David Beatty, 1st Earl Beatty

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David Beatty, 1st Earl Beatty : biography

17 January 1871 – 11 March 1936

Katrine had fair hair and blue eyes, soft wide lips, and overall an air of command. Beatty’s father was tall, dark haired with big hands and feet. Both David and his elder brother Charles were short, about with small hands and feet. Charles was fair haired taking after his mother’s features, whereas David had more the look of his father. After the affair between David Longfield and Katrine became known, David Longfield’s father (Beatty’s grandfather), David Vandeleur Beatty (1815–1881), arranged for his son to be posted to India in the hope that the scandalous relationship might end. David Longfield resigned from the regiment on 21 November 1865, with the honorary rank of Captain. He took up residence with Katrine in Cheshire and in 1869 sold his commission.Beatty (1980), p.4-5 David Longfield was unable to marry Katrine until Katrine had obtained a divorce on 21 February 1871, after the birth of their first two sons. Beatty’s birth certificate recorded his mother’s surname as Beatty, and his parents’ eventual marriage at St Michael’s Church in Liverpool was kept secret.Beatty (1980), p.1-3

Beatty’s early education concentrated on horsemanship, hunting and learning to be a gentleman. Beatty had a close relationship with his elder brother Charles, who became his ally against their oppressive and overbearing father. They remained close throughout life, so much so that the only time Beatty felt despair was at his brother’s death. Beatty later wrote to his wife about Charles, we lived together, played together, rode together, fought together.Beatty (1980), p. 20 citing letter to Beatty’s wife His brothers would later join the British Army, but early on young David developed an interest in ships and the sea and expressed a desire to join the Royal Navy. In 1881 Beatty’s grandfather died and David Longfield succeeded to the 18th century mansion, ‘Borodale’, outside Enniscorthy, in County Wexford. After retiring from the army David Longfield established a business training horses first in Cheshire and then at ‘The Mount’, near Rugby. On inheriting and following the death of his wife at ‘The Mount’, David Longfield returned to Ireland abandoning the training business.Beatty (1980), p.31

In 1882 Beatty entered Burney’s Naval Academy at Gosport, which was a ‘crammer’ for boys wishing to take the entrance examinations for the Royal Navy.Beatty (1980), p.11

Boxer Rebellion

Beatty was appointed executive officer of the small battleship HMS Barfleur, flagship of the China Station, on 20 April 1899. The first year of his tour of duty was uneventful, but unrest against foreigners was growing in China. The Boxer movement was a secret Chinese peasant society committed to resisting oppression both from foreigners and from the Chinese government. The Empress Dowager Tzu-his partly encouraged the Boxer’s opposition to foreigners in an attempt to turn their attention away from herself. The name was derived from ritual exercises supposed to make their users immune to bullets, which resembled boxing.Roskill, p. 30

In the summer of 1900 the rebellion reached Peking, where the German legation was attacked and foreign nationals withdrew to the relative safety of the Legation Quarter. Government troops joined forces with the rebels and the railway to the Treaty Port of Tientsin was interrupted. Admiral Sir Edward Seymour, then the Commander-in-Chief of the China Station, sent reinforcements to Peking, but they were insufficient to defend the Legation. An attempt was therefore made to send more troops from Tientsin, where British ships had been joined by French, German, Russian, Austrian, Italian and Japanese. The international naval brigade force of naval marines placed itself under the senior officer present, which was Seymour. After an urgent call for help from the Legation, Seymour set out on 10 June 1900 with 2,000 troops to attempt to break through to Peking. The force got about half way before abandoning the attempt because the railway line had been torn up. By now rebels had begun destroying the track behind the force, cutting it off from Tientsin.Roskill, p. 31-32