Royal Marine Commandants of 

Ascension Island  

 

 MORTALITY OF COMMANDANTS  
AT ASCENSION ISLAND   ROYAL MARINES DARK - OTHERS GREY 
 
  Years In Office   
Major R. (John)  Campbell Sep 1819 - Mar 1823 1821 Times article mentions Campbell taking command of island. "Ship News," Times 5 Nov. 1821. 
Lt. Colonel Edward  NICOLLS  (Nicholls) Mar 1823 - Nov 1828 Royal Marines.  Assumed command in Nov. 1831, arriving on the Britomart. In the Times, reported that on Ascension Island there have been found "several recent deaths on this inhospitable and ill-fated colony"  Mentions Lt. Sullivan who "died shortly after his arrival," and Lt. S.C. Stiles. Adds "Nine marines only of the 24 Colonel Nicolls took out - were able to do duty -the remainder  . . . were in the hospital"  "Portsmouth, Saturday," Times 21 Nov. 1831  But an earlier article shows Nichols (sic) improving road on island and with general good health of all. "Coast of Africa," Times 2 Jun. 1828. A 7 Sep 1826 article similar.   For more information on Nicholls: http://www.heritage.org.ac/HS1frameset.htm    
Captain William  BATE(S)  
3 Nov 1828 15 Apr 1838
Died 1838 Ascension Island. Name spelled "Bates" by Dwyer. Possible ref to his death: Times, Saturday, Aug 25, 1838; pg. 2.   Bates built a house for the commandant- Bate's Cottage. There is a memorial plaque at St Mary's for Bates which reads: "'IN MEMORY OF/CAPTAIN EDWARD BATES (incorrect) ROYAL MARINES/FOR 10 YEARS COMMANDANT OF THIS ISLAND/WHO DIED OF FEVER AT NORTH EAST COTTAGE/14th APRIL 1838/THIS TABLET WAS ERECTED ON THE REDUCTION OF THE ISLAND/IN 1882 AS A TOKEN OF ADMIRATION FOR HIS ENERGY/AND SKILL IN CARRYING OUT MANY VALUABLE WORKS/TO WHICH THE ISLAND STILL OWES MUCH OF ITS COMFORT/INTERRED IN THE GARRISON CEMETERY'
 Ascension Island Historical Society site  reports: 
    On the 3rd of November 1828, a new commandant arrived, Captain William Bate. Bate was to remain on Ascension for 10 years, and his vision and drive produced many changes on the island. When he arrived, Bate was not a happy man. He had a report produced on the state of the island. This painted a poor picture. The quarters were so poor that many men spent the nights on the beach. Water parties stationed at Dampiers were still living in caves cut out of the cinders, unsafe and damp. One New Years Day 1829, the foundation stone for a new water tank at Dampiers was laid. This tank is still there today, and later became known as Bate's Tank.  
On the 3rd of April 1829, in honour of the King's birthday, Bates gave the settlement the name that it has since known - Georgetown. Some honour! In June 1829, a great ally for Bate arrived, Captain Brandreth of the Royal Engineers. He was sent to the island to comment on some recommendations Bate had made. Brandreth's report paints a vivid picture;
"The population at the period of my arrival consisted of about 140 Europeans, principally of the Royal Marine Corps, and 76 Africans, making a total of about 220 persons, including military and civil officers, a few white women (the wives of non-commissioned officers and privates of the Royal Marines, and black women and children.
 - - - - 
The supply of water at this time was scanty and precarious. It depended on springs, or rather drips in the precipitous banks, and the rains that could be collected in old casks and a few iron tanks. A stone tank in Georgetown, calculated to hold about 80 tons, was supplied with water from the mountains, a distance of six miles. Three carts, six oxen and three drivers were employed daily in the transport of about 360 gallons of this water."
Given this sad picture, (very different from Nicholls upbeat story), the Admiralty agreed to changes. Georgetown was to move, away from the lowlands of the first settlement to the plateau it occupies today. Brandreth designed the buildings, and Bate and his men started work. The stone was quarried from the site of today's Chinatown, and at the start it was decided that all buildings would have guttering so that roof water would flow into the storage tanks.
The first construction started within a month of Brandreth's departure; excavating to build a large stone tank capable of holding 1200 tons of water. The foundation stone was laid in 1830, and, St George's Tank as it became known, was the main water storage on the island for many years. All roofs in Georgetown were at one time connected into nearby tanks, and as these individual tanks overflowed, the water went into St George's. Water from the mountain was also fed into this tank. It's still there, the domed tank near the Church, and still holds water.
- - - - -
Unfortunately, Bate did not live to see the end of his labour. He died on the 15th of April 1838, of a virulent influenza, which also killed many of the garrison. No other commander was ever to equal Bate in enthusiasm or drive, and none has left such a lasting legacy.
He lies in Georgetown's Deadmans Beach Cemetery. May he rest in peace. http://www.heritage.org.ac/avis3.htm  Copyright © 2000, Graham Avis,  Ascension Island Historical Society  Read More: http://www.heritage.org.ac/avis4.htm 
     

