Loss of H.M.S. Victoria

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Tryon had written to Hornby on 23 December, 1891, "Equal speed is in my opinion absolutely called for in manœuvres unless you want to have a ramming match."[1]

Captain Brackenbury wrote to Admiral Sir Geoffrey Hornby on 23 June that he believed Markham to be "absolutely blameless".[2] He later wrote to his wife that "the fault was entirely the commander-in-chief's as we were all obeying his orders."[3]


It had been assumed and even reported in public that the obligatory court-martial on the survivors of H.M.S. Victoria would be held at Portsmouth. However, on 3 July, Culme-Seymour, the Duke of Edinburgh, Hoskins and Earl Spencer (and possibly the Earl of Clanwilliam, according to Gordon) met at the Admiralty and decided that the court-martial would be held at Malta, and that Culme-Seymour would serve as its president.[4] That same day, in the House of Commons the decision was announced by the Parliamentary Secretary, Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth, in response to a question by Mr. Henniker Heaton. He stated that "owing to the circumstances of the case and the impossibility of withdrawing certain officers from the Mediterranean 687 Station it is necessary that the Court Martial shall be held at Malta."[5]

Reaction in certain sections of the press was suspicious. The Manchester City News supposed that the change of venue was designed "to maximise the difficulty and expense of the attendance of the press," and the St. James's Gazette considered the reason given, that of convenience, to be "mere subterfuge." The Western Morning News claimed that it was "an indication that the enquiry may be neither thorough nor impartial," and that the officers of the Court, being drawn from the Mediterranean Fleet, would be too intimate with those involved with the disaster.[6]

About this time, Captain Alfred L. Winsloe was appointed as prosecutor on the court-martial. He had previously served as Flag Lieutenant to Admiral Sir Geoffrey Phipps Hornby, and as a member on the Dowell committee which produced the 1889 Signal Book, and according to the Admiralty & Horse Guards Gazette was "considered an authority on signals and fleet manœuvres." Winsloe accompanied Culme-Seymour and his Flag team in the cruiser Hawke, which left Portsmouth for Malta on 6 July.[7] With him Culme-Seymour carried the warrant issued by the Admiralty for assembling the court, dated 5 July.[8]

Markham later wrote to Noel, "I cannot permit your sneer at the ability of Captain Johnstone to pass unchallenged … I have the greatest confidence in his skill and ability to handle his ship and the utmost faith in his prudence and loyalty."[9]

On 13 August Custance wrote to Noel, "Colomb's letter was most unfortunate and I am extremely sorry that it should have been written. The view which he wished to put forward might very well have been stated without making it appear as a personal attack on Sir G Tryon … It will make no end of bad blood."[10]

See Also


  1. Quoted in Gordon. Rules of the Game. p. 652.
  2. Letter of 23 June, 1893. National Maritime Museum. Hornby Papers. PHI/120D. Quoted in Gordon. Rules of the Game. p. 653.
  3. National Maritime Museum. Brackenbury Papers. BCK/13/15B. Quoted in Gordon. Rules of the Game. p. 653.
  4. Gordon. Rules of the Game. p. 258.
  5. Hansard. HC Deb 3 July 1893 vol 14 cc686-7.
  6. Quoted in Gordon. Rules of the Game. p. 258.
  7. Gordon. Rules of the Game. p. 259.
  8. Minutes of Proceedings. p. 13.
  9. National Maritime Museum. Noel Papers. NOE/1A. Quoted in Gordon. Rules of the Game. p. 654.
  10. Letter of 13 August, 1893. Quoted in Gordon. Rules of the Game. p. 655.