Military Histories

Shipwrecked - September 2013 Issue

A Three Year Deployment

Richard Howard had left HMS RAVEN in the September of 1833 and was ashore for less than two months before he was back on the muster roll. This time it was HMS SPARROWHAWK, a sloop with a complement of 110 men. In this issue I will continue my search using Ships' Muster Books and the Captain's Log. I will also make use of the Allotment Books again as there is evidence in the muster books that Richard was sending some of his pay home. Finally I will introduce Description Books to my search.
          Using the four record sources I was able to follow Richard as he set sail from Portsmouth on what was to be almost a three-year voyage. A voyage that would take him across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and South America. Sadly some of his shipmates would not return.

           Using the muster books in the Admiralty series ADM 37 I located HMS SPARROWHAWK among a collection of similar type vessels. The records are bound into a consolidated muster book, usually in alphabetical order, but it is wise to check the contents of the collection in case your ship's register has been misplaced.
           I found the muster list for HMS SPARROWHAWK and Richard HOWARD was entered as ship's book number 4 (SB4). He had joined SPARROWHAWK on the 20 November, 1833, aged 21 and was employed as the Wardroom steward until May, 1836, when he became a Gunroom steward. He would be serving the commissioned officers in the Wardroom and the midshipmen in the Gunroom.
          If I wanted to follow SPARROWHAWK through her three-year voyage I could search either the Captain's Log (or Master's Log) or Ship's Log. The Captain's Log is in the ADM 51 series and the daily entries provided me with locations, weather conditions, incidents on board and meetings with other warships (friend or foe).
          I was able to 'follow' the SPARROWHAWK to an anchorage in Madeira and her journey to the West Indies before heading to Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Valparaiso. During the voyage John WALLOW, a boy, fell from the ship's rigging and was lost at sea. On another occasion the Captain was compelled to put Frederick Hughes in irons for drunkenness and mutinous and blasphemous conduct. One hour later Frederick Hughes 'departed this life.' Frederick was committed to the deep the following afternoon.
          After almost three years the SPARROWHAWK returned to Portsmouth. Richard HOWARD was employed preparing the ship for decommission. Stores would be removed from the ship, sails taken to the riggers for repair and gunpowder removed to a safe stowage. When the work was completed Richard would be paid-off.
          Richard was allotting money home and I ordered a number of books that covered the period that Richard was serving on board HMS SPARROWHAWK. The books are in the series ADM 27 and are one of the few record sources that provide evidence of next-of-kin. The books are not ship specific instead you may have to search a number of books before you locate your subject. I searched ADM 27/37 without success but I was fortunate on my next book, ADM 27/38. Richard was sending money to his mother, Elizabeth, who was still residing at the Naval Hospital, Haslar. 
          Finally I used a Description Book to obtain personal details of Richard HOWARD. Description books cover the period 1836-72 and are generally grouped in the ADM 38 series. I located a description book within the ship's muster book of SPARROWHAWK in ADM 37/9800. I suspect this was one of the early returns. The details I obtained from the Description Book were as follows:
          Richard Howard, age 21, height 5ft 5in, fair complexion, grey eyes, light hair, living in Haslar, Gopsort, Hampshire. He was single and had previously served in HMS SAPHIRE, HMS CALEDONIA and HMS RAVEN.
          Richard was discharged HMS SPARROWHAWK in January, 1837. I am sure that after three years away from home he would be keen to return home to his family in Gosport. He would not remain at home for too long.




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