Entire above work can be found at JSTOR:  "Communications on the Island of Ascension", by H. R. Brandreth; Caroline Power
Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London © 1835 The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)

Captain R. S. TINKLAR Jan 1839 - Sep 1840 Died 14 Sep 1840 Ascension Island, after short illness.("Deaths," Times 07 Nov.1840).  Assigned in early 1839 ("Portsmouth," Times, 01 Apr. 1839), Lived on island with his wife and family. She returned to England in March 1841 with nine invalids and her family. "Portsmouth, March 6," Times 08 March 1841.
J. WADE Sep 1840  Dec 1840 Not mentioned by Dwyer. No references found in Times.  Seems to have been only a temp Acting Commandant.
Captain Hugh EVANS Dec 1840 - Dec 1840   Royal Marines, but not mentioned by Dwyer. His appointment found in article: "Portsmouth," Times 04 Dec 1840; pg. 6, following Tinklar's death. Evans later Major-General "Military and Naval Intelligence," Times 11 Aug. 1858: pg. 7.  Appears he was reassigned from his appointment and never actually served. 
W. LEE (1st time) Dec 1840 - Apr 1841 Not mentioned by Dwyer. No references found in Times. Seems to have been a temp Acting Commandant.
Captain H. BENNETT Apr 1841 - Dec 1841 Royal Navy. Not mentioned by Dwyer.d 1841 Ascension. Times of London reports: "The garrison at Ascension was extremely healthy, and the public works in progress, under the direction of the Commandant, Captain Bennett, R.N., were also in a very forward state, and the resources of the island rapidly improving."Her Majesty's Ship Conway," Times Tuesday, 11 Jan 1842; pg. 7. 
W. LEE (2nd time) Dec 1841 - Jul 1842 Not mentioned by Dwyer. No references found in Times. Seems to have been a temp Acting Commandant.
Captain Thomas Peard DWYER  Jul 1842 - Apr 1844 General Thomas Peard Dwyer RM  - my g/g/g grandfather b Ireland c1798 (Diocese of Cork & Ross, County Cork, Ireland ?) d 26 Apr 1863, Lennox Lodge Southsea. England. Lennox Lodge at 62 Clarenence Parade to South Parade. Commandant of Ascension Island, 1842--1844, wife erected chapel there, St. Mary's Church below. Wife= MARY ANNE TOULMIN 

 

Dwyer below in his diary, complains of his authority sometimes being undermined, by discipline he met out being taken to someone else, who countermanded his order. At the same time period of 1842-1844, there was a Marine General, Simon Fraser. This must be the person. Fraser's diary was posted in part by The Islander.org website- archives:  http://www.the-islander.org.ac/oldsite/1609.htm  http://www.the-islander.org.ac/oldsite/1611.htm  http://www.the-islander.org.ac/oldsite/1612.htm  http://www.the-islander.org.ac/oldsite/1613.htm  (Cannot find one page)    Fraser, in what I've read, never mentions Dwyer personally, and speaks of a year's service. What service? I cannot locate any Marine general named Simon Fraser - Lt. Col. in East Indian Company who died 1845; a Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat- a Lt Col in Militia- born 1828; a Brevet Major in 1858 named Simon Fraser in the Marines; in 1835, there is mention of a Lt. Fraser in the Royal Marines; there are several General Simon Fraser of the Marines in earlier times. Very odd- there is no biography is Saur, or a promotion/assignment trail in the Times.   Fraser family websites:  http://www.clanfraser.ca/index.htm  and http://www.fraserchief.co.uk/ 

