HC Deb 13 June 1854 vol 134 cc46-8

said, he wished to ask whether the First Lord of the Admiralty had received any communication relative to a subject which formed part of a statement in the Times of last Saturday, relative to certain proceedings on board the Star, 8-gun sloop. In order to make his question understood, he would read the statement to the House. It was as follows— The Star, 8-gun sloop, Commander F. P. Warren, is in dry dock at Chatham, refitting for active service again, with the same officers and crew. On this being communicated to the ship's company, they held a council of war between decks, and it was unanimously agreed to send off a round robin to the First Lord of the Admiralty, which left by Wednesday evening's post, humbly soliciting that, in consequence of the cruel and tyrannical treatment they had received from their commander during the commission of this sloop, the log-books and black-list books for the entire commission should be called for and inspected by their Lordships, as, in them, they say, it will or should be seen that nearly every man on board has been flogged, and many of them three and four times. No man ever received less than four dozen lashes, and those sharply dealt by the boatswain's mates, for fear they might be ordered to change places, and take their turn at the gratings. They also complain of the whole of the starboard watch being punished to a man with four dozen each, the petty officers disrated to A.B.'s, and the A.B.'s to ordinaries, none of whom have yet been reinstated; and, further, that when, through fear of taking petty officers' ratings, three smart A.B.'s declined the honour the commander wished to confer on them, they were for such conduct immediately flogged and disrated; and it is earnestly entreated that their Lordships will cause an inquiry into these matters, and not compel the men to desert a service and a country that now stand so much in need of their immediate and active service. They assure his Lordship that they are to a man willing to serve in any part of the world, and they conclude by playing his Lordship's attention to their memorial, and to appoint another commander under whom they can serve.


Sir, the statement which the hon. Member has just read to the House, and which was contained in a letter addressed to the Times newspaper in the latter part of last week, contains many inaccuracies. No round robin was sent to me from the crew of the Star—no council of war such as that described was held on board—and the only foundation for that part of the statement is this, that an anonymous letter was sent from the Star, addressed to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gloucester (Admiral Berkeley), complaining of certain punishments that had been inflicted in that ship. In consequence of statements contained in that letter, Admiral Percy was directed to go on board the ship, and give the ship's company an opportunity of making any complaints with reference to the treatment they had received. This morning the report from Admiral Percy has been received by the Admiralty, and I must say, that the exaggerations of the statements put forth are very great. A very small proportion of the entire ship's company have received corporal punishment; but that was a particular transaction, in which a cask of wine was stolen and broached, when great drunkenness took place, and insubordination followed to an extent that led to the necessity of inflicting corporal punishment on four seamen and one boy. There is reason to think that discipline on board the ship has not been well and thoroughly maintained; and the whole matter is now under the consideration of the Board of Admiralty. I have reason to think that the conduct of the commander, though on the whole not altogether judicious, is yet defensible, while the conduct of the ship's company, though on many occasions marked by intelligence, has not been such as became British sailors. I have, however, reason to believe that, by some change that is contemplated with respect to discipline, it will not be necessary to pay off the ship; and I hope that, under the management of the officers who now command the ship, the conduct of the crew will be such as that they may be speedily sent into active service.

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