Friday, January 31, 2014

Per Mare, Per Terram

A story about a common enlisted man in the Royal Marines who experienced some rather remarkable sights and events in his 21 years of service. From Africa to the Arctic the lad from Suffolk saw an extraordinary diverse world.

According to his attestation forms, Daniel Bloomfield was born in Stradbrooke, Suffolk, in March of 1818. I have had no luck finding out any information about his parents so he is the terminal end of one branch of my family tree. The name Bloomfield is a medieval English name, perhaps originating in France, long associated with the Norfolk and Suffolk areas of England.

Daniel enlisted in the Royal Marines on the 9th of April, 1840. He is described as being 5' 7" tall, with a dark complexion, hazel eyes, and dark brown hair. His occupation is listed a labourer and he was unable to read or write. He was enlisted by Corporal James Kiffen for a £3 bounty.

In 1841, an expedition known as the Niger Expedition of 1841 was undertaken with the support of the British Government. Private Daniel Bloomfield was assigned to the vessel Wilberforce, under command of William Allen. The Wilberforce was a paddle steamer with a displacement of 340 tons that was built in 1840 as a survey ship.

The expedition was organized by the "Society for the Extinction of the Slave Trade Society and for the Civilization of Africa". Speaking at the meeting that set up the expedition was Sir Robert Peel. It's overt purpose was to sign treaties with tribes living along the River Niger and tributaries banning slavery. Covertly, there was an expectation of tying up trade treaties. English missionaries also accompanied the expedition in the hopes of converting the local populations.

After departing Plymouth and by way of Madeira, Tenerife, and Porte Grande, St Vincent, the Wilberforce arrived in Montserado Roads on the coast of Africa.

While meeting some of its objectives, the expedition was regarded as a failure, having paid a terrible price in lives lost. Of the 150 Europeans who took part, 42 died early in the expedition. Fever was a major cause of illness and death. Among the lucky ones were the African participants and Daniel Bloomfield. Somehow he was one of the few white Europeans who avoided disease or misfortune. I'm hoping those hardy genes have made it to his 3rd great grandson!

A full description of the expedition may be found in "A Narrative of the Expedition to the River Niger". Charles Dickens also provided literary commentary in his novel Bleak House.

After returning from the expedition, Daniel served on the HMS Acheron until 1846, shortly before it began a surveying trip of New Zealand (the first after Captain Cook's voyage). This was the second ship to carry the name HMS Acheron. It was a 2-gun, wooden paddle sloop, built at Sheerness Dockyard and launched 23-Aug-1838. It was 150ft long, 33ft wide and of 722 tons. The vessel was armed with 2 x 9pdr guns. 

I have not been able to locate any logs or narratives describing where the Archeron may have traveled during Daniel's service aboard. 

Following his service on the Archeron, Daniel was promoted to the rank of corporal. He began service on the HMS Flamer the day after signing off the Archeron on 21 July, 1846. This vessel was under the command of Commander George Lavie and was active in the Mediterranean. The Flamer was another paddle steamer built in 1831, armed with 6 guns, and with a displacement of 510 tons. It was wrecked off the west coast of Africa in 1850. Daniel, fortunately, had left the vessel on 21 June, 1848.

Between ships now, Daniel found time to meet, court, and marry Emma Goodhew in Hoo, Kent in 1849. They were to have nine children (as far as I can tell), one of whom was my 2nd great grandmother Emma Lucy Bloomfield. The 1851 census has Daniel, Emma, and Emma Lucy living in the Royal Marine Barracks in Chatham, Kent.

The HMS Rattlesnake was the next ship to host Daniel. HMS Rattlesnake was an Atholl-class 28-gun sixth-rate corvette of the Royal Navy launched in 1822. The ship was made famous before Daniel's stint on it, when it was under the command of Captain Owen Stanley (of the "Owen Stanley Range" fame). In December, 1846 Stanley sailed from Portsmouth in charge of HMS Rattlesnake, with the purpose of surveying the seas around the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait. The ship called at Madeira, Rio de Janeiro, Simon's Town and Mauritius, arriving in Sydney in July 1847. A full narrative of the voyage was written by John MacGillivray in his two volume "Voyage of the Rattlesnake". 

