The Diaries of Admiral Arthur Hildebrand Alington – Part 1

Over twenty years ago, my late father, who was at that time a second-hand book-dealer, managed to salvage some old books which were about to be thrown away by the owner of a house in Falmouth, Cornwall, UK.

Rescued DiariesThe collection of books consisted of an incomplete series of diaries written by Admiral Arthur Hildebrand Alington (10 October, 1839 – 7 December, 1925) of Swinhope, Lincolnshire, UK and some domestic accounts and ledgers from his place of residence Swinhope House.  There is also a “Journal of HMS’s Himalaya and Peterel” and what appears to be a ship’s log (1877?):


According to research carried out by the Dreadnought Project, Admiral Alington, J.P., Royal Navy, was promoted to the rank of Commander in 1870, Captain in 1879 and Rear-Admiral in 1894.  In 1895, he became Second-in-Command of the Channel Squadron and was placed on the Retired List at his own request on 13 January, 1899.  He was advanced to the rank of Vice-Admiral on the Retired List on 1 January, 1901 and to the rank of Admiral on the Retired List on 16 June, 1904.

Here is a photograph taken when he was Rear-Admiral Second-in-Command of the Channel Squadron, seen with his Flag Lieutenant:

Photograph: Navy & Army Illustrated

The diaries start in 1865 and end in 1923, two years before his death.  The earlier editions contain descriptions of naval activities, the later ones are focused more on family and social activities.  This is the complete listing:

  • 1865/6, 1873, 1877, 1881, 1982/3/4, 1888, 1889
  • 1892-1923 (1919 missing)

DSCF0529The diaries contain a range of ephemera, including newspaper cuttings, images, telegrams,etc and several transcript,s of old sea shanties (e.g. the “Old Sea Song”).DSCF0532

There is a short, hand-written account of the author’s early life, which includes a description of the circumstances of his enlistment into the Royal Navy and life as a Naval Cadet aboard HMS Victory and subsequently HMS Rodney..  Here is a sketch (“My bedroom as a Middy!”), presumably in his own hand:

DSCF0527There are many more historically interesting entries, including a first-hand account of a Zeppelin raid over Swinhope in 1916 (see related report here).  There is also a very interesting British Summary Court notebook from the first part 1919. Now that these artifacts are in my possession, I intend to dig a bit deeper into the details and will report back on any items of particular interest at a later date (Part 2).

7 thoughts on “The Diaries of Admiral Arthur Hildebrand Alington – Part 1”

  1. Do the diaries cover any of Alington’s time in Canada? He was there from July 1866 to November 1868. (I did note that 1867-68 are missing.)

    I’m writing a book on three British gunboats which were on Canada’s Great Lakes following the Fenian invasion of 1866. Alington commanded one of them, the Britomart, which has the most detailed log of the three and so gets a lot of coverage in the book. Even if there is not much about his Canadian sojourn, I would love to get information on what he did write about his early life as it will help describe his character.

    Cheryl MacDonald

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