Tuesday, 18 July 2017


Robert (Bob) Sharplin

On 4th June 1929, a slim dark haired young man with a fresh complexion and green eyes stood in the Royal Navy recruiting post in the Medway Towns situated in the county of Kent. He was about 5’ 5” tall, a butcher’s boy who had probably propped his bicycle against the wall outside. He had just volunteered and committed himself to serve his King by signing on to join the Royal Navy for the next twelve years. Little did he know that world events would lengthen that to 23½ years and a major part of his life. It was his eighteenth birthday! Did he know of the strange coincidence in that his paternal Grandfather, John George Sharplin, had signed up two generations earlier on his eighteenth birthday (note 2) to join the Royal Navy?

Bob - The New Recruit
July 1929, believed to be at his Gillingham home.
Photo: Sharplin family archive

Some four weeks later Bob entered the ornate main gate of HMS Pembroke, the Royal Navy Barracks in Chatham, to commence his training where he was rated as a Stoker 2nd Class. That young man, Robert John Sharplin known to everyone as Bob, was to become father to Clive, this author, and his sister Wendy.

Bob was born 4th June 1911 in Gillingham, Kent, into a family with very  strong ties with the Royal Navy. His elder brother Percy Anthony also volunteered and completed  25 years service in the Royal Navy. Their father, Percy Edwin had volunteered (Note 1) for the Royal Navy serving for over five years during World War I, while their half brother Phillip volunteered for the army becoming a DEMS Gunner serving on merchant shops and who after the end of world war two became an Admiralty Diver based in Chatham Naval Dockyard. Bob's family tree shows that in the earlier five generations there was always a strong Royal Naval presence. The most prominent was probably Bob’s grandfather, John George Sharplin (Note 2) born 12th May 1843, he volunteered and joined the Royal Navy in 1865 signing on at Sheerness. His trade was that of a Rope Maker rated Able Seaman he sailed aboard HMS Challenger on her almost four year circumnavigation of the world exploring the floors of the oceans. He held the responsibility for recording certain results as the survey progressed. This voyage of exploration in the shape of a Global Hydrographic Survey (Note 2) is now regarded as the Apollo Mission of its day equal in scientific importance to that of Charles Darwin’s voyage in HMS Beagle which provided critical evidence,  There is an Admiralty  record of John's personal service and duties aboard Challenger included in the Challenger archive of Chatham Historic Dockyard's Library togetjer with his written reports and log books. Another record that had been claimed to have been sighted was that John’s paternal grandfather served in the Royal Navy under Admiral Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 this has been  proved to have been incorrect wih the possibility that he was not even in the Royal Navy.

 Bob’s mother Eliza (nee West), whose father was a labourer in the Royal Naval Dockyard at Chatham, died of pernicious anaemia when Bob was eight. His father later married his second wife Rose (Note 3) who bore her husband a son, Philip. It seems that Sharplin family home then became not a particularly happy one.  Bob gave the impression that he, his brother Percy Anthony and even their half brother Philip never quite took to their step-mother while the extended family regarded her as being of a distinctly acrimonious disposition. Percy senior (Percy Edwin) their father was a very strict disciplinarian whom Bob seldom spoke of apart from saying that he would thoroughly thrash his sons when he was the worse for drink which appears to have been a little too often. The emotional scar left on Bob was such that he never drank alcohol throughout his whole life, a difficult principle to abide by at times in the Navy. Apparently local authorities were sufficiently disturbed by their  father's treatment of the boys that they removed Bob's elder brother Percy when around the age of 12 from his father's care and placed him into foster care in a programme in Canada from where he returned about the age of 17 (Note 6).