My Input on High Mortality Rate: 

  Dwyer, although he deconstructs it, seems to play on a superstitious theme that there is a curse of somekind in being the commandant of Ascension Island.  Some of the deaths and illnesses seem to come quite rapidly. But disease was a terrible waster of men - not war. Twenty years later Dwyer would write:  
In 1863 embarked from Ascension in the Undaunted Flag ship of Rear Admiral T. Warren. The Cholera raged to such an extent on board the Undaunted on the passage from Madras to Calcutta, that she was at one time, without hands sufficient to set or take in sail, There was in consequence ordered to England. In my own individual case on our arrival I was sent more dead than alive to Hastan Hospital where it required four months ‘treatment’ to make me to proceed on sick leave.  

Why did so many commandants become ill? I believe it was sanitation. The commandants live apart from the others. About 10 years later, Florence Nightingale would be at Scutari. There, one source discovered for the many deaths was sanitation. Lord Paulet's own drinking water and privy were inspected and found to be contaminated. 

FROM THE DIARY OF General Thomas Peard Dwyer,MARINE
 COMMANDANT ON THE ISLAND 1842-44:

  General Dwyer

 The FOREIGN COMMANDS entrusted to officers of the Royal Marine Corps have not been many, nor have they proved of much advantage to the few individuals who have been selected to hold them, - otherwise than as posts of honor, where, according to the circumstances affording the opportunities, zeal, courage, and fidelity have, as usual, been conspicuous.

 "NEW SOUTH WALES"  

 The necessary data for this no doubt be attainable either at the Marine department at the Admiralty, or at the office at "Spring Gardens."

"ANHOLT"

Colonel Nicolls, who played a distinguished part in all that relates to our occupation of this island, ought to be able and willing to furnish every information on this subject, if his modesty will permit him.

"ASCENSION"

When the island of St. Helena became the prison of Napoleon, the occupation of Ascension necessarily followed - and Sir George Cockburn - (then Naval Commander-in-Chief on that station) sent thither, without delay, Commander - - - - - -  with officers and seamen under his command to take possession of the island.  [On 18 October 1815 Captain James White of H.M. Sloop Peruvian, and Captain Nicholas Charles Dobree of H.M. Sloop Zenobia went on shore and took possession of the Island in the name of King George III.-Source- http://www.pdavis.nl/GreenMountain.htm ].  

But the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty soon ordered the formation of a different Establishment, and a detachment of Marines was sent from England  to form the garrison, -and Major Campbell was appointed "Commandant". 

Major Campbell was succeeded by Lieut. Colonel Nicolls upon the peculiar difficulties, the privations, the horrors with which they had to contend in the early formation, on such a spot, of an Establishment for civilized beings- and to Colonel Nicolls, particularly, is praise due, for the untiring ardour with which he laboured to overcome the Hydra-headed obstacles he had to grapple with at every step. But his will-known energy achieved so much that the rude chaos was beginning to take shape when, before his appointment to the government of Fernando -Po, he hand over the command to Captain Bates.  -    This Officer, after a brief illness, died in the command. He was a kind-hearted amiable man, who strove to do all the good in his power. Whilst the Islands wore, unmitigated  its own native hideous aspects, -along with all of its disheartening privations, and the physical obstacles to improvement which every where met the eye, making improvements as it were hopeless, none appeared to envy the ruler of such a scene of desolation, or to cover his place - and so far, therefore, sympathy, and kindness, and obligingness in many shapes met him at almost all points.