Daniel joined the Rattlesnake on January, 1852, not long after he had been
promoted to the rank of sergeant. Unlike the previous few years, it doesn't appear the Rattlesnake was destined for the warmer climes as he is listed as a recipient of the Arctic Medal for service on the Rattlesnake. A paper by the US Geological Service "Geography and Geology of Alaska - A summary of existing knowledge" reports that:

"In 1853 H. M. S. Rattlesnake, Commander Trollope, wintered at Port Clarence, on the south side of the Seward Peninsula, which some of the crew crossed during the winter.

Further information comes from a short biography of the captain: 

'Promoted commander after the expedition, he was appointed to the command of HMS "Rattlesnake" on the British Naval Supply Voyage, 1853-1854, instructed by the Admiralty to deliver supplies to HMS "Plover" in Bering Strait and to serve as a depot for other vessels engaged in the search for Sir John Franklin's missing expedition. Sailing from England in February 1853, "Rattlesnake" entered the Pacific via the Strait of Magellan, reaching Port Clarence, Alaska, where the expedition wintered after transferring supplies to Plover. After the search for Franklin in Bering Strait was abandoned in August 1854, Trollope returned home. He later retired from the Royal Navy as captain.'

Daniel began service aboard the HMS Wellesley on 15 August, 1857. HMS Wellesley was a
74-gun third rate, named after the Duke of Wellington, and launched in 1815. She captured Karachi for the British, and participated in the First Opium War, which resulted in Britain gaining control of Hong Kong. Thereafter she served primarily as a training ship before gaining the distinction of being the last British ship of the line to be sunk by enemy action and the only one to have been sunk by an air-raid in 1940.

By the time Daniel was aboard, the Wellesley had become a guard ship at Chatham.  At least it gave him time to be with his family. He served on this vessel until April, 1858. It was perhaps during this time Daniel was promoted to the rank of Colour Sergeant.

After this brief duty, Daniel began service aboard the HMS Hydra on 19 June, 1858. It appears Daniel was once more to venture to Africa as the log of the ship shows the following activity during his time of service:
  • 9 Jun 1858 Commissioned at Sheerness.
  • 12 Aug 1858 At Deal. Sailed for the westward.
  • 25 Aug 1858 departed Spithead for the West Coast of Africa, touching at Tenerife, where the American slaver the Nancy was at anchor, discharging her cargo of rum, tobacco and plank, before sailing for the South Coast (i.e. the Congo and Angola) for slaves.
  • 22 Sep 1858 when 50 miles from Sierra Leone a sail was sighted and chased. She was not displaying any colours and had altered her course a number of times for no apparent reason, so an officer was sent over to ascertain her nationality, and from her papers it transpired that she was the French vessel Chance, from Marseilles. An offer was made to note the visit in the ship's log, but this was declined.
  • 2 Oct 1858 at Sierra Leone.
  • 16 Aug 1859 returned to England from the West Coast of Africa.
Daniel retired from the Royal Marines on 9 April 1861 with the rank of Colour Sergeant. He had been at seat for over 13 of those 21 years. The 1871 census shows him living with his family in 2 Ordnance Road, Hounslow, Middlesex. This road is no longer in existence.

Daniel died in 1875. His son Daniel George also joined the Royal Marines at the age of 10 as a drummer. He was later to emigrate to Australia where he was to join the Queensland Naval Brigade (forerunner to the Australian Navy). He had attended the Royal Musical College and was a talented cornet player and conductor. He was responsible for starting bands in the Brisbane area including the Brisbane Metropolitan Band which is still going to this day. His daughter Emma Lucy married George Douglas an emigrated to Brisbane in the late 1880's, where her daughter Helen Mitcheson Bloomfield met and married Adam Kobaroff - the subject of an earlier blog posting. 


  1. Excellent thanks for having it on KENT list...

  2. What interesting ancestors you havr!

  3. Vera, thanks. I'll try and put something together on Daniel George in a future blog. He appears quite a lot in the newspapers available on the national library web site.

  4. Awesome. very nice.. Hats off for you. you have done a good job here.
    Pet Finder