their Government on a visit to the French and English, ironclad squadrons recently at Cherbourg, and also to the chief English and French naval establishments on either side of the Channel. Soon after the vessel's arrival Commander Hoed paid the usual formal visit to the Admiral and Lieut.-Gen. commanding the port and garrison, accompanied by the Belgian Vice-Consul, the Chevalier Van den Bergh. Commander Hoed and the officers from the Belgique afterwards visited the dockyard and several of the ships fitting for active service. The Belgique sails from Portsmouth on Tuesday for Ostend.|
|Tu 22 August 1865|
|We 23 August 1865||Were we to inform the world with sufficient gravity that we are on the eve of a very great conflict, with the likelihood of disaster, we should somewhat ruffle the present calm. But a conflict of hospitalities is quite as formidable to most English minds as one of the rougher kind. We can easily imagine, indeed, that at this moment some of the officials at Portsmouth would be less embarrassed by such a visit as our Engineers have been reckoning upon than by the peaceful invasion of the French Fleet we expect in a few days. We trust, then, we shall give no offence by suggesting the bare possibility of a defeat at Portsmouth in the shape of inadequate preparations, conflicting arrangements, overloaded programmes, omitted duties, neglected personages, and the return to chaos we have occasionally seen in immense assemblages under divided commands. Under the circumstances of the case our own wishes themselves will not be easily reconciled. We certainly wish it to be a grand affair, worthy of the nation and the occasion. But here are all the metropolis, the two services, a garrison, several counties, and the large class of English men and women on the move, ready to bear down upon Spithead the moment they are told of a really grand affair. Who does not remember the great Naval Review at Portsmouth before the Russian war? It will not be easily forgotten by those who spent the whole of the following night on the rail between Portsmouth and London.|
Everybody on such an occasion comes to see and to be seen. Every crew, both of the visitors and the host, expects to enjoy the gala, and to make a good figure. There will be ceremonies to be observed, and courtesies to be exchanged. The banquets, no doubt, will be done with due magnificence. As to the balls, what is the best wish we can express for them? There is not a young lady within fifty miles, or a hundred rather, who will not wish to be there. So of partners there need be no lack. But a ball, after an, though a noun of multitude, is a finite thing, and is bound by conditions of time and space. It cannot be protracted much beyond sunrise, nor can it be extended beyond 1,500, half of them to be actual dancers. It is lawful and reasonable to wish for this extent; not for more. But is there a room or a suite of rooms at Portsmouth capacious enough? At Cherbourg they could only get up a "crush" for want of space. Is there no vacant "slip;" no empty storehouse, available at Portsmouth? With prevision, and much thought, and money, and the humbling conviction that we are no great hands at this sort of thing, we may, perhaps, acquit ourselves as well as our neighbours. Then as to regattas, and fireworks, and illuminations, they give a dash of brilliancy to occasions that otherwise would hardly deserve the name of success. A fête, after all, is seldom anything more than a fête. It must stand on its own merits, and not appeal to any future test, except our recollections. The Naval Review above mentioned was a very splendid scene, even though tedious, and with one or two breakdowns, which the Legislature, happily, had the privilege of observing. But the giants we were then so proud of did very little service, and are now obsolete. That Review is a thing of the past in all senses. It may be doubted whether it did any good at all, - nay, whether it did not do harm. But it was a grand spectacle, and a pledge that England would do her best. It marks, too, a point in our naval architecture which we have now left far behind.
For such a purpose there can be no comparison between Portsmouth and Cherbourg. The latter is 230 miles from Paris, at the extremity of a not very populous province, with hardly a good town near it. The port, with its harbour, is altogether a modern creation. Cherbourg is Cherbourg, and nothing more. Portsmouth, on the contrary, is surrounded by favourite cities, popular watering-places, and a most delightful country, within three or four hours of London. Its breakwater is not an artificial digue, but a beautiful island, full of cities, ports, picturesque villages, and luxurious villas. The headquarters of the Yacht Club, as well as the marine palace of the Queen, look over this vast natural harbour. There is no such combination of interesting objects in the world, and nowhere probably so many households of the quality that contributes most to the gaiety of such an occasion. Here are all the materials for a great success in almost too great an abundance. What is wanted? Why do we insinuate a misgiving? Do we not remember occasions on which the national habit of leaving people and things to themselves, and the national jealousy of one head and one management, operated fatally on the results? Spontaneous action and development may do very well in what is called social progress, the pace of which must be slow, and which is in the nature of a procession; but they do not answer so well when the thing to be done is a ceremony, a spectacle, a fête, an entertainment, a funereal pomp, an inauguration, a reception, or any such extraordinary affair. In these cases it is unity of design and vigour of execution that carry the day, In truth, these are the battles of civil life. They are not to be done by the irregulars and guerrillas of society, each doing that which is right in its own eyes.
As a naval spectacle there is even less to see than there was ten years ago. Our iron-clads, enormous as they are, depart further and further from the old picturesque ideals of naval warfare. They lie on the water like immense black whales, or still more shapeless monsters, with scarcely a line of grace, with low and scanty rigging, narrow portholes, and small signs of life within. The nautical eye will detect their vast size, and regard them with proper respect, but they look very vulgar creatures, and withal most unloving and most unlovable. We shall get accustomed to them as we got over our first disgust at steam, and our forefathers surmounted their instinctive horror of gunpowder. But the difficulty now is that there is really nothing to see, except a long black wall rising out of the water, which, with some observation, one may discover to move, and to have signs of vitality. But, of course, people will want to see a thing, be it ever so ugly, that has cost so much, and is to do so much, and may hereafter perform so conspicuous a part in the world's history. So it is vain to tell Londoners that they will see nothing at Portsmouth to compare with the Great Eastern. They must judge for themselves. Let them go by all means; but we hope they will see something more, and that it will be better worth seeing. This is for the legion of sight-seers. The scientific folks will require no apology for ugliness. They like it rather than otherwise.
|Th 24 August 1865|
THE VISIT OF THE FRENCH FLEET TO PORTSMOUTH.The preparation for the entertainments to be given by the naval, civil, and military authorities at Portsmouth to the officers of the French fleet progresses very satisfactorily. The ballroom in course of construction, under the supervision of the superintending civil engineer of the dockyard, in the quadrangle of the Royal Naval College, is already partially floored and roofed in, and will be handed over to the upholsterers and decorators on the 26th inst. - that is, three days before the arrival of the fleets at Spithead from Brest, so that ample time will remain to complete all the details. The approaches to the Naval College are exceedingly good, with a wide semicircular drive for the arrival and departure of carriages. The entrance hall of the College is very spacious, and will, when properly decorated, form a most appropriate vestibule to the ballroom. The latter is being constructed, as we have already stated, in the quadrangle of the College, and is 107ft. in length by 55ft. in breadth, clear of all the upright timbers. Its height is 20ft. to the plates of the roof and 36ft. to its apex. Right and left of the ballroom from the entrance the supper tables will be arranged in the College rooms, access being gained to the latter from the ballroom by temporary broad flights of steps. At the opposite end of the ballroom to the entrance a temporary opening has been made into the College gymnasium, which will be elegantly decorated and fitted with refreshment buffets. The ballroom itself will be made to represent a vast tent, whose roof and walls are composed of the tricolour of France. The apex of the roof of this tent, and the plate line, will be marked with a gold cable four inches in diameter, to relieve the somewhat monotonous outline which would otherwise predominate. Banks of shrubs and flowering plants will be placed round the base of the hall and its approaches, while rich trophies of arms and flags will decorate the walls. Seven devices in gas will also occupy positions on the walls, and 40 candelabra of four wax lights each have also been provided for the same purpose. From the roof of the hall will hang massive chandeliers with wax lights. The orchestra is set back from the ballroom, and will not, therefore, detract from the space given. It will be a noble room; but still, with even its unusual size, the question remains, is it sufficiently large for the occasion? We ourselves doubt it, for accommodation should have been provided for thousands where it is now only being provided for hundreds. There is every probability of the "crush" at the Admiralty Ball at Portsmouth being greater even than that recently experienced at the ball given in honour of our flag at the Hôtel de Ville, Cherbourg.
On board Her Majesty's ships in Portsmouth Harbour all are eager to do a something, no matter how trifling, that may render any chance visit of their French brethren one of mutual and hearty good feeling, On board the Duke of Wellington there are, as yet, none of those extraordinary arrangements visible by which her decks will be transformed from their grim sternness of the present to the dazzling splendour they are intended to assume. Although not visible on board, however, all necessary provisions are made, and under the energetic direction of Capt. Seccombe, who bears a wonderful reputation for taste and general management in such matters, the final issue of the arrangements on board the Duke is certain to be successful. It has been suggested by some fastidious people that a ship bearing some other name than that of the military opponent of the Great Napoleon might have been selected by our Admiralty for the occasion. This, however, is sheer nonsense. Old rivalries in arms are now forgotten by both nations, or only remembered as so many pages in history which two peoples, formerly endeavouring to the uttermost to destroy each other, may now study together and with mutual benefit. Besides, is not the ship an old companion in arms of the Imperial navy, carrying as she did the flag of a British admiral in company with one bearing the tricolour of an admiral of France on the waters of the Baltic Sea? On board no ship here or elsewhere will the officers of the French navy receive a heartier welcome than on board the Duke of Wellington. Turning to the military portion of the coming fêtes, and which will necessarily be restricted, owing to the limited stay of the fleets at Spithead, if for no other cause, every precaution is being taken to render whatever manoeuvres may be decided upon by the authorities as effective as possible. Amid all this note of preparation and bustle in the naval and military camps, the civil element is not silent. A working committee, with the Mayor, Mr. R.W. Ford, at its head, is energetically employed in making complete the preparations of the citizens for the entertainment of our honoured guests. Nearly 1,500l. has already been sent in to the committee to meet the necessary expenses, but a total of 2,000l. is required for the purpose, which, however, will no doubt in good time be forthcoming. It is a most gratifying proof of the good feeling entertained by all classes to read in the subscription list the names of many county families and others living at a distance from Portsmouth. Their money has been handed in no doubt from a feeling that the entertainment of the officers of the French fleet at Portsmouth is a national rather than a local question, and that too great honour could not well be done to the guests of the occasion.
