Lady in Waiting Part 1
As the Ville de Paris gathered speed she gently heeled over and started an easy up and down motion. The sails were secured and we started heading homeward.
I shook myself out of my reverie and told Anna that I would go back to our cabin but if she wanted she could remain on deck.
With a smile she answered. “No Miss it’s cool up here I will go and milk the goat and feed the children then help you get ready for tonight.”
“Oh” I gasped. “I had forgotten all about that but with our limited wardrobe I knew what I will wear!”
The dress I had in mind was of course part of my ‘liberated’ clothing taken from the Emperor’s baggage train so very long ago. This beautiful dress made of a cream cotton fabric with lilac flower pattern.
The underskirt is a dark lilac shantung fabric as is the front bodice of the dress with silver delicate cross-laced pattern. The bodice is boned in the front and back and laces up at the back (no need for a corset) this makes it very comfortable to wear.
It also had a full-layered petticoat that was a swine to pack but we managed it. Unfortunately I had to discard the matching feathers for my hair, as they simply would not have survived the rigors of being with the 95th. The sleeves of my dress were very delicate and ¾ length with lace inside the cuff.
Arriving at our cabin the marine who guarded us snapped smartly to attention that startled me. I smiled my thanks and told him. “You needn’t do this every time we enter or leave.
Gruffly he responded. “Thank you M’Lady but the young officer would have me guts fur garters if he saw me not saluting you!”
Taken aback I asked. “Is that the man sent to bring me to the ship?” “Yes Miss” he answered. I sighed and commented. “He does not seem like a very nice person.”
He diplomatically refrained from answering but his slight smile told me everything.
While Anna went to milk our goat I played with Annabel and Edmond who were very lively and into everything now walking they were a handful and as far as talking they could say Mama (which really thrilled me) also they could say other words quite well but had like all children their own language which only Anna and I could decipher. Anna arrived back quite disgusted that the goats had already been milked.
As I got ready there came a knock at the door which Anna answered it was some food for her and the children which I must admit did smell quite nice it was a stew for some sort with peas (dried peas made up a large part of the rations) white bread and coddled eggs with goats milk (the reason the goats had been milked) and a small flagon of wine.
I finished getting ready while Anna fed the children then another knock sounded which I answered this time it was an officer to escort me to the ‘Great Cabin’ as it was called for obvious reasons – it was err well big.
This was where the Admiral or commanding officer of the ship lived and worked it was the full width of the ship right at the back and had glass windows that overlooked the sea. There was a separate bedroom, privy, pantry, office and main cabin, which was where we were eating.
I was introduced to the assembled officers and as it happened the Admiral had been a midshipmen with my own father and the Captain had served under my father and knew my brother.
The evening was very convivial and the food was excellent mainly because the ship has provisioned in Gibraltar hence there was still many live animals on board.
We had the usual multi course meal starting with Turtle Soup, Fried Whitebait and Brill with a shrimp sauce.
Then came Chicken, Pork cutlets, Haunch of Mutton, Boiled Turkey, Boiled Tongue served with the ubiquitous peas, turnips and potatoes.
Finally there was a selection of cheese with white bread. There was a selection of wines to match the food and hot chocolate. The men had brandy to finish while I had wine all in all it was a really pleasant evening and to be truthful eased me slowly into the world of society which I had been absent for so long.
Another thing I noticed was that it had been nearly 2 years since I had seen let alone eaten this amount of food that despite pecking at my meal like a bird I was still uncomfortably full.
The trip home was exceedingly slow as the winds remained stubbornly from the northerly direction but we and the children kept ourselves amused and Edmond and Annabel were loved by all the crew their speech was improving as they soaked up words which at times was a touch disconcerting as some of the words they heard was to put it mildly not what you could use in front of a vicar! Also as they grew they were evolving their own personalities totally different but so endearing.
Life on the Ville de Paris was strictly regulated with sail drill’s, man overboard drills and gun drills.
The first time all the guns were run out together startled us, as the noise was horrendous. Imagine 110 iron guns weighing many tons on small wooden wheels with iron rims being hauled across wooden decks!
It sounded like the worst thunder you could imagine and when they were fired the ship was wreathed in white smoke that smelt of burnt powder and made seeing impossible; ears rang from the noise and the children hid cowering into my and Anna’s skirts.
