Saturday 21 July 1666

Up and to the office, where all the morning sitting. At noon walked in the garden with Commissioner Pett (newly come to towne), who tells me how infinite the disorders are among the commanders and all officers of the fleete. No discipline: nothing but swearing and cursing, and every body doing what they please; and the Generalls, understanding no better, suffer it, to the reproaching of this Board, or whoever it will be. He himself hath been challenged twice to the field, or something as good, by Sir Edward Spragge and Captain Seymour. He tells me that captains carry, for all the late orders, what men they please; demand and consume what provisions they please. So that he fears, and I do no less, that God Almighty cannot bless us while we keep in this disorder that we are in: he observing to me too, that there is no man of counsel or advice in the fleete; and the truth is, the gentlemen captains will undo us, for they are not to be kept in order, their friends about the King and Duke, and their own house, is so free, that it is not for any person but the Duke himself to have any command over them. He gone I to dinner, and then to the office, where busy all the afternoon. At night walked in the garden with my wife, and so I home to supper and to bed.

Sir W. Pen is gone down to Sheernesse to-day to see things made ready against the fleete shall come in again, which makes Pett mad, and calls him dissembling knave, and that himself takes all the pains and is blamed, while he do nothing but hinder business and takes all the honour of it to himself, and tells me plainly he will fling, up his commission rather than bear it.


18 Annotations

Mr. Gunning  •  Link

"which makes Pett mad"

Modern British English: Mad = insane.

American English: Mad = very angry.

Pepys English: Mad = very angry.

tg  •  Link

Very angry indeed. And so Sam lapses back to his old way of thinking about Sir Pen as that dissembling knave.

cgs  •  Link

nepotism
"...the truth is, the gentlemen captains will undo us,..."

cgs  •  Link

accent vs action

Terry Foreman  •  Link

"captains carry...what men they please; demand and consume what provisions they please."

L&M note that the Lord Admiral -- the Duke of York -- had ordered the Navy Board to remedy such abuses 20 February; but what's a Commissioner of the Navy (Pett) or a mere Surveyor-General of Victualling (Pepys) to do about these supernumeraries?

Mary  •  Link

"nothing but swearing and cursing"

Perhaps worth noting that during the years of the Commonwealth blaspheming and the utterance of idle oaths were regarded very gravely indeed and could attract serious punishment. Pett may well feel more offended by such behaviour than we immediately appreciate.

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

Great entry -- full of reasons for the reforms that Sam eventually will institute when he's in charge.

A. Hamilton  •  Link

Pett is in a pet.

Sorry, couldn't resist.

JWB  •  Link

Sheerness

"London was repeatedly besieged by the Danes. With the hope of capturing the rich and unrifled prize, their fleets lay below the city for many months together.1 Their stations were at Deptford, "the deep fiord;" at Greenwich, the "green reach;" and at Woolwich, the "hill reach,"2 so called apparently from its being overhung by the conspicuous landmark of Shooter's Hill. The spits and headlands which mark the navigation along the Thames and the adjacent coasts, almost all bear characteristic Norse names—such as the Foreness,the WHITENESS, SHELLNESS, SHEERNESS,..."
"Words and Places: Or, Etymological Illustrations of History, Ethnology and Geography" By Isaac Taylor p109
http://books.google.com/books?id=-KwCAAAAYAAJ&pg=…

Phoenix  •  Link

"... which makes Pett mad, and calls him dissembling knave, and that himself takes all the pains and is blamed ..."

And Pett is somewhat of a prophet as well. As for Penn haven't we all met this kind of character - friendly, generous, seemingly incapable of holding a grudge and shrewd - always aware of how the wind is blowing?

Terry Foreman  •  Link

Commissioner Pett "tells me that captains carry, for all the late orders, what men they please"

L&M: Supernumeraries (men carried aboard extra to the ships' complements) were to cause a great deal of trouble to Pepys as Surveyor-General of Victualing. Sometimes they were authorized by the flag-officers and the Lord Admiral. On 20 February the Admiral had ordered the Navy Board to remedy abuses in the system.

Phil C.  •  Link

Why would extra men be going on these ships, that are heading out to sea to a battle? For the excitement?