But when comely buildings and other evidences of advancing civilization began to appear with a better supply of water, and the comforts of life, and even luxuries ceased to be very rare, -the kindly feelings, it is said, gave place to a very different  spirit.

The next appointed to the command was CAPTAIN TINCKLAR.  An active, upright officer, very zealous -perhaps too much so, for his constitution, it would seem, did not long resist the pressure of the anxieties, or responsibilities of his situation. He was soon taken ill, and, after a short illness, he died.

Then succeeded.

 Thus three commandants in succession were consigned to an untimely grave at Ascension- dying it might be almost said, suddenly!

There is little doubt but climate contributed towards this remarkable mortality amongst the Commandants;  but as the climate certainly was not so active with any other class of individuals on the Island, is it not reasonable to presume that there must have been some peculiar malign influences operating to call into action and aggravate the evil effects of climate on the temperaments of the Commanding Officers in particular? One thing is certain, their duties have ever been of a very perplexing character, involving contradictions, anomolies, and vexations that but few minds could long resist in any climate, and none in such as climate as Ascension.

The next and last officer of the Royal Marines appointed to this seemingly fatal command was CAPTAIN DWYER -    Who all but shared a fate similar to that of his predecessors; for in little more than two years from his appointment, he was, through the excitement and vexations inseparable from the post, seized with an illness which left little hope life could be preserved if reason were. He was carried more dead than alive on board the first ship in which a passage to England could be procured. 

Long previous to this officer's illness he had solicited their Lordship's permission to resign the command, feeling that it was exposed to what he conceived to be humiliating and unjustifiable interference - but what his strict notions of discipline made him prefer withdrawing from, rather than even attempting to remonstrate against.    

Their Lordships were pleased to sanction Captain Dwyer's resignation. And thus ended the command so long has been forced into its actual state of usefulness, the skills, and the seal of the Royal Marines! And even the Prince de Joinville, a stranger, when he visited the Island in the Belle Poule, could not help remarking whilst Captain Dwyer was showing him over the Establishment: 

   Prince de Joinville    

"The Marines deserve great credit, they have done wonders here, - for out of nothing, less than nothing, you have created a great deal - a very useful little colony."

Belle Poule

 

 
1823 Times 15 Jul. 1823 Yellow Fever Lt. Thomas Saumarez abrd Bann dead in 5 days
1838 Times 26 Apr. 1838 Yellow Fever Lt. H.P Deschamps abrd Bonetta aged 35

 

 

About this church from website: http://www.websmith.demon.co.uk/AscensionIsland/  "Saint Mary's Church. This was built by the Marines in 1843." To the right:


OTHER SOURCES:

  Saint Helena, 25 July 2005, <http://www.worldstatesmen.org/Saint_Helena.htm>. Has fuller information on Ascension Island administrators, not just Royal Marines. This site mentions some Dwyer did not list. . 

Ascension Island Historical Society:  25 July 2005   http://www.heritage.org.ac/avis3.htm    http://www.heritage.org.ac/HS6.htm 

Allen: Picturesque Views ... Ascension 25 July 2005  http://www.telepath.com/bweaver/gill/gill_ch04.html 

The Islander.org  http://www.the-islander.org.ac/oldsite/1609.htm

Matitimes Memorials   http://www.nmm.ac.uk/memorials/Memorial.cfm?Cause=4&MemorialID=M9&Full=Transcript  Bate's  

William Loney. R.N. Nackground 25 July 2005,  http://www.pdavis.nl/GreenMountain.htm 

9th July 1998   GOVERNOR'S LODGE BURNT DOWN- Where the Commandants lived:  http://www.the-islander.org.ac/1390.htm   "This house was built in the late 1820's as a home for the Island Commandants. The building was also known as Bates Cottage, so it is probable that William Bates was the first occupant. This spacious building had excellent views of the Garrison, and of the mountain settlement. A bridleway led directly from the cottage to the mountain road. The cottage was described by Captain Burnett in 1958 as being very comfortable, with a drawing room, a dining room, two bedrooms a verandah and a cellar." 