I resolved to make something to deaden the horrendous noise from the guns just in case they were ever used in anger. One of the gun captains showed me one of the ways used to deaden the noise this was using wax or tallow from a candle and while it was still soft mould it so it fits the ear and keep it in place with a bandana – simple but effective.
But in truth it was quite difficult to do painlessly as the trick was to put some oil into your ear (to stop the wax sticking) then when you think the wax is still hot enough to mould but cool enough not to burn mould it to your ear! Now this was easy with us adults but was difficult with the delicate skin of the children so we used tallow as this is softer than candle wax. But it worked and the noise was much reduced.
After ten days we had only got as far as Ushant we were about 30 miles to the west still waiting for the wind to change to allow us a fair run into Plymouth.
Anna and I were on deck with the children who as they were walking were engrossed using the guns to get around the decks when suddenly the sails snapped and the Ville de Paris heeled over there was much shouting of orders as more sail was made soon we were heading west with the wind behind us.
We were approached by the first lieutenant who informed us. “Lady Grenford, we have sighted a sail and we are pursuing it you may remain on deck for the time being but when we beat to quarters you will be taken below decks to safety.”
I nodded to indicate that I understood then asked. “If you require us to help the surgeon both Anna and I have assisted the Army surgeons during battles and we are used to the work.”
He went away and soon came back with the ships surgeon who questioned us then agreed that we could help as it would free up his orderlies to tend to other tasks. He told us that he had some aprons to protect our dresses which was good as we had a limited wardrobe also it was kind of him the think of us. But to further safeguard our limited wardrobe we changed into our trusty Maja skirts and blouses, which were already work stained.
The ship was now heading out into the Atlantic with a spanking breeze pushing her along at what seemed to me a great speed. More sails were shaken out and as these filled it pushed this monster of a ship along.
The log was cast and I heard the midshipman counting the knots as they ran out say 10. The next time the log was cast he shouted 14 it did cross my mind that all this time we were going in the opposite direction to England and would have to claw these miles back.
Try as I might I couldn’t see what we were pursuing but the man stationed high up in the rigging kept shouting the position of our quarry.
The pursuit lasted most of the day and by mid afternoon the ship we were pursuing could be seen from the main deck.
The young midshipman assigned to take us to safety earnestly assured us that it was indeed a French ship of the line but added that he didn’t think that we would catch it before night fall when we would probably loose it in the darkness.
And he was proved correct come nightfall we lost sight of our quarry. Meanwhile on the quarterdeck discussions were being held as to what to do. The ship was totally dark no lamps were allowed and certainly no candles so we went to our cabin to try and sleep.
The galley fires luckily had not been extinguished but come nightfall they were in case a spark from the stoves gave our position away so we had a meal that while it was not hot was warm.
The children slept soundly Anna and I did manage a few hours sleep but we both were nervous about the next day.
The noise of the crew getting drummed to quarters woke us I guessed it was close to dawn though I wasn’t sure our door was hammered on and we had to follow the marine down to the Orlop deck where the surgeon was.
We had remained fully dressed, as it seemed to me silly to undress for bed in case just such an event happened.
After we donned our aprons and put our rudimentary ear protection in we waited. The hospital was situated on the Orlop deck which was below the waterline down in the bowels of the ship it was dimly illuminated by candles enclosed in a horn lanterns the surgeon laid out the tools of his trade consisting mainly of things to amputate limbs though there was a selection of very sharp knife’s which he explained were to remove splinters. There were heaps of bandages buckets of vinegar and a selection of different sized pieces of thick leather for the poor souls being operated on the bite down on in stead of biting their tongue off. There was also warm tar to dip the amputated end of the limb into this sealed the wound also disinfected it! Apparently the tar dropped off in time.
By the movement of the ship we could feel that it was manoeuvring to get into position to attack the enemy.
Then the bosun’s pipes sounded and there came the ear shattering sound of the guns being run out the surgeon kept up a running commentary as to what was happening for the first broad side all the guns were double shotted which meant that as well as a cannon ball they also had chain or bar shot or a second ball this was to do the maximum damage to the recipient.
He also added that the guns were double charged to send this amount of metal the distance required so the noise of the first broadside would be ‘really loud’ to quote him directly.
He was the master of understatement because when the first broadside was loosed I thought the ship would shake itself to pieces as 55 guns fired the ship heeled over with the power and I swear it jumped up from the sea - and the noise was unlike anything I have ever experienced.
