In years gone by, we have had six other sailors in the family {a total of seven including myself}, five on my wife's side, the other one being our middle son Phillip.  In total, we seven men have served the crown and country for 132 YEARS

From old to young they are:-

NAME RANK/RATE at end of Service Approximate length
of service
Robert TURRELL Petty Officer with a "strong recommendation for the Chief Rate". Victorian Navy. 30 years
Thomas BURTON Master-at-Arms. Victorian Navy. 30 years
Sidney BURTON Master Mariner and Merchant Navy Captain. Victorian to between world wars. 30 years
John DASH  Leading Writer  John was an H.O. [Hostilities Only] called-up for the second world war. He served from 30th May 1940 until 1st June 1946

6 years

Peter GODDEN National Serviceman. Fleet Air Arm. Airborne Radar Mechanic. 2 years
Godfrey [Jeff] DYKES Warrant Officer.  30 years
Phillip DYKES Radio Operator 4 years
TOTALS   132







































Robert Dash




Annie Victoria Roper






m Sylvia



m Mary Eileen Ashley





In this table, colours are not important. In each cell with the letter 'm' [marriage] there is a symbol, and the children of that marriage are shown with this symbol and a numerical suffix denoting how many of their children were 'involved' in the navy.  The family tree does NOT show all the children of each of these marriages. For example, Sidney Burton and Kate Turrell had no issue, whereas Ellen Turrell and Joseph Turner had six children. When the cell 'm' does not have a symbol there is no further naval connection. 


m Kate

First to Phillip

Click to enlarge                 Click to enlarge  

Phillip joined the Royal Navy as a rating, 20 months after I had left the Service.  He joined the same Branch and became a Communicator. During his 4 years he served in Raleigh {his training establishment}; Mercury; Warrior; the destroyer Bristol and the frigates Boxer and  Phoebe. Phillip had a GCE A Level education/certificates, and I wasn't at all pleased that he had chosen such a career at the rating level. Moreover, I believe that he was wrongly recruited and advised.  After basic training at Torpoint in Cornwall, he came to my alma mater, Mercury, for specialist training. His trainers were ex colleagues of mine, and the feed back was that Phillip was wrongly placed and incomparable with his peers, who were young men of a lesser ability, certainly academically, and possibly in other areas too.  Phillip was just turned 19, but he was a mature young man.  He was very popular and gregarious and an enthusiastic able sportsman. His joining in this manner did not make sense, but Phillip was determined that this is what he wanted; this notwithstanding  his knowledge of my service career with all that that involved.  Phillip did not prosper because he was bored and found his employment futile and lacking a challenge.  Time and again his written reports suggested that  he would be an ideal candidate for promotion to the Special Duties List {promotion from lower deck to upper deck} but that would have involved a long wait, and Phillip was losing interest rapidly.  In his last ship, the Phoebe, he was finally recommended for Upper Yardsman, still a promotion  to  the upper deck but without the wait to become a petty officer first. By the time Phillip arrived for his full day at the Admiralty Interview Board [AIB] at Sultan in Gosport he had his sights set on civilian life.  The AIB selects suitable candidates for officer training, and Phillip was not selected.  When he finally decided to leave the navy, he told everybody about his decision except me, thinking that I would be displeased.  I think that in time he would have made a good officer, but since it wasn't to be, I was delighted when he left and found work in London.

Secondly to a Captain, a Master Mariner, in the Merchant Navy. 
Here, you will also meet his father, a Master-at-Arms in the Royal Navy.