Bob met his wife to be, Dorcas Hall, in Weymouth when his ship was anchored there for some now unknown naval fleet event. Dorcas and her sister Rose were strolling around the sea front admiring the naval ships anchored in the bay. Bob’s son Clive remembers his mother describing it as “the fleet was in”. Dorcas, tall with long dark hair, very attractive in family photos of the time, nicknamed Darkie by her father, was there enjoying herself with her sister Rose. She was “in service” as it was called then as a house-maid to a Naval Commander and his family who lived somewhere nearby. The sisters came from a Dorset family named Hall. The sisters had three brothers Harold, Sidney and William who were like peas-in-a-pod. All worked on the land, all over 6ft tall, thin and wiry almost gangling in posture with long arms and very large hands but all softly spoken, gentle in nature and devoted family men. All three were to grow themselves families, Sidney and his wife Louise outgrew them all by having ten children, thus the extended Hall family was then and still is  quite numerous around the Dorset / Wiltshire border region. Of note was Dorcas's and Rose's maternal grandfather, Fred Dyer, a railway engine driver for the Great Western Railway obviously very good at his job as he would drive the royal train on the occasions they were in the West Country. A photo exists of him standing beside his engine decorated for hauling a royal train. Rose married one Oliver Nelson, also a regular Royal Navy man, a wireless operator who was destined to survive being sunk twice on the same voyage on one of the dreaded World War 2 convoys to Russia, firstly whilst being in an escort ship and secondly in the ship which had rescued him. They settled in Gillingham, like Bob to be near the Naval Dockyard at Chatham and the Barracks. He eventually retired in the rank of Chief Petty Officer and later in retirement became a volunteer for some years at the Museum of the Chatham Historic Dockyard. In fact it was Oliver who found John George's (the Ropemaker) papets and reports in the Chalenger's papers in the Dockyards Library and drew them to the attantion of the family. Oliver was to be followed  by his son Roger. Roger Had taken earrly retirement forced by ill health from his employment with Trinity House as a lighthouse and lightship keeper keeping the sea lanes and coasts safe for seafarers. Alas they have both now crossed the bar and sailed from oir present world.

Bob & Dorcas’s Wedding 30 December 1933
Uniform of Mechanician 2nd Class with 4 years Good Conduct chevron
Photo: Sharplin family archive

Dorcas and Bob married in Mere Parish Church in Wiltshire on 30 Dec 1933 then set up home in Lower Rainham part of Gillingham in Kent where Bob was within cycling distance of the Royal Navy barracks, HMS Pembroke, situated next to the Chatham naval dockyard there. Their son Clive was born in the summer of 1936 followed by their daughter Wendy in the spring of 1943. A third child was lost by a miscarriage; Clive thinks that happened when he was aged about 10.

Dorcas hop picking in Kent
Thought to be 1933
Photo: Sharplin family archive
Both his children remember Bob as being away from home more often than he was there; Clive vividly remembers some aspects of life in England during World War 2 and some of his father’s absences as “very long”. Bob would rarely talk to anyone about his experiences at war, not even with his wife but Clive did learn much later that his father did unburden himself to an Aunt of his known to everyone as just “Aunt Doll (Lowdell)”.

Describing himself as a “matelote” (from Old French meaning a sailor or from Old Norse a messmate) Bob became what in the Navy was called a “big ship man” serving virtually nearly all  of his sea time in cruisers and battleships. His earliest seagoing commission was in the world’s first ship to be purpose designed and built by any Navy as an aircraft carrier, HMS Hermes, in which he spent three years away from home in the Far East Fleet based on Hong Kong. During World War 2 he served in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and European theatres, being present at several of the key Royal Naval battles of that War such as the Malta Convoys, Cape Passero, Matapan, Greece, Crete and D-Day. The post-war years saw him return to the Far East and venturing further to South Africa and Australia.

Like so many of his compatriots at the end of World War 2 he was offered a transfer into the Royal Australian Navy with a move to Sydney but eventually decided against it, a decision which Clive felt that Bob regretted later in life. For many years after being pensioned off from the Navy he worked in the boiler House at the Royal  Marines Barracks and school of Music in Walmer while living in Deal.

Bob in tropical kit. The back of this photo is marked "Bob. 1st commission overseas, HMS Hermes".
Hermes was based with the Far East Fleet based on Hong Kong.
Photo: Sharplin family archive

Bob as Petty Officer, rated Mechanician 1st Class  with at least 8 years service denoted by two
Good Conduct chevrons. He would have worn this uniform upon joining HMS Ajax on 19 March 1940.
Taken at his Lower Rainham home.
Photo: Sharplin family archive
Bob was pensioned out of the Navy in February 1953 age 42 and soon after he and Dorcas together with Wendy moved to a house he bought on the Kentish coast at Deal. Employment over the next 19 years found him in the Boiler House of the Royal Marine School of Music and it’s associated training barracks in nearby Walmer. Clive stayed behind in the Medway towns to enter the Royal Naval Dockyard on a 5-year Admiralty apprenticeship. Sister Wendy left the Deal home within a couple of years by volunteering for service in the Royal Air Force where she spent most of her time on NATO duties in Norway where she met her future husband Ray White ultimately settling in Wiltshire..
 after both leaving the service.

