|The Naval Brigade in Egypt and the Soudan
|LAMPTRIMMER Alfred WHITE, RN
Alfred White was born in Bermondsey, Surrey on 13
He entered the RN on board HMS Inconstant(Iron
Frigate of 1868) as a *Domestic 3rd class on 12 Feb
1880. He was likely employed as a Ships Steward or
Storesman. On 12 Mar ’80 he moved to HMS
Alexandra(Central battery Iron Ironclad of 1877)
again as a Domestic 3rd class where he remained until
He then joined HMS Duke of Wellington (Depot &
Receiving ship, Portsmouth) this time as a
**Lamptrimmer, the rate he was to remain in for the
rest of his career. A Lamptrimmer was responsible for
the lighting on ships of the Victorian Navy, the ships
of the day being illuminated by candles & oil lamps.
Electric lighting in ships of the RN did not arrive until
the commission of HMS Inflexible in 1876.
On a large ship (ie: a 1st or 2nd rate, or Ironclad
Battleship) there could be up to 1000 lights to
maintain. All of the lamps having oil fuel required
constant refilling, & wicks that had to be regularly
trimmed & replaced. The oil for the lamps would have
been stored in barrels & carried in the hold of the ship.
He remained on Dk of Well’n until 12 May ’81, when he
was drafted HMS Assistance(Iron Storeship ’74). He only
remained on her until 1 Jun, when he was drafted again to
Dk of Well’n, & then to HMS Malabar on 2 Jun ’82. Malabar
was an Iron, fully rigged screw Troopship of 1877. She
was designed to carry troops between the United
Kingdom and India, and was employed in that role for
most of her life. She was a fairly large ship carrying a crew
of approx 200-250. She carried up to 1,200 troops and
family on a passage of approximately 70 days. Alfred
White & his mate (usually two Lamptrimmers were carried
on the larger ships) would have a lot of lamps & candles
to maintain during the long voyage to India & return. He
was to serve the majority of his naval career on Transport
Whilst on Malabar White exchanged to HMS Crocodile
(Troopship of ’67) on 1 Oct, possibly on the Red Sea after
the Suez canal transit. He then did the voyage to India &
return to UK on 20 May ’83, where he was drafted to Dk
of Well’n. On 26 Aug he was drafted to the Troopship
Jumna where he was to remain for a year. Onboard Jumna
he was awarded his 1st GCB(Good Conduct badge) on 1
Apl ’84. Jumna was also in the Red Sea theatre of
operations during 1884, & some of her crew was sent
ashore to participate in the Soudan campaigns & of 1884.
Alfred White was one of those ratings sent ashore to the
base at Suakin, presumably to be employed in his trade
on the base. He subsequently rec’d the clasp Suakin 1884
for his service in the 1884 campaign. Alfred White remains
on Jumna for three years, leaving her on 15 Aug `87 to
again join Malabar, where he remains for 9 years, going
back & forth from UK to India & the far east. Whilst on
Malabar he receives his 2nd GCB on 28 Mar `89 & was
awarded his Naval Long service medal on 23 Apl `91.
Unfortunately I do not have Alfred White`s LS medal. He
also received his 3rd GCB on 28 Mar `94.
White left Malabar on 19 Jun `96. The remainder of his
service is on Depot ships - HMS Victory (Flag & Depot
ship, Portsmouth) - 20 Jun `96 to 31 Mar `99; Dk of
Well`n -1 Apl `99 to 30 Sep `03; Firequeen - 1 Oct `03
to 31 Mar `05; Victory – 1 Apl `05 until pensioned in May.
However White`s service is not quite over, for on 5 Nov
07 he is: Approved for re-entry for Recruiting duties – to
draw both pay & pension.
Thus on 7 Nov he again enters the RN on board HMS
Victory, still rated as a Lamptrimmer(Pensioner). It is likely
however that his service from then onwards would be
ashore in one of the Recruiting offices in Portsmouth. He
remains in the recruiting service until 26 Nov 1914, when
he is DSQ (Discharged to Sick Quarters) Haslar Hospital, &
presumably returned to Pension. He had completed 32
yrs, 9 months service in the RN & was never assessed
below VG (Very Good) conduct for his entire career.
He was not entitled to a British War medal for his 1WW
Nothing is known at this time on the balance of his life or
if he ever married & had children. I hope in time to be able
to add more of Alfred White and his family.
**A Lamptrimmer was a Non CS (Continuous Service)
rating who could, like other CS ratings (ie: Domestics,
Barbers, Bandsmen, Musicians, Kroomen, Tailors, &
Shoemakers) sign on & off ships at will, usually at the end
of a ship.s commission. Domestics & Bandsmen did not
sign on for a continuous period of service (ie: 10 yrs) until
The rate of Lamptrimmer is fairly rare, & it is unusual to
find a campaign or long service medal named to a
*Domestics were among the lowest paid of the Ships
Company – circa 1884 a Domestic 3rd class would be paid
a salary of 1 shilling, 1 pence per day; or 19 pounds,15
shillings, 5 pence per year.
A Lamptrimmer, rated as a Domestic 2nd class, received a
daily pay of 1 shilling, 4 pence; or a yearly salary of 24
pounds, 6 shillings 8 pence. This was the same salary that
an Able Seaman would have made.
Compare their pay to that of an ERA (Engine Room
Artificer), at entry level, received a pay of 95.16.3 per
year. A Chief ERA 1st class was paid 136.17.6 per year!
Most of Alfred White's career was served on Troopships:
The Admiralty had been alarmed at the difficulties experienced in securing enough shipping of the right type to move soldiers and
sailors around the world during and Crimean war and the Indian Mutiny. In the mid 1860's the Royal Navy decided to build and
operate five troopships on behalf of the Indian government, the criteria being that each ship should be able to carry a full battalion of
infantry with families and auxiliaries, or 1200 men.The Troopships ships were - CROCODILE, EUPHRATES, JUMNA, MALABAR &
SERAPIS. Each ship had the star of India in gold on the bow & were painted with distinctive bands on the hull to aid identification
from a distance, colours being:
MALABAR - black
SERAPIS - green