His name was Sidney Burton and he was active before, during, and after the first world war. He was married to my wife's great great aunt, one of the daughters of Robert Turrell mentioned below.  We inherited all his papers [on parchment], letters and a couple of books. Subsequently, we have received copies of his birth and marriage certificates. For members of my wife's family his name was always associated with shame and his name was 'avoided':  it was not until early May 2002 that we got to know the reason why.   However, that 'silence' was in the 1960's, but during the first world war he pleased their Lordships at the Admiralty by manoeuvring his ship so as to avoid a submarine attack. Sidney has a wonderful set of papers, too numerous for me to show them all.  He was born in Gosport Hampshire on the 23rd November  1874,  and his school report [from the Collegiate School Gosport] of the 27th August 1889 refers to him as being a 'very honourable, tractable and attentive boy'.  He was acquainted with most of the subject taught in a good middle class school writes the Principal, consisting of the usual English subjects, French, Algebra and elementary book keeping:  he has also had some acquaintance with Physical Science.  Of his moral character, I cannot speak too highly.  In 1891, at the age of 17, he became an apprentice to the William Lowden & Co shipping company in Liverpool Click to enlarge The stately sum of Click to enlarge28 [with ten shillings per annum for washing] due to be paid in cash at the end of the four year apprenticeship in 1895, was paid over in three whacks of 6.17.1 [6.85], 4.12.3 [4.62] and 4.14.6 [4.72] between July 1893 and mid 1895, the final 11.16.2 [11.81] being paid on successful completion of training on the 1st December 1895, when he became an able seaman.  Click to enlarge  His very first Certificate of Discharge [loose pieces of paper replaced later on by a Continuous Certificate of Discharge in a Passport type booklet] shown below, Click to enlarge shows that his date of engagement coincided with the end of his apprenticeship [1/12/95] whilst actually at sea, and that he left the vessel in Dunkirk on the 14/3/96 as an able seaman.  Getting work cannot have been easy, or, he didn't like being away from home too often because he next signed on 4 months later, for a 13 month commitment leaving on the 14/8/97 whilst his ship was in Le Havre by which time he had become a Mate.  One full year later almost to the day, he sailed as the 2nd Mate in a very small vessel [136 reg tonnage] from Portsmouth to Constantinople and back being discharge 4 months later.  Again another lengthy break of 4 months before going back to sea for a goodly 14  months on the Cathcart Park of 453 reg tonnage, being promoted in the last 2 months to 1st Mate.  This was the last of his loose Certificates Click to enlarge which brings us up to 27/9/1900 when he was aged 26 and had been at sea for 9 years. However, although there is no supporting Discharge Certificate, this is the last letter concerning his service up to an including mid 1901.Click to enlargeOn the 2nd July 1902 he married Edith Kate [known as Kit], the youngest of the five daughters mentioned below [in white], of the next sailor, Robert Turrell. This lovely picture is of their wedding day.  Click to enlarge Here I show you the level of intimacy from [about to be] husband to wife.  Click to enlarge Click to enlarge.  Whilst people of my generation may have signed the back of their letter envelope with such caveats as SWALK and BURMA, Sidney always drew a picture; a caricature! Here are just a few of them. Click to enlarge.  Occasionally, he would 'tease' Kit by sending a geographical picture of his whereabouts as a post card without adding a text, and on one occasion, he actually sent the card to her address using morse code symbols - Click to enlarge  Click to enlarge.  Here in this picture the obverse is his ship and the reverse is the address of his wife.  In this picture, he tells his dearest of his movement by adding script to the obverse, whilst clearly, his wife's address is in doubt. Click to enlarge [here, the script says "We don't know if we shall go back to Barbados again, or come straight from Jamaica" and the reverse reads Click to enlarge.  Apart from Sidney himself, take note of Sidney's father, a Master at Arms [Chief Petty Officer] in the Royal Navy and author of the letter below in the second row - left, and Robert Turrell [see  'Finally......' below] the bride's father second row - right.  Sidney and Kit had no children.  Amongst Sidney's papers I found the following letter, written on the back of a parchment RN Service Certificate.  It is a most touching and  tender letter, and one which makes me see a Jossman [the Navy's colloquial name for a MAA -a Navy policeman] in a new light!  Click to enlarge.  It was written in July 1890 when Sidney was 16.  Just in case you find it difficult to read, here is a retype.

My dear Boy
It gives me great pleasure to know it is your wish to be apprenticed to Mr. Lowe to become a Carpenter and the opportunity of becoming a Master in due time if you will only be true to yourself.  I would very much have liked to have been at home that I could have given you a little advice on your commencing a new life it is as comparing it with school.  However, I will think of a few things that if you keep them in view and persevere I do not fear but you will give satisfaction Mr Lowe give pleasure to your Mother and Father also yourself likewise.  First be sure by asking Gods help you will feel you have strength to overcome all difficulties for difficulties will present themselves in all capacities of life think of your dear Brother Sisters Mother and Father who has always tried hard to direct you on the right course.  Always be glad to return to your happy home when your work is done think of the anxiety that would be caused by any delay.  Be civil and obliging to all you will have several Masters try to serve them all they in return will be glad to return it by showing you all and instructing you in your trade. Always be punctual keep your time then you will always be trusted if the contrary be sure no one can depend on you.  Always keep a clean appearance and keep your flesh clean and your boots in order a man is often decided of good breeding by the condition of his boots.  Avoid bad boys I do not mean to say there are any where you are but there may be one if  there is avoid his as a companion  but if you can give him kind advice by all means do so for you would be so glad if you knew you were means of retrieving him. Never tell an untruth should you commit an error admit it at  once never allow him whom it may concern have to ask who did this or that as the case may be truth my boy may be blamed but never shamed a man that tells one lie tells hundreds to hide it.  Never appropriate anything to your own use that is not yours not even the waste of an old nail  Covet naught that is not your own.  I conclude by begging of you to be sincere in your prayers to God who will always watch over and keep you from all harm God bless you my dear Boy.
Your ever loving Father
Master at Arms
H.M.S. Emerald
Newfoundland 10th July 90

How long he lasted with Mr Lowe is not documented, nor is his fathers reaction to him leaving his apprenticeship for a life at sea.  If his father wrote in this manner for a 16 year old going to work in the local town, what must he have written for a 17 year old leaving home to 'rough it' at sea?  Moreover, I wonder whether he chose the merchant navy instead of the Royal because of his fathers career?

In October 1901, Sidney was awarded his Masters Certificate for "foreign-going steamships" and if you look at the left hand side endorsed in ink, the certificate also allowed him to be the 1st Mate of a square rigged sailing vessel.  Fantastic stuff! Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Up until the first world war his wife used to go to sea with him!