 

Links to Sites with reference to Royal Marines at Ascension:  http://www.telepath.com/bweaver/allen/allen.htm     

OTE:  Some material and images may be taken from websites which do not mention material on that page being copyrighted material. If there is anything in this site which  I have assumed to be free to use but is in fact copyrighted material, please  inform me and I will immediately either remove or obtain permission to exhibit the material in question. I wish to respect the rights of  others. You may freely print and replicate these pages for your own private genealogical use, or the genealogical use of your family. Permission to reprint or reuse any material contained on these pages, including but not limited to: text, graphics, backgrounds, photos, and all other items, must be obtained from the submitter or webmaster; reprinting includes replication of this material on other web pages and  genealogical compilations (printed and non-printed) and all forms of printed matter. Commercial use of any kind is strictly and expressly prohibited.   PS: No guaranteed is implied in anyway as to the accuracy of this data. Everything happened before I was born how would I know. I think I fulfilled my cowardly legalistic weasel clauses here. 

 

 
       
Contact:  mrpcollege@gmail.com     Patrick Paskiewicz
BIO
Teach college USA.  BA  Philosophy, MA English Drama and Literature EMU.  Born 1950, before Al Gore invented Internet. Peddling ny completed book to publishers, Who Murdered Nurse Florence Nightingale Shore?, an investigation into the unsolved murder of English army nurse, Miss Florence Nightingale Shore, goddaughter and relative of Miss Florence Nightingale.  
Battled some renal cell carcinoma , but have good prognosis. Next project may look at another person on my tree, early feminist/ adventurer/explorer/writer Patricia Elizabeth Ramsay Laye. 

 

 

OTHER PAGES OF THIS SITE:  

LAYE FAMILY UK  Connected by Marriages or Reference

EMILY LAYE   Dau of Major Francis Fenwick Laye, grand daughter of Lt. General Francis Laye

DIXON BROWN   Northumberland UK ,  Margaret Brown married Lt. General Francis Laye 1803.

AIREY of Northumberland  Lt. General Francis Laye married Mary Airey 1803    Also GILPIN, GOODEN, MULCASTER, BEDFORD (BEDFORDE), BARKUS, LAYE         

GILLMAN of  Portsmouth  LT COL BERTIE CUNYNGHAME DWYER married Beryl Maud Gillman c 1907.
BARNES, BUTLER, CHAPMAN 
ANDERSON  NICHOLSON  Northumberland  From Laye/Airey/Barnes Line
 GUY BURGESS    Spy for KGB  LT COL BERTIE CUNYNGHAME's sister-in-law, -Evelyn Gillman.,was the mother of this double agent.

  CLAVERINGS and FENWICKS   Northumberland,  From Laye/Airey/Barnes Line

Who Muurdered Nurse Florence Nightingale Shore   My book project

GREY Northumberland  Laye/Airey/Barnes/Clavering/

CASHER      Family of Beryl Maud Gillman - A Casher did the research, and I am merely posting it for him.

GILPIN Northumberland  Northumberland,  From Laye/Airey/Barnes Line 

FLORENCE  NIGHTINGALE:  SMITHS Her maternal side: For studying the Shores or Nightingale Studies  

BEDFORDE  BEDFORD   Durham, UK From Laye/Airey Line

FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE: THE SHORE FAMILY  Norton Hall, Sheffield of Norton Hall. 

General Thomas Peard Dwyer  Detailed Career

FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE LINKS  For Nightingale Studies

 Lt. General Francis Laye     Major General Joseph Henry Laye I    Major General Joseph Henry Laye II    Detailed Careers

PRINCE Essex, Ontario   Tied to ways: GG Grandmother Emily Laye married John Prince, grandson of Col John Prince, and her dau, Mary Anne Dwyer married the Hon. Albert Prince, M.P- the son of Col. Prince. (Yes, that's right).

 DWYER

HON COLONEL JOHN PRINCE, M.P.  A character. Reputed to be illegitimate son of an actress and William IV, notorious for killing American prisoner's of war in the Battle of Windsor. Detroiters put a price on his head. Popular in Windsor.