The "Governor's Green" where the civic entertainments will be given, is, as its name implies, a large and nearly square plot of green sward, and is admirably situate for the purpose. It is in close contiguity to the main street of the town, and has unusually wide approaches for entrance and exit. On two sides it is bounded by the sea face of the town ramparts, and on the others by the garrison church, monastery wall, railways, &c. The entrance to the Green from the Grand Parade will be under a triumphal arch, which, if only executed as designed, will produce a striking effect and be a credit to all concerned. Triumphal arches are, however, generally speaking, very ticklish matters to deal with. They may turn out exceedingly well, or they may prove to be excessively ridiculous, and it would therefore be unwise to venture on any prophecy relative to the one at Portsmouth. The triumphal arch passed through, the Governor's Green is fairly entered upon, and in the immediate front and on the right of the visitor, under the elm trees, on the fortifications, and by the line of railings alluded to, will be lofty poles, with bannerets, connected with festoons of evergreens and lit up by night with gas in opaque shades. On the left of the entrance are the buildings and marquees in which the entertainments, consisting of a déjeuner, promenade concert, and ball, will take place. A decorated porch of entrance leads into the first hall or apartment, circular in form, and 80ft. in diameter. From this an ante-room leads to another apartment, 140ft. in length by 40ft. in breadth. This latter is but a continuation of the main apartment in which the déjeuner will be given, a permanent building 100ft. in length by 50ft in breadth, presenting a broad vista of 240ft. in length. All will be brilliantly illuminated with gas, and decorated with choice flowering plants, evergreens, arms, and flag trophies, &c. The committee have ample space to work upon, even for the display of all the art enthusiasm available in or around Portsmouth, and there can be no doubt that all the ornamentation will be effective, in good taste, and to the entire satisfaction of both friends and guests.
The programme, so far as it has been settled at present between Admirals Drummond and Eden at the Admiralty — the two official lords on duty in town — and Admiral Sir Michael Seymour at Portsmouth, has been somewhat modified since Tuesday last, and until the Duke of Somerset and the lords now at Brest return to Portsmouth the programme will remain subject to still further modifications. At present the intentions of the Admiralty, so far as they can be ascertained, are to give a dinner on board the Duke of Wellington on the evening of the 29th, the night of the arrival of the fleet. On the following day a dinner to about 100 will be given in the ball-room of the Royal Naval College. On the next day, the 31st, a review of the troops will take place on Southsea-common in the morning, and in the afternoon and evening the civic authorities and inhabitants will entertain the French Minister of Marine and officers of the French fleet in the Governor's Green. On the 1st of September Sir Michael Seymour gives a private dinner at the Admiralty-house, and the ball and supper take place afterwards at the Naval College. Beyond this nothing definitive is known. With the Duke of Somerset and Lord Clarence Paget at the end of one set of telegraphic wires at Brest, the two lords at the Admiralty who are supposed to have the sole arrangement of the coming festivities, and with Sir Michael Seymour as the target for both parties to fire their messages at, it is impossible to say what may be the precise length or breadth of the ultimate official programme. The dockyard, arsenal, and other public establishments will, as is usual with us, be open to the inspection of the French officers every day of their stay at the port, and some return in this respect will, therefore, be made for the extraordinary courtesy and kindness shown to English officers and civilians when going over Cherbourg dockyard during the recent visit of the fleets there. The dockyard of Portsmouth could almost be stowed away in one of the basins of Cherbourg yard, and therefore, if judged by its area only, must appear contemptibly small in the eyes of Frenchmen. The stores and workshops of Portsmouth yard are all pigmies, also, compared with those of Cherbourg; but the machinery in the factory of Portsmouth yard is immeasurably superior in every respect to that in Cherbourg yard, as are also the steamhammer and forges of the smithery. The new foundry, also, is worthy of our reputation as a people that are "workers in metal;" and the pattern shop is unrivalled in any country for its collection of engineering patterns. Of iron ships there are a few that may well pass muster — the ironcased frigate Royal Alfred, fitting for carrying, 12-ton guns on her broadside; the Valiant, iron frigate, in No. 10 dock, completing for commission; the Wivern and Scorpion, Captains H. Burgoyne, V.C., and Commerell, V.C., both double-turreted ships, and each fitted to carry four 12-ton guns, at a maximum draught of water of 12ft.; the Helicon, paddle despatch-vessel, in the bow of which the officers of the Magenta and Solferino may recognise the "beak" of their own ships; the Mersey, wooden frigate, the largest and finest of her class ever constructed; and lastly, though not least important, the iron frigate Minotaur, with her beautiful hull and machinery and most abominable style of rig. To the officers of the French fleet this ship, as she now lies in dock, will be an object of great interest, and the dock also in which she lies, the only dock we have fit to show a stranger, exhibits itself also at the same time under the best possible conditions in having on its blocks one of the largest ironclads in the world. Although, therefore, Portsmouth yard is small and ill-arranged, it yet contains ships and material which will interest our visitors, and upon which we shall be glad to receive their criticism while endeavouring to return the courtesy they themselves have exhibited to us under similar circumstances.
|Th 24 August 1865|
The French Minister of Marine is accompanied by M. Coquereau, chief almoner of the fleet, and by M. Dupuy de Lôme, chief engineer of naval constructions. The well-known French marine painter, Durand-Brager, who was with the French navy in the Crimea and in Italy, has also taken a passage on board the Reine Hortense, and follows M. Chasseloup-Laubat through the whole expedition. At Brest a pupil of Gudin's exhibits, on the occasion of the fêtes, a picture of a combat in the Bay of Audieme between an English frigate and a French corvette and brig escorting a convoy. The following account of the weather at Brest, from an interesting letter of the 20th addressed to the Constitutionnel, augurs ill for the festivities:—
"A gloomy night, with a small, close rain and a constant fog, which penetrates to the very bones. I have been unable to enjoy the beautiful spectacle presented by the roadstead when lighted up by the moon. The days are capricious, and little better than the nights. Either it is fine in the morning and rains towards evening, or else the mornings are bad and the evenings fine; settled weather seems not to be had. Yesterday I went out to see the ironclads, and at the same time to make trial of a little steamvessel, l'Aigle. This is an open boat, fitted with a screw, carrying about ten persons, and worked by a vertical engine. It is the first boat of the kind that has been possessed by a private person at Brest, and it is a great success. Its speed is great. We did in two hours what a sailing boat would have taken half a day to do. First, we visited the wooden ships. There were the Louis XIV, the Jean Bart, the Bretagne, our finest models of naval architecture; one transport arming, and another, the Allier, in quarantine. The latter had just returned from Mexico, and had landed her troops, but the yellow flag at her mizen told of sanitary measures required on board. One imagines transports to be a sort of sea-waggon or diligence, built so as to contain as much as possible, and with little regard to appearance or elegance of form; but these vessels are of a very graceful build. As to the ironclads, the Black Squadron, as it is called, which are the chief objects of interest, when one sees them close one changes one’s opinion a little concerning them. One thinks no longer of elegance or grace, but one is conscious of strength in its most complete expression. These enormous masses are manoeuvred with such precision that the four frigates Normandie, Couroune, Provence, and Invincible were drawn up in a line as exactly straight as if they had been soldiers just dressed by the drill-sergeant. It struck me that an ironclad is to a wooden vessel what the Farnese Hercules is to the Apollo Belvedere. The Hercules is not without a beauty of his own."
A letter in the Moniteur, from Brest, gives a list of the French and English iron-clad fleets afloat in April of this year, The French fleet consisted of the Solferino, 1,000-horse power. Her extremities are iron-plated only to the load water-line. The Magenta is a sister ship. The Magnanime, Valeureuse, Provence, Surveillante, Flandre, and Héroine, are all of 1,000-horse power; and the Invincible, Gloire, Normandie, and Couronne, all 900-horse, are completely iron-clad. The English fleet is set down as consisting of the Agincourt, 1,350-horse power, completely iron-clad; the Warrior, 1,250-horse power, extremities iron to load water-line; the Black Prince, 1,250-horse power, partially iron-clad; the Achilles, 1,250-horse power, iron except at extremities; the Royal Oak, 800-horse power, completely iron-clad; the Prince Consort, 1,000-horse poorer, completely iron-clad; the Caledonia, 1,000-horse power, completely iron-clad; the Ocean, 1,000-power, completely iron-clad; the Hector, 800-horse power, iron-clad; the Zealous, 800-horse power, almost completely iron-clad; the Valiant, 800-horse power, partially iron-clad; and the Resistance and the Defence, 600-horse power, partially iron-clad. If this statement be correct, in April last each fleet consisted of 13 vessels.
|Fr 25 August 1865|
The following letter of the 20th from Brest, dated on board the Admiral’s ship Solferino, to which fine vessel it chiefly relates; is not without interest;-
"Upon this, the first day of the regatta, all the races laid down in the programme took place, but the weather was very bad; it poured in torrents. Nevertheless, a considerable crowd had assembled at the commercial port, the point of departure of the boats, and the jetty was covered with spectators. For my part, profiting by a boat obligingly placed at my disposal, I went on board the Solferino, whence, and concerning which magnificent vessel, I shall now write to you. Seen from a distance, ironclads appeal little to the imagination, Those enormous masses, entirely black, almost always under steam, are far from having the elegance of sailing-vessels. But scarcely has one mounted the ladder and set foot on deck when the ship appears to him under its true aspect, that of size combined with strength, and one has before his eyes a perfect specimen of the most terrible engine of war the ingenuity of man has as yet invented. At the moment of my arrival the Admiral was passing an inspection, and I saw the crew march past, in fighting equipment, while the ship's band played, formed in a circle on the poop. Eight hundred and fifty men — and what men! — thus filed past, armed some with rifles and some with the terrible boarding sabre. After the inspection, an order of the day of the Admiral's was read to the crew; double rations were granted to the squadron on occasion of its arrival at Brest. Then mass was said, and afterwards I had every facility given me for visiting the ship in all its parts. The Solferino, built at Lorient, launched in 1861, is ironclad, with a spur (beak or ram forwards). Her armour does not consist only of her external plates, but is completed by two internal transversal partitions, entirely closing the batteries, so that the men at their guns can be hit only by balls which enter through the portholes. The ship's armament consists of 52 guns, of which 12 are smooth 50-pounders, 36 rifled breech-loading 30-pounders, and two rifled 80-pound howitzers, two others of the same calibre being on deck. The projectiles for the howitzers are of the pointed-cylinder form, and weigh 82 kilogrammes. In the upper battery are the fore-carriages of the pieces that may be landed. Three powder-rooms contain the ammunition necessary for the guns, at the rate of 125 shots a gun, or 7,000 to 8,000 altogether. The powder rooms are protected on all sides by incombustible felt and sheet-iron. The ship is a screw; her double-cylinder engine is placed entirely below the first orlop deck. Eight boilers, each containing 15 tons of water, supply the steam. There are three wheels for steering with; one is unprotected, the second is in the iron turret in the middle of the deck, and this communicates with a third, placed on the first orlop deck. This triple system secures the guidance of the ship under all circumstances. Forwards from the upper battery, outside the ironclad partition, are the kitchen and bakehouse, where bread can be made for 800 persons a day. Further forward is the infirmary, containing eight beds of extreme cleanliness. The length of the Solferino, from her stern to the extremity of her spur, is 86 metres (upwards of 280 feet); her greatest breadth, is 18 metres (about 60 feet); the greatest depth of the hull is from 14 to 15 metres, of which 8½ metres above the load water-line. The weight of the whole vessel is 7,000 tons. Imagine the frightful effect of such a mass, armed with its spur, and going at the rate of 11 knots an hour, coming full tilt against an enemy! The Solferino, with the whole Mediterranean squadron, will leave Brest on Monday, to arrive next morning at Portsmouth. The squadron will probably remain three days at that port, whence, after having touched at Cherbourg to coal, it will return direct to Toulon."