Peach  •  Link

I can only assume officers had entourages then as they do now. It's never JUST a Captain; it's usually Captain, XO, several senior officers, a contingent of junior officers, some senior enlisted, and a junior enlisted to take notes or run messages. The average orbit of an Admiral pushes 20 personnel. The gaggle of hangers-on must be worse when the officers are actual nobility/gentry, too. Plus with all the favors and nepotism going on, a few extra "open positions" on any given ship might free up if some officer's buddy needed cash or glory. All to the chagrin of poor ol' Sam, trying so hard to keep accurate books and forecasts of supplies...

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"Very angry indeed. And so Sam lapses back to his old way of thinking about Sir Penn as that dissembling knave."

"... which makes Pett mad, and calls him dissembling knave, ..."

I didn't read that as Pepys thinking badly of Penn. He's just reporting Pett's outrage.

What I think happened was word of the disarray at Chatham and Sheerness reached either the Navy Board or Whitehall. Either Penn took it upon himself to ask James to send him to Sheerness (a vital outpost of Chatham at this time), or James asked Penn to go. That must have been why Pepys was not included in the planning meeting yesterday ... it's personnel matters that need solving by someone with the status of an experienced Admiral, and not issues with supplies for a change.

I think Commissioner Pett has been recalled to London at this crucial time for a meeting with Charles II and James. I'd be worried about being fired if I were Pett. If Pett has taken it upon himself to desert Chatham at this moment, I'd also be worried about being fired. In short, unloading about Penn is probably a sign of Pett's insecurity, and Pepys is just walking, listening and going "quite so, ah-ha, you don't say," etc.

Furthermore, Pett is worried about losing turf and status and budgets, but we know from Coventry and Pepys' trip in August 1663, Pett made lovely ships, but was lousy at personnel issues.
http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1663/08/02/

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"Why would extra men be going on these ships, that are heading out to sea to a battle?"

I agree with Peach that Admirals always like to take their personal staff to new commands. I think these supernumeraries were volunteers who wanted to go along with the hope of being recognized and rewarded for bravery. Seamen are good at sailing, and the gun crews were skilled men ... but when it comes to boarding an enemy ship, the more sword hands you had the better. There were no Marines per se yet.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"... he will fling, up his commission rather than bear it."

Pett threatening to quit before he can be fired -- blaming Penn for going to fix the probems Pett was unable to control.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"... and the truth is, the gentlemen captains will undo us, for they are not to be kept in order, their friends about the King and Duke, and their own house, is so free, that it is not for any person but the Duke himself to have any command over them."

Who are these 'Gentlemen Captains"? I want names ...

My favorite Stuart Naval historian and author, JD Davies, has a wonderful blog about the Four Days Fight in particular, and the Gentlemen Captains in particular:

https://jddavies.com/page/2/?s=Gentlemen+Captain

Briefly, the main ringleaders he has identified are:
Sir Robert Holmes ... who sailed with Prince Rupert in the 1650's in his pirate days ...
Sir Wm Berkeley
Sir Wm Jennens
George Legge, 1st Baron Dartmouth
Captain Francis Digby

More names of Captains involved, but not necessarily of problem "Gentlemen", can be gleaned from the official list of wounded and killed of the English Fleet in the Four Days Battle:

Officers Slaine and Wounded:

Captains Whitty of the Vanguard, Wood of the Henrietta, Bacon of the Bristol, Mootham of the Princess, Terne of the Triumph, Reeves of the Essex, Chappell of the Clove Tree, Dare of the House of Sweeds, Coppin of the St George, all slaine.

Sir William Clarke, secretary to His Grace of Albemarle, slaine.
Sir Christopher Myngs, maimed, and since dead.
Captain Holles, his arm shot off.
Captain Miller, his leg shot off, since dead.
Captain Gethings, drowned.
Captains Jennens and Fortescue, maimed;
Harman, hurt by the fall of a mast;
Pearce, Earle, Silver and Holmes, all wounded
Sir George Ayscue, prisoner in Holland.
Sir William Berkeley of the Swiftsure, perhaps prisoner in Holland, perhaps slaine.
Lost on the English side, 6,000 men.

This list JD Davies adapted from ‘A Particular Account of the Last Engagement between the Dutch and British, June 1666’: Bodleian Library, Oxford

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