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Broad pennant


Object connections:

Collection Flags
Gallery locationNot on display
PeopleDepiction: Royal Navy
EventsSecond Opium War: Battle of Fatshan Creek, 1857

Object details:

Object ID AAA0902
Description Commodore's broad pennant made of blue silk, hand-sewn with silk ties and cords attached. A label sewn to the reverse states: 'Given to Commodore The Hon. H. Keppel by the ladies of Machow and carried in the boat attack on Fatshan Creek'. The pennant has been backed with cotton net to reinforce the material. Henry Keppel's frigate HMS 'Raleigh' was damaged and run aground between Hong Kong and Macao' in 1857 on her voyage out to the Far East. Keppel notes that between 20-24 April 'I had apartments at the Dent's bungalow at Hong Kong as well as rooms at Macao, passenger steamers running daily.' The battle of Fatshan Creek, on 1 June 1857, was a boat attack on Chinese war junks moored in a tributary of the Canton River. Keppel's boat was sunk in the initial attack which was beaten back by the Chinese ships. He launched a second attack with reinforcements, moving his broad pennant to 'Raleigh's' cutter. In a letter to his sister he describes a bit of blue bunting being prepared to represent his broad pennant. This casts some doubt on the story that this particular pennant was flown in the battle. It is a boat flag, and would not have been used by Keppel's vessel, the paddle tender 'Hongkong'. Keppel was Commodore of the Blue. This was a temporary rank between Captain and Rear-Admiral. The 1826 regulations divided commodores into first class when their ship was commanded by a captain, and second class when they commanded the ship themselves. The first class had red broad pennants or white ones with the red cross of St George. Commodores of the second class had blue broad pennants. After 1864 all broad pennants were white with a red cross overall. The sixth surviving son of the fourth Earl of Albemarle, Sir Henry Keppel (1809-1904) entered the Navy in 1822. He was commissioned lieutenant in 1829 and saw active service in the 'Magicienne' in the war between the East India Company and the Rajah of Nanning. In command of the 'Childers' brig, he assisted the forces of the Queen Regent of Spain against the Carlists before being posted to West Africa. He was promoted Captain in 1837 and commanded 'Dido' during the first China War. He then cooperated with Sir James Brooke in suppressing piracy in Sarawak. During the Crimean War he commanded the 'Jean d'Acre' in the Baltic in 1854. In 1855 he moved to the 'Rodney' and commanded a naval brigade at the siege of Sebastopol. He was second in command on the China station in 'Raleigh', which struck an uncharted rock and sank (though without loss of life). In the steamer 'Hong Kong' he commanded British forces at the battle of Fatshan Creek 1 June 1857. He was Commander in Chief on the Cape station and afterwards transferred to Brazil following a dispute with the governor. He reached the rank of Vice-Admiral in 1864 and was appointed Commander-in Chief on the China station in 1866. He returned home and was appointed Admiral of the Fleet in 1877. By a special order in council, his name was retained on the active list of the navy until his death.
Date made 1857

Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Materials silk; hand sewn
Measurements 863.6 x 1320.8 mm
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