- Lind, L.J.
- Biographies and personal histories
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- March 1974 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Promotion to Commander came in December of that year and shortly afterwards Rawson married Miss Florence Shaw. He was also appointed to HMS Hercules as Commander.
Hercules was a unit of the Channel Squadron under the command of Admiral Phipps Hornby, who had commanded the famous Flying Squadron which had visited Australia in 1869. (His name is commemorated in Hornby Light in Sydney Harbour.)
Rawson’s friendship with the Royal Family was the reason for his presence at the visit of the Shah of Persia and the Coronation of King Oscar II in 1873.
In 1875 he endeavoured to obtain an appointment to the Polar Expedition of that year. He was unsuccessful due to his seniority, but his brother, Wyatt, sailed in the Discovery as Third Lieutenant.
Hercules sailed for the Mediterranean shortly afterwards and was to move from one trouble spot to another in the next two years. In April 1877 she returned to Portsmouth, and two months later Rawson was promoted to Captain.
Rawson’s next appointment was Flag Captain in Minotaur of the Channel Squadron under command of Admiral Lord John Hay. The worsening situation in the Middle East following the Russo-Turkish War resulted in the Channel Squadron being ordered to Malta. In January 1878 Admiral Hornby, Rawson’s old commander, finally settled the problem by sailing the Mediterranean Fleet up to Constantinople and training his guns on the old Byzantine capital.
Shortly after this confrontation a peaceful solution to the problem was reached in Berlin, the result of which was the Turkish ceding of Cyprus to Britain.
The Channel Squadron was at Suda Bay, Crete, when Admiral Lord John Hay received secret instructions to proceed to Cyprus and ‘take over the Island in the name of the Queen’.
The fleet consisted of HM Ships Minotaur, Black Prince, Monarch and Raleigh, Invincible and Pallas. The last two ships had been detached from the Mediterranean Fleet anchored in Larnaka Bay on 10th July. Captain Rawson was landed with instructions to proceed to Nicosia and ascertain whether force would be necessary to carry out the occupation.
It was a task to Rawson’s liking. He rode to Nicosia some 23 miles distant. He returned to the flagship at 2330 and made a situation report to the Admiral. Half an hour later he was back on the beach mounting his horse to return to the capital.
Acting on Rawson’s report, which proved to be accurate, Lord Hay took possession of the island in the Queen’s name on the 14th July. The Union Jack flew over Nicosia and on the next day Captain Rawson was appointed Commandant of the City.
He recorded the atmosphere in a letter:
‘Here I am, installed as the first English Commandant of Nicosia, and a fine lot of work I have had getting things in order and settled down. Such a baking hot 22 miles between Larnaka and Nicosia I never came across. We have been having the thermometer at 97°, 98°, and twice 108° inside a thick-walled house. Tomorrow (July 22) I go down to Larnaka with the Admiral, and the new Governor (Sir Garnet Wolseley) is expected to arrive. I do not suppose we shall remain much longer in Cyprus, as our work is nearly done. I had the honour of hoisting the flag, and have since worked very hard. I sent in my report, which pleased the Admiral very much, and surprised the Secretary of the Government out here by the amount of information it contained, procured in such a short time. My trips backwards and forwards between Nicosia and Larnaka surprise them most. They cannot understand how I go on without sleep for so long without being knocked up. In 10 days I have had 40 hours sleep. Every night at 11 o’clock I go around the whole city by myself.’
On the 22nd, Rawson had a narrow escape from serious injury. Riding back to Larnaka his horse bolted and collided with a team of mules. He was thrown heavily to the ground and sustained severe bruising to the arms and legs. Despite the injuries he rode back to Nicosia next day.
Rawson’s command of Nicosia lasted three weeks. By that time the occupying garrison of British and Indian troops had arrived. A large fleet lay off the beaches at Larnaka when he returned to his ship. It included Minotaur, Monarch, Invinvible, Black Prince, Raleigh, Salamis, Foxhound, the troopships Himalaya, Tamar and Orontes, and 20 hired transports.
Minotaur paid off in December 1881, and soon after Rawson was despatched to Egypt where new trouble was brewing. A Nationalist Movement under Arabi Pasha was threatening the authority which had been vested in a British-French condominium.
The crisis was reached in the first week of July 1882, when Arabi’s rebels commenced fortifying Alexandria Harbour. On the 11th the Mediterranean Fleet bombarded the forts and the rebels withdrew. Rawson arrived later in the month and was appointed Principal Transport Officer to co-ordinate the movement of naval vessels and transports. Some indication of the magnitude of the task was the turnabout of 164 transports, the landing of 35,000 troops and 1,300 horses.
General Wolseley’s force completely quashed the rebellion at the Battle of Tel el Kebir. A sad note to the campaign was the death of Rawson’s brother, Wyatt, who led the charge on the enemy’s position.
The operation won Rawson the CB and the Order of Osmanieh, Third Class.
The Admiralty was quick to appreciate the keenness of Rawson’s intellect. In the following years he was appointed to a number of committees which included: Awards of Service Certificates, Good Conduct Badges, Gratuities, Improved Cutlasses and Bayonets, and a Revised Signal Book.
Captain Rawson commanded HMS Warspite in the 1889 manoeuvres under Admiral Sir George Tryon. Later in that year he assumed command of HMS Benbow in the Mediterranean Fleet.
Benbow was one of three battleships fitted with 16.25 inch guns and was the costliest ship built for the Royal Navy to that date.
In August 1890 he was appointed Naval Aide-de-Camp to Her Majesty, succeeding Captain ‘Jacky’ Fisher, later to become Admiral of the Fleet, Lord Fisher.
Captain Rawson commanded the Detached Squadron in the Mediterranean in July 1891, and entertained the King and Queen of Italy on board Benbow. He returned to England in October and the following February was promoted to Rear Admiral. He was 48 years of age.