View Full Version : Looking for a "Bluejacket" in the Crimean War

12-01-2015, 10:00 AM

I wonder if anyone can help me - according to an obituary in a newspaper my Great-great Grandfather James Black (b.about 1827) was a "Bluejacket" who fought in the Crimean War under Sir Admiral Charles Napier.

1. Can anyone tell me please what a "Bluejacket" was? My understanding is that it is some kind of Naval Infantry - but is that distinct from the Royal Marines?

2. What units comprised the "Bluejackets"? Or were they part of a specific ship's crew?

3. Would he then hold the rank of Private rather than say Seaman or such-like?

I have so far found a couple of James Blacks' in the National Archive's online records - one aboard the HMS Trafalgar and the other aboard the HMS Caesar. But I am not sure if I am looking at the right records.

Thank you in advance.

barbara lee
12-01-2015, 10:26 AM
I think a "bluejacket" was from the Royal Marine Artillery, gunnery specialists. Royal Marines wore red uniforms, Royal Marine Artillerymen wore blue. The lowest rank was Gunner, then Bombardier. And if he was under Admiral Sir Charles Napier, it was the Baltic campaign, not the fighting in the Crimea. A small British fleet went to the Baltic to bottle up the Russian fleet, to prevent it emerging when the ice broke up, and threatening the English north-east coast. Napier was only commander for the first year - 1854 - then he was replaced after questions were asked about his handling of the campaign.
Each RMA detachment would have been on a ship and the men's names are on the relevant muster rolls. My g g grandfather was an RMA sergeant in this campaign.

13-01-2015, 12:05 PM
Thank you very much Barbara, your information is most helpful. I did not know that their were operations in the Baltic in the Crimean War! I do now! And thank you for explaining "bluejacket" to me, i was having a great deal of difficulty finding out what it meant! It seems to be one of those terms that is overlooked these days, i couldn't even find it defined on the Royal Marine's website!

14-01-2015, 2:34 PM

I note from the medal roll that the the Baltic medal to the James Black who served on HMS Caesar, was sent to Ventnor Coastguard Station in 1857. Using the CG Establishment Books in ADM 175 I found that he was subsequently promoted to Commissioned Boatman, being transferred to Ryde on the Isle of Wight, where he died on the 25 November 1859 (ADM 175/7 pdf 318).


14-01-2015, 4:05 PM
A very warm welcome to Brit-gen.
I can't contribute to information about James Black but, as a result of your post, I've thoroughly enjoyed finding out about "bluejackets" or, more formally, the Naval Brigade. Looked at model soldiers, cigarette cards, old photos etc - wonderful. Found a couple of sites re. model soldiers who, naturally, are interested in creating the right dress eg.


My favourite was a regular soldier at the battle of Sebastopol who, while showing great respect for the fighting qualities of the bluejackets (I think over a 1000 were involved) but nonetheless concluded they were just "playing at sogers"!!

PS - re the link, tab down to pic of Royal Naval Brigade

barbara lee
14-01-2015, 7:05 PM
Hi Jason. In my initial reply I said a "bluejacket" might be a Royal Marine Artilleryman, although their usual nickname was a "Blue Marine" as opposed to a "Red Marine". Of course, members of a Naval Brigade (sailors who went ashore and fought as soldiers) might also be referred to as bluejackets by the regular soldiers.
I suggest you look up the career of Admiral Sir Charles Napier. He was definitely the commander of the Baltic Fleet in 1854 and there were definitely a lot of RMA in the Baltic Fleet. There were lots of ship-against-shore bombardments in that campaign. If, however, Sir Charles later commanded a Naval Brigade in the Crimea in 1855, it would be hard to tell which useage of "bluejacket" was meant in your ancestor's obituary. No idea what Napier did after he was relieved of command of the Baltic campaign in late 1854 or early 1855.

14-01-2015, 7:23 PM
Napier spent the rest of his life defending his actions/inaction during the first Baltic campaign and never again held a high command.


15-01-2015, 9:42 AM
Thank you very much for your investigation Martin! I had found that note on the Medal roll but had not got around to pursuing it further. If your connections for this particular James Black are correct (as I am sure they are) then he cannot be my Great Great Grandfather who died here in Kaitaia, New Zealand in 1919 aged 92. He was survived by his only son - another James Black. However, you have ruled out one possibility and I am grateful to you. Thanks again! You might be interested in my new post further down this thread.

15-01-2015, 9:51 AM
Thank you very much helachau! I am glad you have enjoyed your perusing! By a coincidence I myself am a wargamer who plays with little toy soldiers - so I am quite sure I have been to that site before, haha! Yes anecdotes like the one you described are terrific aren't they! You get some real characters. You raise an excellent point about "Naval Brigade's" i.e. Sailors fighting on land. They pop up in a lot of Victorian conflicts. The looseness of the terminology in my G.G. Grandfather's obituary may indicate he was actually one of these rather than an "official" Royal Marine. I will continue searching.

15-01-2015, 10:03 AM
Thank you once again Barbara. I understand what you mean. I will continue to pursue the information with an open mind and I am looking forward to finding out more about Sir Admiral Charles Napier. I think your "supposition" about the Baltic is a very good one though.

Interestingly, I have found a James Black in the 1851 English census - age 22- who is listed as a Royal Marine - in the Naval Hospital in Haslar(?), Alverstoke Parish. What makes me ***** up my ears about him is that his birthplace is listed as Newry, County Armagh. I believe his future wife - Margaret Hyde (b. 1829) was also from County Armagh, although they did not (meet?) marry until 1867 in Auckland, New Zealand. One day I will consult that hospital's record. In the meantime I will pursue other leads - talking to Family members, old newspapers etc. Thanks again for all of your help.

15-01-2015, 10:06 AM
Haha! My apologies the forum seems to have censored a word in my previous post! That word began with p and ended with rick, but I most certainly did not mean the offensive use of it!!!