Thanks to William Richard O’Byrne’s (1823-1896) idea of making a publication compiling a record of service of every living Royal Navy officer, we have Fitzjames’ service record in his own words. The Admiralty’s administration not always being very organised, O’Byrne relied on the information supplied by the subjects of his biographical dictionary.
This does not mean that the officers could just make up whatever they liked. O’Byrne did try to verify the information with official records and of course, one’s brother-officers and superiors would recognise anything wildly inaccurate. In the case of Fitzjames, O’Byrne made sure to check if Fitzjames was actually honorably mentioned in the Gazettes during the “China War” (First Opium War), and lists the Gazettes in question as a footnote.
On 24 March 1845 Fitzjames returned the filled-out form to Mister O’Byrne (whom he mistakenly calls “Mr O’Brien”) accompanied by a letter and an extra sheet of paper, because Fitzjames had more to say about his career than he could fit on the original form. Still, he referred to it as just a “rough summary”.
As Battersby already noted, it is interesting that Fitzjames declined to fill out his date and place of birth. Although when I was going through all of the forms I saw that his Euphrates Expedition colleague Henry Eden also chose not to fill out those details. The Admiralty knew Fitzjames’ date and place of birth, as it was mandatory to supply this information. So even though Fitzjames did not see the need to have this information published in the book, it was not a secret.
Fitzjames would never see the result of his form, because the book was not published until 1849 and by that time Fitzjames was lost in the Arctic.
All of O’Byrne’s filled-out forms and related correspondence have been preserved at the British Library, a great treasure of Naval History.
Here you can read Fitzjames’ entry in A Naval Biographical Dictionary: Comprising the Life and Services of Every Living Officer in Her Majesty’s Navy, from the Rank of Admiral of the Fleet to that of Lieutenant, Inclusive, Volume 1, 1849 pp. 362-363
Captain Fitzjames presents
his comps to Mr O’Brien &
sends him as long since requested
a rough summary of his
For further details of the
Services of himself — Commander
E.P. Charlewood (now Superin
tendant of Dover Railway) and
Lieut Henry Eden (now
Commanding HMS Lizard)
he would refer him to the
Supplementing report on
Steam Navigation to India, in
1838 — which gives Col Chesney’s
dispatches on the subject —
24th March 1845
REQUESTED TO BE FILLED UP FOR MR. O’BYRNE’S
ALL LIVING NAVAL OFFICERS
*** This truly national and important undertaking, which has long occupied the attention of the Author, will consist of authentic Details of the Life and Services of every Officer in her Majesty’s Navy, from the rank of Admiral of
the Fleet to that of Lieutenant inclusively, comprising, with a statement of his Family Connexions, minute particulars of his professional career, — the Ships in which he has served, — the Engagements in which he has taken part, — his Promotions, Appointments, and Rewards, all with their accurate Dates.
The Work will be published by Mr. Colburn, of 13, Great Marlborough Street.
Rank and Name in full? Commander James Fitzjames
Dates of Birth and Marriage, name of Wife, and number of Children? If possessing any Relatives in the Service? Their names?
*** These inquiries may be answered or not, according to the wish of the party addressed.
Date of entering the Service? 25th August 1825 — Pyramus 42 — Capt Robert Gambier
Date of Passing? 16th November 1833
Dates of Promotions? Lieutenant — 19th January 1838
Commander — 28 December 1842
If holding, or having held, any Civil Appointment?
Present Official Employment, (if any?)
HMS Erebus, Captain Sir John Franklin, to attempt the North West passage in company with the Terror. Capt F.R.M. Crozier
In charge of magnetic observations.
|Ships served in||No. of Guns||By whom commanded||On what Station employed||Date of Appointment||When Paid off||Rank held in each Ship|
Experimental Squadn with Sir Thom. Hardy KCB in 1827 – Channel & Coast of Ireland
— Took troops to Lisbon — Gibraltar & Malta in 1827
At Lisbon as Senior Officer when Don Miguel arrived in Portugal & usurped the throne —
|25 Aug 1825||15 Septr 1828||Volunteer|
Flag of Admiral Sir Thos Foley GCB
|120||Hyde Parker||Portsmouth||15 Decr 1830||8 Feby 1831||Do.|
|St Vincent *X*|
Flag of Vice Admiral Sir Henry Hotham KCB
|120||Sir H. Fleming Senhouse KCH||Mediterranean||24 Feby 1831||23d May 1834||Midshipman and Mate|
|Madagascar||46||E. Lyons (now Sir Edward Bart GCB)||Meditn||30 Aug 1832||28 July 1833||Midshipman lent from St Vincent|
Flag of Rear Admiral Sir Bladen Capel KCB
|52||Capt Sparshott||Chatham||10 June 1834||8 Oct -34||Mate|
|Euphrates Expedition||Col Chesney|
|Euphrates||9th Oct 1834||March 1837||Mate|
|Gunnery Ship||Thos Hastings|
|25 March 1837|
26 Jany 1838
|21 Jany 1838|
17 Oct 1838
|Ganges||84||Barrington Reynolds CB||Meditn||18 Oct 1838||23d April 1841||Gunnery Lieutenant|
|Excellent||—||Sir Thomas Hastings||Portsmo||24 April |
Flag of Vice Admiral Sir Wm Parker GCB
|72||Peter Richards||China||29 May 1841||18 March 1843||Do.|
|Clio||16||Self||East Indies & Persian Gulf||19 March 1843||10 Oct 1844||Commander|
*X* Served 6 months in Hind Cutter tender to St Vincent — in Archipelago & Constantinople
History of Services enumerating each Action taken part in, with mention of wounds, (if any,) and every other detail of interest or importance connected with professional career, from the period of entering the Navy to the present time.
