Tag Archives: diaries

The Diaries of Admiral Arthur Hildebrand Alington – Part 2

If you read my earlier post, you will know that I have an interest in the diaries of Admiral Arthur Hildebrand Alington.  Coming from a distinguished family line, Admiral Alington also had a number of notable descendants and relatives.

One of these was his grandson, the aviator Geoffrey Alington.  In his book “A Sound in the Sky: Reminiscences of Geoffrey Alington”, Alington wrote this about his late grandfather:

© gravestonephotos.com

Referring to ‘the Old Admiral’ again, he was, of course, buried in the lovely little Swinhope church yard where so many of the family rest.  Unfortunately it had been raining for days before the funeral and when the coffin was lowered into the grave, to most people’s consternation, the coffin floated happily and would not disappear.  One old wag was heard to whisper “The Old Admiral won’t mind; e’s floated at sea all ‘is life.

GeoffreyAlingtonThe book, published by R K Hudson in 1994, is an autobiographical account of Alington’s remarkable flying career, during which his flying logs showed 5,910 hours 55 minutes of flying time, involving no fewer than 176 different types of aircraft and without a single accident (however, read this).

Notably in the early 1940′s, as Chief Test Pilot at the Austin Motors Aircraft Factory at Longbridge, he test-flew Battles, Hurricanes, Stirlings and Lancasters.

In addition to family anecdotes, the book contains many technical facts relating to aviation history and is illustrated with many of the author’s own private photographs.

Unfortunately, the manuscript from which it was taken ends abruptly and prematurely in 1943, 44 years before his death in 1987.

I first encountered the book in Reading Library in the UK.  I subsequently bought a copy of my own, but it is not particularly rare and many copies are currently advertised for sale on the Internet.

I would certainly recommend it to anyone with an interest in aviation history.

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).