From hereonin, the so called orderliness of the merchant marine is flawed and not to be trusted!  His next Certificate of Discharge, now in a passport-type booklet, shows that he joined the steamship Eider at Southampton on the 16th July 1904 as 2nd officer.  It looks as though he was 'testing the situation' after a long absence from the sea and that he either didn't like it or that domestic pressure forced him back to civilian shore employment. It was not the case.  Notwithstanding the recordings on these Certificates, the following two letters give a factual account of his time at sea and his appointments. 
Click to enlarge Click to enlarge

The Continuous Certificate of Discharge booklet showing front cover, ownership details, and three ship entries. Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge   In his records are many letters from shipping companies vouching for his 'sober and steady manner': his 'ability to handle men and ships well': his 'diligence and trustworthiness', and every report speaks highly about his morals.  All, without exception, recommend him to other shipping companies as an outstanding officer.  He left the Eider in June 1915, the last entry in his Continuous Certificate of Discharge booklet, but this is incorrect as the letters above show.  Can you imagine his pride at receiving the following letter?       He was now the Master of a merchantman employed on Government duties in war time! I am the proud owner of his War Instructions for British Merchant Ships 1917 Confidential Book - CB 415 copy number 2299.  It has the proverbial lead-lined front and back cover so that when thrown overboard it would sink to the bottom rapidly denying the enemy capture of it.  It is fascinating to read and it has many pictures of the silhouettes of our own warships and those of the enemy, plus some photographs of same. After the war, the CB was given to Sidney as a memento of his War Service.  Here, I show you the front cover of the CB and the inside of the front cover. Click to enlarge  Click to enlarge

On the 2nd of May 1918, Sidney took evasive action to thwart an attack on his ship by a German U-Boat.  As a consequence of that action, he received the following letter from The Commander-in-Chief Portsmouth, Admiral S.C. Colville. Click to enlarge As a reward for saving his ship, Sidney received 50 and his lookout 10 from Admiralty funds. Click to enlarge Undoubtedly, he would have been awarded WW1 medals but they are missing from his documents.

After the end of WW1, he continued at sea serving as a Chief Officer on the British salvage steamer "Semper Paratus", and the final letter of his documents reads as follows:- Click to enlarge  It is my intention to research further into his death and his final resting place, and if I am successful in that pursuit I will add those details here.  My final thought is that Sydney must have done some wrong on the domestic front to be so out of favour by the time I arrived on the scene in 1961.  I am pleased and proud that I have been able to tell his story as a sailor, for there is no doubt that he served his country well both in peace and in war.

Since writing this, my wife has been in touch with her elderly cousin [John Dash] of Gosport Hampshire, who recalls the fate of Sidney Burton post April 1923, the date of the last letter above.  Seemingly, he moved to become a Master of a White Star ship, the same shipping company which had owned the Titanic.  He had taken his ship to the South American port of Curacao.  Whilst ashore, a gale blew up [or was blowing at the time he left his ship] and the 1st Mate lost control of the ship resulting in a grounding?  Like all Captain's, Sidney was held responsible for hazarding his ship, and at an enquiry, lost his Masters certificate, and therefore his job.  He took a job ashore at the White Star offices in Southampton, which he again lost when Cunard bought White Star out. The poor man evidently found it hard to find a suitable job befitting his qualifications and experience, and ended his days as a rigger in Southampton docks.  By all accounts he was a very heavy smoker and he died on the 27th July 1939 [on my first birthday] when aged 64 years and 7 months.  Kit [his wife] died in 1985 aged 99 years and 3 months.  These pictures show auntie Kit in 1984 when she was 98 years of age.  They are taken at our home in Woodside, Gosport,  the first showing Beryl [with the lovely legs] - mostly!! : and the second showing the children Steven Phillip and Matthew - with their great great great aunty.

As an update at the 5th June 2002, my request for details to Lloyds of London and to the keeper of the White Star Archives has been but one way - from me to them.  It is nearly a month since I first wrote and I am awaiting an acknowledgement of receipt of my letter.  Things move very slowly and the frustration continues!  Today, the 4th of July I finally got an answer from Lloyds.  Regrettable they do not keep personal details.  However, they have referred me to another section of Lloyds at the Guildhall Library in London.  Their letter Click to enlarge had as an enclosure,  Click to enlarge a Infosheet which looks as though "Lloyd's Captains Register 1868-1947" will have all the answers I need to finished this story!  Let us hope so. 



John Dash was the great nephew of Sidney Burton, the sailor above.  He joined the Royal Navy very early in the war on the 30th May 1940 aged 21 years and 7 months, and served his country throughout, being discharged six years later on the 1st June 1946.  Those six years must have seemed like a life time to John and I can imagine that on many occasions during his long life, he reflected upon those dangerous days.  John's funeral took place at Porchester Hampshire on the 6th of October 2003, days short of his 85th birthday. 

His daughters have kindly loaned me some of John's naval records and these I reproduce [and amplify] here as a small tribute to his service to his country. 

John was a Leading Writer, and belonged to the Supply and Secretarial Branch of the Navy. In those days, sailors belonging to this Branch wore a peaked-cap and a button-up uniform instead of the more traditional sailor's uniform. Sue, one of John's daughters, tells me that this photograph was taken whilst he was in Alexandria Egypt.