*** Dates particularly requested.
In Pyramus Took Mr Morier to Mexico in 1825.
Experimental Squadn with flag of Sir Thos Hardy in 1827.
Took troops to Lisbon & Malta in 1827.
At Lisbon during Don Miguels first arrival & usurpation
St Vincent with Flag of Sir H. Hotham – during revolution in Greece
and occupation of the Palamedi at Nauplia by the
Russian French & Indian forces.
Madagascar During her cruize up the Adriatic to Trieste & return
to Greece with the King Otho & Bavarian Regency
on board – in company with the Fleet of transports
and Bavarian troops.
Euphrates Expedition under Col Chesney
While fitting out at Liverpool in February 1835
was presented with a piece of plate by the merchants
and the Freedom of the City by the Corporation for saving
a man’s life who fell overboard in a strong gale &
lee tide in the river Mersey – also voted the
Humane Socy. Medallion & Shipwreck Soc. Medal.
Broke his leg while returning from an attack on a tribe of Bedouins
who had robbed one of the party — on the banks of the Euphrates.
Descended that river after the arduous & laborious work of
a year in fitting the Steamers (Euphrates & Tigris) across
140 miles of country from Suedia in Syria to Bir on
the Euphrates — After refitting at Bushire in the
Persian Gulf, ascended the Tigris to a short distance
above Bagdad — the Karoon to near Ahwaz.
History of Services, &c. (continued.)
On the breaking up of the Expedition in Decr 1836 brought an
Indian Mail across the desert from Bagdad to Beyrout viâ
Palmyra and Damascus — having first ascended the
Euphrates in a boat from Semawa (near Bussorah)
to Hillah on the Plains of Babylon.
Was taken prisoner in the Lemloom Marshes by the
Arabs and detained 10 days. — the party accompanying
him Messrs Stewart & Alexander being pillaged —
Promoted for services in the Euphrates Expedition
Studied Gunnery & Mathematics in the Excellent
and obtained the First Certificate of Proficiency
Ganges At the commencement of the Syrian War in
1840 — landed in the Egyptian Camp at
Beyrout to distribute Commodore Napier’s
dispatches proclamations to the soldiers — for which
a reward was offered by Soliman Pasha (‘for the Officer’s head
who had done so’ *X*
Present at Bombardment of Beyrout and landing & operations
at Djouni— Afterwards Ganges Blockading Alexandria
*X* and which Commodore subsequently exposed as a
“service of danger”
The Work being in a state of forwardness, it is EARNESTLY solicited, to ensure accuracy in the Memoirs, that is this Formula BE FILLED UP AND RETURNED, WITH AS LITTLE DELAY AS POSSIBLE, addressed to WILLIAM R. O’BYRNE, ESQ., 9, DOUGHTY STREET, RUSSEL SQUARE, LONDON.
Those desirous of possessing a copy of the Work are requested to signify their wish to the Author.
Continued in blank sheet
In Cornwallis — Mentioned in the Admirals’ & Generals’
dispatches (Sir Wm Parker & Sir Hugh Gough) in the
Gazette, as having commanded the rocket Brigade at
the attack on the heights of Segaon near Tsekee — on the
16th March 1842.
Landed in the boats
with in Command of rocket party at the taking
of Chapoo 18th May 1842
Gunnery Lieutenant of Cornwallis & landed in boats
at the battle of Woosung 16th June 1842 —
Commanded rocket brigade of seamen — at the
Storm and Capture of the City of Ching-Kiang-Foo
21st July 1842 — Mentioned honorably in the Gazette.
Was wounded by a shot through the left arm (just
below the shoulder) and through the side the back
going round the ribs, & being cut out at the
backbone — Present at the signing of the
treaty at Nanking — and in All the Operations
in the Yang-tse-Kiang In 1842
Promoted for Services in China — 23d Decr 1842
Took the Clio up to Bussorah and Korna at
the junction of Euphrates & Tigris — where no
man of war ever was before — in Decr 1843
Visited Ichaboe (the Guano Island) on the West Coast
of Africa to settle the disturbances amongst the crews
of the merchant vessels loading guano — in August 1844