Monday, May 20, 2024

Victoria Day: HMS Victoria

As it's Victoria Day here in Canada, and another lovely day here in the great city of Toronto, I thought it might make some sense for me to post something with the name "Victoria" on this beautiful day. A few years ago I read a fine book titled Castles of Steel - Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea.

Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert K. Massie, the amount of detail brought to life by a wonderful sense of story-telling is most impressive.

John Rushworth Jellicoe (1859 – 1935) was Admiral of the Fleet in Britain's Royal Navy during "The Great War" (better known today as World War I); Massie spends some time giving background to "Jack": Guys like Jellicoe did, and still do, their time on a series of warships before reaching the top office. One vessel on which he served in the late 1800s was HMS Victoria; and he almost drowned after the ship was accidentally punctured by another. When the 'bang' happened Jellicoe was in bed with a dysentery-induced 103 degree (Fahrenheit) fever. He ran up to the deck to see what had happened. Not long after he began to help fellow sailors abandon the sinking Victoria, the once-mighty battleship started to capsize. In the name of "every man for himself" the executive officer fell off the side and into the sea. As Jellicoe noted in a letter he wrote to his mother after the close-call: "The curious thing is that my temperature today is normal, so the ducking did me good."

This hull-head was not familiar enough with that Royal Navy vessel, so, naturally, I consulted Wikipedia: 

On it I saw a photograph that I had initially believed to be a contemporary painting. The image has a painterly quality, making my error understandable. It is a lovely, multi-textured photograph ― taken in 1888....

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