His service record shows that he had a very varied career with world wide postings [drafts].  His basic training at HMS Royal Arthur lasted from 30th May to 14th July 1940, thereafter being employed as follows:-

Name of ship Location Rating Period
HMS Victory II Portsmouth Writer [Probationary] 45 days
HMS Rooke Gibraltar Naval Base Writer [Probationary] and [Confirmed] 1 month
HMS Victory II Portsmouth Writer 6 months
HMS Grebe Cyprus - Navy Airfield at Dekheila half way between Famagusta and Larnaca Writer 1 year 11 months
HMS Victory  Portsmouth Writer 3 months
HMS Iron Duke A WW1 Battleship used for harbour duties. Location not known Writer and Leading Writer 9 months
HMS Victory Portsmouth Leading Writer 6 days
HMS Lanka Ceylon Naval Base. Jerry Judge, a former musician in the RM Bands [Royal Naval School of Music] has emailed me to tell me that 'Lanka' was the former St Josephs College [at Colombo], commendered as a 'fleet pool' to keep the Far Eat Fleet  up to strength. Thank you Jerry for the information. Leading Writer 2 months
HMS Resource
[See picture and details of mileage covered]
Far East and Australia Leading Writer 1 year 11 months
HMS Victory Portsmouth Leading Writer 2 months





This is HMS Resource

Click to enlarge

This is a thumbnail of John's Service Certificate.

The piece of naval message pad to the left is from the commanding officer of HMS Resource Lieutenant Commander [N] T.M. Sowerby Royal Navy Voluntary Reserve.

The dist [distribution] line on the bottom shows that it had a full and wide distribution including the W/R [Wardroom]; WOs' NBs [Warrant Officers noticeboards] Ship's NBs.

It covers the period May 1945 to November 1945 [post war] when HMS Resource steamed 8850 miles.

To help you understand better where LEYTE, MANUS, SYDNEY and HONG KONG are relative to each other, look at the following map. 







Finally, John's Certificate of Service showing his CHARACTER and his EFFICIENCY.  You will observe that they are respectively VG = Very Good and Supr = Superior, the Navy's way of saying that he is a good man all round. 

Click to enlarge   Click to enlarge

As an added feature to John's story, visiting Leyte in 1945 only months after the end of the BIGGEST SEA BATTLE OF ALL TIME was fought between the Japanese and the American navies, must have been an emotional affairs.  The Battle of Leyte Gulf remains a story of raw sea power which destroyed the Japanese Navy and therefore heralded the end of the Second World War. Beneath the waters over which John sailed in his ship HMS Resource, lay thousands of Japanese dead sailors and a lesser amount of American sailors.  When the battle finished on the 27th October 1944, the toll against the Imperial Japanese Navy had been heavy. Of the 65 ships that started, 26 were sunk including the the entire force of Japanese carriers, three battleships and ten cruisers.  Even the flagship Musashi had gone down.  For the sinking of these 26 ships, the United States Navy had lost 6 capital ships out of a total of 166.  The 6 ships sunk included a light aircraft carrier and some small carriers and destroyers. 4 days of hard battle had ended in a Japanese defeat of great magnitude. This is a list of the MAJOR ships which took part.  There were many others not listed here. Click to enlarge









Finally, to my wife's great great grandfather, who was a Royal Navy man. NOTE. The fifth sailor is mentioned in this section.

His name was Robert Turrell, height 5 foot 5 inches at age 18 [i.e., on joining the navy] and again, we were  fortunate to have his parchment service certificate. Counting his Service in the old hulk ASIA at Portsmouth, his total service spanned from 1853 until 1870, a total of 27 years. He died in Gosport, Hampshire, in 1922 aged 87 having been born in the reign of William IV, and had a very splendid Naval funeral consisting of a gun carriage,  a bearer party and a bugler. Click to enlargeThis first picture of Robert was taken in Hong Kong in 1869, at "Pun Lin, Photographer & Ivory Painter No56 Queen's Road, upstairs Opposite the Oriental Bank".  He was 34 years of age but since the month in 1869 is not known, he was  serving in either the Perseus or the Princess Charlotte.  In both ships, his rating was bosuns mate which unlike my time, was a petty officer. Click to enlargeHe was married to Harriot Aldous and they had five girls.  Evidently he was pleased they were girls because he didn't want any of his children to go into the navy because his life had been so very hard. Click to enlarge
Click to enlargeNaturally, his obituary in the local newspaper reflected his well known presence in the town.  It is too frail a document to copy or scan, so here is a verbatim type of it.

Crimean Veteran's Death at Gosport
Another of the fast disappearing band of Crimean veterans passed away on Saturday, at Gosport, in the person of Mr. Robert Turrell, late Royal Navy.  Born at Beccles, Suffolk, in 1835, deceased, at the age of fourteen years, entered the merchant service, and joined a sailing ship at London.  His first voyage was a rather slow but successful trip around the world.  Having thus qualified as a seaman, he joined the Royal Navy on returning home. His first service boat was H.M.S. Tribune, in which he sailed in 1853.  Subsequently, he served on H.M.S. Victory as an A.B., and during the Crimean war was engaged in the Princess Royal.
Many were the stories he was proud to recount, particularly in relation to the part he took in the capture of prizes of war and exciting adventures in escorting them to the home ports.  Mr. Turrell served on H.M.S. Warrior, the first of the old ironclads, and passing through the Excellent, he qualified in gunnery, his parchment being endorsed "a most exemplary Petty Officer."
His last ship was H.M.S. President from which he was pensioned in 1874. Rejoining H.M.S. Asia, he served as a pensioner in the old Steam Reserve, finally quitting the Service in 1880, the proud possessor of the Crimean, Turkish and Baltic medals.
In private life he interested himself in Friendly Society work, and was one of the founders of the Royal Naval Lodge of Odd-fellows, and was one of the few original members present at the festivities celebrating the jubilee of the Lodge. For thirty five years he was caretaker of the Gosport Congregational Church and Sunday school.  He was a wonderful old gentleman for his 87 years, and a host of friends will miss him.
At the Gosport Brotherhood, on Sunday, the large gathering of men stood in silence as a tribute to the memory of one of their oldest members.

