The silver "Challenge Cup" presented in memory of Rear Admiral Charles Francis Walker
was presented with a splendid silver cup by Major Sir Robert Walker in
memory of his father Rear Admiral Charles Francis Walker RN who died in
1925. There was a long standing belief in Sir Robert's family that HMS Walker was named after Rear Admiral Charles Walker who was born in 1836. Both sides of the cup and its inscriptions can be seen below.
The Walker family crest
Presented by Major Sir Robert Walker, Bart.
(Late Coldstream Guards)
In memory of the late Rear Admiral Charles F. Walker RN.
Born 1856. Died 1925
To be held by the most meritorious crew
"The Walker family crest" engraved on the cup, a right arm grasping a green lizard, is quite different from that of HMS Walker on the right. Walker
is a very common name and five baronetcies have been created for
unrelated families, two with a stag's antlers
in their coat of arms, representing in heraldry "one who will not fight
unless provoked; peace and harmony; strength and fortitude". Three of
the five baronetcies had family members who became Admirals.
The cup was presented to HMS Walker
by the grandfather of Victor Walker, the 6th Baronet, who e-mailed me
these photographs from Australia. He believed his Grandfather to be
mistaken and thought HMS Walker was more likely to have been named after Rear Admiral James Walker (1764-1831) who was not a member of his family. Derek Taylor, author and publisher of A Pictorial Index of Royal Naval Ship's Badges 1918 to 1995 (Colchester, 1995) attributed the name of the ship to Sir Baldwin Wake Walker, 1st Baronet (1802–1876),
the Surveyor of the Navy from 1848 to 1861 who was responsible for the
introduction of the Ironclad warship and the decision to build HMS Warrior, and his family moto "Ready and Faithful", is the same as the
Destroyers were originally known as torpedo gun boats but the word "destroyer" was popularised by Kippling's poem The Destroyers(1898) and it would seem more appropriate to name HMS Walker after a man who modernised the Navy than
an Admiral whose reputation was based on attacking and sinking "Chinese
piratical junks". Despite this, the story of Rear Admiral Charles
Francis Walker and the "challenge cup" is fascinating and is explored in
greater detail below.
Victor, the 6th Baronet who lives in Australia, is
descended from Sir James Heron Walker (1803-83) of
Sand Hutton (left) six miles east of York. The 1st Baronet was awarded
the title in 1868 as recorded in a 27 page family history: "The
Baronetcy was conferred on James Walker by Queen Victoria, on the
9 December 1868, in recognition of the personal friendship between the
Prince Consort Albert and the Walker family, and on the recommendation
of the Prime Minister, Mr Benjamin Disraeli, for political services to
the Tory Party."
An article about Sand Hutton Hall and Sir James Walker the 1st Baronet published in the Hull Mail
on 26 May 1928 has been transcribed and can be read on the GENUKI
family history website. The Walkers at Sand Hutton Hall had their own
fire brigade, a Cricket team, a Rifle Club, and a private railway. The
Hall was occupied by the Army during the war and was demolished in the
It was occupied by the Polish Army during the war and demolished in
1950. It had 54 rooms and Sir Victor was relieved not to inherit it. He e-mailed me from his home in New South Wales, Australia:
father moved away from Yorkshire and I was born at Farringdon in
Berkshire. He died in 2003, and I inherited the title. Baronets, of
which there are some 1200, are a quirk of the British Establishment,
They have no powers or privileges and don’t take themselves too
seriously. My father maintained that the title was only good for
securing tables at smart restaurants."
Rear Admiral Charles Francis Walker (1836 - 1925)
Until recently not a
lot was known about Rear Admiral Charles Francis Walker (1836 - 1925),
the third son of the first Baronet, and Victor Walker's distant cousin.