Bob the family man at his Deal (Kent) home with his wife Dorcas, daughter Wendy and son Clive
Standing behind are Bob's Aunt Doll and Uncle Arch (Lowdell)
Date thought to be Christmas 1953
Photo: Sharplin family archive

Bob the father
with his daughter Wendy
At Lower Rainham, probably July 1943
Photo: Sharplin family archive

Bob near retirement at his Deal home with “Spot”
Photo: Sharplin family archive
What social life Bob and Dorcas had in Deal was centred on their membership of the local Toc H Club, an international charity movement which had grown out of the First World War. Bob however was not a very sociable person, he found making friends difficult and tended to exhibit a degree of melancholy which many interpreted as being miserable although the occasional sudden fits of temper that his children had first noticed in their childhood whenever he was home became much more subdued. It was only very much later in Clive's life when he started the research for this website that he came to really understand his father much more than he ever had done when he was alive. Clive came to the  conclusion that it was almost certainly the effect of Bob’s experiences during World War 2 that troubled him, some of which were absolutely horrendous particularly while in the Mediterranean campaigns on the cruiser Ajax. Now recognised in the armed forces as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it wasn’t recognised or even viewed as such back then so for all those years it is now suspected that Bob had almost certainly suffered from this condition together with depression. None of this was diagnosed and consequently there was no medical support as was the lot of so many contemporary members of the armed forces. We do now know (Note 5) that at one point during the Mediterranean campaign that at least 60 Ajax crew members were hospitalised medically unfit for duty with nervous break downs.

Clive had emigrated to Perth in Western Australia in late 1971 with his family and Bob, then fully retired, with Dorcas decided to follow them. Their stay was short however as in 1976 as they couldn't adjust at their time of life to the lifestyle or the harsh climate they moved back to live in the Wiltshire town of Westbury close to Wendy and her family and settled down to a quiet retired life enjoying their grandchildren.

Late in 1978 Bob was diagnosed with cancer and died on June 3rd the following year, just one day before his 68th birthday and one day before the 50th anniversary of his visit to the Royal Navy recruiting office. Dorcas died in October 1992 from complications arising from pneumonia. Their ashes lie in Haycombe Cemetery on the outskirts of the west of England city of Bath in a peaceful memorial garden which always appears to be full of flowers. A plaque honouring their memory can be found on the cemetery's Memorial Wall.

Bob at home in his garden in Westbury, Wiltshire, late spring 1979. The Shields had been presented to him some years before. The Ajax Shield (incorrectly made with the Frigate's badge) displays the nine battle honours won by the Cruiser
Ajax. The right hand Shield displays the Admiralty Badge encased by small plaques bearing the names and dates of the 15 major ships he served in with their names and dates of his service in them, these are now in the care of the family. This photo is believed to be the last taken of him just a few days before his death.
Photo: Sharplin family archive

1. Bob’s father Percy Edwin was a Crane Attendant in the Chatham Naval Dockyard. He volunteered for the Royal Navy under what became known as “The Derby Scheme” in which he promised to accept being called up when required. The Dockyard authorities actually refused his release when he was called up in May 1916 but he was so determined to join up that he discharged himself from their employment abandoning all his pension entitlements etc. After discharge from his Naval service on 24 February 1919 he returned to employment in the Dockyard where he remained until his retirement. The Sharplin family archive holds a copy of a letter written by the commanding officer of Percy’s last ship, the then relatively new “R” Class destroyer HMS “Raider”, to the Admiral Superintendent of the Dockyard requesting that in view of Percy’s volunteering for war service that his full pension rights be restored. Unfortunately no record of the decision has yet been found. The  Family records show that Percy served in HMS Raider between 26 April 1917 and 4 February 1919 when she was fresh from her builders, Swan Hunter.

2. John George Sharplin was born in Bermondsey in 1843,the first of seven children  one of three boys to William (1822-1854)and Charlotte (nee Terry) Sharplin and christened on 29 January 1843 at St James Bermondsey .  George's first marriage ceased upon the death of his wife it is thought of a natural cause. His second marriage was to Louise (Nee Whiting) in December 1880. They went on to have 2 sons and 6 daughters, their second child, Percy Edwin (1883-1948), was Bob's direct ancestor. The 1881 census shows John George as living in Gillingham, Kent where he died in 1902. One of his daughters, Mabel, married a cousin (John Thomas  Sharplin 1884 - 1947 who according to the 1901 census was a Royal Navy Ship's Steward) who was blinded by shell splinters at the Battle of Jutland (31 May 1916), on which ship is still the subject of continued family research.