A letter of the 21st, from Brest, in the Moniteur, runs as follows:—
"It is 7 o’clock, fine weather, and the day promises to be beautiful. The whole population of the city and the 100.000 strangers now here are making for heights which command a view over the roadstead. Abd-el-Kader arrived here this morning. Everyone has chosen his place according to his taste, his strength, or his convenience. Some have gone to the Porric lighthouse, a league and a half off; others to St. Mathieu, at 25 kilometres. The greater part are at Latnienon or St. Anne, or else merely on the Cours d’Ajo. The multitude seems agitated and excited, as if it felt something more than a mere vulgar curiosity. It is a great day that has dawned upon us. It is not a mere visit of one squadron to another, it is the union of two great nations that is affirmed in the sight of the world, and all feel the solemnity of this hour, which is to witness the friendly entrance of an English fleet into France's first military port. At the moment at which I close my letter Admiral Dacres' squadron appears at the extremity of the roadstead."
|Sa 26 August 1865|
"If our Cherbourg guests were conscious of the little effect their entrance there had produced, but what is certain is that at Brest they were much more careful and attentive in their manoeuvres, that they succeeded in disguising the unflattering aspect of their ironclads by covering them with sails; in short, that their squadron presented this time the most charming as well as imposing spectacle."
A landsman, might easily lose sight of circumstances more than enough to account for any difference of this kind. The billows of canvas that relieved and partly concealed the ponderous black hulls of the ironclads, as they approached Brest over a summer sea and under a halcyon sky, would have been found rather inconvenient in the gale off Cherbourg. It is satisfactory, however, that the weather at the former place was fine enough to enable our gallant sailors to exhibit themselves and their ships to the best advantage, and, thus favoured, the little squadron seems to have won unbounded admiration from its French entertainers. The papers write in terms approaching to enthusiasm of the effect of its entrance. Report had multiplied the number of its vessels; there was talk in Brest of a dozen liners and 40 yachts, whereas, as you know, there were but one liner, the Edgar, five ironclad frigates, and some small vessels. The effect, however, was not marred for want of greater numbers, and the animated narratives of several eye-witnesses show how fine it must have been. Very early in the morning the squadron was signalled 18 miles off, and people hurried down to the shore without thinking of breakfast, fearful of missing the sight. The following, from the Constitutionnel, is a pleasant and graphic description of the scene:—
"The sun rose clear and brilliant, inundating the roadstead with a luminous haze, in which ships, shores, mountains, and islands were all alike enveloped; the water glittered like a sheet of liquid silver. It was the moment of ebb tide, and a swarm of little boats, favoured by the current, descended the channel leading to the harbour, while numerous steamers, crowded with passengers, shot along in various directions, some to meet the squadron, some towards Conquet and Ouessant, others towards Camaret and Douarnenes. Towards 8 o'clock gunboat No. 5 passed the foot of the lighthouse, flying the English flag; it was Her Britannic Majesty's Consul going to meet his countrymen. I concluded that the squadron was signalled. It was then 8 o'clock. I had been waiting three hours, and had had several disappointments, caused by tall sails appearing at the horizon, and which proved to be only corvettes returning into the roadstead, probably after having accompanied the expected squadron. I had before me the Minou Lighthouse, placed at the bottom of a somewhat steep descent. Suddenly, between the lighthouse and the hill, I beheld an enormous white cloud, of which the form soon became defined in the brilliant sunlight; it is a pile of sails, which slowly advances, is hidden for a moment behind the tower, then reappears in the open space. A black line is but just distinguishable beneath this mass of sailcloth swollen by the wind. To the naked eye the object appears but as a sea bird skimming the water. It is the Edgar, the Admiral's ship. Successively, and at intervals of about ten minutes, five other sails appear; it is the whole squadron which had followed, in single file, the shore extending from point St. Mathieu to that of Minou, and thus it had become visible only on reaching the entrance of the Channel. While the six vessels disembogued, as they say, several steamers showed themselves on the horizon, and manoeuvred so as to range themselves on the right flank of the squadron, a position which they preserved in the Channel. At the moment when the Admiral's ship found itself between the point of Portzic and that of Les Espagnols, there where the Channel ends and the roadstead commences, she saluted the French fleet. The Solferino, our Admiral's ship, replied."
This first salutation was not, according to other accounts, addressed to the fleet, but to the land of France. The saluting ceremonial on such occasions seems, however, to be sufficiently complicated for a landsman to be forgiven trifling inaccuracies. The sea was very calm that day, with a light N.N.W, breeze, which afterwards got round to the W. The English vessels had all their canvas spread, even to the studding sails. "As the Edgar passed Spanish Point," says another account, "her ports were suddenly lit up by flame, and she saluted the land with 21 guns." These were returned by a shore battery. Then, when the Minister of Marine and Admiral Bouët-Willanmez went on board the Enchantress yacht, to visit the Duke of Somerset, the Edgar saluted the chief of the Admiralty with 19 guns, returned by the Solferino. A salute of 11 guns was exchanged by the chiefs of the respective squadrons. The Duke of Somerset went on board the Reine Hortense to visit the Minister of Marine, and on leaving he was saluted with 19 guns. And, finally, when the Duke, accompanied by M. de Chasseloup Laubat, by the admirals, generals, and staff, entered the port, the battery of the Point gave him 19 guns more, the which seem to have brought smoke and thunder to an end for that morning.
"The manoeuvring of the English ships was magnificent," says the Patrie:—
"Describing, one after the other, an immense semi-circle, they passed in the most beautiful order before the French squadron, side by side with which they anchored, the Edgar near the Solferino, the others one by one in the intervals between the French ironclads. These various movements were executed with admirable precision."
Besides the French and English squadrons, a great many large vessels were lying in the roadstead, five French liners, the Jean Bart, Borda, Louis XIV., Bretagne, and Inflexible; the Meuse and the Allier transports, and 15 or 16 corvettes, gunboats, avisos, &c., belonging to the French navy, The firing of the first salute was a signal for all those ships to man the yards, the drums beat, the bugles sounded, the air rang with enthusiastic hurrahs and cries of "Vive l'Empereur!" The greeting was at once hearty and graceful. On entering the roadstead, says the Opinion Nationale,—
"The English vessels, by a perfectly executed simultaneous movement, took in all their sails, except their topsails, which were clewed up later. When the official visits and the ceremonial salvoes which accompanied them were over, the English officers went in numbers to see their French comrades, who had already invited them to a great dinner offered by our officers to those of the English fleet, and given on board the Couronne. At Brest, as at Cherbourg, our former adversaries, our recent allies, our present friendly competitors, will receive the warmest and the most sympathetic welcome. In the afternoon, although the sky, so bright and pure in the morning, had become clouded, the officers of the English squadron began to go on shore, where the sight of their uniform produced a most lively sensation, not only among the strangers in Brest, curious to see a navy so celebrated by its past history, but also among the inhabitants of our Breton coast, unaccustomed to such visits. If the weather continues, we will not say fine, that would be asking too much of the climate of Brest, but only tolerable — that is to say, if gales and gusts are not too frequent — this time, at least, the public, which has come in crowds from all quarters, will not be disappointed in its expectations, and none will have cause to regret their journey. At night, notwithstanding a small fine rain which fell at intervals, and tried the patience of promenaders, the streets were full of people looking at the illuminations. In the street of La Rampe a compact crowd besieged the hotel of the Reveveur-Général, where Abd-el-Kader had that day alighted. By a singular coincidence Madame Gasson, the wife of the Receiver-General, is the daughter of Marshal Bugeaud, Duke of Isly. In the roadstead the Dauphin, as at Cherbourg, lighted up all the environs with the electric apparatus of Bajin. One of these days there are to be made from on board that vessel trials of submarine electric illuminations at great depths. It is asserted that a well-known photographer, who has been following the two squadrons with the view of reproducing the various types of the English and French ironclads, intends descending in the apparatus with his instruments, in order to endeavour to obtain a view of the bottom of the sea. If this bold attempt succeeds the result will be both curious and useful, for it will offer an additional charm of submarine salvage of the immense riches at various times 'in the deep bosom of the ocean buried.' Pisciculture itself might, we are persuaded, thus obtain a source of important information and a new element of progress. Active preparations are being made on board the Ville de Lyon for the great ball on Thursday, but it is feared that the comparatively limited space must greatly restrict the number of invitations."