Naval Honours at the Funeral

A gun carriage from the Naval barracks Portsmouth, conveyed the remains of Mr. Robert Turrell to their last resting place at Ann's Hill cemetery on Tuesday afternoon.  A bearer party with bugler was also furnished by the barracks, and the Union Jack covered the coffin.  A short service, conducted by the Rev. E.W. Franks MA, who came from Shanklin especially for the occasion, was held at the residence of the deceased. After the graveside Benediction, the bugler sounded the 'last post'.
The obituary then continues with a list of names of those who attended.  It mentions Captain. S. Burton [another son-in-law] who was away on service.

Click to enlargeClick to enlarge Click to enlarge   Click to enlarge Grandpa Turrell was much revered by his family especially by his children.  Soon after meeting my wife-to-be, I met aunty Kit, one of those five daughters I mentioned above. She was very elderly then [in 1961] but her memories of her father were vivid and she was lucid in her recollections.  Bearing in mind that her father, her father-in-law and her husband were all long time naval men, and that her great nephew, Peter Godden,  had served in the Royal Navy, I was the first  sailor to come near to the family since the funeral of her husband Sidney Burton, so I think she saw me as special:   Beryl's cousin, Peter Godden, had served his two year National Service time in the Fleet Air Arm in the 1947/49 period.   Click here to see details of Peter's Service.


 I was thrilled to know that she had her father's service certificate, but I wasn't allowed to have it to read.  Aunty Kit died within days of her 100th birthday in a care-home in Gosport, and the service certificate went 'underground'.  It wasn't until recently [1999] that the Peter Godden mentioned above brought it to my home for me to study. 
It is a marvelous document to see and to hold, but a closer inspection revealed things that his family, manifest in Beryl's reaction she being his great great grand daughter, do not want to know about, and rather resent an outsider [me] from tarnishing his memory by interpreting the document too literally. The certificate shows that Turrell joined his first ship, the Tribune on the 25th July 1853 as an ordinary seaman.  That is of great interest to me personally because give or take a few months, I joined the Navy exactly 100 years later in 1953. He was 18 which meant that his round the world trip when aged 14 must have lasted for a few years, if, at his home coming, he joined the Royal Navy. He stayed in Tribune for nearly three years until the 6th June 1856.  THAT IS HOW THE STORY STARTS!  For some reason best known to the Admiralty and to Robert himself, the first eleven years of his service certificate is hand written by the same person, namely the Captain of H.M.S. Excellent who states " Copy of Admiralty  statement dated 6 October 1865."  In those eleven years his certificate looks like this: my table will guide you through the document.

Click to enlarge

Ships Name Ships book number Rating Entry Discharge or Transfer Years Days


Ability in

G.C.Badge Remarks Captain's signature 
End of 1st year End of 2nd year On Discharge Seamanship Gunnery Small Arm Drills
Tribune 159 ord 25July53 31March55         Good           *
Tribune 159 AB 1April55 6June56         Good           *
Victory 20235 AB 7June56 7July56         Not given         Run from leave *
Fisguard 12 AB 14July56 13Sept56         Not given           *
Blenheim - for Osborne tender 17 AB 14Sept56 4Oct56         Bad         Something [erased] unfit for service in Osborne *
Princess Royal 491 AB 5Oct56 31Dec57         Good           *
Princess Royal 491 2c F Top 1Jan58 5Dec59         Good           *
Megdra 26 Cap F Top 22March60 29Aug61         Good V.Good       Bedding 30 Aug 60 *
Warrior 387 Cap F Top 30Aug61 30Sept62     V.Good V.Good V.Good A qualification
dated 14Oct64
T.M. 1June62
V.Good One 1Sep63 Hospital *
Warrior 387 Cap Fcle 1Oct62 3Aug64     V.Good V.Good V.Good V.Good V.Good V.Good     *
Warrior 387 Cap Fcle 4Aug64 22Nov64     V.Good V.Good V.Good V.Good V.Good V.Good     *
Excellent 1629 Cap Fcle 23Nov64 1Sept65     V.Good V.Good V.Good       Two   *
Excellent 1629 Cap Fcle 2Sept65 31Dec65     V.Good V.Good V.Good           *
Excellent 1629 Cap Fcle 1Jan66 6Feb66     V.Good V.Good V.Good           *
Prince Albert 56 `Bo Mate 7Feb66 10Oct66     V.Good V.Good V.Good V.Good V.Good V.Good     *
Excellent 1298 Bo Mate 11Oct66 21Jan67     V.Good V.Good V.Good           *

* All signed by the same officer, the Captain of H.M.S. Excellent!