Our main source were his two service certificates, ADM 196/14/137 and ADM 196/37/1302,
downloaded from the website of The National Archives but the recent
rediscovery of the Rear Admiral's papers has changed that. The Papers
begin with a summary of letters written by his father at Sand Hutton to
his grandmother in Beverley from Charles’ birth on 6 Feb 1836
through childhood and school until he joined the Royal Navy at
Sheerness on 4th Jan 1850. Thereafter, Charles kept notes of events and
correspondence throughout his career to January 1864. There follows
some further remarks and correspondence until the last entry on the 2nd
March 1899. Someone must have added the obituaries, of which there are
about fifty in mainly local publication. They are all similar in text
and tone to the one in The Times (Hull History Centre Reference No: V DDCV 2/67) on the linked page. The Rear Admirals Papers were deposited in the Archives of Hull University but transferred to the Hull History Centre
when it opened in 2010 to provide a purpose built central location for
the archives of the University of Hull, the Local Studies Library, and
Hull City Archives. Its catalogue can be searched online.
probably joined the Navy as a First Class Volunteer by 1850, and on 5
January 1856 was promoted to 'Mate' (Senior Midshipman, eligible to
serve as Lieutenant) onboard HMS Diamond, a 6th Rate (small Frigate) . HMS Diamond
was part of the Mediterranean Fleet operating in support of the Crimean
War, and he may have been present at the Bombardment of Sevastopol in
He left the Diamond in February 1857 and in May joined the Boscawen,
a sailing 3rd Rate ship of the line. She was the Flagship of Rear
Admiral Grey, commanding at the Cape of Good Hope. In November Walker
joined HMS Trident as an acting Lieutenant. She was an iron paddle sloop, on anti-slavery duties on the West Coat of Africa. He later joined HMS Hecate, a wooden paddle sloop as a full Lieutenant. She continued on anti-slavery patrol until paying off in July 1858.
Walker was then unemployed for nearly a year on half pay, until he joined HMS Flying Fish
in May 1859. She was a wooden screw gun vessel in the Channel Squadron.
Unfortunately, he suffered from ill health or an accident, and was
invalided in October 1860. He returned to active duty in July 1861
onboard the base ships, HMS Cornwallis and HMS Pembroke, both hulks on the Medway carrying out administrative duties. Walker was appointed to HMS Princess Charlotte, the Base Ship at Hong Kong, in June 1862 and took passage in HMS Euryalus, a steam Frigate, on her way to the Far East to be the Flagship of Admiral Sir Augustus Kuper.
While in the Princess Charlotte
Walker was given his first command, and acquired a reputation for
initiative, tactics and determination in attacking and sinking Chinese
“pirates”. In May 1863 his Certificate records a Dispatch from the Governor of
Hong Kong thanking him for destroying a "piratical junk" and on 12 July
reported he had captured another piratical junk. On 10 October Admiral Augustus Leopold Kuper reported
on the zeal and ability which enabled him to destroy Chinese pirates
and on 28 Sept 1864 strongly recommended him for promotion. On 21
November 1864 he was "specially promoted by the Board for services
against pirates in China" to Commander. He commanded the gunboats HMS Grasshopper, March 1864 - March 1865, and HMS Dwarf, from 16 April 1868 to 10 April 1871.
His Reports of Proceedings in The National Archives have not been traced but a
digitised copy of "The Kings Ships" compiled by Halton Stirling Lecky
and published in six volumes by Horace Muirhead in 1913 contains a
brief account of an action by Charles F Walker in HMS Dwarf (and a painting by a Chinese artist) against
pirates who captured a British schooner off the coast of Borneo in 1868:
“The fifth “Dwarf ”
was a 4-gun twin-screw gunboat launched at Woolwich in 1867. She was of
584 tons, 495 horse-power, and 10 knots speed. Her length, beam, and
draught were 155 ft., 25 ft., and 9 ft.