My children screamed at this Anna ran over to them to reassure them. My head was ringing and I swear my balance had been affected; the surgeon smiled sympathetically and leaning close shouted in my ear. “Let your nanny take care of the children – are you still up to helping me.” I nodded not trusting myself to speak when another broadside was loosed.
Again he leant close to me and shouted. “Get used to it Lady Charlotte from now on this will be a regular occurrence!”
And it was once started the ship could deliver one of these punishing broadsides every 2 minutes.
Then the casualties started trickling in slowly at first but they increasing as we began to take hits from the French ship.
I took the place of what in the navy is called a Loblolly boy freeing one of these youths to carry the wounded.
You may well ask what were my duties? Basically anything the surgeon told me to do this ranged from holding onto a limb about to be amputated, painting tar over the stump to cauterise it and seal it, bandaging wounds and even removing the shallow splinters from the victims!
I thought my time looking after the redcoats would have prepared me – and in a way it did. But the wounds suffered on board a ship were quite different. Where one of the enemy’s rounds went through a gun port the result was the same as a rank of soldiers hit by a cannon ball a bloody mess of tangled limbs.
But the splinters! My god these were horrific jagged pieces of oak some of them 18” or more long these caused terrible wounds.
I was shown how to remove the shallow ones then stitch the unfortunate sailor’s resulting wound closed while the surgeon removed the deep splinters. Like an arrowhead they couldn’t come out the way they went in due to the barbs so they had to be cut out if possible – if they were too deep the poor soul was put to one side to either die or be operated on later then probably die!
Then as quickly as it had begun the broadsides stopped and cheering could be heard but the work continued for a while - this surgeon was good as it took him just under 2 minutes to remove a limb!
Once where were no more wounded the ‘Butchers Bill’ was entered into the logbook and the surgeon and his more experienced aids checked the wounded. I went to Anna and the children to see if they were well only to find the children sound asleep????? How on earth did they do that with all the noise? Meanwhile Anna was nearby busily bandaging some wounded.
The action had lasted 35 minutes and we had suffered 8 killed when a round smashed into a lower deck gun killing all the crew of it and 45 wounded mainly splinters with some 15 amputations also! This was what was grimly called ‘The Butchers Bill’
The surgeon checked all the wounds and approaching me commented. “Your lessons in needlework have not been wasted Lady Charlotte the men you have stitched will have nice looking scars.” As he said this it was with a sardonic smile.
We were shown where we could wash ourselves (with sea water naturally) then we went up to our cabin. The marine was on sentry outside looking a touch more dishevelled as he had just come down from ‘the fighting tops’ I smiled sympathetically at him asking how the action had been. “Bless you miss” he answered “We were never within range but if we could have used your Baker we would have done some damage!”
“Silence Marine I’ll have you flogged for talking to your betters!” This was from a voice I knew and one I had been trying to avoid.
I turned and sure enough it was the obnoxious ‘Lieutenant of Marines’ I was slightly annoyed as I snapped at him “He was answering a question for me – I would have found it far more distasteful had he remained silent!”
He sneered and looking down his nose at me said. “You were talking about your much vaunted skill with the gun! Ha! A likely story I have never seen a woman that could shoot straight.”
I absorbed what he had just said and could feel my anger growing. “Anna please take the children inside.” I managed to say this calmly then looking at this smirking piece of manhood I coldly whispered. “Lieutenant, please take me to your senior officer.”
Condescendingly he answered, “Later as I know the Captain is busy!” The anger in me grew but I resolved not to let it show and to allow him the think he had the upper hand..
I gave him my sweetest smile while telling him. “You misunderstood me it was not your Captain I was referring to but the Major.”
He blanched at this but thinking he was managing to brow beat me answered. “But why would you want to bother the Major?” “Lieutenant” I retorted with the emphasis on his rank. “That is for me to know and you to discover. Now shall we go to him – or do I have to go through the Admiral who is a friend of my late Papa?”
Now he knew exactly whom he was up against and he was staring defeat in the face. I could see sheen of sweat across his forehead but I was not going to let him go - a plan was forming in my head.
With a swirl of my skirts I said. “Come let us find the Major - Lieutenant!” Again emphasising his rank leaving him in no doubt who was in charge – and it certainly wasn’t him.