Therefore, this is not his original service certificate, but a copy. All certificates show every single day served in the Navy [original or copied].  This one doesn't. There are two breaks in continuity. The first, whilst serving in Victory in 1856 appears the start of a 'bad patch' for dear Robert.  It very much looks as though he went on the run for a week and was caught, or he gave himself up, to re-enter by joining Fisguard 'under a cloud'. After two months, he joined Blenheim where his character was adjudged BAD and was discharged as being unfit to serve in that ship.  At a time when Britain was at war, it is quite amazing that his 'runner' wasn't punished more harshly.  He then joined the Princess Royal on the 5th October 1856, in which, after 14 months service, he regained his GOOD character. He left the Princess Royal on the 5th December 1859 and what happened between then and the 22 March 1860 is a mystery.  This is the second break in continuity.  [How he would have been dressed as a Able Seaman {Crimea time} Click to enlarge ]  


          Sadly, for whatever reason, the gift was not claimed.  

ADDED on 2nd September 2008 many years after this page was written and published.
"Out of the blue" I received this email from HMS Warrior.  Whilst it is a kind and sincere gesture, it makes one wonder about the competence of recent Curators' of HMS Warrior.   The gift mentioned above is no longer available [of course], neither are we to act as volunteers.  Our interest in the naval aspects of HMS Warrior is as strong as ever -  how could it not be with a member of the family forming part of the crew of its first commission - but we are not interested  in the commercial side of the ship, which regrettably to many naval men, appears to be the modus operandi of the ship's management. Click on the thumbnail below to read the email.

Click to enlarge

France built the world's first wooden-hulled, ironclad-armoured battleship, the Gloire in 1859. Great Britain was then the foremost industrial nation in the world and responded by building HMS Warrior. She boasted high quality all-iron construction, a powerful steam engine, high speed, ocean-going capability and new, rifled, breech-loading guns. HMS Warrior was a quantum leap forward in warship technology and the most powerful warship of her day. She is preserved at Portsmouth.

This picture is of a pen-and-ink sketch of HMS Warrior circa 1862.  It is framed in a hand carved wooden frame, carved from wood supplied to the Warrior [for general maintenance and shoring in times of war/action] by Robert Turrell whilst serving as a captain-of-the-fore-top*.   The frame, though crude in construction, is a family heirloom, which hangs above my Edwardian naval officer desk in our sitting room.  Click to enlarge 

* The expression captain-of-the-fore-top has the following meaning.  First a captain. The following Oxford English Dictionary Edition 2 states, amongst others, that a captain is also......

"b. Applied to the chief sailor of a gang of men to whom the duties of a certain portion of the ship are assigned, as captain of the forecastle, captain of the hold, captain of the maintop, etc.
1801 Naval Chron. VI. 103 He was captain of a gun at the Battle of the Nile.
1833 Marryat P. Simple ii. vii, The captain of the main-top was there with two other sailors.
1859 F. Griffiths Artil. Man. (1862) 208, No. 1, the Captain [of a gun] commands, attends the breech, primes, points, and fires.
1882 Navy List July 459 Captain of Quarter-deck Men, Captain of the Forecastle, Captain of the Foretop, Captain of the Hold, etc".

Any royal sailor will tell you that perhaps the most well known of such captains, is the captain-of-the-heads, sometimes captain-of-the-heads-and-bathrooms, where the 'heads' are the toilets!  A necessary job but one which all try and avoid.

Second the fore top.  HMS Warrior has three masts.  Counting from the bow [front of the ship] the first mast is the FOREMAST: the second, the MAINMAST and the third, the MIZENMAST.  Each mast had its own crew further divided as follows.  

From the picture above, you will see that the foremast has four sails. 

NOTE: For reasons I do not understand, Warrior, as rigged today, doesn't ? 
20th September 2003 - I have just learnt from an authoritative but unofficial source the reason, which is that the Portsmouth City Establishment didn't want such tall masts dominating the sky-line so the masts had to be reduced, or were never built in the renovation of the ship.  So, what you see today is a mini version of the former Warrior which is a great pity, the more so when despite a detailed search of the Warrior literature given out to visitors and the content of the Warrior website, this fact is not mentioned. There is a second reason.  The rope rigging used to support the tops of the three masts would have been too expensive to maintain given the height and the need for special equipment to gain access.  To reduce costs, the tops were not fitted.

The mainmast  also has four and the mizen three.  To support these sails the foremast has four horizontal spars or yards [note, not yardarms which are the end of the yards where rigging is placed].  The bottom spars/yards [one to port and one to starboard]  which are the nearest to the deck are called the LOWER MASTS.  The next ones up are the TOP MASTS. The next pairs are the TOP GALLANT MASTS and finally, the fourth pair are called the ROYAL MASTS.  I have said that each mast had its own crew manifest in that each of the spars/yards had its own crew with a sailor in charge of the correct functioning of the rigging and sails attached to it.  Robert Turrell was therefore, the sailor in charge [the 'captain'] of the crew manning the TOP MASTS on the FOREMAST - the FORETOP.  NOTE:  I have used the Edwardian Royal Naval Seamanship Manual for my explanations.  

