The Other Midshipman
by Rose U2LadyUtena
Excerpt from "The Autobiography of Captain Sir Thomas
Chapter XXII - Life as Midshipman aboard the "Renown"
Mister Midshipman Henry Wellard received all the attention
Senior Officers aboard the "Renown". He was constantly being sent to
the Captain for the most minor of infractions, while the Captain
consistently forgot my name. First Lieutenant Buckland did nothing to
educate any unlearned seamen in the Midshipmen's Berth, but the
others Lieutenants regularly visited Wellard in regard to his
knowledge; Bush instructed him in seamanship, Horblower assisted him
in navigation, and Kennedy taught him about human nature. Where was
the time for the education of the other five Midshipman aboard,
including myself? Apparently, all other time for instruction was
devoted to comforting the nautical incompetence of Mister Wellard,
whether he was sent to the highest rigging or the Gunner's Daughter.
No solace for my ignorance was ever instigated by the Warrant
Officers, nor for my other fellow Midshipman. Doctor Clive was
preoccupied with administering laudanum to the Captain and Wellard,
both who suffered maladies of opposite natures. Gunner Hobbs was
legislating injustice upon any mariner he judged unseaworthy,
particularly to seasick young sailors by the name of Wellard.
Boatswain Matthews was executing punishment by the Captain's orders
upon pressed men such as Randall, but he was often excused to bloody
the posterior of the only Midshipman with the first name Henry. Even
the Master, the Purser, and the Steward had little time to comfort
the unknowledgeable Midshipmen, as rumor said Hornblower and Kennedy
instructed them to bestow the utmost courtesy to Mister Wellard.
I know it is improper to criticize Senior Officers, especially
disobedience can deliver death; but the lives of the Midshipmen
depended upon the duty of superiors in educating their ignorance. Are
not the students of the sea to be sent to Lieutenant Exams, to
continue the survival of the Royal Navy? Certainly circumstances were
life and death aboard the "Renown", with regard to the sanity of
Captain Sawyer; but could the Lieutenants and Warrant Officers not
devoted ten or twenty minutes of their days to the education of
Midshipmen? Apparently, that message did not even get communicated
when I courageously dared to confront Hornblower, the most
influential and imaginative of the Lieutenants.
On one of the most uneventful days aboard the exasperated vessel,
encountered Lieutenant Hornblower as he paraded below decks, perhaps
pondering his continuous sentences of thirty-six hour watches. I
stood before the Ward Room with the proper attention due to
superiors, watching him approach with what I would deem desperation
and wanderlust in his eyes as he halted before me.
Clearing my throat, I politely asked, "Sir, may I have
but one moment
of your time?"
He sighed, with his shoulders heaving, "Yes, Mishipman,
what is it
"Sir," I addressed him, "is it not your duty
to instruct the
Midshipmen so they will one day assume officer status?"
"Yes, that is one of my duties," he replied while
eyes. "But I don't have time today."
He attempted to depart in the most agitated and angered state,
dared to intervene, "Sir, the Senior Officers have had no time to
educate the Midshipmen during this voyage. It appears that none of
you time for that duty!"
He glanced at me, fumigating like signal fire, "I know
Midshipman. Do you know yours?"
I saluted, "Aye aye, sir. But I think you have been neglectful."
"Sir," he bellowed. "Addressing a Senior Officer
in that manner is
clearly insubordination. I can have you--"
"Horatio," the voice of Lieutenant Kennedy beckoned
above. "Sawyer's summoned Matthews again."
Hornblower sighed, speaking to himself, "What does he
As the Lieutenant appeared to be contemplating, I commanded
courage again, "Sir, what will you do about the education of the
Midshipmen on ship?"
He glared at me as if I was suffering from the insanity of
Captain, "Mister Midshipman, I'll deal with this situation later!"
He marched off to confront the madness assembling upon the
quarterdeck, forcing me to quietly contemplate how to remedy the
worsening situation of the education for Midshipmen. Hornblower had
been the best possibility to cure the epidemic of ignorance, but
another means of medicine needed to be extracted. I discussed this
with my fellow Midshipmen, sans Henry Wellard who was sleeping in the
comfort of the Sick Berth under the concerned eye of Hornblower. We
agreed that Kennedy would be the next most reasonable choice, as he
was often doctoring conflicts between seamen such as Styles and
Randall. Certainly, he would sympathize with our needs!
Being the bravest of the Midshipmen Berth, I was volunteered
with the sparkling visage of Kennedy. I admired this aristocratic
gentleman who greeted all seamen as his equal with the eloquence of
his Shakespearian tongue. He often appeared the angel, with his
blonde hair shimmering in the lantern light and his pearl teeth
smiling with sympathy when he visited the lower decks. Unlike
Hornblower, he knew the names of the Midshipmen and had knowledge of
their backgrounds, but he still devoted most of his attentions and
affections to Wellard. I would dare to use my own speech to enlighten
the Fourth Lieutenant, whose words all Midshipmen regarded as
heavenly light among this purgatory of approaching mutiny.
It was during the day Hornblower had been sentenced to watch
watch for one week, that I wandered to the side Lieutenant Kennedy to
speak of the situation that would make him wonder. He stood upon the
quarterdeck, quietly observing the obstinate men skylarking with the
still surly Randall. I coughed to catch his attention, hoping he
would be contemplating Midshipmen rather than Midshipman Wellard.
