Home -> A. M. Robertson -> Notes by the Way in a Sailor's Life -> Presentation of a Telescope by the British Government

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Presentation of a Telescope by the British Government.

In the early part of the year 1859 I received a letter from the Board of Trade, notifying me that the British Government had been pleased to award me a telescope in acknowledgment of my service in rescuing the master and crew of the brig "Hebe," and requesting me to write a statement, of what took place before and after the rescue, and hand it to the President of the Local Marine Board, on a day named, and to be then presented with a telescope.

I appeared at the place and time appointed, and the President rose from his seat and read my statement to the gentlemen of the Board. He then asked me if I had rendered any previous service to British or foreign subjects in distress; if so, had I received any reward or remuneration for the same. If not, then the Board would make application and obtain whatever might be due for such service. Or, did I wish for any further reward for the present service from any Society in Great Britain, application should be made.

I replied that I had not rendered any previous service to any others in distress, and that what I had done on this occasion was voluntary and spontaneous, without thought of reward. I considered it only as a duty to my fellow-man; and since the Government had been pleased to acknowledge the service, I was truly grateful. I was then complimented by the gentlemen of the Board, and was presented with the telescope. The inscription on it is my greatest pride to this day, as is also the honorary testimonial, stamped on my Government certificate of competency by the recommendation of the Local Marine Board.

To the President and Gentleman of the Local Marine Board, London.

In latitude 48° 30' N., longitude 12° 20' E., on the morning of the 13th of November, 1858, at 7 A. M., it being then just break of day, I saw the brig "Hebe" about three miles on our lee-bow, having the signal of distress flying. I immediately reported it to Captain Freeman, who came on deck and gave orders to bear down upon her and see what was wanted. When near enough we hove to and hailed the brig, asking what they were in want of, and they answered, saying "For God's sake, send us a boat, as we are sinking." Captain Freeman then asked if they wanted to abandon their vessel, and they repeated their supplications, every one on board appearing to be in the greatest mental distress, making signs that their vessel was going down. The men were working vigorously at the pumps at imminent risk of being washed overboard, as the sea was breaking completely over them.

It was now 8 o'clock, and Captain Freeman gave orders for all hands to remain on deck and to clear away the cutter. I then got into the boat and asked who would go with me, when I got several volunteers, out of whom I took five, - viz., Burland, Hill, Hendrickson, Hansen, and Cummins. The boat was lowered very successfully, when we got clear of the ship. The brig was about a quarter of a mile astern. Heading for the ship, I pulled alongside and told them to give me a good line over their quarter, long enough to veer and haul upon. I told the captain of the brig to get his log-book and chronometer, with a few of his own personal effects, but I would not take either bed or bag belonging to any one. I then told them to stand by and to jump in their turns, one by one, as I should direct. We then hauled the boat up with her bow alongside the brig's quarter, taking care lest the stem of the boat should get knocked out, getting one of them off at a time, dropping clear while the heavy seas passed, then hauling up again. In this manner we succeeded in getting them off, nine in all, in about forty minutes, making them lie in the bottom of the boat as ballast till it was covered. We then pulled to the ship. When we reached her, they had a block at the spanker-boom-end, with a single line rove and bowline, into which the men got and were hoisted one by one on deck. After they were all up, I sent one of the boat's crew up, and then went alongside and hooked on the boat, which was quickly run up. There was no other mishap than the breaking of an oar in coming alongside. We had on board about three hundred invalid soldiers and sailors from the Canton war at this time.

I have the honor to be your obedient servant,

A. E. Knights.

Inscription on Telescope.

Presented by the British Government


Mr. Arthur Knights
Second Officer of the "Northfleet"
In Acknowledgment of
His Gallant Conduct
In Rescuing the Master and Crew
Of the "Hebe"
In November, 1858.

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