The latest accounts from Brest up to the 23d inst. are satisfactory, The weather continues very favourable, its only fault being that it was rather too calm for the second day of the regatta, which was Tuesday. Abd-el-Kader paid a formal visit to the French Minister of Marine on board the Reine Hortense, and was saluted by the guns of the Solferino and the shore battery. The calm lasted till 3 p.m, and was taken advantage of for the races of row boats. At half-past 3 a smart breeze sprung up from the S.S.W., and enabled the sailing vessels to make their way to the starting point, and take their turn in the regatta. Meanwhile Abd-el-Kader visited the English and French Admiral's ship. Each vessel when he left it saluted him with 13 guns, the French flag run up at the mizen. A shore battery replied to these salutes. The Emir, who is almost a greater lion at Brest than the English fleet, returned on shore and afterwards took boat again and went to the great dinner on board the Solferino. At night the weather was favourable to the illuminations and fireworks, which latter were let off before the commencement of the theatrical performances, got up with the assistance of Madame Cabel, Wertheimber, and Mdlle. Brohan. These performances went off with great éclat, the aspect of the theatre is described as superb, and the English officers as much pleased to hear such good singers and actors. The day was a very busy one, and everything went well. Not a single accident on sea or on land took place either on the 21st or 22d.
|Sa 26 August 1865|
THE VISIT OF THE FRENCH FLEET TO PORTSMOUTH.To the relief of many of the officials concerned in the preparations at Portsmouth for the forthcoming festivities in honour of the French fleet, including, no doubt, Sir Michael Seymour, the naval Commander-in-Chief, the booming of the Victory's guns in Portsmouth harbour yesterday morning announced the arrival of the Lords of the English Admiralty from Brest in their yachts the Enchantress and Osborne. Matters were beginning to look serious. The progress of things had been to a great degree arrested on board the Duke of Wellington pending the arrival of the Board; and the construction of the ball-room in the quadrangle of the Royal Naval College, although proceeding with all the rapidity that could well be asked for, was far from satisfactory in other respects. It is understood that invitations to attend the Admiralty ball at the College have been sent to the Guards without limitation as to number, while all the officers of the French fleet have, of course, invitations. Each regiment in Portsmouth garrison holds ten cards of invitation, the Royal Marine Artillery and Light Infantry a greater number, owing to their larger proportionate strength. Every ship of war has also received its allotted number of invitations, which may be reckoned at 10 for a 34-gun frigate like the Octavia, and six for a sloop such as the Scorpion. In the probable number of acceptances of these invitations there will be quite sufficient people to crowd the ball-room now building to suffocation, and there are as yet no ladies entered into our calculations. Into our consideration, so far, there has been also no reference to the many persons in civil life who will flock to Portsmouth to the Admiralty ball. There are also the hundreds of people in and around Portsmouth whose heads of families are either in or connected with one or other branches of the service that gives them a kind of claim of admission, and, also, there must not be forgotten the municipal authorities of Portsmouth, and that portion of the inhabitants of the town and its suburbs whose position entitles them to be placed on the invitation-list for the Admiralty ball, the invitations in the case of all civilians being deferred until after the arrival of the Lords of the Admiralty from Brest. It was, therefore, as we said, with intense relief that the guns announcing the arrival of their Lordships were heard, as it was naturally hoped they would now take the management of affairs into their own hands and become responsible for either success or failure.
The Enchantress, Staff-Commander Petley, entered Portsmouth harbour at 9 a.m., with Lord and Lady Clarence Paget, the Earl De Grey and Ripon, Mr. Otway, M.P., and Mr. Kempe on board, the Osborne following in about two hours afterwards, with the Duke of Somerset, Sir Frederick Grey, and other members of the Board of Admiralty, with Captain Robert Hall, R.N., Secretary to the Duke, &c. Immediately on the yacht's arrival Sir Michael Seymour, G.C.B., with Rear-Admiral J. Drummond (who had arrived in Portsmouth from town by the 9 42 train), Captain Scott, C.B., A.D.C. to the Queen, and Flag Captain to Sir Michael Seymour, Rear-Admiral Superintendent George Wellesley, and other officials, embarked in their boats at the King's stairs, waited upon the Admiralty on board the Osborne, and were admitted to interviews with their Lordship, when the preparations for the berthing of the fleets at Spithead anchorage and the after reception of the officers at the proposed festivities in harbour and on shore were preliminarily discussed. Their Lordships afterwards disembarked and proceeded to the residence of Sir M. Seymour, where the subject was gone into more fully and in detail. The arrival of the Admiralty was too late to substitute a larger site for their ball than the one now half completed at the Royal Naval College, and therefore there remains no other course than to follow the one already marked out and improve it as much as possible. One great improvement has already been effected since yesterday morning in throwing up a series of raised seats outside the walls of the ballroom, setting back the drapery, over the area railings of the College, With all that can now be done, however, the space will be totally inadequate for such a purpose. Let any one take a sheet of paper and draw on it to scale the floor of a room 100ft. in length by 48ft. in breadth (the space of the ball-room floor for dancing), and he will then be able to calculate the number of people such a room will hold at one time, with a given space for dancing to each person.
With regard to the time of the departure of the yachts and fleets from Brest and the arrival of the latter at Spithead, the Enchantress left Brest at noon on Thursday, when the English fleet was getting up steam, took her bearings from Ushant at about 2 30 p.m., sighted the two lights off Portland in the night, and eased her engines to the third degree of expansion, drifting up with the tide until daylight, when she steamed in for Portsmouth harbour. The Osborne left Brest about 2 30 p.m., the English fleet being then outside and ahead of the Osborne. The English fleet arrived at Spithead last evening. The French fleet will arrive at Spithead early on Tuesday, and will join the English fleet at the anchorage. Three lines of buoys, each a light pole buoy surmounted by a red flag, have been laid down at Spithead, from about N.W. to S.E., 200 fathoms apart, for the ships to drop their anchors over. The English fleet will anchor on the outer line, in the deepest water, and nearest to the Isle of Wight. The French fleet will anchor on the two inner line of buoys, be necessarily nearest the Spit and Southsea-beach line, and will thus occupy the post of honour, as our Channel fleet did inside the Digue at Cherbourg. It is now uncertain how many vessels will compose the French fleet, but it is expected that, as previously arranged, the nine ironclads first named for the purpose will come over, the Brest and Cherbourg squadrons uniting. Due precautions have been taken for the provisioning of the fleets - the French as well as our own - which will be effected through the Admiralty victualling establishment at the Royal Clarence-yard, Gosport, under the management of Victualling Storekeeper and Accountant Mr. Robert G. Grant. Each of the French ships directly she comes to anchor at Spithead will hare a screw gunboat or other steam vessel sent off to her, and attached to her as a permanent tender during the time she remains at Spithead. This will be a very great boon to the officers of the ships, especially considering the distance their vessels must necessarily lie from the shore, and the arrangements are very creditable to the foresight of our Admiralty.
The accounts brought by the Osborne and Enchantress from Brest speak of rough weather during the whole time of the fêtes there. The courtesy and attention of the French officers and officials was continued with unabated interest towards all in the English fleet. In the taste displayed in decorations, both on shore and afloat, our neighbours are said to have shown themselves unrivalled, and more especially in the decorations and arrangements for the ball and banquet on board the ship of the line Ville de Lyons. There was one mistake, however, committed by our allies on board that ship from which we ourselves might possibly guard by the light of their experience. Innumerable wax lights were burnt in the ball-room and other parts of the ship overhead, which, as soon as the place became heated, melted and dropped upon the costly toilettes of the ladies and the dress coats of the gentlemen, inflicting irreparable injury.
The Lords of the Admiralty left Portsmouth for London yesterday afternoon, no change having been effected by them as yet in the programme noticed in The Times of Thursday, except that the number to be entertained at the banquet in the ball-room of the Naval College on the 30th is increased from 100, the original number fixed, to 160 persons. As, however, the Admiralty are now all in London and will, therefore, be constantly in short communication with Portsmouth, both by telegraph and rail, we may soon expect to hear of the entire programme being decided upon and drawn up officially for the guidance of all concerned, as was done by the French Minister of Marine both at Cherbourg and Brest.
At 4 15 p.m. yesterday the English fleet were in sight from Ventnor, Isle of Wight, steaming up Channel in two lines, the Edgar, flagship of Rear-Admiral Sir S. C. Dacres, K.C.B., leading the weather line. At 6 45 p.m . they were in sight from Portsmouth, standing in for Spithead by the Nab-light channel. The preparations for the town festivities are going on satisfactorily. Space has, with great judgment, been made a primary consideration, and all that is wanted to render the exertions of the citizens result in a brilliant success is fine weather. Let us hope that the weather has done its worst at Cherbourg and Brest, and that the presence of the French fleet at Portsmouth may be attended with fairer conditions of weather than has yet been experienced in this interchange of hospitality between two nations.
|Ma 28 August 1865|
"Was quite as well got up and successful as the two others, all in due form, with the bill of fare and the list of the music to be played by the ship's band placed by the side of every plate. And the entente cordiale seemed even more perfect at this youthful table than at the other two. What we can positively affirm is that when, towards 9 o'clock, the guests went on shore the two navies, as represented by their midshipmen, had the strongest need to afford each other mutual support. At the Café Parisian especially, and at the theatre, a sudden invasion by the midshipmen of the two squadrons showed, in the most irrefutable manner, that the French had played their part of hosts conscientiously.”
As there was not room for everybody at the theatre, there were illuminations and fireworks for those who could not get in. On the 24th came the ball, the bouquet or crowning point of the three days' festival, and which appears to have been a great success. The Ville de Lyon, on board of which it took place, is one of the largest wooden ships in the French navy, and is 70 metres, or nearly 230 feet long. The entire main deck had been converted into a ballroom, and the quarterdeck into a garden, with flowers and fountains, grass, gravel walks, and shrubberies. There were trophies of arms, a gallery formed by a thousand bayonets, each one of them holding a wax-light, with 30 lustres hanging above; palm trees, of which the leaves were admirably represented by the blades of sabres and dirks; an immense basket of white and gold, almost concealed by flowers and foliage, contained the orchestra, around which, as at the entrance to the vessel, was placed a guard of honour composed of the tiny pupils of the marine. It is doubted whether in the annals of the French navy mention is to be found of an entertainment at all approaching this one, and it is hoped that it will not soon be forgotten by the guests for whom it was got up. "The ball was opened at 10 o'clock," says a letter of the 24th from Brest,—
"At the moment of entrance of the authorities the orchestra played 'God save the Queen!' and afterwards the air of 'Queen Hortense.' The Minister of Marine gave his arm to Lady Clarence Paget, and the Duke of Somerset, wearing the broad dark blue riband of the Order of the Garter, with a brilliant star, led the Marchioness of Chasseloup-Laubat. Among the English the uniforms of the Marine Artillery, a blue tunic embroidered in gold, was much remarked, as well as that of some Militia officers, — a blue jacket with silver bullion. All the arrangements were perfect. In the upper battery was a buffet for refreshments with 30 maîtres d'hôtel. The supper, served at 1 o'clock, in the lower battery was magnificent. The number of invitations, fixed at first at 2,000, was afterwards largely increased. The crowd was great; towards 2 o'clock it was hardly possible to move. More than one uniform, more than one black coat was spangled with wax from the bougies, but that was a trifling price to pay for such an entertainment. And now the festival at Brest is over and all are hurrying away. It is reported that next year the English fleet is to visit Toulon."
