Crest of the V&W Destroyer AssociationCrest of the V&W Destroyer AssociationHMS WALKER





  The silver "Challenge Cup"
presented
in memory of Rear Admiral Charles Francis Walker

HMS 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 Challenge Cup presented to HMS Walker

The Walker family crest
HMS WALKER
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

Walker Challenge Cup-2

CHALLENGE CUP
To be held by the most meritorious crew
In the
ANNUAL REGATTAS.


"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.

Sand Hutton HallBoat Badge bearing the crest of HMS Walker 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 ship.

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.

 Sir 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 early 1970s.

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:

"My 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.

Walker had 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 1854.

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.

HMS Dwarf (1867)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.

In 1886 the “Dwarf ” was broken up at Devonport.”

Labuan is an island off the coast of Sabah in north Borneo and Ubian, the island where the pirates made their stand, was between Borneo and the Philippines, an area notorious for "semi-settled sea-gypsies" who made a living by piracy. The area was just as dangerous in 1966 when I was in Zamboanga in the south of Mindinnao and hoped to go to Borneo by small boat but was warned against it and decided not to risk it. The first three volumes (from A - J) of the "Kings Ships" are in the Digital Library of India and the Internet Archive and can be searched online or downloaded in different formats.

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

The cup 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 HMS Walker.

There is, however, a much larger piece of silver which was presented to HMS
Walker which is engraved:

Presented to the officers of
HMS WALKER
By Major Sir Robert Walker and Lady Walker
Of Sand Hutton

FAMILY CREST
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.

The large Cup presented to HMS Walker
 
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 in HMS Walker escorting Arctic Convoys and at the Normandy Landings in 1944.


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