Action in the Mediterranean

HMS Exmouth was launched on 12th July 1852, a 90-gun sailing ship which had been converted to operate under steam propulsion.  Following being the guard ship of the Plymouth Ordinary (those reserve ships out of service for repair or maintenance) Arthur Barrow as Second-in-Command, joined the Exmouth when ordered to the  Mediterranean under Captain James Stopford (Exm_1) – with whom he had served on HMS Calcutta.  It would appear that some of the older seamen were not required on the coming voyage. The Spectator on the 14th May 1859 reported that ‘The great activity in the dockyards and arsenals still continues, and reinforcement and munitions of war are continually forwarded to the Mediterranean’, the fleet collecting in the Channel for its voyage (Exm_2).  It was a febrile time in that theatre.  The Second Italian War of Independence or the Franco-Austrian War began when the armies of the Austrian Empire invaded the Kingdom of Sardinia.  This latter was allied to both Britain and France following the first War of Independence.  The conflict drew in the armies of the Second French Empire in aid of the Sardinians and played a crucial part in the process of Italian unification.  It was almost certainly this conflict that resulted in the great activity in the dockyards and arsenals of Great Britain.  However also in April 1859, Egyptian workers under French engineers of the Suez Canal Company began the building of the Suez Canal under the direction of Ferdinand de Lesseps.  Amid allegations of slave labour (from the British, who didn’t like the idea of the French controlling the shortest route to India), workers removed more than 2.6 billion cubic feet of earth — 600 million from dry land and another 2 billion dredged from under water’.  It is possible the Mediterranean fleet was also ordered to sea to ‘show the flag’ in the face of this activity.  On top of all this, 1859 was also the year in which the Spanish – Moroccan War took place.  In 1856 the British were able to pressure Morocco into signing the Anglo-Moroccan treaties of Friendship. In 1859 after invading that country, the Spanish defeated the Moroccans at the Battle of Tetuan, after which the British put pressure on both the Moroccans and Spanish to make peace.  It is perhaps possible that again, Britain ‘showing the flag’ in the Mediterranean enabled the necessary pressure to be brought on the combatants to reach agreement. HMS Exmouth had visited Valetta, Naples, Palermo, Corfu, Zante, Cephalonia, Messina and Piraeus, and possibly unknown destinations (Exm_3) during her Mediterranean cruise.  Arthur Barrow was invalided on the 5th June 1860, the cause of this interruption to his career being unknown, and it was shortly after this that his service on the Exmouth came to an end, the last month while being captained by James Aylmer Dorset Paynter. On board ship was James Donne, an Engineer RN, whose great grandson has documented ‘The Life and Times of HMS Exmouth’ including the ship’s log for the the 1859-60 Mediterranean cruise.


HMS Exmouth

A 90-gun screw propelled second-rate ship of the line launched in 1854 and broken up in 1905.  In 1855 she served in the Baltic Sea as flagship of Sir Michael Seymour.  HMS Exmouth was a guard ship at Devonport by 1859.  She was lent to the Metropolitan Asylums as a training ship in 1877. According to a paper read at the Central Poor Law Conference in February 1904 these ships were recommended for boys supervised by the poor law authorities as an economic means of providing them with a career which also benefited the country.


The British fleet in Naples Bay with HMS Exmouth in the right foreground.  This copy of the painting is on the Exmouth website of R. Donne who obtained it from Commander Richard Davey RN whose ancestor, Captain Paynter commanded the Exmouth from 1st May 1860.  The painting is by Tommaso de Simone (1805–1888).HMSExmouth_small

HMS Exmouth signalling her arrival at Naples.  The painting is by Tommaso de Simone (1805–1888).

Exmouth in the bay of Naples

The Training ship HMS Exmouth moored at Gray’s off the Essex coast.Exmouth1840

Her Majesty’s Ship Albion (the defining class of HMS Exmouth) entering the Bosphorus, partially dismasted after the Siege of Sevastopol action of 17 October 1854.

Exmouth - Albion Class

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