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The naval career of William Bennett Dunn, my great-grandfather

William Bennett Dunn was born on July 8, 1859 in Scotland where his father, John Dunn, was serving as a coast-guard. John Dunn was from Mylor in Cornwall.

His naval record (112060) shows him as based in Devonport. It says he was 5 foot 6 inches tall, had dark brown hair, hazel eyes, a dark complexion, and had tattoo marks on his left hand.

Essentially, although he was in the Royal Navy, his work was for most of the time "maintenance" of the fabric of often almost derelict ships serving as training establishments. HIs two stints in the Far East must have been very different in context and climate but his work was mainly carpentry, not sailing or manning the guns.

On April 9, 1880, when he was 21, William Bennett began his naval career as a Shipwright at HMS Indus, which was the name assigned to the Devonport guard ship and flagship of the Port Admiral between 1860 and 1905. This was a short-term posting, until 18 August, 1880. The following day he began to serve on HMS Agincourt, a more active, longer appointment, untl 30 September, 1883, for
HMS Agincourt was at that time the flagship of the Channel Fleet's second-in-command. During that time he was able to find time to get married on August 31, 1881 at Baldhu. On 1 October, 1883, he returned to work at HMS Indus, until the end of the year. On 27 December 1883, he went to work for a few weeks at HMS Ganges, the training ship anchored from 1866 until 1899 at his father's home of Mylor, unless it had been towed to Deveonport for repairs, as sometimes happened. From 31 January 1884 until 12 February he was back at HMS Indus, and then his assignment was changed to HMS Lion, which was no great change since this was another training ship, also located at Devonport. This lasted until 2 May 1885 then he was back at HMS Indus until 2 June 1885. It was at this time that his rank begins to be marked as "Car. Mte." (carpenter's mate)

The first radically different assignment began on 3 June 1885, when he joined HMS Leander as a "Caulker.' This was a newly built cruiser, laid down in 1880, launched in 1882 and completed in 1885. The Wikipedia entry includes very detailed accounts of the adventures the ship underwent on this, her first journey, including the accident when she was holed on a rock on 18 June. W.B. Dunn served on HMS Leander until 4 April 1889, during which time the ship "served on the China Station." His service ended just as the ship was re-commissioned at Hong Kong by Captain Burges Watson on 5 April 1889. He returned to HMS Indus where he remained until 27 December 1889. So for nearly 4 years W. B. Dunn was in the Far East.

The second main assignment began on 28 December 1889 when he joined HMS Caroline. This lasted until 16 January 1893. This ship was a corvette launched in 1882, that was commanded during this period by Captain William Robert Clutterbuck, based in China. In later times, in 1903, she became part of the HMS Ganges training school ships (see the photo and text in this page). It was a really small ship and has left almost no record of itself.

It was probably now that he moved his family from Baldhu to Torpoint, once it became clear that his sea-going days were over. On 17 January 1893, he was assigned to "Vivid II."  HMS Vivid was the Navy barracks at Devonport. It was commissioned in 1890, and operated as a training unit until 1914. The ship involved was an iron screw yacht purchased from civilian service in 1891, where she had been named Capercailzie. She became the Devonport base ship in 1892 and was sold in 1912. This stationing only lasted until 30 April, 1893 when he was transferred to HMS Defiance,  which was the Royal Navy's torpedo school, established at Devonport / Torpoint in 1884 in the hulk of HMS Defiance, and in subsequent ships. He stayed there nearly 3 years, until 2 March 1896, when he returned to Vivid II until 22 February 1897. Then he went briefly to HMS Pembroke, a shore barracks at Chatham, until 14 June 1897, returning to Vivid II before a year's assignment to HMS Mosquito, a paddle river gunboat launched in 1890 and sold in 1902, from 9 July 1897 until 29 August 1898. He was again at Vivid II from 30 August 1898
until 1 December 1898 On 2 December 1898 he joined HMS Benbow, a battleship commissioned on June 14, 1888 for the Mediterranean Fleet, with which she served until October 1891, after which she was guardship at Greenock in Scotland. He remained there until 28 February 1900.

Somewhere around this point he became "Shore pensioned" and was assigned to Vivid II 1 March 1900 - 6 April 1900 and again 9 March 1901 - 31 December 1902. Throughout 1903 he was assigned to HMS Temeraire, launched in 1876, which was by now a training ship, part of HMS Indus, and was renamed Indus II in 1904. His last assignment was to this newly-named hulk from 1 January 1904 until 23 April 1905. Soon after that he became a grocer in Grampound

HMS Leander in 1897