May the harmony and cordiality witnessed at Cherbourg and Brest between the two navies be confirmed and strengthened at Portsmouth and long endure! Such is assuredly the feeling of every right-feeling Englishman and Frenchman. I have testified, as far as my observation went, to the courteous and friendly tone of the Paris press on the occasion of these international gatherings, but it would be unfair to the Siècle not to point it out as an exception to the general rule. In its usual polite and pleasant tone, and apropos of a declaration in another paper, that if England and France are formidably armed it is only to impose peace on such Powers as might desire to disturb the tranquillity of Europe, it regrets that such resolutions were not taken sooner, before the struggle maintained by Poland against Russia, and before Germany attacked Denmark, and it fears lest they should be forgotten before the time arrives to execute them. The Siècle is dissatisfied with everything, and looks upon the fêtes as a failure. Their true signification was to be found in the speeches made on the 15th inst. Why were not those speeches instantly published, spread abroad, stuck up in the streets, instead of appearing only in the Moniteur of the 19th? The local papers could not obtain them, although their publication would certainly have had an animating effect. A great political fact, such as the visit of the English squadron, should have been celebrated with a brilliancy and enthusiasm which, according to the Siècle, were wanting. The Paris papers amplified what occurred; the Siècle is persuaded that the visitors to Cherbourg did not find the fêtes on a par with the grandeur of the event. Great expectations had been raised, and multitudes hurried to the scene. The line of railway, single from Caen to Cherbourg, did not suffice for the traffic. “Tumultuous caravans arrived harassed, procured food and a place to lie down at golden prices, and scarcely stopped to rest before hurrying to the sea.” There disappointment awaited them — Siècle loquitor. Instead of an imposing British fleet, a scanty squadron entered, piecemeal, each ship far from the other, for fear of accident. The French fleet was equally poorly represented; the whole display was paltry. Then came the wind and the rain, dissolvents of public joy; fog followed, open air amusements failed, the rain extinguished the illuminations; never was there anything so gloomy and dismal as the whole business, as represented in the columns of the columns of the Siècle, a paper distinguished for its good taste, good temper, and good feeling, but whose power to do mischief is fortunately very far inferior to its will.
|Ma 28 August 1865|
THE VISIT OF THE FRENCH FLEET TO PORTSMOUTH.It may be that the reception which is to be given to the French fleet on its arrival here on Tuesday and the entertainments which are to take place during the few days it remains anchored in those waters may turn out to be but a poor reflex of the brightly varied festivities of Cherbourg and Brest. With all our wealth and the great appliances which that wealth can command, we may be about to furnish another illustration of the oft-repeated statement that in the art of dispensing a hospitality at once graceful and magnificent we vainly endeavour to cope with our allies. If this should be so, it will be from no want of strenuous exertion on the part of our naval authorities nor from the lack of hearty co-operation with them on the part of the people of Portsmouth and its vicinity. For days past, as has been already notified in our columns the work of preparation for the approaching fétes has been going on with the utmost vigour; and results have been already produced which cannot fail to be highly gratifying to all those who take an interest in their success. Nor is it by any means a light task which those have undertaken upon whom the execution of the necessary arrangements devolves. The programme which has been laid down is most comprehensive. Balls and banquets and concerts, and reviews and fireworks - and these, too, to be carried out on a scale of unwonted splendour - figure from one end to the other of the list.
From Tuesday morning until Saturday there is to be one continued round of sight-seeing and feasting and dancing, and it will be strange, indeed, if by the time it is all over the youngest midshipman on board the united fleets is not ready to admit that he has had, at least for the present - for youth is all but insatiable in such matters - his fill of pleasure. Since the arrival of the Lords of the Admiralty from Brest on Friday morning a fresh impulse has been given to the preparations which are being made in every direction.
The Duke of Wellington, on board which a private dinner is to be given on Tuesday evening, by the Duke of Somerset, to the French Minister of Marine, M. de Chausseloup-Laubat, and the Admiral and chief officers of the French and English fleets, is undergoing from stem to stern a process of lavish decoration. In the quadrangle of the Royal Naval College, the transformation of which into a vast and glittering ball-room is being rapidly effected under the superintendence of Mr. Wood, C.E., of Her Majesty's dockyard, a dinner on a more extensive scale will be given on Wednesday, while on Thursday the civic authorities of Portsmouth will entertain, in an immense circular tent, which has been constructed for the purpose on the square plot of ground, about two acres in extent, known as "Governor's Green," the French and English officers at a banquet, to be followed by a promenade concert and ball. At the dinner on Wednesday, the invitations for which will be issued by the Lords of the Admiralty, four toasts are to be proposed - "The Emperor of the French," "The Queen of England," "The French Navy," and "The British Navy." The moment the health of the two Sovereigns is being drunk will be made the occasion of firing a Royal Salute from the combined squadrons, and of a simultaneous illumination of the several ships of which they are composed.
A review of the troops in garrison here on Friday morning, a dinner at the Royal Naval College in the evening, at which the Lords of the Admiralty and the principal French officers will be the guests of Sir M. Seymour and a ball, to which the ladies especially seem to be looking forward as the most brilliant event in a week for them of brilliant promise, will, it is thought, bring the to what it is earnest]y hoped may be a successful close. That, however, which is intended to be the chief feature in the whole round of the festivities is precisely that as to the success of which the greatest apprehension prevails. It is feared that the ballroom, ample though its proportions may seem to be - for it is 165 feet long by 55 feet in width - may be so inconveniently thronged as to render that which is the main object of a ball impossible. Should these fears be realized the Admiralty, who have entire control over the arrangements, will have so far at all events followed the model which was set them at Cherbourg as to have copied the only mistake which was there committed, without perhaps having it in their power to point to artistic triumphs such as those which rendered the ball at Cherbourg, notwithstanding the inconvenience caused by overcrowding, a scene rarely splendid.
Any shortcomings in mere decoration would be more than compensated by the enjoyment which a sufficiently clear space to dance would afford, at least so say the ladies, and they have the great majority on their side. It may here be mentioned incidentally that the ball given on board the Ville de Lyons at Brest on Wednesday last seems to have been unusually brilliant. Of the magical process by which the deck of this vessel was converted into a floating pleasure-ground, with shaded walks and scented groves, where, in the intervals of the dance, the cool air and delicious perfume of flowering plants might be inhaled as in some choicely-stocked garden upon land, those who witnessed the scene speak in terms of rapturous admiration, mingled with a sigh of regret at feeling themselves obliged to abandon all hope that the approaching fêtes can be characterized by anything so fairylike and enchanting. Indeed, nothing of the kind will be attempted here, for the notion has been completely given up of having a ball of any description on board the Duke of Wellington or any of the other vessels in the harbour. The work of decorating the extemporized room at the Royal Naval College is, however, proceeding very satisfactorily, and it is expected that when completed it will form a ballroom not altogether unworthy of the occasion. As to the banquets there is every reason to think they will be very sumptuous, and that as mere culinary displays they will not be discreditable to us as a nation - a point not undeserving of notice in an age when every man, and particularly every Frenchman, however sceptical he may be in other matters, at least believes in a cook.
The hour at which it is anticipated the French squadron will reach Spithead is noon on Tuesday, and the Lords of the Admiralty will come down here to-morrow to be in readiness to receive it.
The squadron, which is to consist of nine large men-of-war and four smaller vessels, will be headed by the Reine Hortense, with the French Minister of Marine on board, and will be met at Spithead by the Osborne, bearing the Admiralty flag. Then will there be a rare expenditure of powder, as the English ships just returned from the shores of France thunder forth a welcome to their late companions on their arrival in English waters, similar to that with which they themselves were received but a few days since in the harbour of Cherbourg. The Reine Hortense, followed by the Osborne, will immediately afterwards proceed into Portsmouth harbour, and will be greeted as she passes the Spit buoy with a salute from the Victory, displaying the French flag at the fore. A visit will, as soon as the Reine Hortense comes to an anchor in the harbour, be paid by the Lords of the Admiralty to M. de Chasseloup-Laubat, which, with that despatch so laudable in distinguished persons, the French Minister of Marine will probably return within a quarter of a hour, after he sees that their Lordships have got safely on board the Osborne. In short, visiting, and little else, will be the order of the day on Tuesday afternoon, from the moment the French fleet has taken up its position at Spithead until its principal officers avail themselves of the invitation of the Duke of Somerset in the evening.
And now the weather, that most important contributor to the success or failure of any pageant, great or small, demand a passing word. At Cherbourg it neutralized the effect of an imposing spectacle, and sadly marred the success of efforts which deserved a better fate. A French traveller once described, on his return home, the year in England as being made up of eight months of winter and four of bad weather; but let us hope that those Frenchmen, if there be any, who are now about to visit our shores for the first time will have reason to carry away with them a more favourable impression of our climate. To-day, at all events, is as beautiful a day as can well be, the rays of a hot sun being pleasantly tempered by a gentle breeze. Should to-morrow and the remaining days of the week be equally bright and cloudless there will be an ingredient of success present at the fêtes here which no ingenuity on the part of our versatile allies could supply for their own.
|Th 31 August 1865|
THE FRENCH FLEET AT PORTSMOUTH.
The guests included, besides M. de Chasseloup Laubat, the French Minister of Marine, M. Dupuy de Lôme, chief constructor of the French navy, and the principal French officers in command of the fleet at Spithead. Among the English guests were Sir M. Seymour, Admiral Sir S. Dacres, Sir G. Buller, commander-in-chief of the southwestern district, Captain Seccombe, Captain Hornby, Captain Herbert, and several other English naval officers in command of our fleet at this port. At 10 o'clock M. de Chasseloup Laubat took his departure, and proceeded on board the Reine Hortense. His leaving was the signal for lighting up the ship, every one of whose port-holes was immediately illuminated; blue lights being at the same time exhibited all round her gunwale and at her yard arms.
Thus passed off the first of the entertainments which has been given to our allies in return for their recent magnificent hospitality, and if all the others which remain to be given are equally successful, we shall have no reason to be ashamed of the mode in which our part in these international festivities has been played. The Lords of the Admiralty appear to be perfectly satisfied with the proceedings so far, and the expression of their satisfaction on any occasion is, some naval officers will tell you, not a thing to be easily secured. While the chief officers of the French fleet were being entertained in the Duke of Wellington those who remained behind at Spithead were the guests of the officers of the Black Prince, on board which magnificent vessel a splendid hospitality was gracefully dispensed.
This morning — it is pleasant to have to tell it — there was not at 9 o'clock a single cloud to be seen on the whole broad surface of the sky. Blue above, blue below; for every body has taken to living here now on the water. Things, therefore, may be safely said to be getting on swimmingly at Portsmouth, and, indeed, there need not be the slightest apprehension that it will be otherwise till the French fleet leaves our shores on Saturday next, if the sun will only continue to shine out as brightly as he does now.
