|1686 William Brady Royal Marines
William Brady was born in June 1817 at Newchurch, on the Isle of Wight, Hampshire. He worked as a labourer until enlisting in
the Royal Marines on the 5th November 1836 for a bounty of £3.0.0d. He attested for the Portsmouth division, Royal Marine
Artillery, at Portsmouth two days later. The attesting magistrate described him as being 5 foot 8 inches tall, with a freckled
complexion, hazel eyes and sandy coloured hair. After being read the articles of war against mutiny and the articles of war
against desertion, both of which carried the death penalty, he signed a document for unlimited service, receiving a payment of
£1.0.0d. A week later the surgeon examined him and found him to be suitable and fit for his Majesty’s service. Private and
Gunner William Brady was given the regimental number of 1686 and began his basic training.
The Royal Marine artillery was originally formed in 1804 to man the artillery carried in bomb vessels. A bomb vessel carried a
few guns for self defence but its main purpose was to carry mortars, a specialised role involving bombarding fixed positions
on the land. Their uniform was the blue of the Royal regiment of Artillery, giving them the nickname of “the blue Marines”.
The number of Marines carried on board a ship depended on the size of the ship. It was usually calculated as being one
Marine per gun plus Officers.
After undergoing his basic training, William Brady was allocated to his first ship. This was H.M.S. Hyacinth, which he joined on
the 28th July 1837. Hyacinth was a 6th rate sloop of the Favourite class and was launched on the 6th May 1829 at Plymouth
dockyard. Its armament consisted of 18 guns and she normally carried a crew of 125. The rating of a ship involved the number
of guns which it carried. 1st, 2nd or 3rd rate ships were considered to be ships of the line. 6th rate ships were divided into
two groups. The largest category was comprised of frigates with 28 guns. H.M.S. Hyacinth was a post ship and was too small
to be formally counted as a frigate but did had to have a Captain rather than a Lieutenant or Commander. “Hyacinth” had
returned from the East Indies on the 19th November 1836 after escorting “Beagle” with the naturalist Charles Darwin on
board, for part of its voyage of discovery
When William Brady joined H.M.S. Hyacinth it had just been re-masted at Portsmouth and was due to be re-commissioned
shortly. In early October, together with the Emerald tender and two cutters, the ships were reviewed at Brighton by Queen
Victoria, who was in residence at the Pavilion.
With tension growing in China, H.M.S. Hyacinth was sent out to the Far East, arriving at Hong Kong on the 28th October 1839.
Trade with China was extremely lucrative for European merchants and in the 1820s, the British decided to try and sell the
Chinese Opium. Trade in this drug increased enormously which worried the Chinese Government. They decided to ban the
drug on public health grounds and eventually forced the Chief Superintendant of Trade to hand over all remaining stocks of
Opium for destruction in May 1839. When two British sailors murdered a Chinese citizen, the Chinese request for these men
to be handed over to them, was refused. As a preparation for the inevitable war, Britain seized Hong Kong as a base.
The Chinese authorities then requested that all foreign ships using the port of Canton should sign a bond stating that they
agreed not to trade Opium. British ships were ordered not to sign the bond and on the 27th October, the Chief
Superintendant of British trade ordered H.M.S Hyacinth and H.M.S. Volage to position themselves one mile south of the
Chuenpee battery at Bocca Tigris, to enforce a blockade.
On the 3rd November 1839 a British ship attempted to defy the trade blockade and H.M.S Volage fired a warning shot
across its bow, which stopped the vessel. Chinese war junks saw what was happening and moved out towards the merchantman
in an attempt to protect it. They stopped and weighed anchor in a line stretching southward. H.M.S Hyacinth and H.M.S.
Volage stood off while their commanders attempted to apprise themselves of the situation and what action they should take.
At noon on the following day the Chinese fleet still remained at anchor. The two British ships moved closer to the junks and
then having made the decision that the fleet was trying to intimidate them, began firing broadsides from the starboard.