He lead me past the poor sentry who had witnessed this exchange once the Lieutenant had passed him he allowed a slight smile to play on his lips as I passed I gave him a broad wink and the smile was more apparent returning to his customary stern expression no doubt there would be some story told in the marines mess that night.
As we reached the main deck I spied the Captain of Marines and so did my companion turning he stammered. “Here is the Captain m’lady.” Without breaking stride I retorted. “So I see now to the Major if you please!”
Bidding good day to the Captain who looked bemused we progressed to the poop deck to where the Major of Marines stood talking to the first Lieutenant.
We approached the two of them and they broke off conversation Major Dawlish smiled broadly greeting me with a bow and saying. “Lady Charlotte how wonderful to see you on this fine day. I have heard sterling things about yourself and your companion from the surgeon – now to what do we owe this pleasure?”
I glanced at my companion who by now was a wonderful shade of grey and perspiring profusely.
I graciously thanked him then got down to business. “Major” I started. “I am not used to being called a liar and this gentleman called me thus in front of witnesses If I were a man I would demand satisfaction but as things are.........” I let the sentence drift off leaving no doubt as to my displeasure.
Historical Note: The term Loblolly boy is a fascinating one and until I wrote this episode I knew the word and what they did on a ship but had no idea where the word came from.
The name itself comes from the serving of loblolly—a thick porridge sometimes enhanced with chunks of meat or vegetables—to sick or injured crewmembers to hasten their recovery.
Loblolly, in turn, probably comes from the fusion of lob, a Yorkshire word meaning to boil or bubble, and lolly, which is an archaic English word for a stew or soup.
Loblolly itself eventually came to mean anything viscous, such as a swamp or bog, and terms such as the Loblolly pine were coined from the muddy habitat of the tree rather than from any culinary use.
The loblolly boy's duties included serving food to the sick, but also undertaking any medical tasks that the surgeon was too busy (or too high in station) to perform. These included restraining patients during surgery, obtaining and cleaning surgical instruments, disposing of amputated limbs, and emptying and cleaning toilet utensils. The loblolly boy also often managed the stocks of herbs medical supplies and medicines.
The Royal Marines were formed in 1664, during the early stages of the Second Dutch War. An Order in Council of Friday 28 October 1664 raised a regiment of 1200 land soldiers, to be distributed into His Majesty's Fleet prepared for sea service. The regiment was known as the 'Admirals Regiment'. In the early days the existence of the Marine Regiments depended on the exigencies of war. They were disbanded altogether in 1713, at the end of the war with Spain, not being reformed until 1739. They disbanded again in 1745, not reforming until 1755, when Britain was preparing for war with France. In April 1755 an Order in Council approved the recruitment of a total of 5000 regulars, formed into three Grand Divisions based at the Portsmouth, Chatham and Plymouth. The Marines totaled 50 companies and were under the control of the Board of the Admiralty. Prior to that Marines had been under the control of the Admiralty whilst at sea and the Army whilst on shore.
The Marines were never again disbanded and their numbers steadily grew. In 1802 they totaled 30,000 men, and the same year George III granted them the title “Royal”.
Marines were primarily ship based infantry, and seafaring skills were not therefore of prime importance.
The training was mostly land based and using similar weapons and tactics to that of an infantryman.
Their main roles were:-
• Guard and sentry duties, the maintenance of discipline and enforcement of regulations aboard ship. Marine quarters aboard ship were kept separate from those of seamen. They stood guard when punishment was being carried out.
• At friendly ports they performed guard duties, maintained order and ensured that sailors did not desert the ship.
• Garrison captured fortresses until relieved by the infantry.
• Act as sharpshooters and gunners on board ship.
• Act as boarding parties to seize ships and assist in sailing captured ships to friendly ports.
• On occasion to fight on land..
To carry out these duties a First rate 100 gun warship required a complement of 170 Marines.
On a ship the Royal Marines had a distinct hierarchy depending whether there was an Admiral on board.
When an Admiral was present the ranking Marine officer was the Major of Marines who was a member of the senior wardroom. Then came the Captain of Marines also a member of the senior wardroom. Finally there was the Lieutenant of Marines who was a member of the junior wardroom. All Marine officers were taken from the Gentry hence were Gentlemen – this made the conduct of the officer the Charlotte all the more serious.
Below the Lieutenant there was Sargent’s then came the Marines (know colloquially as redcoats or boot necks or many other terms of endearment)
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