Hugh Horatio Knocker RN (1829-1869)

The Last Illness and Death of Commander Knocker,

                                                according to the Diary of John George Cox (1839-1875).

Cox was a Royal Navy engineer and started a diary on 16 December 1868 when he joined HMS Fly in Hamoaze, the Naval Docks area of the Tamar at Devonport where his parents lived.

On January 19 1869, HMS Fly steamed out of Plymouth Sound heading for West Africa.

Diary Entries

Jan 30: Thank God we have a Captain who thoroughly understands his profession and is never out of his place when required.

March 15:  I am very sorry to say our Captain was taken with a fainting fit. He fell on the deck and in falling severely cut his left eyelid. He lay insensible for nearly half an hour and after recovering was taken with a severe attack of ague. I am very much afraid he will not be able to stand the climate of the West Coast of Africa. He has served for nine years on the West India station. He is very unwell but I hope soon to see him recovered.

March 16:The Captain still continues unwell. He has a very good spirit and I hope he will soon recover.

May 14: The Captain very unwell but better than he has been for several days.

May 16: Sunday. The Captain did not go over the ship; he appeared by far too ill. He is a great sufferer and deserves all pity for the sad complaint he is afflicted with. I believe it is a cancer in the stomach.

May 24:The Captain was too unwell to accompany us, having been suffering great pain from a decayed tooth. I heard him groaning several times during the night.

June 19: The Captain has also been down with it, being taken four days after myself. He was removed to the “Vindictive” this morning. Very ill indeed with rheumatics and fever.

June 26: I am sorry to say that the poor old Captain does not improve very fast. There appears to be little improvement since he came on board.

June 27: I was astonished on going on deck this afternoon and enquiring for the Captain from Mr Haines to hear he was dying. The shock was so great to me that I nearly fainted…As soon as I recovered I went into the cabin where the dear old gentleman was laying, and I immediately saw it was but too true… For years he had been a great sufferer from the effects of long service in the West Indies, and a severe cold caught during his service as Inspecting Officer of the Coast Guards. For days I have seen him continually sick, vomiting dreadfully for hours together. He really should have been invalided from Sierra Leone. But to speak to him of invaliding was enough to put him in a bad temper for a week. Well, considering he had a wife and six young children – one only four months old, which he never saw – one cannot wonder at his strong desire to serve, so as to be able to support them better. For 8/6 per diem is but a small allowance to rear children, and keep up an appearance as a Commander of the Royal Navy…

The whole of the officers came on board the “Vindictive” returning to the “Fly” at five thirty for dinner. A little before six p.m. Mr Haines made a signal for them to return. At ten minutes after seven this evening our beloved Captain quietly slipped away without a murmur or a groan… So passed from among us one of the best officers it has been my good fortune to serve under…The whole of our men grieved for him as they would have for a brother…

June 28: The funeral of our late lamented Captain is to take place today. He is to be buried on shore at a place called Quita, about three miles from Jellah Coffee. It is a German mission station and consecrated ground.

Just and upright in all his dealings, he was a man who feared and honoured his God. Nearly his last words to me were: “Without God we cannot live. Without God we dare not die.” With the consent of Mrs Knocker we shall erect a stone to his memory. It will be a sad, sad blow to her, poor woman, with so many children to bring up. We shall endeavour to obtain the full pension for her, which is a hundred and twenty pounds per annum.

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Cox and the JuJu Coast: more on the diary of John George Cox