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Navy—Case Of Admiral Eardley Wilmot—Question

Volume 221: debated on Thursday 30 July 1874

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asked the First Lord of the Admiralty, Whether, having regard to the circumstances under which Admiral Randolph was acquitted by Court Martial, in relation to the grounding of the "Niobe" and "Narcissus," they will reconsider the case of Admiral Eardley Wilmot, who (together with Admiral Wellesley, Commanding in Chief), was removed from his post of second in command of the Channel Squadron, 1871, without such inquiry; and, whether he will recognize the claims of Admiral Wilmot after forty-five years' service to be again appointed to a command?

, in reply, said, the 45 years of good and faithful service by Admiral Eardley Wilmot was fully recognized at the Admiralty, and he should be glad to appoint the gallant Admiral to a command, but for the fact that there was no prospect of his remaining long in the service, inasmuch as he would be retired by age next Spring. No Rear Admiral's appointments had been disposed of since he had been at the Admiralty, and none would be for the next two or three months. If Admiral Wilmot were appointed to such a command, he would have to strike his flag next Spring, and it was obviously for the good of the service that officers should be appointed who were likely to remain in the service. On these grounds, he could hold out no prospect of Admiral Wilmot being appointed to a command. At the same time, the gallant Admiral and his friends ought not to consider that the circumstance of his not getting a command cast any slur upon him.

wished to say a few words in reference to this matter. ["Order!"] He thought the House would listen to a few words from him respecting his brother—a gallant officer who had served his country in every quarter of the globe for upwards of 40 years. In 1870, his brother having not long before returned from the command of the African Squadron, and having his services adverted to in the Queen's Speech in 1866, was appointed second in command of the Channel Fleet. He had served in the war in China, at Acre, under Sir Charles Napier; he had been at Bomarsund; and he had served in the Crimean War. In 1871 the unfortunate affair of the grounding of the Agincourt occurred, and he did not wish to exonerate his brother from the proper share of blame attaching to him. When coming out from the Rock of Gibraltar, in broad daylight, he would admit, his brother being second in command, the ship Agincourt being the first ship of the second line, touched on the Pearl Rock. He might mention that the Admiral was not supposed to have any share in the navigation of the ship; but steps were now being taken, he believed, to alter the responsibility of the navigation. Well, as he had already remarked, the ship touched the Pearl Rock, and in a very few hours, having sustained hardly any injury, she was drawn off by Lord Gilford, commanding Her Majesty's Ship Monarch, and she returned to this country. At that time great unpopularity attached to the Admiralty. He did not wish in the presence of his right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) to allude to the disaster in which he was personally interested. He sympathized sincerely with his right hon. Friend; but there could be no doubt that the accident to the Captain brought on the Admiralty a certain degree of unpopularity. The result was that as soon as the accident to the Agincourt occurred, his brother and Admiral Wellesley were dismissed by the Admiralty.

rose to Order. He wished to know whether the hon. and learned Gentleman was entitled to proceed with his remarks when there was no Motion before the House?

supposed from what the hon. and learned Gentleman had stated at the outset of his observations, that he intended to conclude with a Motion. If he did not propose to do so, he would, of course, be out of Order.

said, he would withdraw his Motion, merely remarking that he did not think justice had been done to his brother, and that he appealed fearlessly to the opinion of the country in the matter.