Another interesting thing is his involvement in the Crimean war.  All medals issued are shown on the certificate, whether original or a copy.  Only the Turkish medal is shown.  In his obituary it states that he was in the Princess Royal during that war, but he didn't join her until the 5th October 1856.  The war was  over by that time and the Treaty of Paris was signed on the 30th March 1856.  Yet his photograph shows him wearing the Crimea and the Baltic medals as well as the Turkish Crimean medal!

Thereafter, his service certificate runs a normal course with each separate captain signing  for his time in each ship/establishment.  From the last entry above [Excellent] he joined a ship whose entry is unreadable.  It was entered using red ink but has now faded to a very pale pink: he left it on the 30th May 1867 [that part is readable] so between Excellent and that date, he saw just over four months service in her.  His assessments both for character and ability remained as VERY GOOD throughout, and he was awarded his third GC Badge on the 1st September 1867.  Click to enlarge  This is page 2 of 2 of the certificate.  The Victorians were not exactly neat people!  Most of the entries on this page are readable.  You will see his official number, that on the Princess Charlotte in 1870 he was assessed an "an exemplary Petty Officer" and upon leaving that ship he was "Strongly recommended for a Chief Rate.  He didn't make it and remained a bosuns mate to the end.  His ships following on from Excellent in the table above were: Grasshopper; Perseus; Princess Charlotte; Perseus; Princess Charlotte; Donegal.  The next entries read: Excellent - 2036 - Bo Mate - 1Oct70- 4Apr71 - Haslar, then, whilst still Excellent, 5Oct71 - 17Jul71 - Haslar, meaning I take it, that he was in RNH Haslar for 9 months.  He went back to Excellent on the 18th July 1871 until he was transferred to President 2 months later.  After 15 months in President he was 'Paid Off' and whilst still on their books, 'Pensioned' on the 15th May 1874.  I like to think that between PAID OFF and PENSIONED, he took 18 months terminal leave!!!

Whatever, he rejoined as a pensioner, to become an AB on the Asia [hence Asia pontoon that we all knew]  on the 22nd May 1874 -     I do so hope that he took that terminal leave and didn't, after only 1 week ex-President books, go straight back to work, albeit in 'dad's navy.'

Almost 2 years to the day, he was again 'paid off'. At this point it gets a little untidy where April apparently follows May.  What is certain is that on the 18th March 1877 he was discharged "Shore on account of ill-health."  He left with an assessment of Exemplary.

I would have loved to have known him 'warts and all' for he was obviously a character.  I can visualise him , say, in the Warrior in the 1860's now a well seasoned sailor [Capt of the Fcle] and a fountain of knowledge which I would have drained had I been there.  He is to say the least, a remote family connection for me, but one I am very fond of, and proud too, that I have  his Naval record. 

That said, there are too many contradictions about this man which need to be investigated.  For that reason, I searched the Admiralty files in the Public Records Office, Kew, specifically  the MEDAL ROLLS giving details of all medals awarded to either personnel or to ships [and therefore to the crew].  Each medal has its own file within  a catalogue, and one must know the full Service details of the person [sailor] and in which ship they served at the time of the Campaign/date of issue. Armed with that knowledge taken from his Service Certificate, I was able to look at the details of his medals, viz BALTIC, TURKISH CRIMEAN and BRITISH CRIMEAN medals. 

The BALTIC medal was issued to INDIVIDUALS who served in the Baltic Sea during the period 11th September 1854 to 11th September 1855.  In those days as you will know, Russia had a large coastline bordering the Baltic.

The TURKISH CRIMEAN medal was also awarded for the same time/date period as the BALTIC medal, but instead of it being given by the British Government, it was given by the Sultan of Turkey as a thank you present.  This medal was awarded on a ship by ship basis, so if your ship was anywhere near to Turkey, and for that, the ship would in the BLACK SEA or THE SEA OF AZOV, you would have received this medal.

The BRITISH CRIMEAN medal was more complicated!  Everybody who took part got the same medal.  For the Navy and Royal Marines there were THREE CLASPS issued.  If you had been a Marine and had been stationed ashore fighting alongside the Army, you would have been in the MARINE BRIGADE.  For this type of Service, again for the 1 year mentioned above [11 Sep to 11 Sep], you would have receive the medal with the Clasp "SEBASTOPOL".  If you had been fighting ashore alongside the Army and you were a sailor, you would have been in the NAVAL BRIGADE, and the Clasp would also be "SEBASTOPOL".  If, and which is more likely, you had been a sailor at sea in a warship, the rules for being awarded a medal were very much tighter and restrictive.  Your ship had to be serving in the Sea of Azov [as the Russians called it], which is almost a land-locked sea [off the Black sea] surrounding most of the easterly sea border of the virtual island of Crimea running parallel to the Russian supply line coming south from the Ukraine.  We called that sea the AZOFF and the 'window' of qualification for the medal with the Clasp "AZOFF" was from the 25th May to the 22nd September 1855 only - just 121 days.  This was an INDIVIDUAL medal.  Here is a picture of the Crimean medal showing the Army Clasps. Click to enlarge 

Crimean War Medal

The Crimean War Medal was sanctioned on the 15th December 1854 by order of Queen Victoria. Two clasps were also authorised at this time, for the battles of Alma (20th September 1854) and Inkermann (5th November 1854). The clasp for the battle of Balaklava (which took place before that of Inkermann, on 25th October 1854) was not authorised until 23rd February 1855. The clasp for the fall of Sebastopol (9th September 1855) was granted on 13th October 1855. A clasp was also awarded to the Royal Navy and Royal Marines for actions in the Sea of Azoff (25th May - 22nd September 1855), being announced in the "London Gazette" of 2nd May 1856. The clasps are worn in date order, with the clasp for Alma being closest to the medal.

