Travels of a 19th Century Royal Marine

Royal MarineAlfred James FLIGHT was a clothworker from King's Stanley, a small village near Stroud, Gloucestershire, England. King's Stanley had one trade only; the production of woollen cloth, and in the middle of the nineteenth century the cloth trade was in decline. In August 1840 seventeen year old Alfred James FLIGHT was accused of stealing two yards of woollen cloth. He was thrown into prison until his trial on 20 October the same year, and then found not guilty. A year later, giving his occupation as a labourer, not clothworker, Alfred joined the Royal Marines, and after receiving basic instruction in infantry skills at a shore based establishment, almost certainly Devonport, he joined his first ship. This is where we join Private Alfred James Flight.

14 June 1842 to 11 March 1844. Aetna, at Sheerness, under the command of Lieut. John Wilson
AETNA was a bomb 6 built in Chatham Dockyard and taken into service 14 April 1824. Builders measurements:- 106 x 28.5 ft., tonnage 375. She was of a similar size to a Fairmile motor torpedo boat of W.W.I. Used as a survey vessel in 1826. She was put out of commission in 1844, and was sold to the Bristol Seamen's Friendly Society on 20 Feb. 1846.

19 April 1846 to 12 October 1846. Queen, supt. In 1845 she was the flagship of Admiral Sir John West at Devonport. His flag captain was Sir Henry Leeke. The marines on board were commanded by Major George Balchild with Lieut. Walter Lillicrap and 2nd. Lieuts. Richard Parke and William Masters.
QUEEN was a 110 gun first rate built at Portsmouth in 1839. She took part in the bombardment of Sebastopol in 1854.

9 January 1847 to 3 May 1847. Caledonia and Avenger, Supt. In 1847 she was at Devonport and Avenger was her steam tender from December 1846. In 1847, under the command of Capt. Dacres, Avenger made a trip to the coast of Ireland and the Isle of Mull with meal.
CALEDONIA was a 120 gun first rate built at Plymouth in 1808.
AVENGER was a paddle frigate built at Devonport in August 1845.  On 20 December 1847 under Capt. C. Napier she was wrecked on the Sorelle Rocks off the coast of North Africa. Three men and a boy were the only survivors.
28 January 1848 to 3 May 1848. San Josef. In 1848 in use as Admiral Sir William Gage's flagship at Devonport. Marines were stationed in her for service in the MEDWAY convict ship under 1st Lieut. William Hutchinson and 2nd Lieut. George Gregory.
SAN JOSEF. A Spanish 114 gun ship captured at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent 14 February 1797. Builders measurements:- Tonnage, 2457. 195 ft. x 54 ft. She was used as a gunnery training ship from 1837.Broken up May 1849 at Devonport.

2 June 1848 to 24 July 1848. Owe, Supt.  In 1848 she was in the Mediterranean under Capt. Sir James Stirling. The marines were commanded by Major William Taylor with 1st. Lieuts. Chas. Louis, Chas. Wolrige and John Parry.
HOWE 120 gun 1st rate built at Chatham,  launched 28 March 1815. Builders Measurements - Tonnage, 2619. 205 ft. x 56ft. Broken up February 1854 at Sheerness.
25 July 1848 to 28 November 1848. Alfred, whilst in the Mediterranean, transferred straight from Howe to the Superb.  Superb was under the control of  Capt. Armar Corry. The marines were commanded by Major P.B. Nolloth, with 1st Lieuts, Wm. Farmar, Julius Bunce and John Sangster.
SUPERB 80 gun 2nd rate built at Pembroke Dock in 1842. Builders measurements, tonnage 2583, size 190 x 57 ft. Break up completed 18 February 1869 at Portsmouth.
31 July 1849 to 31 December 1851 Impregnable. In 1850 Impregnable was the flagship of Admiral Sir William Gage at Devonport with Capt. Sir Thomas Maitland. Marines under Capt. James Clarke and 1st Lieut. Wm. Hutchinson.
IMPREGNABLE 98 gun 2nd rate built at Chatham, launched 1 August 1810. Builders measurements; tonnage 2406, 197 53.5 ft. She carried a crew of 800. In May 1815 the Impregnable was one of a fleet used to occupy Naples in the name of King Ferdinand. In August 1816 the Impregnable was one of a fleet of about 36 vessels which sailed from Gibraltar to bombard Algiers, to force the Dey to release Christian slaves. In the resulting battle the Impregnable lost 50 killed and 160 wounded.Used at Devonport as a boys' training ship from 1862. Renamed KENT 9 November 1888. Renamed CALEDONIA 22 September 1891 when she was transferred to the Firth of Forth to carry out similar duties. Sold 10 July 1906
4 September 1852 to 21 February 1854.  St. George. She was Guardship of the Ordinary (ships laid up with just ship minders on board) at Devonport in 1852 with 1st Lieuts. Fred. Budd and George Blake and, in 1853 with Capt. E. Ussher, 1st. Lieuts. E. Snowe and G. Bridges (Artillery) and 2nd Lieut. Henry Freeland. In February 1854 she was commissioned for service in the Baltic, and Alfred transferred to the Royal William.
ST. GEORGE 120 gun 1st rate built at Plymouth, undocked 27 August 1840, after thirteen years on stocks. Builders measurements; tonnage 2694, 205 x 55.5 ft. Refurbished and undocked 19 March 1859 as a screw ship. Sold 1883.
22 February 1854 to 4 September 1855. Royal William. Replaced St. George as Guardship of the Ordinary at Devonport in February 1854. Marines under 1st Lieut. Henry Fox.
ROYAL WILLIAM 120 gun 1st rate built at Pembroke, undocked 2 April 1833. Builders measurements; tonnage2694, 205 x 55.5 ft. Undocked as a screw ship of 72 guns 9 February 1860. Renamed Clarence in 1885 and used as a training ship. Burnt by accident 26 July 1899 whilst in the Mersey.
28 March 1857 to 3 August 1859. Belleisle. Used as Hospital Ship, East Indies and China station in 1858. Paid off at Chatham in 1859. Alfred James FLIGHT was promoted to Corporal on 25 November 1858.
BELLEISLE 74 gun 3rd rate built at Pembroke, undocked 26 April 1819. Reduced to 20 gun troopship in 1841. Harbour Service from May 1854. Troop ship in Baltic 1855. Break up commenced at Chatham 12 October 1872.

Alfred James FLIGHT left the Belleisle 3 August 1859. It was his last posting on board ship. On 9 October 1862, having served for 21 years and 23 days he left the service and became a Greenwich pensioner. Earlier, on 1 March 1862, aged 38 and whilst still a Marine he married  a 25 year old  clothworker, Ann Clutterbuck in Leonard Stanley parish church.

I am indebted to Michael Phillips for the majority of the information contained within this section.
For many years his pages on maritime history could be found at but his website suddenly disappeared in March 2007.

It has been impossible to track its whereabouts, but a copy of the original pages can be found at .

Want to know more?

The life of a 19th century Royal Marine.
More about Alfred James Flight, his ancestors and descendants.
Alfred James FLIGHT service record