Now to HMS Challenger. This HMS Challenger was the fifth of the eight Royal Navy vessels to have borne that name and was specially fitted out for this unique voyage.  A wooden hulled warship originally rated as a 22-gun First Class Corvette, this Challenger was of the age betwixt sail and steam having three fully rigged masts with an auxiliary coal fired steam engine driving a single propeller. Built at Woolwich Dockyard, launched on February 13, 1858, of just 2,306 tons (1,462bm), she had a length of 200ft and a 40.5ft beam. In the conversion to a survey ship for this voyage 18 of her guns were removed.

A Dinoflagellate,
a type of deep
ocean plankton.

The Voyage of the Challenger is today considered to have been one of the World's Ten Greatest Natural History expeditions and has been described as "the greatest purely scientific naval voyage" (Ibid - Bibliography "a brief History of British Sea Power" P388) .The voyage was the brainchild of two civilian biologists, Professor Benjamin Carpenter (1815-1815) from the University of London and Charles Wyville Thomson (1830-1882) Professor of Natural History at the University of Edinburgh who had become convinced against the then popular scientific opinion that animal life would be found at all depths of the world's seas. An audacious proposal was put to the Admiralty through the Royal Society and with surprisingly little opposition from an Admiralty known for traditionally being parsimonious but the backing of the Admiralty Hydrographer, Admiral G, H, Richards may have been the persuading influence.

Within 18 months a ship had been selected, Stripped of her main armament and extensively refitted in Chatham Naval Dockyard with purpose built laboratories, civilian accommodation and winches and supplied with tonnes of stores and the latest equipment including the relatively new science of photography.. Included was more than 400 kilometres of rope. The total cost to the British treasury was almost Pnds200,000 (well over Pnds10 million today)

Initially sailing from Chatham, she was recommissioned at Sheerness on May 23, 1872 under captain George Strong Nares RN,  the voyage commenced by leaving Portsmouth on December 21, 1872. with 270 souls aboard comprising 24 officers, 240 ratings and 6 civilian scientists (ibid - Bibliography “The Silent Landscape” P12-13).  Among those were some of the best physicists, chemists, biologists, naturalists, oceanographers and scientific artists of their day to collaborate with the Navy’s expert navigators,  For four and a half years she sailed again and again across the Pacific and Atlantic; all being charged to explore and map the seafloor making zoological, botanical and geological collections while recording the deep-sea soundings and taking samples from the ocean's floors, making meteorological and magnetic observations  and tabulating the chemical contents of the seas.

It was the first ever sea voyage organized specifically to gather data on a wide range of ocean features, including ocean temperatures, seawater chemistry, currents, marine life, and the geology of the seafloor. It changed the course of scientific history, gave birth to modern science of oceanography and is now regarded as the greatest oceanographic mission of all time equal in scientific importance to the eminent discovery voyage of Charles Darwin in HMS Beagle. Quite apart from other Challenger results over 4,000 previously unknown species were discovered and recorded.

HMS Challenger

Over the next 4 ½ years Challenger visited every continent including the Antarctic. Samples of marine life and the sea bed were gathered in specimen bags tied to a towed thick rope which was trawled across the seafloor. John Sharplin as a Ropemaker was a key crew member in maintaining and caring for the ship’s trawled ropes, which were the essential tools for the collection of the specimens and geological samples. .
When putting into the port of Lisbon King Luiz of Portugal paid the vessel a personal visit,

One of HMS Challenger's laboratories

The extreme climatic conditions experienced by HMS Challenger’s crew ranged from sweltering
tropical heat to the freezing Antarctic plus with so many people confined in such a relatively small ship made even more difficult with spaces dedicated for laboratories and research facilities life aboard must have been extraordinarily daunting.  This working environment combined with the sheer drudgery of constantly lowering and hauling ropes to and from the sea bed at such extreme depths, when as Ropemaker John Sharplin would have been heavily involved, together with taking the depth soundings saw 61 of the ship’s crew desert at her various points of call. These desertions plus 7 who died, combined with 26 invalided out or put ashore sick at various ports and 7 landed in the Antarctic on an expedition made the crew seriously short handed and created much more work for those who remained. Included in the death toll was one of the scientists from a bacterial infection.
                                         Major statistics  of the Survey were (copied from the Ship's log) :
                                                        Days at sea: 724
                                                        Days in port: 564
                                                        Quantity of Coal used: 4,818 tons 17 cwts
                                                        Successful soundings taken; (deep sea) 374
                                                        Successful dredging's: 111
                                                        Unsuccessful trawling's: 129
                                                        Grand total of miles covered during survey:68,890