The forenoon was passed by the French officers and our Admiralty in visiting the public establishments on shore, M. Chasseloup Laubat, with the Admiral commanding and the chief officers of the French fleet, landing at the dockyard shortly before noon, accompanied by the Duke of Somerset and other members of the British Admiralty. The chief points of interest visited in the dockyard were the iron-cased ship Prince Alfred [should be Royal Alfred] in No. 3 dock, the Scorpion and Wyvern turret-ships, the iron frigate Minotaur, the armour plate workshop, smithery, foundries, &c. In the Royal Alfred our visitors had an opportunity of criticizing our method of converting a 90-gun wooden line-of-battle ship to a ship clothed with eight inches of iron amidships, and carrying 300-pounders. They may not have agreed with all our notions in making this change, but otherwise could not but admit that if the ship could be sent to sea working efficiently 12-ton guns on her broadside, she must prove to be a formidable war vessel. On board the Scorpion and Wyvern, Mr. Laird's famous would-be rovers, was exemplified the turret system, by which these two ships each carry — or rather, are enabled to carry, for the Wyvern has not yet got her guns — each four 12-ton guns, with six months' stores and provisions, and eight days' coal at full steaming power, with a draught of water of only 16 feet 6 inches. The turret principle has been so often described in the columns of The Times in the reports on the trials of the Royal Sovereign, and has become really so familiar to the general public from the large public discussion which the system has gone through, that there remains no reason for describing it at any greater length here. In the armour-plate shed one of the last armour-plates for the Royal Alfred was taken from the heating furnace and bent to the required shape for fixing on the ship’s side, the hydraulic press, radial drill machines, and planing machines being also in full work for the inspection of the Lords of the Admiralty and their guests. In the smithery the monster steam hammers and excellent internal arrangement of the whole building were duly admired. The iron frigate Minotaur was also visited, and while on board this magnificent frigate much interest was manifested in the investigation of Commander Scott's iron gun-carriage, designed by that officer to meet the difficulty now experienced in working 12-ton guns on a ship’s broadside. A visit to the large iron and brass foundries, a cursory look at the factory and the miniature steam basin, with a passing inspection of the plan for the extension of the Dockyard, concluded the visit. Among other public establishments visited — in this instance non-officially — by the officers of the French ship, were the armoury and gunwharf. The Armoury of Portsmouth arsenal, although not comparable in its proportions with the noble Salle d’Armes of Cherbourg, nor yet, perhaps, quite equal to it in the interest attached to its contents, is nevertheless a place well worth a visit even from such keen-eyed critics as our French friends. Like many other public buildings in and around Portsmouth, a vast deal of material has been crowded into a very small space within the walls of the Armoury. At Cherbourg a very affective display is made throughout the length of the Salle d'Armes by only some 9,000 muskets in their arm-racks; yet here, in this small Armoury of Portsmouth — a room not much exceeding one-eighth the length of the one at Cherbourg — are standing in open racks no less than 20,000 Enfield rifles, from none of which a shot has ever been fired. As may be readily imagined, but little space is left by these 20,000 arms for fairly exhibiting other descriptions of arms and the curiosities usually found in such places. There are, however, in spaces between the arm-racks through the room, some very valuable suits of ancient armour, plain, fluted, embossed, and chain, and also tilting spears of the different periods, with a goodly collection of weapons of fearful size and weight, with which men of old cracked each other's iron shells when clothing themselves in lieu of, as now-a-days, their castles and ships in iron. Round the base of the walls of the room are ranged in chronological order every description of shot and shell made for rifled cannon up to the present time. The walls and roof have been newly and very tastefully decorated, and on the former may be seen the Chinese breech-loading six-pounders, the State flag of the celebrated Commissioner Yeh, the official dress of the mandarin who held command of the Peiho forts at the time of their capture, and in recesses in the salle and entrance-hall are some interesting specimens of bronze castings as vases and incense-burners, the Chinese characters on which indicate the date of their production at 1800 years prior to the Christian era. In the other parts of the arsenal are piles of guns, breech and muzzle loading, of Armstrong build, and the common cast-iron ordnance, of none of which we have reason to be ashamed.
Only with regard to the extent and general arrangement of the dockyard, there was nothing at all of interest to exhibit to our friends. On the contrary, accustomed as they are to the magnificent naval establishments at Toulon, Brest, and Cherbourg, Portsmouth Dockyard must have appeared simply contemptible, its stores and buildings being, with one or two exceptions, confused masses of bricks and mortar, jumbled together without any design. In the plans, however, for the great extension of the yard, the works for which have at length really commenced, and concerning which many pertinent questions were asked, there was plenty of material of which, in comprehensiveness and unity of design, we could dilate with just pride and gratification, oven in the presence of our keen-eyed allies.
The chief features of this first extension of Portsmouth Dockyard consist of a tidal basin of about 14 acres, accessible for ships of the largest class at any time of tide. From this basin there will be two locks and one dock, also accessible at any period of the tide. From this tidal basin there will be two locks and one dock accessible also at any state of the tide. The two locks will enter into a repairing basin of about 32 acres area, with a depth of water of 30 feet below high-water mark, spring tides, and in communication with this basin will be four first-class docks of a similar extent and character to the magnificent dock recently opened by the Minotaur, No. 11. Parallel with the repairing basin will be the riggers basin of about 20 acres, and in continuation of the general plan a fitting-out basin of about 14 acres. In immediate communication with the repairing basin and locks will be erected factory buildings for the construction and repairs of machinery and boilers on a gigantic scale, altogether eclipsing any buildings of a similar nature in any existing dockyard here or elsewhere. At the mouth of the basins described there will be an open channel of 500ft. in breadth, which will afford wharfage space for ships of war and access for merchant vessels to their wharves on the foreshore of Portsea Island, and inside the line of the extension of the Government yard on the harbour mud-lands. To the northward of the basins, docks, locks, and factory buildings will be the Grand Basin, of 60 acres, for holding ships of war of all classes and in various stages of advance for commission. There will also be connected with this extensive basin slips for laying up iron ships of moderate tonnage and despatch vessels high and dry out of the water, being constantly kept ready for immediate launching for active service. Such are the principal characteristics of one of the largest and most comprehensive designs for the creation or improvement of a dockyard that has yet ever been designed by any European Power. If carried out in its entirety, the naval establishment at Portsmouth will surpass in magnitude and usefulness of design every other at present in existence or in course of construction. We may then add to our boast of being the greatest, or rather one of the greatest, maritime Powers in Europe that we also possess the readiest means of refitting and repairing our fleets, so as to enable them to keep the sea in any pressing emergency. In this latter respect we are at present undoubtedly behind some other Powers.
After concluding their inspection ashore, and subsequently partaking of luncheon afloat, the French Minister of Marine, Admirals, and Staff, with the Duke of Somerset and several of the Lords of the British Board of Admiralty, embarking on board the English yacht Enchantress, proceeded to Southampton Water to inspect the Royal Victoria Military Hospital at Netley, the Enchantress flying the French Minister of Marine's flag and the English Admiralty standard side by side at the main, and the fleets manning yards as the yacht steamed through them westward.
The banquet to be given by the Admiralty at the Royal Naval College to-night is the grand feature in the programme for this evening. It will be given, as has been already stated, in a large tentlike structure which has been erected in one of the quadrangles of the College, and which is 165ft. long by 55ft. wide and 30ft. high. At this moment it is all disorder, but there is not the slightest doubt that everything about it will be completed just in the nick of time. As the Lords of the Admiralty and their guests step into the room, the last carpenter and decorator will, it is safe to conjecture, have just quitted it by another door. Such marvels are done in this way, where all but a few hours before seemed a heap of confusion, that one's confidence in the result is never for a moment shaken, if the circumstances look never so unfavourable. The plate which will be used at the banquet to-night is that which Mr. Hancock so generously furnished for the dinner given on board the Duke of Wellington, and with such accessories as he can supply a great step in the work of decoration can without much difficulty be made. When that moment in the proceedings of the evening arrives for the proposal of toasts, and that of the health of the Emperor of the French and Her Majesty the Queen have been duly given and drunk, a Royal salute will be fired from the ships lying in Portsmouth harbour and at Spithead, the signal for which will be given by means of a rocket sent up from the Victory. Almost instantaneously a grand illumination of the two fleets will take place. The town of Portsmouth will also illuminate extensively in honour of the occasion. Full as the town was yesterday, it appears to be almost twice as crowded to-day, sojourners from the pleasant land of France contributing largely to swell the numbers. The preparations for the civic festivities to-morrow are getting on most satisfactorily, and give fair promise of being as attractive as anything in the whole programme of the entertainment.
|Fr 1 September 1865|
THE FRENCH FLEET AT PORTSMOUTH.
The Duke of Somerset rose and spoke as follows:—
"I am desirous, on behalf of the British Admiralty, to. tender our sincere thanks to the Minister of Marine and the authorities in the harbours of Brest and Cherbourg for the kindness and hospitality with which they received us when we recently visited those ports. I may add that the pleasure which we derived from our visit to the French coast was greatly enhanced by the kind feeling which was shown towards us not only by the inhabitants of these towns, but by the great numbers of the French people by whom they were crowded during our stay. I rejoice in these international visits, because I feel the great advantage of a meeting of the officers of the two services. Hereafter when they meet, in whatever part of the world it may be, they will be able to look back with satisfaction to their visits to the harbours of Cherbourg and Portsmouth, which I trust will tend to strengthen those feelings of cordial friendship which subsist between the two Governments and the two nations. I am happy to avail myself of this opportunity to return our sincere thanks for the readiness with which the Admiral and officers of the French navy came to the aid of the sufferers on board the Bombay when that line-of-battle ship was destroyed by fire. The French officers and sailors supplied them with clothes, relieved their wants, and mitigated by every means in their power that great disaster. Such acts of charity and kindness must bind the two services together by the ties of friendship, and command the gratitude of the British nation. Animated by those feelings, I am confident that every Englishman is prepared to concur with me when I assure the officers of the French navy that we bid them a hearty welcome. Following the courteous example which was set us at Cherbourg, I beg to give you as the first toast, the "Healths of the Emperor, the Empress and the Prince Imperial."
The toast was drunk with marked enthusiasm, the whole of the company rising, as were the others by which it was succeeded.
