Naval history

About Ascension Islands

Taken from ‘Little Folks a Magazine for the Young ‘ of 1890.


‘In the South Atlantic Ocean here lies a little island that bears the name of Ascension, because, so it is said, a Spanish sailor discovered it, in 1501 on Ascension Day-the last Thursday but one before Whit-Sunday. The isle is only eight miles long by six broad, is 960 miles from the shores of Africa, and its population numbers 140 souls. It was not inhabited till 1815, when the British occupied it in connection with Napoleon’s imprisonment in St. Helena. Nowadays its chief use is as a hospital and station for victualling the navy. Being of volcanic origin and having a very dry climate, there is little verdure about it, although the tomato, pepper, and castor-oil plants and various European vegetables are grown with success. The gardens suffer a great deal from land-crabs and rats. To get rid of the latter pest, cats were imported. But the cure was worse than the disease, for the cats showing a taste for birds’ eggs, became themselves a real nuisance. Huge turtles, of four or five hundredweight, are caught at and near he island, the name of whose port is Georgetown.’

Only a Cabin Boy.

Taken from ‘Little Folk; A Magazine for the Young.’ 1890. relating a 17th c tale. 

‘A big battle was being fought between the English and Dutch Navy. Sir John Narborough was the English Admiral, and the masts of his ship had been shot away almost directly the fighting began.


 In spite of the greatest care and the and the most splendid bravery, Sir John saw that the English sailors must be beaten unless he could get help.

   There were a few ships some distance off to the right, but they were to act as reserve, and would not enter into the battle without a message from him. Sir John stood a moment, and wondered how that message could be sent. It was not possible to signal; there was only one way-the message must be carried.

   Sir John wrote his order, telling the captain of the reserve to come and help him at once; then he called aloud for anyone willing to be be messenger.

   Think of the scene a moment, and then will will understand a little what a brave heart was needed to carry that note.

   Below was the sea;above,around,in it there rained a heavy shower of bullets. The long swim would be trying enough, but to swim with the chance of being shot every second was terrible. Yet many sailors came forward at their admiral’s call, ready to risk their lives for their country’s good.

 They were all grown-up men, and they must have stared in wonder as one of teh cabin boys, Cloudesley-Shovel by name, stood up among them.

   “Why, what can you do , my fearless lad?” said the admiral kindly.

   “I cam swim sir; and if I am shot I shall be missed less than anyone else.”

   After a moment’s hesitation the paper was handed to the boy, who put it between his teeth and sprang overboard. How the men cheered him and watched him as long as he could be seen! He reached the reserve ships in safety, and as they went into action at once, a victory was gained by the English.

   When the sun was setting, Cloudesley-Shovel stood once more on the deck of the admiral’s ship, and received his heartiest thanks.

   “I shall live to see you have a flag ship of your own,” he said. And the words came true, for the brave cabin boy became Sir Cloudesley-Shovel, one of the greatest British admirals.’

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