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Early naval records

The Manuscripts Department holds a number of early naval records, starting with a collection of seventeenthth-century copies of late-thirteenth/early-fourteenth century Close and Patent Rolls relating to naval subsidies (Mm.6.65). There are some sixteenth and seventeenth-century papers comprising lists of naval ships and their captains commissioned for service (Dd.13.25, Dd.9.43, MS Add.54, MS Add.335). The Cholmondeley (Houghton) Papers contain lists of naval officers, ships and naval estimates for the early eighteenth century. The Department also holds a series of naval estimates, accounts and papers transferred from the Public Record Office (now The National Archives), covering the whole of the 18th century (MS Add.3455, MSS Add. 5157-72 and MSS. Add.5282-5334).

The Acton papers contain various ships' log-books of Commodore John Acton (MSS Add.4617-37), including a log-book of the fleet bound for Constantinople, 1750 (MS Add.4633). The Department has a manuscript of Zachary Grey's 'The Glory of the British Flag Exemplified' (in a chronological series of the most memorable victories at sea), ca 1760 (MS Add.3847).

The Royal Greenwich Observatory Archives contain many items relating to seafaring. The later volumes of the Board of Longitude Papers (MS RGO.14) relate to voyages of discovery including those of Captain James Cook in the 1770s, George Vancouver in the 1790s and Matthew Flinders in 1801. RGO 14/56-RGO 14/61 contain logbooks and observations from Cook's voyages. RGO 14/62-RGO 14/63 comprise logs kept by the astronomer William Gooch despatched to join Vancouver (Gooch's illustrated journal from a voyage of HMS Daedalus is at Mm.6.48). RGO 14/64-RGO.14/68 contain a range of important logs and correspondence related to later expeditions. The papers of Astronomer Royal, John Pond (RGO 5) include five volumes concerning chronometers tested on Royal Navy ships at sea, c.1807-1838 (RGO 5/229-RGO 5/230RGO 5/233, and RGO 5/237-RGO 5/238). RGO 5/238 includes an officers and ship's index. The Board of Longitude Papers, William Gooch journal, and five Pond volumes have been digitised in full on the Cambridge Digital Library.

The nineteenth century

Principal among the Department's naval collections is the correspondence and papers of Captain Sir Andrew Hammond and his son Admiral Sir Graham Hammond, covering the period 1778-1871 (Add. 9394, 9458 and 9459). Also of note are the papers of Admiral Sir Graham Moore, comprising 33 journals and a letter-book encompassing the period 1784-1843 (MSS Add. 9303 and 9341). MS Add.10140 is a diary in the form of 24 letters, some from Royal Naval vessels in the Mediterranean, 1805-1808. The papers of Sir Harry Parkes, British consul at Canton, Shanghai and later minister to Japan, contain correspondence from naval officers.

The department has a varied collection of nineteenth century naval journals, logs and letter-books, recording the actions of Royal Naval vessels across the World's oceans. These are listed below in chronological order.

Samuel Gordon, Master's Mate, H.M.S. Veteran. Log-book containing an account of the Battle of Camperdown, 1797-8 (MS Add.9517).

H.N.S. Romney. Meteorological journal of a voyage from England to Egypt via Cape of Good Hope, 1800-01 (MS Add.10066).

Captain Christopher Cole, H.M.S. Culloden, Salsette, Pitt, Doris and Caroline. Naval letter-book, Persian Gulf, East Indies and China Seas, 1802- 9 (MS Add.9492).

H. Acton, Midshipman, H.M.S. Le Pompee. Log-book, 1806-8 (MSS Add.4638-40).

Lieutenant Richard Bastard, H.M.S. Bonetta, Minotaur, Clorinde and others. Quarterly account books, 1807-22 (MS Add.9503).

List of Royal Naval ships for signalling purposes, 1808 (MS Add.6303).

Fire ship Jason. Officer's log and journal, Walcheren expedition, 1809 (MS Add.8924).

Henry Severne, Midshipman, H.M.S. Dublin, Bedford, Ville de Paris and Savannah. Log-books, 1813-16 (MS Add.9328).

Admiral Robert Fitzroy, H.M.S. Glendower, Hind, Thetis, Ganges and Beagle. Letters to his family from the Mediterranean Sea and South America, 1816-43 (MS Add.8853).

Captain T. Alexander. Journal, India and the Persian Gulf, 1822-4 (MS Add.7223).

Captain Charles Sotherby, H.M.S. Seringapatam. Letter-book, 1826-7 (MS Add.9416).

George Maclaren, naval surgeon, H.M.S. Magicienne and Serpent. Journals, East and West Indies, and North America, 1831-7 (MS Add.9528).

Francis Guillemard Simpkinson, H.M.S. Britannia and Sulphur. Naval logs and journals 1832-8 (MSS Add.7780, 7781 and 7782).

Captain John Moore. H.M.S. Harlequin. Letter-book, Mediterranean Sea, 1846-8 (MS Add.9342).

Bowater Sanderson, Third Mate, East India Company ship Royal Duke. Journal, siege of Pondicherry, 1847-50 (MS Add. 9516).

Sir John Charles Dalrymple Hay, Captain, H.M.S. Columbine. Letter-book, South China Sea, 1848 (MS Add.9253).

Elbridge Webster. Naval journal and commonplace book, 1850-9 (MS Add.9640).

Henry T. Ellis, H.M.S. Styx. Journal of the Kaffir and Burmese Wars, 1852-3 (MS Add.9420).

British Mediterranean Fleet orders, 1852-6 (MS Add.6658).

S. Osborne, Midshipman, H.M.S. Sans Pareil, Bellerophon and Victory. Log-books, Baltic and Crimea, 1853-6 (MS Add.9364).

H.M.S. Hannibal, ship's log, Crimean War, 1855-6 (MS Add. 6659).

Lieutenant (later Admiral) Henry Grant, H.M.S. Pearl. Journal, Central America, 1855-7 (MS Add.9531).

H.M.S. Elk, logbook kept by an unidentified junior officer, Amoy (Xiamen) and the Pescadores, Australia and New Zealand (MS Add. 9725).

William Ayres, naval surgeon H.M.S. Harrier. Journal of the Maori Wars, 1860-5 (MS Add.9538).

Lieutenant, later Captain, George A. Douglas, H.M.S. Imperieuse and Coromandel. Naval log-book, China, Tai'ping Rebellion, 1861-5 (MS Add.9378).

Admiral George Ramsay, 12th Earl Dalhousie. Naval note-books, South America station, 1866-9 (MS Add.9278).

Admiral Sir Leopold Heath. Letter-book relating to the Abyssinian campaign, 1868 (MS Add.9654).

Lieutenant John William Ramsay, 13th Earl Dalhousie, H.M.S. Galatea. Naval note-book, voyage to Far East, Pacific Ocean and return via South America, 1869-71 (MS Add.9279).

Admiral C.G. Dicken, H.M.S. Alexander. Journal, 1883-4 and memoirs (MS Add.7351).

H.R. Tickell, Midshipman, H.M.S. Resolution, Empress of India and Talbot. Naval log-book, English Channel, West Indies and North America stations, 1896-8 (MS Add.9494).

The twentieth century

The papers of Lieutenant Edward Hilton Young, R.N.V.R., 1st Lord Kennet, include correspondence, war diaries and naval papers 1914-19. The Baldwin papers contain copies of official naval papers and estimates, including the Fleet Air Arm and Naval conferences, for the period 1925-34. There is official Admiralty correspondence concerning orders for new ships, specifications etc., in the Vickers archive.

Jonathan Spain 2003, revised John Wells and Emma Saunders 2017