A Dinoflagellate,
a type of deep
ocean plankton
One of Challenger’s discoveries was the Marianas Trench in the Western Pacific, where the seafloor is almost seven miles deep. The deepest part of the world’s oceans, named the “Challenger Deep” at the foot of the Marianas Trench was explored 138 years later by a National Geographic expedition on March 27, 2012, led by James Cameron who eplored the depths in a specially designed submersible named “Deepsea Challenger” at position 11d 31' 67" N, 14d 25' 00"E.  The depth at that point was found to be 35,787ft with the seabed there being described as barren, “a very soft almost gelatinous flat plain ...the bottom was completely featureless ....very lunar like”. The sediment on the ocean floor at these depths was found to be over 200 million years old. Over several dives 68 new species were discovered. 

Another discovery by HMS Challenger is now known as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, an undersea mountain range which stands at 25,453 ft tall compared to Mount Everest which is 29,035 ft.
Another first  to her credit was that she was the first machinery powered vessel to enter the Antarctic. In dreadging the the ocean bottom in the antartic waters her crew discoverered continental rocks deposited by icebergs  proving beyond a shadow of doubt that Atarctica was a continent.  

Challenger's voyage lasted 4 ½ years finally arriving back in England at Spithead on May 24, 1876, from where she proceeded to Sheerness to pay off on 12 June 1876 . The expedition’s ensuing report took 20 years to write covered 50 volumes in a total of 29,552 pages; a copy now resides in the Bodleian library of the University of Oxford. The task was so large that the final two volumes appeared in 1895, 19 years after the end of the expedition. Other copies are held in the libraries of many learned institutions and research facilities around the world. All of the specimens found during the expedition are now housed in the Natural History Museum in London.
A Deep Sea Sponge

This voyage is today considered as being the NASA Apollo space mission of its day. NASA is on record that it “named its first space shuttle orbiter and the Apollo 17 lunar module after the British Naval research vessel HMS Challenger that sailed the Atlantic and Pacific oceans during the 1870s. Like its historic predecessor, (NASA’s) Challenger and her crews made significant scientific contributions to the spirit of exploration”.

John Sharplin is recorded as having completed the voyage and went on to serve almost a further five years in the Royal Navy finally retiring on May 13, 1881. Having completed an unblemished 16 years service he earned the Royal Navy’s coveted Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.

Of particular personal interest to Bob's son Clive is that between late March and April 1874 Challenger conducted her research off Melbourne, Australia, in Port Phillip Bay; just short of one hundred years before Clive together with his wife Carol and children Nik and Joanne in 1978 moved back to Australia from England to settle in Melbourne. The family had previously lived in Perth, Western Australia.

As to the ship she was recommissioned on 26 June 1876 just two weeks after her arrival at Sheerness to become temporary guard ship of the 1st Reserve at Harwich until 26 April 1878 when she paid off. Two years later she was stripped down to a hulk and designated as a training ship then made a receiving ship followed in 1910 by being converted to an accommodation ship at Chatham. Finally she was sold on January 6, 1921, to J.B. Garnham at which point "British Warships in the Age of Sail 1817 - 1863 Page 193" records her as being broken up, whereas Colledge and Warlow in "Ships of the Royal Navy, Page 73" has no record after her sale. Either way it was the closure of one of history's most glorious maritime scientific expeditions by a ship which in various roles had given the Royal Navy some sixty years of service, had created the science of oceanography, given her name to a modern deep sea exploration vessel and over a century later to a NASA space shuttle and a lunar exploration craft and Bob's ancestor John Sharplin "The Ropemaker" had been there in the centre of it all..

There have since been a further three ships of this name, the second of which was also a Survey vessel of 1,140 tons built at Chatham Dockyard , launched 1931, ultimately broken up by Dover Industries 1954. The most recent was a diving vessel of 6,400 tons also built at Chatham Dockyard 1981, paid off 1990, sold to Sub Sea Offshore 1993 then sold to Italian Owners 1998 after a period of some 4 years laid up on the Tyne.    