I spoke, "Sir, have you one moment?"
He turned his head, revealing tired eyes most likely tortured
sentence to thirty-six watch that ended yesterday.
He weakly smiled, "What may I do for you today, Mister Scanlan?"
He already was attune to the fact that I was presenting him
problems merely as to how I annunciated words! This gentleman had
ears meant to be graced with music and theatre, not the torture of
mutiny; but I had more important to address rather then the artistry
"Sir," I said with the utmost politeness. "The
concerned that we are not receiving the proper education we deserve."
He nodded, "Yes, I understand that's been problematic,
with the crew being in this drunken state as of late. All the
Officers have been doing double duty, especially Horatio, I mean
Mister Hornblower. We can't be of much help, but it's probably better
to stay below decks with your books, especially considering how
Sawyer has been, shall we say, under the weather. Just come
noon for the navigation lesson, even though you won't be well
He was sympathetic, but it required more than reasonably adapting
I replied, "Sir, that is all well and good, but I would
occupied. I simply cannot study books--"
"Well, then I'll find plenty for you to do, lad,"
the vicious voice
of Second Lieutenant Bush interrupted. "You can go help Mister
Hotchins patch the sails and help
Mister Hobbs clean the cannons. Oh, I also hear that Mister
needs some assistance accounting for what's in the stores. Does this
satisfy you, Mister Scanlan?"
Bush was the most stern of the Senior Officers, acting with
exactness dictated by all seamanship books. I knew if I performed any
act of insubordination, I would be put on stage for compromising his
severe efficiency; but the need of the Midshipmen was paramount over
threats of punishment on the rigging or by slapping, which Bush had
rigorously performed on all Midshipman--even on Henry Wellard twice!
"Mister Bush, sir," I hesitated. "This is all
well and good, but all
the Midshipmen would like to have more instruction from the
Lieutenants. We are not receiving the proper education from our books
I could not speak further, as his infuriated eyes transformed
my eyes to sympathy. This troubled me, because Bush was not equated
with friendship. All the Lieutenants, even Hornblower, had added him
to the list of questionable crewmen who may remain loyal and obedient
to the Captain. How could I postulate about any situation as
Lieutenant Bush smiled ferociously upon me.
"Well," he chuckled. "Why did you not complain
before to us? You're
all so inexperienced, so we Lieutenants agreed to go easy on you for
a week. Looks like we made the situation last almost a month, huh?
All of you lads, report to me tomorrow on the forenoon watch and I'll
give you plenty to do. And also, no one brings any books to consult
or it's a spell in the rigging!"
I was extraordinarily excited with this information, as were
fellow Midshipmen imagined the fortune I had discovered . The
treasure was to disappear in the shipwreck of the next day, when the
Captain resumed consciousness of mind and command of the throne--only
temporarily, thank Heavens! All happiness ceased that day, after the
excitement of gun exercises with Bush and Hornblower, and the
spectacle of Hornblower being sprayed with hoses by the seamen. The
price five Midshipmen was to be ignored for the crown jewel of
accomplishment in Henry Wellard, who had the royal privilege of
assisting the Lieutenants in battle.
I, along with the other four Midshipmen, was exiled to the
the incompetent Acting-Captain Ethelbert Eugene Buckland the First
and Last. First, he forced the seamen to reduced rum rations,
confiscating it for himself, and doubled his own food rations--while
the Lieutenants were going to the fortress. Secondly, under his
command, his indecisiveness nature forced into unnecessary battle
with rebellious slaves, who I would rather be prisoner of than to
serve Buckland. Thirdly, I could dictate thousands of his actions
that warranted the utmost criticism, but my focus is upon the
privileged treatment of Wellard--who the other Midshipmen christened
The few hours the Lieutenants did instruct us proved Wellard
the most ignorant and incompetent, with each of his errors remaining
unaddressed--even by Lieutenant Bush! At eight, the Midshipmen
assembled for lessons on seamanship with Bush, who lashed out
verbally at those who could not identify the anatomy of the ship; but
Mister Wellard was spared the humiliation when he had difficulty with
naming the variations in knots. During the noon navigation lesson
with Hornblower, his trigonometry was terrible, with his navigation
reading resulting in the course of the ship being directed toward
Africa. His gun crews took almost two minutes to load their guns,
while everyone was expected to do it under one minute and thirty
seconds or else be tortured by the gluttonous glares of Gunner Hobbs.
Could the Lieutenants not observe his failure under their tutelage
and our success with only the education of our independent efforts?
Apparently they could not, being ignorant of Midshipmen who were not
invited into mutinous conferences because the Captain had him flogged
on four or five occasions.
What else could have possible merited the privileged position
Mister Midshipman Henry Wellard? He could not have earned it through
connections through the Admiralty, having no relatives who have
served within either the Navy or the Army. He had no contacts who
sponsored him, since he was orphaned by age eleven and inherited no
wealth from his parents, considering that they were mere laborers at
the mills near Manchester. He did have the elderly aunt who was
employed by the Earl of Edrington, but what influence would that
possibly acquire? Whatever has prompted his power, it had only earned
him only the contempt and the cruelty of his fellow Midshipmen, even
if he died in battle alongside his nemesis--Captain Sawyer.