Denis Lucey: Royal Navy - published by Norman Lucey

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A history of Denis Lucey's career in the Victorian Royal Navy

This webpage provides information on Denis (Dennis) Lucey (1834-1872) of the Royal Navy and the thirteen ships he served on over a career of 23 years.

Denis Lucey, the second son of Jeremiah Lucey and Mary Coram, was born on 6th March 1834 in New Passage, near Morice Town, Devonport, Devon. On Denis Lucey's HMS Cossack naval record, his birthdate is given as 1832, but that is inconsistent with the other records.

He joined the navy at the age of 15 on HMS Agincourt on 1st October 1849. His height is recorded as 5 ft 7 inches, with a fresh complexion, light brown hair and blue eyes, He had an anchor marked on his right arm. He volunteered for 10 years service on 28th November 1854 aboard HMS Cossack, his seaman’s register ticket being no. 365,872. He could not write and on all the Royal Navy documents signed his name with an ‘x’ mark.

His ten years service was confirmed while serving as Captain of the Forecastle aboard HMS Gladiator at Spithead on 7th May 1868.

He served as various ratings:- B.2.C (boy second class) – B.1.C (boy first class) – Ordinary – AB (able bodied ie. able seaman) – Cully Top – D.C.F. Top – C.F. Top – B.(boatswains) Mate – Cox cutter – 2, Ciffl Ga – Cilln Top – C.Foreble (captain forecastle); his record eventually being indicated with a ‘W’ and leaving the service on 19th March 1872. Unfortunately he died at home in Devonport a year later in 1873.

A Petty Officer is the lowest of the Senior Rating grades. Petty Officers, like all senior rates, wear fore and aft rig. A 36 gun frigate contained about 20 heavy and mature forecastle men all but approx. two of which were petty officers or able seamen led by a captain of forecastle for each watch.

The first official letter regarding Denis is written in 1854 by Captain Fanshawe on HMS Cossack. Denis was on board from new during the Crimean war.



Denis Lucey's naval records confirm the 13 ships he served on:-

SHIP 1 – 1849-50

HMS Agincourt, a 74-gun 1747 ton third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 19 March 1817 at Plymouth. She was placed on harbour service in 1848, and sold out of the Navy in 1884. On 20 Dec 1848 noted as a Depot Ship of Ordinary, Devonport.


SHIP 2 – 1850-54

HMS Alecto, a 796 ton wood paddle sloop launched in 1839 and broken up in 1865. On 30 August 1851 she was off the coast of Africa.

HMS Alecto


SHIP 3 – 1854-54

HMS Eurydice, a 24-gun 921 ton sixth rate launched in 1843. She became a training ship in 1861, and foundered off the Isle of Wight in 1878. Following 27 Mar 1854, when war was declared, the Eurydice was despatched to the White Sea, where a number of operations were carried out. Early Autumn 1854 she returned to England.

HMS Eurydice


SHIP 4 - 1954-57 (Crimean War)

HMS Cossack. This ship was previously the Russian ship Witjas, a wood screw corvette captured in 1854 and sold in 1875. This was the second ship to be named Cossack, built originally by Pitcher of Northfleet for the Russian Navy, but on 5th April 1854 she was seized by the British Admiralty at her launching when Britain and Russia declared war on each other. She served in the Baltic with distinction and earned a medal for her part in the bombardment of Sveaborg. The ship had 21 guns and 1965 ton displacement. This ship was commanded (from commissioning at Chatham) by Captain Edward Gennys Fanshawe, in the Baltic during the Russian War. Then Commanded (until paying off at Sheerness) by Captain James Horsford Cockburn, also in the Baltic during the Russian War and then (July 1856) to North America and West Indies (mainly Greytown, Nicaragua).

HMS Cossack

The following was reported from the Cossack during the Crimean war and is known as the Massacre at Hango:-

“H.M.S. COSSACK, OFF CRONSTADT 7th - At 2 p.m. the Porcupine arrived with the Teazer and a collier in tow; at 3 p.m. the Mercator parted company; at 7.30 p.m. the Lightning joined the fleet from Nargen, bringing despatches for Admiral Dundas from the Cossack cruizing off Hango-head. She brings also news of a most melancholy and atrocious outrage committed by some Russian troops upon a boat which endeavoured to land under a flag of truce, with the charitable intention of setting 10 prisoners at liberty. How this kindness was received will be seen by the following narrative:-

The Cossack, 20, Capt. E.G.Fanshawe, was cruizing off Hango-head on the 6th of June, and being ordered to land 10 Russians she had on board, who had been taken from some woodboats the Merlin and herself had captured and burnt, she attempted to do so by sending them in a boat carrying a flag of trust.In that boat was the crew of nine men, Lieutenant Genest, in command, Mr. R. Easton, the surgeon, Mr.Sullivan, master's assistant, two stewards (who went in hopes of buying some provisions), and the 10 prisoners. On nearing the shore, they found about 500 or 600 soldiers on the beach, and as the boat ran alongside the jetty the three officers jumped upon it from her, when the officer in command of the soldiers called out in English, "that he would have nothing to do with the damned flag of truce," and immediately ordered his men to fire. Mr. Genest, Mr. Easton, and Mr. Sullivan, fell at the first volley. One of the prisoners then held up the flag, which Mr. Genest had when he fell, but he was instantly shot; some of the men then jumped ashore to assist the others, but only to meet the same fate, for volley after volley was mercilessly poured upon them and the boat, until it was supposed all were killed, when the Russians came down and robbed them of every thing worth taking away.