M. De Chasseloup Laubat, in proposing "The Health of Her Majesty the Queen," said,—
"Messieurs, — Ce sont d’heureux jours que ceux dans lesquels les officiers des marines de la Grande Bretagne et de la France peuvent apprendre à se connaître, à s’apprécier. Si les visites que vous avez faites aux ports de Cherbourg et de Brest, où nous avons eu tant de bonheur à vous recevoir, si l’empressement que nous mettons à venir ici pour répondre à votre gracieuse invitation, témoignent des excellents rapports qui existent entre nos deux pays, — ces franches et amicales réunions sont aussi un sur garant de leur durée, car elles feront naître, j’en suis certain, parmi tant de braves et illustres marins qui m'écoutent le désir de se revoir encore, et sur quelques points du globe, dans quelles que circonstances qu’ils soient placés, de se serrer la main qu’ils se seront si cordialement donnée dans ces jours de fête. Sans arrière-pensée, nous nous montrons tous les progrès que de part et d’autre nos marines ont faits; nous ne nous célons rien de ce qui peut servir á de nouveaux progrès. Ensemble nous avons pu étudier les admirables constructions bordées d’épaisses cuirasses, et qu’il y a quelques années à peine l'imagination la plus hardie n'aurait osé rêver; ensemble nous avons vu ces formidables engins de guerre, ces terribles instruments de déstruction, devant lesquels l’esprit s’arrête comme épouvanté, et dont il est presque tenté de demander compte au génie qui les crée. Mais, Messieurs, l’esprit se rassure en songeant que l’humanité a d’autant moins à craindre de la force que les moyens dont la force dispose sont plus puissants, parce que plus désastreux l'emploi en devient aussi de jour en jour plus rare. L’esprit se rassure surtout parce qu’il sait que pour les nations civilisées la force c’est la modération; c'est le respect de droit. Je remercie le noble Duc de Somerset de ce qu'il vient de dire des soins que dans La Plata une de nos divisions a été assez heureuse pour donner aux marins du Bombay; seulement ses paroles sont trop flatteuses. Ce que nous avons fait dans cette circonstance chacun de vous le fait tous les jours, chacun de vous est prêt à le faire sans cesse, car, permettez-moi de vous le dire, moi qui n’ai pas l’honneur de porter une épaulette, ce qu’il y a d’admirable chez l’homme de mer, ce qui le place si haut dans l’estime des peuples, c’est ce dévouement, cette abnégation qui, même au prix de sa vie, l’entraine toujours à aider son semblable. Ah! c’est bien en cela que nos marines sont sœurs, et en sœurs aussi elles vont acclamer le toast que de bien grand cœur je porte à votre Gracieuse Souveraine — the Queen "Victoria!"
Sir M. Seymour, in giving the next toast, said,—
"I have the honour and great pleasure, in using the privilege conferred by my official position, to propose to you to drink to the health of the French Navy, represented as it is at this port by officers of the highest distinction and of eminent professional services, as well as the magnificent fleet now floating in these waters, which is exciting our admiration and calling forth one voice of heartfelt welcome, not only from the officers of the British Navy, but from the nation at large. Few naval officers have had better opportunities than myself of seeing and appreciating the skill and gallantry displayed by the French in various climes, and under circumstances of no common danger and difficulty, and the result has invariably been to command my admiration, respect, and esteem, It is therefore with the authority derived from experience of their high qualities that I call upon you to join me in drinking 'The health of the French Navy.'"
Vice-Admiral Bouët de Willaumez followed, and said,—
"C'est avec un véritable bonheur que je me retrouve ici avec d’anciens et braves compagnons d'armes. Ils figurent aujourd’hui soit dans l'Amirauté, soit dans vos ports, soit à la tête de l’escadre de la Manche. Mais la mort, qui, depuis que nous nous sommes connus, a éclairés nos rangs, a frappé de nobles amis dont le souvenir m'est cher comme à vous. Avec eux j'ai toujours marché en parfaite communauté de sentiments, et j’ose croire que cette franche cordialité n'a pas existé sans porter d'heureux fruits. Personne plus que moi n'a donc plus apprécié la valeur de votre noble marine, personne n’est plus heureux de l’amitié qui l’unit à la nôtre. Enfin, Monsieur, personne ne lui porto avec plus de sincérité ce toast, 'A la Marine de la Grande Bretagne.'"
The company separated shortly after 10 o'clock, the French and English officers to return to their ships through what was literally a sea of light; and the Minister of Marine, with his staff, and the Lords of the Admiralty to their respective quarters in the harbour on board the Reine Hortense and the Osborne.
Just as the health of Her Majesty had been proposed by the French Minister a signal for the commencement of an illumination of the fleet was given by the discharge of a rocket from the Victory and the firing of one of her guns. One is liable to exaggerate the effect of scenes, however picturesque, made brilliant at night by a profusion of light, but no words could depict the surpassing brilliancy of the scene which followed instantaneously the last flicker of that rocket from the Victory. As if by magic, every ship in the allied fleets was illuminated. A salute of 21 guns was fired from the fleets, and as the echo of the last shot died away every ship in the two squadrons was so illuminated, by means of red, white, and blue lights placed in every port, at both broadsides, and both yardarms, that the object which only a few moments before looked, even at a short distance, so grim and shadowy became at once transformed into a ship of light, revealing to view the outline of her slenderest spar. Rockets were then sent up in clusters from the whole of the fleet, which, as they burst in the heavens, expanded into bouquets of red, white, and blue, and then gradually melted away in the still air, but only to be followed at short intervals by other clusters of rockets bursting and descending in an equally brilliant shower. As the long lights only burn for a couple of minutes, three were lighted in succession in each port, and as each set of lights died away, and the illumination seemed to be coming to an end, the full blaze of its splendour was again restored with the same magical rapidity with which it was first created. When the three sets of long lights were nearly burnt out a bouquet of 24 signal rockets was fired from each ship, and immediately after the fleet faded from the view of the thousands of speculators who lined the ramparts at Portsmouth, and all was again comparative obscurity at Spithead. The illumination lasted for about 20 minutes, throughout the whole of which time the St. Vincent, the Duke of Wellington, and the other men-of-war in the harbour displayed lights at every porthole, causing the gentle ripple on the waves to sparkle like diamonds. The town itself was also most extensively and brilliantly lit up during the night, the combination of the illumination of the houses near the dockyard gates with the magnificent illumination over the gateway itself shedding a radiance like that of a bright summer sun at noon on the roadway and the pavement below. A very grand spectacle could scarcely have been witnessed on a fairer night.
This morning broke beautifully, but the sky in the course of the day became slightly overcast, not so much so, however, as to alarm the mayor and corporation of Portsmouth for the success of their fêtes this evening. The forenoon was passed by the French and English officers for the most part in the interchange of friendly visits. By 2 o'clock an immense crowd had assembled at the sally-port near the Grand Parade to see them land on their way to Governor's Green, where they will in a few minutes be partaking of the municipal hospitality.
The Queen of the Sandwich Islands and Lady Franklin paid a visit in the course of the day on board the Solferino.
|Sa 2 September 1865|
THE FRENCH FLEET AT PORTSMOUTH.
The guests, having been received on their arrival by the Mayor in the central tent, were conducted to the banqueting-room, along which the tables, which numbered four, exclusive of the cross table at the head, extended in parallel lines down the length of the room. The French Minister occupied a seat on the right hand of the Mayor, the Duke of Somerset being on his immediate left.
During dinner selections of music from Fra Diavolo, Masaniello and other favourite operas, were magnificently rendered by M. Jullien's band, with which was united that of the Royal Artillery, under the direction of Mr. Smyth. The banquet was supplied by the Messrs. Gunter, of London.
When grace had been sung, The Mayor rose and said:—
"I rise to ask your kind attention while I give you the first toast — a toast which I shall have the honour of giving you for the first time in my life; and I can say, without any hesitation, it affords me greater pleasure than any other I shall have the honour of giving you, for reasons I shall express to you in a few words. The toast is 'The Health of the Emperor of the French.' (Loud cheers.) Gentlemen, I knew the enthusiasm, and warmth with which the mention of that toast would be received, but before I give it to you in the usual terms I desire first to express to you the gratification with which we have received the visit of the French fleet to these shores. (Cheers.) It marks an era in the history of our country, and I do not hesitate to say that these mutual visits on both sides of the Channel tend to strengthen the kindly feelings which have been gradually growing, and cement that kindly and brotherly feeling which existed between us. (Cheers.) It is not very long ago that the Emperor said at Bordeaux that "The empire is peace," and when he has permitted those interchanges of good feeling and the visits that have recently taken place, he has given us only one of the many proofs we have received of his loyalty to the British nation. (Loud cheers.) That magnificent fleet we see assembled at Spithead indicates something more than an every day occurrence; it indicates the warmth of that friendship which exists between the two countries; it shows that whereas in times past we were at enmity with each other, we are now united in the warmest bonds of friendship. When I passed though the fleet at Spithead, the day before yesterday, and tendered my welcome on the part of the inhabitants of the port to the admirals and officers of the French fleet, I confess I was struck with the magnitude of the vessels and the immense power they possessed. That fleet has assembled there not in defence, not in defiance; but simply, as I understand, to show to the world at large that France wishes for peace. (Cheers.) I feel that I cannot express, either on behalf of the inhabitants of this town or the people at large, the pleasure we derive from being honoured by the visit of our allies on this occasion. (Cheers.) We are bound to each other by ties of mutual interest (cheers) — ties not to be forgotten as a matter of business; but we are bound together by the still greater and stronger tie of common loyalty and brotherhood, and a desire to promote civilization and liberty throughout the world. (Cheers.) Gentlemen, officers of the French fleet, I bid you welcome to Portsmouth — I bid you welcome to the shores of England, and I can only say that I am but feebly expressing the pleasure and joy with which we now receive you. (Loud cheers.) I dare not trust myself to say more on this occasion. I have feebly attempted to emulate the magnificent reception with which our officers and fleet were greeted at Cherbourg and Brest, and if we cannot give you the same magnificent reception we can offer you equally warm hearts, and as cordially wish you God speed (Cheers.) Long may this cordiality continue, and strong as our arms have been when at enmity with each other, surely they can be equally strong in the grasp of friendship. I am sorry I am not capable of expressing these sentiments in the French language, but I offer them from my heart on my own behalf, on behalf of the English people. Gentlemen, I call on you to drink 'The Health of the Emperor.'"
The toast was enthusiastically received, and during the cheers which followed it the band played "Partant pour la Syrie” and a salute was fired from the garrison battery.
The Mayor then again rose and said,— "Gentlemen,— I now have to give yon a toast to which I am somewhat more accustomed, and the mere mention of which will, I am sure, be sufficient to raise not only in the hearts of all Englishmen, but of all Frenchmen, the utmost enthusiasm. I believe you will receive this toast with the same cordiality and the same warmth as you have received the last, because it relates to the Sovereign of our country, — Her Majesty the Queen. (Loud cheers.) There cannot be a doubt that Her most gracious Majesty views with the greatest pleasure these visits and intercommunication, and that she rejoices to see the subjects of her nation receive with friendship those of the French Emperor. (Cheers.) In England, the mere mention of the name of the Queen is sufficient to arouse our warmest enthusiasm. (Cheers.) It is perfectly unnecessary and superfluous to enlarge on the eminent advantages we enjoy as a people under the benign reign and influence of her to whom we are indebted for that noble example which she sets in every position that she fills, whether as Queen or a mother. With Her Majesty's name I propose to couple 'The Health of the Prince and Princess of Wales and the rest of the Royal family.' May the day be far distant when the Prince of Wales shall reign as King of England, but when the day arrives when he shall be called on to fill the position his mother so worthily fills, then may the hopes and prayers of England ascend to Heaven that he may reign over us with the same purity and excellence, and set the same admirable example as Her Majesty. (Loud cheers.) This is a toast which I know will recommend itself to your heartiest consideration. It needs no recommendation from me." (Cheers.)
