Frederick Edwards was captain of the Royal Naval Reserve drill ship HMS Trincomalee in Southampton Water, 1884–9, and was a Conservative Town Councillor for Portswood, 1892-5.
Born in Portsea in December 1844, Frederick entered the Royal Navy as a cadet on 15 February 1855. He first saw service, aged 12 years, on the Nile in the Baltic and received the Baltic medal in 1855: subsequently promoted sub-lieutenant in October 1861, lieutenant on 16 September 1862 and commander on 31 March 1874. As a lieutenant in the Euryalus, Edwards took part in the bombardment of Kagosima in Japan in August 1863 and in the attack on shore batteries at Shimonosek in September 1864, for which he was mentioned in despatches. He was employed on the coast of Ireland in the Helican during the Fenian riots and – as gunnery lieutenant - was in 1873 in command of the Rattlesnake’s boats in the Bossum Preh river during the Ashantee War, receiving the Ashantee Medal and promoted as commander of the Kestrel in 1879. That year he led the attack which destroyed the pirate stronghold of Terebus in Borneo, for which he received the official thanks of the Sultan of Borneo (The Times, 23 October 1911: obituary; Royal Navy List, 1883, p 264). Commander Edwards was appointed to the Trincomalee in 1884 and was placed on the retired list at his own request on 12 October 1889, with permission to assume the rank of captain (Hampshire Advertiser, 19 October 1889). He was awarded a naval pension for good service in 1895.
Frederick and his wife Mary Ann originally lived at Glenville in Winchester Road, Banisters Park. By 1890 they had moved to Gloucester Lodge, Belmont Road, Portswood. In politics, Frederick was an active member of the Conservative party: a frequent speaker at meetings of the Primrose League (even whilst still a serving naval officer), a member of St James’ Ward Conservative Association and of Portswood Conservative Association (an ally here of Tankerville Chamberlayne, MP) and a Conservative Town Councillor for the ward of Portswood between November 1892 and November 1895.
In 1893 Captain Edwards was a member of a council sub-committee charged with finding an isolation ship for the port. It was on his technical recommendation that the City of Adelaide was purchased: “he had tested the whole of the ship fore and aft, and he did not find a single bad place in her. Though he bored through many planks he did not find a fault throughout. She was clean throughout, and as sweet as possible” (Southampton Town Council, 7 September 1893; quoted in Veronoca Green, ‘The floating hospital City of Adelaide: controlling infectious disease in the town and port of Southampton, 1893-1923: Southampton Occasional Papers, no.7., 2014).
In religion, Captain Edwards was an Anglican: a sidesman in St Luke’s in 1889/90. Edwards actively promoted the active life: a member of the Spartan Club(an egalitarian sporting club), a vice-president of Southampton Amateur Gymnastic Club, a supporter of St Mary’s Football Club, chairman (elected February 1892) of the Southampton Centre of the National Cyclists’ Union and a member of the Royal Southampton Yacht Club, serving on its sailing committee.
Captain Edwards was an evangelist for the reformed Royal Navy. In a speech to Beaconsfield Working Men’s Conservative Club in December 1890, he contrasted the brutality of his early days in the navy – when flogging was still de rigour – with the more enlightened practices of the modern navy: a result of the spread of education and the great strides that temperance had made below decks (Hampshire Advertiser, 6 December 1890). In 1899 – about four years after he left Southampton – Edwards became an Admiralty-sponsored lecturer travelling the country explaining the advantages offered to youths fired with nautical ambitions who wanted to serve in the Royal Navy. In 1901 he toured Australia as part of Mr G H Snazelle’s lavish entertainment ‘Life in Our Navy’. This was in effect a touring version of Messrs West and Son’s ‘Our Navy’ which had been running in London and which featured the pioneering films of the navy taken by Alfred John West of Gosport and Southsea. In Australia, Captain Edwards was described as manager for Messrs West and Son, and he provided a professional commentary to the silent films.
Frederick Edwards died in Southsea on 18 April 1911. He left a widow and eight children. Frederick Charles Edwards, born at Dovercourt in Essex on 6 October 1870, joined the Royal Marines in 1890. He was promoted lieutenant-general in 1928 and was colonel-commandant of the Plymouth Division of Royal Marines.
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