Lord Charles William De La Poer Beresford - Encyclopedia

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LORD CHARLES WILLIAM DE LA POER BERESFORD (1846-), British admiral, second son of the 4th marquess of Waterford, was born in Ireland, and entered the "Britannia" as a naval cadet in 18J9. He became lieutenant in 1868, and commander in 1875. In 1874 he was returned to parliament as Conservative M.P. for Waterford, retaining his seat till 1880, and he was already known in this period as a gallant officer, with a special interest in naval administration. In1875-1876he accompanied the then prince of Wales on his visit to India as naval A.D.C.; from 1878 to 1881 he was commander of the royal yacht "Osborne." He was in command of the gunboat "Condor" in the Mediterranean when the Egyptian crisis of 1882 occurred; and he became a popular hero in England in connexion with the bombardment of Alexandria (July II), when he took his ship close in to the forts and engaged them with such conspicuous gallantry that the admiral ordered a special signal "Well done, Condor!" He was promoted captain for his services, and, after taking an active part in the re-establishment of order in Alexandria, he served again in Egypt on Lord Wolseley's staff in the expedition of 1884-85, commanding the naval brigade at Abu Klea, Abu Kru and Metemmeh, and, with the river steamer "Safieh," rescuing Sir C. Wilson and his party, who had been wrecked on returning from Khartum (Feb. 4, 1885). In November 1885 he was again returned to parliament as member for East Marylebone (re-elected 1886), and in Lord Salisbury's ministry of 1886 he was appointed a lord of the admiralty. The press agitation in favour of a stronger navy was now in full swing, and it was well known that in Lord Charles Beresford it had an active supporter; but very little impression was made on the government, and in 1888 he resigned his office on this question, a dramatic step which had considerable effect. In the House of Commons he advocated an expenditure of twenty millions sterling on the fleet, and the passing of the Naval Defence Act in 1889 was largely due to his action. At the end of 1889 he became captain of the cruiser "Undaunted" in the Mediterranean, and when this ship was paid off in 1893 he was appointed in command of the steam reserve at Chatham, a post he held for three years. In 1897 he became rear-admiral, and again entered parliament, winning a by-election at York; he retained his seat till 1900, but was mainly occupied during these years by a mission to China on behalf of the Associated Chambers of Commerce; he published his book The Break-up of China in 1899. In 1902 he was returned to parliament for Woolwich, but resigned on his appointment to command the Channel squadron (1903-1905); in 1905 he was given the command of the Mediterranean fleet, and from 1906 to 1909 was commander-in-chief of the Channel fleet; in 1906 he became a full admiral. At sea he had always shown himself a remarkable disciplinarian, possessed of great influence over his men, and his reputation as one who would, if necessary, prove a great fighting commander was second to none; and, even when serving afloat and therefore unable to speak direct to the public, he was in the forefront of the campaign for increased naval efficiency. During the administration (1903-1910) of Sir John Fisher (see Fisher, Baron) as first sea lord of the admiralty it was notorious that considerable friction existed between them, and both in the navy and in public a great deal of party-spirit was engendered in the discussion of their opposing views. When Lord Charles Beresford's term expired as commander-in-chief in March 1909 he was finally "unmuzzled," and the attack which for some years his supporters had made against Sir J. Fisher's administration came to a head at a moment coinciding with the new shipbuilding crisis occasioned by the revelations as to the increase of the German fleet. He himself came forward with proposals for a large increase in the navy and a reorganization of the administrative system, his first step. being a demand for an inquiry, to which the government promptly assented (May) in the shape of a small Committee, under the prime minister. Its report (August), however, gave him no satisfaction, and he proceeded with his public campaign, bitterly attacking the ministerial policy. In January 1910, at. the general election, he was returned as Conservative M.P. for. Portsmouth; but meanwhile Sir John Fisher's term of office' came to an end, and in his successor, Admiral Sir Arthur Knyvet. Wilson (b. 1842), the navy obtained a first sea lord who commanded universal confidence.

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