A Chinese fire raft was sunk immediately and a junk exploded when its magazine was struck. The two ships then turned
and fired more broadsides, this time from port. Three more junks were sunk, another exploded and several more were
damaged. The Chinese had no hope of replying to this display of devastating firepower and moved the remainder of their
fleet away. The only damage to H.M.S Hyacinth was to its mizzen mast, which was struck by a 12lb cannon ball. The whole\
battle was over in forty five minutes.
|Hyacinth and Volage open fire|
William Brady was aboard the vessel which had fired one of the first shots in anger and started the conflict which would
become known as the Opium war.
For a year negotiations continued intermittently, with promises of monitory payments and ports ceded by the Chinese
Government, but agreement could not be reached. H.M.S. Hyacinth was involved in an attack when, in the company of three
other vessels, they sailed into Macao’s Casilha harbour in August 1840 and fired on Chinese vessels. The attack lasted an
hour and then sailors went ashore to destroy artillery positions.
By the end of the year no settlement had been reached and it was widely rumoured that the Chinese Emperor now intended
to attack the British. On the 5th January 1841, the Chinese were warned that an attack would take place on them if no
agreement was reached in two days.
At 8 a.m. on the 7th January 1841, an attack launched from Sampanchow on the Chuenpee batteries commenced. Marines,
soldiers and seamen landed unopposed about two miles from the batteries, and advanced for about a mile and a half. As they
advanced, two steamers attacked the upper fort, while H.M.S. Hyacinth, together with “Calliope” and “Larne”, attacked the
lower fort. Within an hour, the Chinese batteries were silenced. At 10 a.m. the lower fort was stormed and captured by the
Royal Marines. Casualties aboard the Hyacinth amounted to just five sailors wounded.
The ease with which their batteries and forts were captured completely shocked the Chinese Government. A request for
hostilities to cease led to the convention of Chuenpee, where Hong Kong was ceded to the British, together with a payment
of $6,000,000 indemnity.
On the 15th March, Hyacinth and other vessels were involved in an attack upon the enemy on shore at Tze-Kee. One Royal
Marine from Hyacinth was severely wounded.
This was not to be the end of the matter, as an attack on the city of Canton was decided upon. On the 18th March 1841 all
of the forts, both in the advance and before Canton were captured, while all of the defending Chinese ships were either
sunk, burnt or dispersed. H.M.S Hyacinth received a mention in the official despatch which read:-
“Her Majesty’s ship Hyacinth (to whom too much praise cannot be given for the exertion displayed by Commander Warren,
his officers and crew, in getting her through the intricate and difficult passes of the river, piloted by Commander Belcher,
to be in readiness for the operation).
Her casualties amounted to just two men wounded during both the attack and occupation of Canton.
H.M.S. Hyacinth, together with many other vessels, withdrew to the harbour of Tinghae. An attempt was made by the
Chinese on the 14th April to destroy the vessels by the use of fire ships. Luckily the attempt was discovered and by
active exertions by both the officers and men aboard the ships, the 50 or 60 fire rafts and ships were grappled with
and towed clear without difficulty or any damage being caused.
On the 25th May 1841, the forts on the heights above Canton were stormed and captured. H.M.S Hyacinth provided a landing
party, who attacked a battery in front of the city. The attack was successful and they were able to spike 6 x 24lb guns, 12 x
9lb guns, 2 x 32lb guns, 6 x 12lb guns and some 10 inch guns.
The Chinese realised that they did not have the technology or military skills to defeat the British and resorted to other
tactics in an attempt to redress the military situation. On the 10th March 1842, more fire rafts were floated down the river
at Chinhae, but were dealt with by the crews of “Blonde” and “Hyacinth”. Five days later, H.M.S. Hyacinth provided part
of a landing party at Ningpo, attacking Chinese positions on the heights of Segaon.
Finally, after the loss of Shanghai in June 1842, the Chinese had no option but to negotiate a peace deal at Nanking. The
British fleet sailed from Nanking on the 12th October 1842.