The medal itself is a 36mm disc of sterling silver, bearing the diademed head of Queen Victoria on the obverse, together with the legend "VICTORIA REGINA" and the date "1854"; the reverse shows a Roman legionary (carrying a gladius and circular shield) being crowned with a laurel wreath by a winged figure of Victory; to the left is the legend "CRIMEA," which is written vertically. The suspension is an ornate floriated swivelling suspender unique to the Crimea Medal; the clasps are also unique, being in the form of an oak leaf with an acorn at each extremity. The ribbon is 27mm wide, pale blue with yellow edges.

275,000 un-named Crimea medals were awarded (at the time, the largest distribution ever made) to all those in the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Marines who took part in the campaign in the Crimean peninsula, or in related service afloat. Those who took part in the Baltic campaign or the actions in the Pacific were not entitled: the former received the Baltic Medal; the latter, nothing. Some civilians, most notably the reporter for "The Times," William Howard Russell, also received the medal. Medals could be returned to the Mint for naming (in a style known as "officially impressed"), but many were crudely stamped with names by recipients who were presented with their medals in the Crimea ("Depot impressed"), or were privately engraved by jewellers in England.

Having researched this data, I then paid $10.00 to the PRO to give me an estimate on how much it would cost for them to copy these files, which would, hopefully, reveal the name of Robert Turrell for the two Individual medals and HMS Tribune [his ship at the time] for the ship-awarded medal.  This is a record of that transaction and the questions I posed.


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Was ROBERT TURRELL ORDINARY/ABLE SEAMAN Service No 41243 who served in the Royal Navy from 1853 until approx 1874 awarded the BALTIC MEDAL [1854-1855]





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Was ROBERT TURRELL ordinary/able seaman Service No 41243 who served in HMS Tribune July 1853-June 1856 awarded the Crimean Medal 'AZOFF' clasp 25 May-22 Sept 1855





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Was ROBERT TURRELL ordinary/able seaman Service No 41243 awarded the Turkish Crimean Medal [1854-1855]SERVING in HMS Tribune










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Have you ever tried the PRO [Public Record Office] route?  There are three ways.  A personal pre-arranged visit with access/proof of identity on the timed arrival;  the co-opting of a expert researcher, who, for a fee, will get the information required [providing it is in the public domain], and finally, a internet access.  Do you want some really SERIOUS ADVICE? - DON'T CHOOSE THE LATTER OPTION. Whatever monies have been spent to free-up information we are ENTITLED TO, new Labour has clearly tied-the-hands of civil servants and the so-called 'SERVICE' is BAD to say the least. The original cost was  small,  but with an added 'arm and a leg' telephone bill for the many weekly calls where I was  tossed from person to person/department to department in pursuance of a simple recorded fact; was he or was he not .............?; the experience has taught me not to repeat the IT route.

If that were not enough, the eventual answer to my question does not auger well for Robert Turrell!  

Robert Turrell, by virtue of serving in HMS TRIBUNE, was awarded the TURKISH MEDAL and the BALTIC MEDAL.  By the time these two medals were issued, he had changed ship's and was serving in the PRINCESS ROYAL.  That obviously accounts for the statement in his obituary that he won these medals whilst serving in this ship.  However, the third medal quoted, viz, the CRIMEAN MEDAL, was not awarded to either him personally or to the ship TRIBUNE.  Tribune was much too large a ship to be engaged in the Sea of Azov [Russian name] on covert operations, where, because of the shallow nature of the sea, the fore-runners of the Royal Marine Commando's SBS [special boat service] [see also the item ONE YEAR IN THE LIFE OF A WARSHIP] would have been in their element.  For all posterity, this sea has now reverted to land-mass and is no more  a navigable water-way.

Therefore, to respect this gentleman as a hero of our inheritance, his three medals have to be reassigned as follows.  You have seen the photograph of Robert wearing three medals, but the  photographic quality, even enhanced, fails to show the true and multi-colour of the medal ribbons.  Based on the information from the PRO and the results of the photographic analysis, at best, and complimentary to Robert,  I have to say that the third medal is for long and loyal service to the Crown, namely the proverbial long service and good conduct medal.

Whatever the derivation of his medal set, I salute him and I am proud that I married into a family with such a Naval history.  I hope that those of the TURNER family who read this site understand this man, who from an inexplicable 'rocky' start [in times we, today, would call Dickensian] became a bastion of the lower-deck in the first of the IRON CLAD's and served his time without merit, but with forbearance just the same as I did 100 years later.

Thus, I lay this sub-page to rest.  He was a man of merit [notwithstanding his human failings] and I would have been everlastingly proud to be associated with him and his family.