Charles Lawrence

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Charles Lawrence

Postby andy5880 » 25 Apr 2015 11:34

This photo was the trigger to start researching my great grandfather's naval service. The photo was believed to have been taken in Japan, but the date was unknown. Examination of the photo showed that he was a Petty Officer 2nd Class, with 2 Good Conduct Badges, and wearing the Ashanti War medal. Applying that information to his service records showed that he was serving on HMS Champion at the time the photograph was taken. It is known that HMS Champion was in the Far East, and was at Amoy (now called Xiamen) in April 1886. Amoy was one of the 5 'Treaty Ports' in China open to the outside world as agreed in the 1842 Treaty of Nanking which ended the First Opium War. As Japan is not very far from Amoy, the year 1886 is most likely to be the year when the photograph was taken, it could not have been taken after July 1886, as he was advanced to Petty Officer 1st Class, and couldn't have been taken before May 1884 when he was awarded his 2nd Good Conduct Badge. A diary from HMS Champion exists in the archives at the Royal Naval Museum in Portsmouth, supposely for the years 1876 to 1892,but in fact it is from 1876 to 1881 and then 1891 to 1892, so the year of interest isn't covered. This is the only document for HMS Champion that I have discovered so far.
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Re: Charles Lawrence

Postby Mark A. Reid » 25 Apr 2015 14:10

Hello andy5880:

What a great photograph, thanks so much for sharing the story of your great-grandfather's service. He's quite smartly turned out and his " pusser crabs " look quite new, not surprising probably as he would rarely have worn shoes on board ship. The sennet hat would have borne a cap tally bearing his ship's name but your detective work has already proven he was in CHAMPION. Well done.

When I first read through his service record I thought I saw service in H.M.S. GANNET but a closer look revealed it was actually GARNET. As I'm sure you know, H.M.S. GANNET is still afloat at Chatham dockyard and provides the opportunity for modern visitors to tread the decks of a Victorian warship that actually shelled dervishes in the Sudan.

Are you fortunate to have inherited his medals too?

Cheers,

Mark
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Re: Charles Lawrence

Postby Mark A. Reid » 25 Apr 2015 15:24

Hello again:

Just another comment. During the 19th century it was not uncommon for visitors to Japan to " invest " in a tattoo as a permanent souvenir of their trip. I note that your great-grandfather had a tattoo of a sailor on his arm and wonder if he may have acquired it during the same run ashore when this photograph was taken? Does it look like he's cradling his arm and trying not to grimace in pain?

Cheers,

Mark
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Re: Charles Lawrence

Postby andy5880 » 25 Apr 2015 17:54

Thanks Mark, service records are sometimes hard to decipher, I was uncertain at first if it was Gannet or Garnet, but the census of 3rd April 1881 confirmed which ship, as it records Charles as serving on HMS Gannet, off the West Coast of Africa, as an Able Seaman (2 months after being busted, he was P.O. 2C until 1st Feb 1881, no idea what he did or did not do). That would appear to fit in with what I currently know. HMS Garnet was apparently based on the south east coast of South America at that time, and was therefore ideally placed to go to Punta Arenas for the salvage operations when HMS Doterel (sister ship to Gannet) was sunk by an internal explosion on 26th April 1881. This makes Garnet unlikely to have been off the west coast of Africa at the time of the census, just in case that entry was mis-read, although Gannet was also operating in South America, monitoring the Pacific War between 1879 and 1883. It sailed over 60000 miles in those four years, so got around a bit. Went to have a look at Gannet in February, and will go back to Chatham later this year to look through their archives as there appears to be no documents relating to Gannet in the National Archives. No ideas about the tattoo, Charles died in 1925, there is no-one left alive in the family who would have known him, and no way of knowing when that entry was made on his records. No idea what happened to his medal, I have a replica of the Ashanti War medal, but incorrectly it also has the Coomassie clasp, (he wasn't awarded that) which I shall have to remove, that was the only one available at the time of searching for one to buy.
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Re: Charles Lawrence

Postby Mark A. Reid » 25 Apr 2015 19:45

Hello again:

I think you should be congratulated for having undertaken such a research project, I'll bet Charles Lawrence would be proud to know that he was still worthy of remembrance so long after his death.

If you wanted to pursue the matter of his Ashanti Medal there is another forum, The British Medals Forum, which is full of helpful and knowledgeable people who might be able to help. In addition, the magazine MEDAL NEWS contains a Wants section which travels around the world to both collectors and dealers alike. The website of the medal auctioneers Dix, Noonan & Webb contains a searchable database of all the tens of thousands of medals which they have sold over the past several years, it may be worth a look too.

Cheers,

Mark
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Re: Charles Lawrence

Postby Frogsmile » 26 Apr 2015 19:34

Very interesting thread. I wish we could see more in the forum relating to the Royal Navy, which after all was what really made us a super power at that time.
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Re: Charles Lawrence

Postby crimea1854 » 29 Apr 2015 07:33

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Re: Charles Lawrence

Postby andy5880 » 04 Jan 2016 01:28

Further research into the date of the photo has been successful. A copy of the Straits Times dated 20th May 1886 has been found.
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I would be so bold, from that information, as to say that the photo was taken in Yokohama late April / early May 1886. I do not think we can be any more precise.
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Re: Charles Lawrence

Postby andy5880 » 20 Sep 2017 21:25

Haven't posted here for a while as I have been busy doing more research at Greenwich - in the Caird Library in the National Maritime Museum, at the National Archives,and also at Chatham, Portsmouth and the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh. The latest on the photo of Charles Lawrence, after looking at the Captains letter books from HMS Champion, written by Captain Armand T. Powlett and held in the Caird Library within the National Maritime museum, dated between October 1883 and June 1887, and also the ships logbooks for the same period and held in the National Archives, particularly ADM 53/13001, which all show that the only possible date and place for the photo of Charles is at Yokohama, between 1300 on 8th March 1886 and 0700 on 12th March 1886. No other dates exist in any of the documents seen where general leave was given to the Port and then the Starboard watches that was long enough to get the photo taken and then return to the photographer to collect the print after the glass negative plate had been developed and the image printed. In this case it was 43 hours leave. If I could find the Watch, Station and Fire Bill I could narrow the date down a bit, as I do not know if Charles was in the Port or Starboard watch.
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