The Keith Papers

Part I: Channel and North Sea, 1803-1807; 1. Operations; 26. Young to Keith

The Document

26. Young to Keith

Greenham Lodge, Newbury,
September 8, 1803.

Dear Keith, It is long since I received your last letter. I have not answered it sooner because, not having anything particular to communicate, I do not think it right to trouble too frequently a man who has such important business on his hands. I am very glad the Admiralty have consented to arming all dockyard vessels, some of them will carry heavy guns and be a great additional force. They are doing the same, probably in consequence of your representations, at Portsmouth, where I have lately been, and where I was on many accounts made uneasy. The force appointed to defend it is by no means equal to the importance of the object, which is certainly one of the most likely to be attacked, as one which would be attended with the most fatal consequences to us if the attack should be successful. The Isle of Wight, another object of great importance, is trusted to the protection of one regiment of militia, without any squadron or flotilla on the coast. Another great cause of uneasiness was the absolute want of timber in the Yard, which is such that I really do not think it possible to repair the few ships that are now in dock; if the other yards are no better provided, one or two battles would render our navy useless.

I shall be curious to know the result of your enquiry into the conduct of Sir S. S[mith] and Captain Byng. You will be surprised perhaps when I tell you that at the time the Admiralty directed the enquiry to be made into their conduct for being frequently out of their ships a ship was lying advanced at St. Helens, the captain of which did not sleep on board once in six weeks that she remained there; and the alarm of the enemy being near the coast was given in the night, and the ship put to sea with an Admiral on board her, but the captain was a long way off and knew nothing of the matter. Yet of this no notice has been taken—the captain is the Premier’s nephew! That will account for it. The Admirals I think extremely blameworthy for suffering all this; but they are good natured and unwilling to ruin him.

L’atroce is so slow in his preparations that we ought to be well prepared to meet him, and so I hope you gentlemen afloat will be; but on shore all is yet uncertainty and confusion. The Ministers take great merit to themselves for their energy and the activity of their preparations, yet even now six months after the King’s warlike message to Parliament it is doubtful who are and who are not to be soldiers. And no mode is yet established for calling expeditiously into service those who are sure they are to be called upon. The activity of these worthy gentlemen resembles strangely the indolence of other men. Our wooden walls must preserve us from the effects of it.

I hope you keep your health notwithstanding the great heat of the weather, which I think does not in general agree with you. I am &c.


See Also

Books on the Napoleonic Wars | Subject Index: Napoleonic Wars | Napoleonic Homepage

How to cite this article

LLoyd, C . (eds.) (1955) The Keith Papers, vol III, 1803-1815. Navy Records Society, pp. 33-34

Web Page: Rickard, J (24 July 2006), Keith to Secretary of Admiralty,

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