Victorian Naval Campaign Groups
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William John Pearne
William John PEARNE RN, H.M.S. MELITA

A Queen’s Hard Bargain – Naval version.

William Pearne was born in Cornwall & ent’d the RN as a Boy
2Cl on 25 feb ’87. Promoted to Ord & AB by 27 Feb 90 he
saw service in HMS Impregnable, Lion, Iron Duke. Service in
HMS Curlew & Aurora followed & whilst in Aurora he saw his
first stint in cells serving 7 days in July ’91. He went on to
serve in Narcissus, Terror, Blake & Cleopatra, earning his
last Very Good conduct rating for the rest of his career
whilst in Cleopatra.

He next gets drafted to Buzzard on 12 Apl ’93, then lands
in cells again for 14 days on 11 Feb ’94. Then on 5th Apl he
gets placed in irons with another AB for theft & throwing
overboard certain gunnery stores found missing the day
before. On 25 Apl he is sentenced by court martial for this
offence to 6 months Hard Labour . AB’s Pearne & Mason
had stolen & thrown overboard 4 Tangent sights, their
clamps, & 2 Percussion locks. Why they did this is anyone’s
guess. On 25th Oct he is released to HMS Vivid then gets
drafted to Melita on 28 Sep 95 & manages to stay out of
trouble for the Dongola expedition of 30 Mar-23 Sep ’96,
but gets into trouble again ending up in Consular Gaol on
10 May 97 for 21 days! (offence unknown, but suspect he
got into trouble whilst on a shore leave). On 14 Oct 98 he
leaves Melita & returns to Vivid, where he ends up in a 3
days cell stint on 31 Jan ‘99. & again on 14 May ’99. Drafted
to Magnificent 1 July ’99 he manages to stay clean, but his
next draft to Vivid sees him spending a 10 day visit to her
cells on 14 Sept ‘00, & again on 5 Nov for 7 days. His time
is expired on 19 Dec ’00 & he is Discharged to shore with
an Indifferent conduct rating. However he is not done yet –
he joins the R.F.R. (how did he get in with his conduct
rating?) on 1 Mar ’02 & promptly gets Discharged on 18
Dec ’03 “for misconduct”!


What happened to him after that is anyone’s guess – he did
not serve under his name in the RN during WWI but who
knows, he may have enlisted in Kitchener’s Army & saw
service in one of the theatres during the 14-18 war????

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We always wonder (or at least I do) when we purchase a
single medal: ""is he entitled to anything else?"" I suspected
he might have an LS medal, but when I recd his SR I had a
laugh on myself as there is no way he would have even
been considered for this medal with his record.

When reading thru his record questions for me arise...... I
could not help but wonder how would Pearne have fared
during the "days of fighting sail" - the Napoleonic wars
period - when flogging was part of the punishment
structure???

& why did he not "run" (desert) - with a record like this I
wondered why - did he or did he not enjoy Naval life?......
perhaps not the harsh discipline.... did he have trouble with
authority or just not 'fit in'....... or was he just a plain old
......"Queen's Hard Bargain"?????
Only two small RN ships qualified for the
Khedive's medal those being HMS Melita
& Scout (139 & 149 medals).

The medal was issued to the two ships
un named, but some of the medals were
named privately by the crews of both
ships. Pearne's medal is named in
Engraved caps:

W L PEARNE AB H.M.S. MELITA 1896
The naming details vary - some are dated with 1896, some are seen with DONGOLA, & one has
been seen with SUAKIM 1896, & the medal has been seen un named within a group.

Khedives Soudan medals to the RN are quite rare especially if they have clasp(s).
Here is a brief on the Soudan (Dongola) medals awarded to Melita & Scout
Two ships of the RN, HMS Melita & Scout, qualified for the Khedives 1896 Soudan medal. They
served in waters in the operational zone as part of the force assembled for the reconquest of
Dongola province in the Soudan. A force was assembled under Brigade General Egerton for this
purpose & the qualifying dates were 30 Mar-23 Sept 1896.

The award of the medal to these two ships companies was only obtained when after the initial
submission had been refused by the Admiralty, Queen Victoria assented on 30 Jan 1897 to the
proposal by the Khedive of Egypt “to confer a medal upon ALL ranks of the Navy & Army employed
in the operations connected with the recent Expedition to Dongola” Possibly because of the use of
this final expression official Admiralty classification of this medal was referred to as the “Dongola
medal”

On 5 Aug 1897 the Commander if Chief Mediterranean was sent the listing of the officers & men of
Melita & Scout entitled to receive the Dongola medal. The un named medals were rec’d by him at
Malta in Jan 1898 & were distributed to the crew of Melita & Scout in that un named fashion.
Subsequently the Captain of the Scout had the medals to his ships company named by hand letter
punch presumably this means impressing. The naming may have been carried out by the artificers of
Scout or perhaps at Malta dockyard. It is quite possible some medals to Melita were done in the same
fashion, although I have only sighted engraved ones to her. However, engraved medals to both
ships are known. As impressed & engraved named medals to Scout are known is quite feasible that
more than one person was doing the naming.

I am unsure why the two ships did not qualify for the Queens medal – perhaps someone more
knowledgable than I can fill me in on this anomaly.
& finally some details on HMS Melita -

A composite screw sloop of 970 tons, 167 x 32 ft. Carried 8 Five inch deck guns (good "healthy"
armament for a small sloop) - Built at & commissioned at Malta dockyard March 1888. Became HMS
Ringdove, a salvage vessel, during WWI & finall sold for b.u. July 1920, an old ship by then!
The launching ceremony was performed by Princess Victoria Melita, for whom the ship was named,
the twelve-year old daughter of the Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Victoria’s second son, who was
Commander in- Chief of the British Mediterranean Fleet. The Princess was presented with a model of
the ship she had launched and an olivewood casket containing a carved mallet and chisel.

The occasion was attended by many people, as the contemporary photographs show, and the event
was reported under “The Court” in THE GRAPHIC - an illustrated London newspaper. The
launch was also reported in THE ARMY AND NAVY GAZETTE,18 which commented, rather sourly, “...it
would be invidious to make any remarks about the length of time she (HMS MELITA) has been
building. Let us hope she will prove a staunch and useful vessel.”
HMS Melita


and in Dry Dock