The Cossack, after waiting some time for the boat, sent another in search of it, which picked it up a short distance from the land, with one poor fellow in it struggling with one arm to scull the boat, while the other dangled at his side with three bullets in it. When wounded he had fallen to the bottom of the boat, and as the water came in through the shot holes it revived him, and finding himself alone among his dead comrades, he, with almost superhuman effort, managed to get the boat to sea, until he was picked up. In the same boat were four of his dead messmates.

This deliberate massacre, for no attempt was made to take them prisoners, and both friends and enemies were killed indiscriminately, will never be forgotten should we have an opportunity of taking vengeance for the murders. Neither men nor officers were armed, though some muskets were in the boat.

At 7.30 p.m. the Arrogant parted company, to blockade the town and port of Viborg.

8th 4.40 p.m.: The Pilades parted company to relieve the Cossack, who is ordered to join the Admiral for a Court of Inquiry.”


SHIP 5 – 1857-58

HMS Pelorus was built at Devonport of 2,330 ton displacement; a 21 gun corvette launched on 5 February 1857 from the Devonport dockyard. It was captained at first by Frederick Beauchamp Paget Seymour, then by Henry Boys, and later William Henry Haswell. It was one of the first vessels of the Navy to possess a gun-sight. The ship was part of a squadron after the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and was sent to the China Station during the Second Opium War, leaving in May 1859 for the Australian Station.


SHIP 6 - 1858-59

HMS Fisgard was a 46-gun fifth rate Leda class frigate of the Royal Navy. She spent sixty years in service on a variety of duties. In 1855 she became Guardship at Woolwich. On 20 December 1858 Fisgard became the flagship of Commodore James Robert Drummond, the commander-in-chief at Woolwich.

HMS Fisgard


SHIP 7 - 1859

HMS Impregnable was a 98-gun second rate three-decker ship of the line launched on 1 August 1810 at Chatham. Purportedly as originally built she was a near copy of HMS Victory. She saw service in the Mediterranean until May 1843, when she was laid up with the Reserve Fleet at Devonport.

HMS Impregnable


SHIP 8 – 1859-1861

HMS St Jean d'Acre was the Royal Navy's first 101 gun screw two-decker line-of-battle ship of 3199 tons. She served in the Crimean War. Completed for sea on 20 September 1853, her second commission was from 4 February 1859 to 13 September 1861. St Jean d'Acre served in the Channel and the Mediterranean. She was initially commanded by Captain Thomas Pickering Thompson, until he was invalided out, and Captain Charles Gilbert John Brydone Elliot took command on 26 September 1860. In 1860 she was in Lisbon, on 29 Jul 1861 ordered from Gibraltar to Malta, on 23 Aug 1861 left Gibraltar for Tangiers and Cadiz and on 24 Aug 1861 sailed for Plymouth where she arrived on 2 Sep 1861, to pay off.

HMS Jean d'Acre


In 1861, Denis was on ‘half-bounty’ ashore and therefore appears in the 1861 census for Devonport with the occupation of Boatswains Mate.


SHIP 9 – 1861-64

HMS St George was a 120- gun, 2864 ton first rate ship of the line launched on 27 August 1840 at Plymouth. She was fitted with screw propulsion in 1859, and was sold out of the service in 1883. Over this period she remained at Devonport.

HMS St.George


SHIP 10 – 1864-68

HMS Gladiator (1844) was a 2nd class wooden steam paddle frigate of 1210 tons launched in 1844 at Woolwich and broken up in 1879. On 16 Mar 1864 she was at Devonport and commissioned for Irregular or particular service.


SHIP 11 – 1868-71

HMS Black Prince was launched on 27 Feb 1861 and was the second Warrior-class battleship. She was the world's second ocean-going ironhulled armoured warship, following her sister ship, HMS Warrior. For a brief period the two ships were the most powerful warships in the world, being vitually impregnable to the naval guns of the time. Rapid advances in naval technology left Black Prince and her sister obsolete within a short time, however, and she spent more time in reserve and training roles than in first-line service. Built at Glasgow, her completion was delayed until September 1862 by a drydock accident during outfitting. Overhauled and rearmed in 1867-68, she became guardship on the River Clyde. The routine of that duty was interrupted in 1869 when she and Warrior towed a large floating drydock from the Azores to Bermuda. Black Price had 36 guns, 6109 tons, screw and sail propulsion and a compliment of 635, and about 680 with a Flag Officer and retinue. Her speed was 13.6 knots. On 1 Jul 1969 she was anchored in Funchal roads waiting for the Bermuda Dock and in 1870 on Coast Guard Service.

HMS Black Prince


SHIP 12 – 1871

HMS Iron Duke was an iron Audacious-class central battery ironclad. Built in 1870 at Pembroke, this was one of the first large ships to use the Suez canal in 1871. On 14 Jan 1871 having made alterations to her ballast and having been re-rigged as a bark, she sailed from Plymouth to trial her engines. On 31 Jan 1871 arrived at Vigo and on 11 Feb 1971 arrived at Lisbon. On 21 Apr 1871 Denis was at Devonport and went to sea with the Vanguard on a 2 month experimental cruise to test the merits of the 2 ships. On 27 April 1871 Denis joined….

HMS Iron Duke


SHIP 13 – (1871-72)

HMS Bustard was a third class twin screw gunboat of 245 tons.

HMS Bustard


Denis Lucey left the service on 19th March 1872. Unfortunately he died a year later in 1873, at home in Devonport.


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Published by Norman Lucey
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This page created 4th January 2016