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


The Royal NavyObituaries

The following obituary for John Moresby appeared in the Times newspaper.

Obituary in the Times newspaper
DateObituary
13 July 1922

ADMIRAL MORESBY.
DISCOVERIES IN NEW GUINEA.
PORT AND SHIP NAMED AFTER HIM.

Admiral John Moresby, whose death is announced on another page, was one of the few surviving links between the old Navy and the new. He had the honour of giving his name to Port Moresby, in New Guinea, in commemoration of his discoveries there; and during the Great War Lord Fisher named a destroyer, the Moresby, after him.
His father was Admiral of the Fleet Sir Fairfax Moresby, a veteran who had served under Nelson and St. Vincent — his ship, the Amazon, taking part in Nelson's pursuit of Villeneuve to the West Indies. He was born on March 15, 1830, and entered the Navy in 1842, serving first as a midshipman in the Caledonia, the flagship at Devonport, and afterwards in the America, fifty-gun frigate, on the Pacific Station. In his interesting biographical work entitled "Two Admirals," published in 1909, Moresby (who calls the America the Xenophon) gives a graphic account of the miseries and privations suffered by the officers and crew of this ship — all except the captain, who had been twenty-seven years on half-pay before he joined her, and who acted in a way now happily unknown in the Navy — owing to a scarcity of water during a series of prolonged calms in the Pacific.
Thenceforward Moresby's career in the Navy was one of very varied activity, interrupted only by six years of half-pay after his promotion to the rank of captain in 1865. As gunnery lieutenant of the Thetis he commanded her small-arms men in an expedition against various tribes of Vancouver's Island Indians in 1853. In 1854 he was appointed first lieutenant of the Driver, and served in her and afterwards in the Hawke during the two naval campaigns in the Baltic at the time of the Russian War of 1854-5. He was present at the capture of Bomarsund, and at an action with gunboats and batteries off Abo. His next service was in Eastern waters as commander first of the Snake and afterwards of the Argus. He took part in the defence of Shanghai against the Taepings, having charge of a force of Chinese troops for that purpose, and he was actively em- ployed in the suppression of Chinese pirates, taking or destroying fourteen piratical junks manned by 240 men. In command of the Argus he took part in the operations against Japan, which involved the opening of the Inland Sea and the attack on Shimonoseki. For these ser- vices he was promoted to the rank of post-captain.

PORT MORESBY.

In 1871 Moresby was appointed to the Basilisk, 5-gun paddle sloop, for service on the Australian Station. With the sanction of the Admiralty and of his senior officer, he devoted his time mainly to the exploration and survey of Torres Straits and the adjacent parts of the island of New Guinea which have now become parts of the British Empire. He discovered the finest harbour on the southern coast of New Guinea, which was very fittingly named Port Moresby and became the seat of Government. Shortly after his return to this country The Times remarked in a leading article which appeared on December 15, 1874:—
The Basilisk has explored and surveyed about 1,200 miles of coast-line in the archipelago of which New Guinea is the centre and added many first-class harbours, navigable rivers, and more than 100 islands, large and small, to the chart. But this is not the best part of the work. The Admiralty are able to announce that the discoveries of the Basilisk have revealed the existence of a new and shorter route between Australia and China. This was the great and memorable achievement of Moresby’s life, and it entitles him to rank among famous naval explorers.
Moresby subsequently served for a short time in the Coastguard, and from April, 1878, to April, 1881, he was Captain of the Dockyard at Bermuda, where he made many improvements in the naval establishments. He subsequently rose to the successive ranks of rear-admiral and vice-admiral, but he never hoisted the flag afloat, and finally retired in 1888, attaining the rank of admiral on the retired list in 1893.
In his book he quotes, as his greatest pleasure on relinquishing his last appointment, the words of his Commander-in-Chief, Sir Leopold McClintock, who said"
"I hope I shall be regretted as you are when I also give up my command.” And Admiral Moresby added : "This, after all, is as much as anyone can wish to gain — to carry one's soul with clean hands through this difficult world, and to have earned the kind thoughts and approval of our fellows."

LETTERS TO "THE TIMES."

Moresby wielded a vigorous and graphic pen. Readers of The Times will be familiar with the interesting letters to this journal which Admiral Moresby wrote until well past ninety years of age. From his wonderful memory he constantly brought forth quaint and curious anecdotes as they were recalled to him by modern happenings. Cowes Week in 1921 prompted him to relate how in 1845 he had served in the Channel Fleet when vessels of the Royal Yacht Squadron acted as scouts for the battleships and frigates. A correspondence on sea bathing recalled to him "a more delightful experience of a midnight header into a phosphoric sea. ... An interval of seventy-four years has since elapsed, yet I still recall it as 'a marvel, an elixir, a miracle!'"
His "Discoveries and Surveys in New Guinea" appeared in 1876; and in 1909 he published the work already mentioned mainly autobiographical and contains a manly, straightforward, simple, and very attractive narrative of the leading events in his own career, written in a style that shows much literary aptitude and no inconsiderable literary culture. It also contains two introductory chapters giving a brief account of his fathers career, and is dedicated to his grandson, Fairfax Donald Mackcson, who at the time of publication was a naval cadet, and who, after gallant service in the war, was lost overboard from the destroyer Tower, of which he was sub-lieutenant, on December 1, 1917.
Proud of the Royal Navy and of his own and his father's association with it, he deeply appreciated the honour conferred upon him in the war by his old friend, Lord Fisher, when a new destroyer was named the Moresby. At the Battle of Jutland this vessel torpedoed, and was believed to have caused the sinking of, an enemy battleship, and after the action the officers presented Admiral Moresby with the remains of the ensign which they flew. It was believed that this was the only instance on record of a British warship being named after a living admiral.
Admiral Moresby, who was a widower, leaves, with four daughters, a son, Walter Halliday Moresby, C.B.E., LL.B., legal adviser to the War Office. We announced yesterday the engagement of Mr. Moresby's youngest daughter to Captain A.D.F. Thomason, 12th Cavalry, I.A.


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