The toast having been cordially drunk, the National Anthem was played by the band. M. de Chasseloup Laubat then rose and said:—
"Messieurs,— C’est avec bonheur que j’ai entendu M. le Maire confondre dans ses vœux nos deux Souverains, et dans de nobles accens porter à notre Empereur le premier toast avec une courtesie à laquelle tout Français sera sensible. Je le remercie des sentiments qu’il a exprimés pour tout ce qui peut rapprocher de plus en plus nos deux nations, et servir à leur mutuelle prospérité. Ces sentiments, croyez-le bien, sont partagés par mes concitoyens, et tous ceux d’entre eux qui ont pu se rendre à Cherbourg et à Brest ont cherché à en donner de témoignages à votre brillante marine. 'Peace and good will,' ce sont les premiers mots qui out frappé mes regards lorsque je suis entré dans cette enceinte: 'Paix, et bonne volonté.' Je vous remercie de les avoir écrits également en Français, car j’ai l’espoir qu’ils seront désormais entre nous une commune devise. Je remercie Portsmouth de sa splendide hospitalité. Le souvenir nous en sera toujours cher. Mais, messieurs, ce qui ne sortira jamais de notre mémoire, ce qui émeut tous nos cœurs, c’est cet empressement de vos populations à venir au-devant de nous — ce sont leurs chaleureuses acclamations, que nous acceptons avec bonheur, non pour nous-mêmes, mais pour les reporter à l’Empereur — à la France. Permettez-moi donc de voir en vous, M. le Maire, et dans votre municipalité, non seulement les représentants de votre belle cité, mais encore les interprètes de toute une nation dont le sympathique accueil nous touche si profondément. Aussi en portant ce toast à la ville de Portsmouth je bois en même temps à votre pays tout entier." (Loud cheers.)
The Mayor, in responding, expressed the pleasure felt by himself and the corporation on the visit of the French fleet to Portsmouth.
After the banquet, which terminated about 6 o'clock, considerable numbers of ladies began to arrive, and by the time the promenade concert commenced the rooms were well filled with a brilliant company. The concert, which consisted of selections of vocal and instrumental music, was given with splendid effect. There were no less than 1,500 persons present at the ball, and dancing was throughout the evening kept up with the utmost spirit. At intervals during the night the beautiful fountain which played in the vestibule was so illuminated with a lime light as to cause the waters to sparkle with tints of varied hue. A splendid display of rockets took place about half-past 8 o'clock, and attracted hundreds of the guests to the greensward outside the tents, which was surrounded by a circle of lights, the ramparts beside it being crowded with people to witness the spectacle.
Supper was served shortly before 12 o'clock, and a most successful series of fêtes terminated shortly after.
The troops in garrison here soon after 11 this morning paraded on Southsea-common in review order, and were organized in three brigades, forming up in a line of contiguous columns at quarter distance, under the command of Lieutenant-General Sir George Buller, K.C.B,, Lieutenant-Governor of Portsmouth, and Commander-in-Chief of the Military South-west District. Sir George was attended by a numerous and brilliant staff of officers, among whom was the Earl of Cardigan. The troops on the ground consisted of two field batteries of artillery, the 6th and 12th brigades of Royal Artillery, one company of Royal Engineers, the 1st battalion of the 14th Regiment of Infantry, the Royal Marine Artillery, Royal Marine Light Infantry, 52d, 75th, 81st, and 87th Regiments of Infantry, 4,664 of all ranks, with 12 12-pounder breech-loading guns, and 164 horses attached to the guns.
The line was formed on the somewhat narrow and confined space of the Southsea-common parallel with the line of sea beach, and in full view of the combined fleets anchored at Spithead. Immense numbers of people assembled to witness the manœuvres, which lasted for about two hours.
The Minister of Marine, the Admirals, and chief officers of the French fleet were on the ground, and were on their arrival received with a general salute.
|Ma 4 September 1865|
DEPARTURE OF THE FRENCH FLEET.
This ball, the last in the programme of festivities, was unusually brilliant. It may not have been accompanied by any of those artistic surprises in which Frenchmen excel; there may not have been connected with it anything so ingeniously beautiful as those impromptu groves and gardens through which the guests wandered at the ball given at Brest on board the Ville de Lyons; but it was, nevertheless, very splendid and bright, neither unworthy of the national taste, of the national resources, nor of the occasion which it was meant to celebrate.
Not more than four or five hours elapsed after the ball had terminated before the French Fleet was under way. It was expected that it would not leave until about noon on Saturday; but late on Friday evening instructions were given to prepare for its departure as early as 9 or 10 o'clock on the following morning.
Favourable weather attended the coming of the Fleet, but a still brighter sun shone upon its leaving. Shortly after 9 o'clock the Mayor of Portsmouth — Mr. Ford — and the members of the Corporation,. accompanied by a large party of ladies and gentlemen, embarked from the Victoria pier in Her Majesty's steam yacht Sprightly, and proceeded to Spithead to witness the departure of the Fleet, and to say farewell, as far as was possible, to the pleasant guests whom it was about to bear away. The Sprightly had on board her also several children of the Orphan School, for whom an agreeable excursion was thus considerately provided. When the Sprightly neared the French ships a number of officers were seen on board the deck of the Magenta and Solferino, as well as of their companion ships, and the moment the Sprightly drew sufficiently close a loud cheer, in which the Mayor led the way, was raised from her decks. A cheer in answer was at once given from the decks of the Solferino, and hats were taken off and waved in recognition of the compliment. Handkerchiefs were seen, too, to wave at more than one of the portholes of the French vessel, and then there was one more cheer louder and more sustained than the last, and the Sprightly glided on her way, steaming by each vessel in the Fleet, and bidding the crews and officers of each as they stood upon the decks a similar adieu. From each in turn the cheers were cordially given back, and hats and handkerchiefs waved as before. Meantime parting visits were being paid by the Lords of the Admiralty to the French Minister of Marine on board the Reine Hortense, which lay in the harbour, and immediately after that beautiful yacht steamed out for Spithead, salutes being fired from the Victory and the garrison batteries. The Enchantress, with the Lords of the Admiralty on board, followed in her wake, and as soon as they reached the spot where the leading ships of the Fleet lay prepared to start, the guns of the Edgar thundered forth a salute of 19 guns, and then the two yachts drew towards each other, and dipped their flags in a parting salutation. It was the last official adieu, and while it was taking place, and for some time before, the Black Prince and all the other ships of the English Fleet had their yards manned in honour of those companions from whom they were in a few minutes about to separate. It was an imposing sight, that parting scene between the two fleets, amid the thickly clustering yachts with their snow-white sails, under an almost cloudless sky. The Enchantress, immediately after she had bid her late consort "good bye" steamed back to the harbour, and the Reine Hortense made for the open sea. The Sprightly had by this time got beyond the Fleet on her way to the Nab, and those on board had an opportunity of seeing each ship of the French Fleet to advantage, as following the lead of the Reine Hortense one after the other gradually but surely overtook and passed the little steamer. First in order came the stately Solferino, and immediately after her the Magenta, the whole of the Fleet steaming, ship after ship, in single file. When leaving Spithead the band stationed on the poop of the Solferino struck up "God Save the Queen," and a cheer was given by the crew on deck. As she passed the Sprightly a cheer was given on the deck of the latter. The cheer was at once echoed back by the crew of the great ship and the officers, amid the waving of hats and handkerchiefs as before, and the Solferino moved ahead on her way. Again were the cheers repeated as the Magenta followed in the wake of her sister ship, and so was it as each of the seven frigates, the Normandie, the Couronne, the Invincible, the Provence, the Flandre, the Heroine, and the Gloire, with three attendant sloops — the Faon, Caton, and Ariel — one by one steamed after their huge leaders. The Gloire brought up the rear of the long and formidable line.
About 11 o’clock, when the leading ships were about three miles south of the Nab light, the flag of Admiral Bouët-Willaumez, the admiral in command of the French squadron, was dipped in salute to that of the Minister of Marine, who proceeded on board the Reine Hortense to Havre, while the remaining vessels held on their way for Cherbourg; and thus ended the visit of the French Fleet to the shores of England.
Whatever may be the comparative merits of the two Fleets, there can be no doubt as to the cordial spirit in which they met, both on the coast of France and Portsmouth. While the French officers stayed among us, nothing could surpass the courtesy which they displayed towards all with whom they came in contact. The English naval authorities, on the other hand, left nothing undone to make the best return in their power for the splendid hospitality they received at Cherbourg and at Brest. From the moment the French Fleet anchored at Spithead until the hour of its departure an English gunboat in command of an English officer was placed at the disposal of each of the French ships, and while the French Minister of Marine and the chief officers of the French navy were being entertained at magnificent banquets on board the Duke of Wellington and in the Royal Naval College, the officers of the Black Prince and the other English ironclads at Spithead dispensed to those who remained behind a hospitality only less splendid. The warmth of the reception which the representatives of the French navy met with at the civic entertainment given in their honour by the Mayor and the Corporation of Portsmouth and the inhabitants in its vicinity could scarcely be exceeded. What pleased them most, perhaps, throughout the whole series of entertainments was the evident spontaneity which characterized every effort made to contribute to their gratification. There is reason to believe that they left our shores most favourably impressed with the endeavours which had been so earnestly made to render their stay at Portsmouth as agreeable as possible. Nothing, more than one French officer has been heard to say, greatly as they all admired our dockyards and our fleet, struck them so much as the immense number of yachts which all day long shot to and fro about the roadstead at Spithead, affording, as it did, so strong an indication of the naval tastes of the people.
The officers and men of the French Fleet will probably look back for many a day with satisfaction on the events of the past week, and on the more than kindly spirit in which the inhabitants of Portsmouth, and in their persons the entire people of England, bade them farewell.
|Tu 5 September 1865||The Channel squadron now at Spithead, under the command of Rear-Admiral Sir Sydney C. Dacres, K.C.B., weighed their anchors yesterday morning from the off-shore positions they had held during the stay of the Imperial squadron, and re-anchored in a double line in a more in-shore position, and in nearer communication with Portsmouth harbour.|
Among the many acts of courtesy extended by our naval officers to those of the French navy during the past week at Portsmouth the engineers of Her Majesty's Navy entertained the engineer officers of the ships of the Imperial squadron at dinner in the large hall of the Naval Engineers Club, Portsea.