William Brady later received a medal incorrectly named to William Bradey for his service during the Opium war. It was
originally suggested in October 1842 and awarded in 1843. There were only 19 Royal Marines who had served on board
H.M.S. Hyacinth and 3 of those had died of disease during the campaign.
His next ship was H.M.S. Alban, a paddle steamer gun vessel with two guns. It was completed on the 27th December 1826
and had been lengthened and re-engined in 1831. It had been conveying troops to and from Ireland, operating mainly from
Portsmouth and Plymouth. William Brady joined the ship on the 31st May 1843 but only remained with the vessel for 21 days.
There then followed a period of 11 years when William Brady remained ashore. During that time he was promoted to the rank
of Bombardier on the 1st March 1847 and then to Corporal on the 1st August 1847. This however, did not last for long, as on
the 14th December 1847 he was reduced to the ranks. There is no indication in his papers what caused this sudden reduction
but he was never promoted again.
On the 10th January 1854 he was allocated to H.M.S. Euryalus. This was a brand new 4th rate Frigate, which had only been
launched at Chatham on the 5th October 1853 and commissioned on the 26th December. It had been specifically designed to
have screw propulsion, giving it a speed of just over 12 knots and displaced 3,125 tons. The ships armament consisted of 28
x eight inch guns and 22 x 32 pounders, operated by a crew of about 530 men. It still retained sails as its primary means of
When war with Russia was declared in 1854, the Admiralty decided that a fleet should be sent to the Baltic. Their purpose
was to contain the Russian fleet at their moorings at Kronstadt. The British fleet consisted of 88 vessels, mainly steam
driven, and was commanded by Rear Admiral Sir George Napier. H.M.S. Euryalus was commanded by Captain George Ramsey.
The fleet sailed on the 28th March 1854
from Spithead after being reviewed by
Queen Victoria. At 1.45 the signal was made
“Put to sea” and then ship after ship, all
under canvas sailed past the Queen.
Later, as the neared Dover, the fleet
assumed the position of two lines and in
this position proceeded to the Downs.
Here they anchored at 4.30 p.m. to await
the arrival of H.M.S. Euryalus, which was
due to arrive from Sheerness.
|The fleet prepares to sail|
Finland was a Grand Duchy within the Russian Empire and formed part of the defence system for St. Petersburg, the Russian
News of the approach of the British fleet was received in Finland in late March 1854 and a blockade was established on the
28th April. At first little more was done, but with the arrival of Russian troops at the fortress of Sveaborg, which
commanded the entrance to Helsinki’s harbour, the British fleet began raiding merchant towns and supplies in the Gulf of
Bothnia. H.M.S. Euryalus, on the 15th April, detained the Russian brig “Patrioten “, and then on the following day, detained
the Russian merchant vessel “Victor”. On the 19th June, “Euryalus” detained the vessel “Volga”.
According to his service papers, William Brady remained on board H.M.S. Euryalus until the 15th March 1855. However,
research shows that he served onboard H.M.S. Odin, both in the Baltic and the Black sea. “Odin” was a 1st Class frigate
launched on the 24th July 1846. She had a wooden hull and paddle propulsion. The ship had taken part in attacks on enemy
vessels and storehouses in May and early June at Brahestad and Uleaborg.
On the 7-8th June “Odin” and “Vulture were involved in an attack on Gamla Carleby. The enemy were in great force and
inflicted severe losses upon the crews of both ships. H.M.S. Odin lost 3 Officers and 3 men killed with 2 Officers and 15
men wounded. Six of these men belonged to the Royal Marine Artillery and would need to be replaced. Marines and Seamen
were taken from other ships and William Brady was transferred to the “Odin” as a gunner.
On the 21st June 1854 H.M.S. Odin, together with two other ships, were sent to shell the main long fort at Bomarsund. The
ships sailed through the narrow channel to the harbour and came under fire from artillery and infantrymen. The ships
anchored at 9 p.m. and began a bombardment which lasted until 1 a.m. the following morning. Little damage was done to the
fort and Captain Hall, who commanded the expedition, was criticised by the Admiralty for using too much ammunition. The
first Victoria Cross ever gained, was awarded during this action.