LT COL BERTIE CUNYNGHAME DWYER   Bertie won Grand National in 1887. "Bertie Dwyer, an English boy of 14  . . . did the fastest time of the race, the only rider to break the two minute barrier with 1 minute 58.6 seconds . . . [A] truly remarkable effort for any rider let alone a 14 year old" (23 The Cresta Run 1885-1985).

LINKS GENEALOGICAL / MILITARY  Reference Only.

INSPECTOR WM BLENNERHASSETT DWYER   Detroit Police Inspector  Very incomplete  
KENNY  County Kerry, Ireland  Also, DWYER, TENT (BROWNE), COURTHROPE, HOARE DEAN PITT  Connected in two way. General J.H. Laye senior married Emelia Dean-Pitt, and Ensign George Sinclair Laye married Amy Selina Nugent, dau of Charlotte Marcia Dean-Pitt.
BUTTERFIELD / SIMPSON AND DUCKETT    LANCASHIRE and BOND E. P. Ramsay-Laye author/feminist pen name: Isobel Massary  4 books, articles, such as "Women and Careers" in Englishwoman Review, 9, (Apr 1878) p 96  -Arguing desirability of married women having careers.

Blennerhassett Kerry   From Dwyer/Hoare  Also  CONWAY, LYNNE, CRUMPE, O'CONNOR, HOARE, DWYER

LAYE Surname Study UK    For Genealogical Reference for all Layes

O'CONNOR Tralee Ireland  From Dwyer/Hoare  Also DWYER, BLENNERHASSETT, HOARE, DENNY, MAYNARD, BARRY, ROPER, FORREST, EDGECRUMBE, ETC 

 

KEENAN Detroit/ Ontario  Sarah Keenan married my gg grandfather, St. Hugh Simpson Gerald Toulmin Dwyer in Detroit in 1895.

LETTERS OF MARY AIREY LAYE  Letters written by Lt. General Francis Laye's widow, pestering Lord Somerset, later Ragland, for an Ensignacy for her son. Letters to others, like Lord Hill and the Marchioness Winchester.
TOULMIN   London and LANCASHIRE, Mary Anne Toulmin Married to General Thomas Peard Dwyer 11 Apr 1839, Old Church, Saint Pancras, London    Includes: BECKETT, SIMPSON, DWYER, HARRISON, TALBOTT, DWYER CUNYNGHAME Photo Album
WALSH -Meath Ireland    Married to Laye Family Anne Maria Teresa WALSH married Emily Laye's father, Major Francis Fenwick Laye 28 Oct 1835 in Newbridge, Colpe Church County Meath, Ireland CUNYNGHAME Connection is on English branch of family. Captain Robert Hoare Dwyer married  Caroline Georgina Thurlow CUNYNGHAME
HOARE   Kerry  Cork   Connected by Robert Dwyer, father of General Thomas Peard Dwyer marrying Mary Hoare, 1744 Tralee, Kerry.   Also KENNY, DWYER, BLENNERHASSETT, BURNELL, GILPIN, NOTT, WOODCOCK, KELLEY RAMSAY Scot. Eng India   Connection is Major Francis Fenwick Laye married Elizabeth P Ramsay
OGLE Northumberland    Laye/Airey/Barnes/Clavering/Grey ASCENSION ISLAND Mini & partial hist of the RM commandants by Comm (General) T.P. Dwyer
PATERNAL ----  PASKIEWICZ   Plymouth PA/Vilna and Starynki, Russia (Старынкі ). DWYER Surname Study Detroit For Genealogical Reference for all Dwyers
PATERNAL ----  GRIZDIS   and many other spelling  Plymouth PA/Vilna  
PATERNAL---   MIKOLAYESKI  Plymouth PA/Russia/Poland PATERNAL ----  ZENKO   Plymouth PA/Vilna, Olita 
PATERNAL--   SINKIEWICZ or SINKCAVAGE Plymouth PA/Lithuania PATERNAL ---  RUZANTIS   Plymouth PA/Suwalki

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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