Contemporary newspaper Reports.

The following text is from an article published in the Melbourne newspaper The Argus of 18th March 1874 on page 5.


H M S Challenger which arrived in port (Melbourne) yesterday is the same vessel which did duty on the Australian station some years ago as the commodore's flagship. Since leaving these waters she has been re-commissioned, and her cruise on the present occasion is of an entirely peaceful character. Her Armstrong’s and rifled guns and other implements of war have disappeared, and are replaced by a formidable array of instruments devoted entirely to the furtherance of science, while all round the ship there are apartments fitted up for naturalists, chemists, photographists, and others, of whom the navy list makes no mention. The Challenger, it will be recollected, in command of Captain G. S. Nares, left England on a voyage of scientific discovery and for deep sea exploration purposes in 1872. She was fitted out with all the best means and appliances for the accomplishment of these, and the direction of the scientific portion of the expedition was entrusted to Professor Wyville Thompson, who had associated with him Mr James Wild as artist and secretary; Messrs Henry N Moseley, John Murray, and Dr R Von W. Suhm, naturalists; and Mr John Young Buchanan, as chemist and physicist. These gentlemen were selected for the expedition from their attainments in the departments assigned them, and  so far as the expedition has progressed, they appear to have been indefatigable and painstaking in their research

During the time she has been afloat on this cruise, the Challenger has thrice crossed the Atlantic, and has touched it numerous places to make observations. She left Ballia for the Cape of Good Hope on September 25, 1873, and arrived on October 28 remaining there until December 17, when she sailed for Kerguelen Island, where three weeks were occupied in a careful examination of the island for the purpose of selecting a suitable site for an observatory station for the Transit of Venus expedition. It was during this period that the Challenger left a box at Clni8tmas Harbour, intended for the members of the astronomical expedition and which box was seen there by the German frigate Arcona which armed here on Sunday The various creeks and harbours round the island were surveyed, and an elaborate chart  of the position of the island and its surroundings is now being prepared on board the Challenger Nearly the whole of the  names of the ship’s company have been used up in naming the various points, bays, creeks, prominences , of the islands in chart will be a valuable acquisition to navigators . The island is covered with a species of vegetation called Kerguelen cabbage and this plant is eaten by the wild ducks winch abound there in thousands and are said to be remarkably good eating. Specimens of the plant are on board and will be left here for the inspection of Baron von Mueller. The Challenger also went to Heard or MacDonald Island, and crossed the Antarctic Circle on February 16. Search was also made for Wilkes' Termination Land but without success, for when within 15 miles of its assigned position the ships progress was stopped by pack ice and Captain Nares then shaped a course for Port Phillip The instruments and appliances on board used in prosecuting the various re searches and recording them would form quite an inventory and the specimens of animate and inanimate nature fished up from the dark but not unfathomed caves of ocean would stock a museum. Trawling was carried on, and fish got at a depth of S 875 fathoms A general peculiarity of the fish found at great depths was that they were black, and their eyes projecting or starting out of their head Seen through the microscope some of the specimens of the marine animalcule  brought up on the sounding line are wondrously quaint and beautiful.  The Admiralty wonn, so named from the display of well-defined representations of anchors on its alan, is one of these rich Manilla glass rope sponges has also a singular appearance when viewed through the magnifying lens On board there is also a large and very fine collection of photographs of all the places and objects of interest which have been come across during the cruise The Challenger will remain here until Saturday, the 28th inst, and will then proceed to Sydney, between which port and New Zealand she will strike  a line for scientific observation. Several of the officers on board have (previously) been on the Australian station in one or other of her Majesty’ s  vessels

Similar such articles were published in other Australian and New Zealand newspapers of the time, each understandably leaning to local connections,  among them being:
(a).      The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide), 24th march 1874, Page 3
{b}.      New Zealand: Bruce  Herald, 19th May 1874. Vol V I, Issue #598.

3. Rose (nee Peachy) was actually a cousin to Eliza. 

4. References:
5. Royal Navy Museum and Archive, Portsmouth: Chronicles of Edward Walter Kennard, edited by   Charles Brickell (1948), 100.  Kennard wrote an account of his time on Ajax as a gunnery officer during the Crete campaign in a series of personal Diaries compiled and edited by Brickell. This entry was written by Kennard on June 1st 1941.    

6. Reference Roger Sharplin, family records. Adelaide, South Australia, one of Percy's fours sons,