Charles Harcourt Smith was a son of the Reverend Herbert Smith and his wife Cassandra (nee Chamberlayne). He was born in 1831 in East Stratton, where his father was curate. He was a nephew of Captain John Chamberlayne, RN. Charles followed the Chamberlayne tradition of service in the Royal Navy. Appointed a mate in 1851, he served in HMS Leander (50 guns) on the Mediterranean and Black Sea station during the Crimean War. The Leander took part in the assault on Sebastopol. He was promoted to lieutenant on 26 September 1854. His first command, from February 1856 (the month in which the Crimean War ended), was of HMS Insolent, one of a class of gunboats specifically built to close with the Russian fleet in their fortified harbours. In the late 1850s and early 1860s Charles served on the China station, during the latter years with John ('Jack') Fisher, who had joined the navy as a 13-year old cadet in July 1854. Fisher was later to become first lord of the admiralty, first sea lord and admiral of the fleet, one of the most important figures in the development of the Royal Navy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Fisher wrote that, after being promoted to lieutenant in 1860, he purchased "a slashing cocked hat and pair of epaulettes from Harcourt-Smith before he went home" (Fear God and dread nought: the correspondence of Admiral of the Fleet Lord Fisher of Kilverstone, ed A J Marder, 1952-9). On 12 October 1860, Harcourt Smith became an Admiralty mail agent employed in the Red Sea. He died at sea on 25 August 1864.
Charles Harcourt Smith spent most of his adult life at sea. The 1861 census sees him living in Berkeley Lodge, Anglesea Road, in Shirley: formerly home to his uncle John Chamberlayne, his mother Cassandra (now estranged from her husband) and sister Margaret. His Southampton address in 1864 was 4 Bevois Hill Terrace. He was unmarried.


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