On the 18th August 1854 “Odin” and three other ships were ordered to carry out a reconnaissance towards Kumblinge and
the islands east of it. The waters were extremely difficult to navigate and “Odin” grounded nine times before they
discovered enemy gunboats and steamers, supported by artillery batteries, covering the town of Abo. Firing commenced
from both sides, but as the purpose was not to attack Abo but merely to examine its defences, the British ships withdrew.
H.M.S. Odin returned to England at the end of the year. On the 25th February 1855 the vessel was at Spithead and
received the addition of 3 x 13” mortars and additional men from the Royal Marine Artillery. She sailed at noon from
Spithead on the 27th February, bound for the Black sea which she entered in April.
|William Brady qualified for the Crimea
medal with no clasp, which is confirmed
by the medal roll for “Odin”.
There can be no mistake as William
Brady was the only man with this name
in the Royal Marines who qualified for
both the Baltic and Crimea medals.
The medal was usually issued unnamed
to the Royal Navy and in all some
275,000 were issued.
|The Baltic Medal The Crimea Medal
Leaving H.M.S. Odin, he joined H.M.S. Melampus on the 1st May,
which was in the Mediterranean and Black sea, serving as a hospital
“Melampus” was a 5th rate sailing vessel built in Pembroke and
launched on the 10th August 1820. It had been taken out of
commission at Plymouth in 1840 and then remained out of
commission until 1845, when it sailed to the South East coast
of America and then the East Indies.
After returning from the Crimea, he served on board H.M.S.
Rosamund. This vessel was originally a wooden sloop with paddle
propulsion and had started its career as “Infernal” in 1843, until
becoming “Eclair” in 1844.
The ship was converted to steam propulsion and then served in the
West Africa station in 1845 on anti slavery patrols. The West
African station was considered to be one of the unhealthiest
places there could be and on the 29th September 1845, the ship
appeared at the Motherbank, off the north coast of the Isle of
Wight, flying a flag which indicated that she was in quarantine.
There were 23 cases of fever on board and 65 of the crew had
already died. The survivors were moved to another ship but some
continued to die, including two Royal Marines in October. In total
71 died out of the crew of 146 men.
By the end of the month the fever had abated and the vessel was
fumigated and then steamed to Sheerness, where it was paid off.
It was not surprising that the unfortunate vessel had to have its
name changed again, this time to “Rosamund” in October1846.
His final ship was H.M.S. Fine, a 4 gun gunboat which had been
launched on the 22nd March 1856. It had been built by Fletcher
and Fearnall at Limehouse and was of the Albacore class.
Fletcher & Fearnall boatyard, Limehouse
According to the 1st January 1856 regulations it had a crew of 36 officers and men. On the 23rd April 1856, it was
present at the Fleet review at Spithead, as part of the red squadron.
William Brady stayed onboard “Fine” until the 14th October 1856 when he was transferred to the Portsmouth Royal
Marine barracks. On the 4th April 1857, the medal for his service in the Baltic was sent to him at Gosport H.Q. The
medal had been sanctioned in April 1856 and was awarded almost exclusively to the Royal Navy and Royal Marines. It
was also issued unnamed and unfortunately his medals have become separated over the years. As the Baltic and Crimea
medals were both unnamed, a genuine re-unite is obviously now impossible.
June 1858 marked the completion of 21 years service for William
Brady. He applied for his discharge on the 10th June and a
divisional board met to confirm that his general conduct and
character was good, he was not in debt to the Government and
that he had no claims for arrears of pay or allowances. With
everything in order, his discharge papers were signed on the
14th June 1858.
William Brady returned to the Isle of Wight and lived as a lodger
at 29, Clarence Road, Whippingham, East Cowes. He was shown on
the 1861 Census living at this address and described as being
His retirement from the Royal Marines did not last for long, as in
January 1864 he died, aged just 47 years old.
|William Brady's China medal 1840-1842|