Royal Navy obituary in the Times newspaper
Royal Navy obituary in the Times newspaper

Royal NavyObituaries

The following obituary for Richard Vesey Hamilton appeared in the Times newspaper.

Obituary in the Times newspaper
19 September 1912


We regret to announce that Admiral Sir Richard Vesey Hamilton died at Chalfont St. Peter, Bucks, yesterday, aged 83.

Admiral Sir Richard Vesey Hamilton, G.C.B., son of the Rev. John Vesey Hamilton, rector of Little Chart, Kent, was born on May 28, 1829, and entered the navy at the age of 14, on board the Virago in the Mediterranean. As midshipmen he served nearly continuously in the Mediterranean; and as mate of the Assistance, commanded by Captain Erasmus Ommanney, served in the Artic Expedition 1850-51. On October 11, 1851, he was promoted to be lieutenant, and in February, 1852, joined the Resolute, commanded by Captain Kellett, in the Arctic during the next three years. During his Arctic service he was thus brought into immediate contact, not only with Ommanney and Kellett, but with Sir Leopold McClintock, first lieutenant of the Assistance and commander of the Resolute, Sir Clements Markham, a mate of the Assistance, and Sir George Nares, a mate of the Resolute. Sir Clements Markham has asserted that "the most valuable qualifications for Arctic service are aptitude for taking part in those winter amusements which give life to the expedition during the months of forced inaction, and for sledge travelling." During the three winters that he spent in the Arctic Hamilton acted as prompter and stage manager to the companies of the Royal Arctic Theatre; in the autumn of 1852 he made a sledge journey of 168 miles in 16 days, and in 1853 another of 675 miles in 54 days, being an average of 12½ miles a day. In 1855 he was first lieutenant of the paddle-wheel sloop Desperate in the Baltic, and early in 1856 was appointed to command the 60 h.p. gunboat Haughty, which, after the review on April 23, he took out to China, where, on June 1, 1857, he had a very brilliant share in the attack on the junk fleet in Fatshan creek. In reply to Sir Michael Seymour's despatch, the Admiralty sent out several promotions and a blank commander’s commission for the Admiral to fill up; and this he did with Hamilton's name, dated, as the other promotions, for Fatshan, August 10, 1857.

In June, 1853, Hamilton commissioned the Hydra for service on the West Coast of Africa, but was sent in the end of 1859 to the West Indies. He was still there when he was promoted to be captain on January 21, 1862. He remained in the Hydra to bring her home and pay her off in the summer, when he was appointed to the Vesuvius, again for the West Indies. It is rather noteworthy, and marks the comfort which, even as a young commander, he could combine with efficiency, that after four years' experience of him in the Hydra, three of the officers, bound by no personal tie, followed him to the Vesuvius. The Vesuvius paid off in the end of 1864, and a few months later Hamilton returned to his old station, in the Sphinx, for three years. Altogether, from the end of 1859 to April, 1868, he had nearly nine continuous years on the North America station. He afterwards commanded the coastguard ship at Portland (1870-73), the steam reserve at Devonport (1873-75), and was captain-superintendent of the dockyard at Pembroke (1875-77). He was promoted to be rear-admiral on September 27, 1877. From 1880 to 1883 he commanded on the coast of Ireland, and, becoming a vice-admiral on February 17, 1884, was commander-in-chief in China from 1885 to 1887. He was recalled thence on his promotion to the rank of admiral, October 18, 1887. In October, 1888, he was appointed one of a small Admiralty committee, consisting, besides himself, of Sir William Dowell and Sir Frederick Richards, to report on the lessons taught by the naval manoeuvres of that year, and especially as to "the feasibility or otherwise of maintaining an effective blockade of an enemy’s squadron of fast cruisers in strongly-fortified ports." The report of this committee cleared away many of the cobwebs which had cloaked the subject of it, and may be considered as the starting-point not merely of modern naval literature, but of modern naval policy. It was the foundation of the Naval Defence Act of 1889, and the doctrines it enunciated have now come to be accepted as axiomatic.

In January, 1889, Hamilton joined the Admiralty as Second Sea Lord, and he became First Sea Lord a few months later, on the retirement of Sir Arthur Hood, afterwards Lord Hood of Avalon. This post he held till September, 1891, when he was appointed president of the Royal Naval College at Greenwich, where he remained till, on May 28, 1894, he was placed on the retired list. He had been made a C.B. on May 29, 1875, and a K.C.B. on the occasion of the Queen’s Jubilee, June 21,1887. In March, 1895, he was granted a good service pension, and on the Queen's birthday was made a G.C.B. He had always been a great reader, especially of history, and he employed much of his retirement in literary pursuits. Some of his writings have thrown much light on obscure or disputed points of naval history, and all of them are remarkable for a firm grasp of the larger issues of naval policy and naval warfare. From its first foundation he took an active interest in the Navy Records Society, of which he was one of the original vice-presidents, and for which he edited the "Letters and Papers of Admiral of the Fleet Sir Thomas Byam Martin," in three volumes.

He also wrote "Naval Administration" (1896), one of the series of "Royal Navy Handbooks," published by George Bell and Sons. In this volume the constitution of the Admiralty, its historical evolution, and its methods of administration were set forth in detail and with a precision and authority derived from personal experience. There was always good stuff in what he had to say, although he was not a great adept in the art of saying it with elegance and lucidity. His wife, whom he married in 1862, died in June, 1897.

The funeral will be at Eltham, Kent, on Monday, at 12.30.

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