Towards the end
of 1868 a British schooner was captured by Malay pirates near Marudu
Bay, Borneo, and three of her men were killed. Upon hearing of this
outrage the “Dwarf,” commanded by Lieutenant Charles F. Walker, started
in pursuit, with the Governor of Labuan on board. The pirates made a
stand on the Island of Ubian and, refusing to give up their leader,
were punished by a landing party which burnt their village and brought
about their submission.
1868 was also the year Charles Walker's father was appointed 1st
Baronet Walker. In 1869 Cdr Clarles F. Waker was praised by Sir Henry
Keppel for actions against Borneo pirates and on 13 August 1870 Admiral
Sir Henry Kellett, CiC China Station, gave a favourable report on HMS Dwarf.
On 29 December 1871 he was promoted to Captain at the early age of 35.
His marriage on 22 April 1873 to Edith Francis Duncombe, the daughter
of Admiral Duncombe, was probably the reason he decided to retire on 1
October 1873 with a pension of £400 a year. He returned home to his
estate at Beverley in Yorkshire and they had two sons Edgar born in 1875 and
Philip in 1878. Retirement was no bar to promotion on the retirement list in the
decades after the Napoleonic wars as the death of older Admirals made
room for promotion lower down the ladder. On 3 January 1888 five
Captains including Charles Francis Walker were "Gazetted" on promotion to Rear Admirals.
The Presentation of the Cups
was presented after the death of Rear Admiral Charles F. Walker RN in
1925 and before the death of his great grandson, Major Sir Robert Walker, Bart.,
late of the Coldstream Guards, in 1930. The cup was to be awarded as a
prize to "the most meritorious crew in the Annual Regattas". The
headquarters of the Mediterranean Fleet was at Vittoriosa on the
opposite side of the Grand Harbour from Valetta in Malta. The social
life of wealthy officers in peacetime revolved around the Polo Club
and, especially, the annual match between the army and the navy described by Lt Cdr Donal Scott McGrath RN, the CO of HMS Venomous.
But the main event of the year was undoubtedly the annual regatta which
officers and their men took great pride in winning. Ship's whalers
competed against other ships in their Flotilla at "pulling" and sailing
contests to become "Cock of the Flotilla". Lord Louis Mountbatten, the CO of HMS Wishart described its significance:
"It is no
exaggeration to say that the Regatta occupies the first and foremost
thought of almost every officer and man, in every ship of the Navy
during the Summer months. A ship that 'embarks on the Regatta' with
'the will to win', is a ship which has a healthy morale bred in her,
and one who possesses that 'guts' which has been found to be so
valuable in time of War."
HMS Walker was
a member of the First and 5th Destroyer Flotillas in the Atlantic Fleet
but these flotillas visited the Mediterranean in the 1920s and HMS Walker may have competed
in the Regatta but the cup was intended as a prize for presentation to
the winning ship and it seems unlikely that it had a permanent home in
There is, however, a much larger piece of silver which was presented to HMS Walker which is engraved:
Presented to the officers of
By Major Sir Robert Walker and Lady Walker
Of Sand Hutton
In commemoration of
The 87th Birthday (6th February 1925)
Of Charles Francis Walker
Who served in the Royal Navy during the Crimea War
and Retired with the Rank of Rear Admiral.
Sir Victor’s father, the 5th Baronet who died in 2003, lived in the Isle of Man and his second wife now holds this cup.
Photographed by Simon Walker, Sir Victor’s half-brother
It so happens that the 6th Baronet
who relayed this story and pictures to me by e-mail from the opposite
side of the world lives in New South Wales a few miles from James
Glossop the son of the Australian hero of World War 1 who sank the
commerce raider Emden.
James Glossop lives in a retirement home in Bathhurst NSW and Victor
Walker hopes to meet him once the Covid Pandemic is over and it is safe
to do so. Lt James J. Glossop was born in Dorset on 27 February
1924 and is almost certainly the only officer alive today who
served in HMS Walker. Click on the link to read about him and his service inHMS Walker escorting Arctic Convoys and at the Normandy Landings in 1944.