Royal Navy obituary in the Times newspaper
Royal Navy obituary in the Times newspaper

Royal NavyObituaries

The following obituary for Henry Fairfax appeared in the Times newspaper.

Obituary in the Times newspaper
21 March 1900

Admiral Sir Henry Fairfax.

We regret to announce the death of Admiral Sir Henry Fairfax, the Commander-in-Chief at Devonport, which took place yesterday at Naples, whither the Admiral had gone on leave of absence. He was in his 64th year, and had enjoyed good health until a short time since, while only at the end of last week it was reported that he had sufficiently recovered from his indisposition to warrant an early return to his duties at the western port.

Henry Fairfax, son of Colonel Sir Henry Fairfax, was born on January 21, 1837, and on December 7, 1850, entered the Royal Nary, seeing service in his younger days on board the Amphitrite in two voyages to the Behring Straits and the Arctic Sea. Later on, as a lieutenant of the Ariel, being commissioned in that rank on August 25, 1858, he merited the approbation of the Admiralty by his distinguished service on the South-East Coast of Africa, especially in the capture of a piratical slaver, and "their lordships, wishing to express their high sense of Lieutenant Fairfax’s great gallantry, promoted him to the rank of Commander." His commission was dated on November 4, 1862, and that of Captain on April 3, 1868. His experience on the East Coast of Africa was utilized in 1863-70, when he served as a member of the Foreign Office on the Slave Trade, and again in 1872-73, when he accompanied Sir Bartle Frere as naval attaché on a special mission to the Sultan of Zanzibar and Muscat. On his return he served for nearly 12 months as private secretary to Mr. Goschen, then the First Lord of the Admiralty, and on relinquishing that office was appointed to the command of the Volage, the vessel which conveyed to Kerguelen the astronomical expedition for the observation of the transit of Venus. In the Volage be remained on the South-East Coast of America as Senior Officer until, in 1877, he was recalled to take command of the Britannia, training ship for naval cadets, on board of which vessel the Prince of Wales had decided to place his two sons, Prince Albert Victor and Prince George, for a preparatory naval training.

Captain Fairfax was now made a Companion of the Bath, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and a naval aide-de-camp to the Queen. As yet he had seen no war service, but on July 11, 1882, when in command of the Monarch, he was present at the bombardment of Alexandria, and subsequently was in command of the naval and marine forces which seized and occupied Port Said. For these services he was granted the Egyptian medal, the Khedive's Bronze Star, the Osmanieh of the Third Class, was made a C.B. of the Military Division, and, on leaving Port Said, received through her Majesty’s Agent and Consul-General the thanks of the Egyptian Government "for the manner in which public security and the preservation of order had been maintained." On July 1, 1885, he was promoted to flag rank, and from February, 1887, until September, 1889, served as Commander-in-chief on the Australian Station. Returning home, he was on October 24, 1889, chosen as a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty, holding office until May, 1892. During this period he was on June 20, 1891, promoted to Vice-Admiral, and was a member of the committee appointed to take evidence and report upon the manning of the Navy.

Admiral Fairfax's next appointment was in command of the Channel Squadron, in which he hoisted his flag on May 10, 1892, and hauled it down on May 10, 1894. During this period he twice commanded the "Red" Fleet during the naval manoeuvres, but his tenure of office will be better remembered by the circumstances connected with the stranding of the HoweExternal link, one of the ships of the squadron, in the entrance to Ferrol Harbour on November 2, 1892. The Admiral was brought to trial by Court-martial on a charge that he had, by negligence or default, hazarded the ships under his command, "whereby her Majesty’s ship HoweExternal link was stranded on a rock to the south of the entrance to the harbour." The captain and navigating-lieutenant of the HoweExternal link had previously been tried and acquitted, and, as Admiral Fairfax in his defence said, the course taken was altogether unusual. The defence put forward was, as The Times pointed out at the time, entirely conclusive of his freedom from blame. The shoal upon which the HoweExternal link struck was not marked in the charts supplied to the Fleet by the Admiralty, which, indeed, indicated seven fathoms of water at low tide in the position which it occupies. A verdict of acquittal was pronounced, and on her Majesty’s birthday, May 25, 1896, he was made a K.C.B. On May 10, 1899, he was promoted to Admiral and later in the year was appointed Commander-in-Chief at Plymouth. Admiral Sir Henry Fairfax was D.L. and J.P. for Roxburghshire, in which county he owned property. He was married, in 1872, to Harriet, a daughter of Sir David Kinloch.

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