From the London Times, 22 Jul 1863, page 7 [regarding Edward Charles Tinling (1842-63)].
THE DEATH OF LIEUTENANT TINLING.
Colonel SYKES rose to call attention to the despatch of Admiral Kuper, of the 14th of April, 1863, reporting the death of Lieutenant Tinling, of Her Majesty’s ship Encounter, at the siege of Showshing. His first object was to elicit from the noble lord the Secretary of the Admiralty an admission that he had been incorrect in saying upon a former occasion that Lieutenant Tinling had lost his life through his own indiscretion, and when acting as an amateur. In consequence of that statement he (Colonel Sykes) received a letter from Sir A. Elton, uncle to this young and promising officer that he lost his life through his own indiscretion, when, in fact, he lost it while performing his duty under the orders of his superior officers. He had also received a letter from the young man’s father to the same effect. In the first communication of the misfortune to Admiral Kuper it was not stated that the young man was killed 30 miles beyond the limit assigned within which they might act. Captain Dew, of the Encounter, said that he had given the strictest orders to his officers not to act against the Taepings beyond the 30 miles radius, but he was present to prevent any false step being taken. Captain Dew stated that Acting-Lieutenant Tinling accompanied him to the front, whither he went to watch the proceedings and to prevent any false step being taken by the disciplined Chinese force which might have imperiled Ningpo. He had received a letter from a missionary the Rev. Mr. Maule, who attended the deathbed of Lieutenant Tinling, in which he stated the young officer was directing a large 68-pounder for breaching the walls when he was struck, and further, that he went up with Captain Dew in charge of a heavy siege gun. That gun had been sent from Shanghai by General Staveley against the orders of Government. Captain Dew wrote to the editor of a Shanghai paper, informing him that the city of Showshing had been evacuated by the rebels, and that among the guns used by the attacking force was this very 8-inch howitzer. Surely, there could be no doubt that Lieutenant Tinling was acting under orders. The poor father had written to the Admiralty complaining of the noble lord’s statement, that his son was at Showshing as an amateur, and affirming that he was acting under the instructions of his captain. To this appeal a reply was received that all the information possessed by the Admiralty had been presented to the House of Commons in the form of a return; that, according to the despatches, it appeared uncertain whether Lieutenant Tinling was employed on duty or was simply a spectator, and that, therefore, it was impossible that the Secretary to the Admiralty could make any further statement in Parliament at the present; but that if it appeared that Lieutenant Tinling was on duty at the time he was wounded the noble lord would be happy to make the fact known to the House. This was the only satisfaction which the father had received for the imputation that the son had sacrifi[c]ed his life by his own indiscretion. He (Colonel Sykes) hoped, however, that the noble lord would not delay to give Mr. Tinling the only comfort he could now receive by declaring, as the fact evidently was, that Lieutenant Tinling had fallen while acting under the orders of his captain, and while, therefore, in the discharge of his duty. It was notorious in China that Captain Dew acted as a partizan throughout the whole of these hostilities between the rebels and the Imperial Government. The Shanghai papers stated that after the failures of the two attacks on Showshing he was the means of collecting a party of rowdies, from all nations, and of Europeans, from different ships for a third attack, on the place, promising them unlimited plunder. The place was evacuated, so that there was very little plunder, and the consequence was that these worthies dispersed themselves and plundered the country. He now appealed to the noble lord to assist him in rescuing the imputation of this young man from the stigma cast upon him, and moved for any further papers which had been received on this subject.
Lord C. PAGET said he felt extremely grieved if any expression of his had given pain to a family whom he knew by reputation, with regard to a youth whom he had had the happiness of knowing, and who was known to have been a most gallant and meritorious officer. But the House had unintentionally been rather misled as to the expression used by him which had given pain to this worthy family. He had told the hon. and gallant gentleman privately that the Admiralty had no official information whatever about the death of this officer, but said he had seen a letter from Captain Dew the expressions in which led him to believe that the officers were present at Showshing as amateurs. The hon. and gallant gentleman then requested that he would answer a question in the House on the subject. The House had now been led to believe that he answered that question after having received the official notification of the death of Lieutenant Tinling. [Colonel Sykes.—I did not say that.] In answer to the question put by the hon. and gallant gentleman in the House he stated that the Admiralty had received no official intelligence as to the death of Lieutenant Tinling, but he referred to a private letter from Captain Dew, who stated that Lieutenant Tinling and he had accompanied certain French officers to the siege as amateurs. That was the expression which gave offence to this estimable family, and he was extremely sorry if the expression had given them pain. But he must leave the House to judge for itself as to whether Captain Dew and Lieutenant Tinling were on duty. The first official information which reached the Admiralty as to the death of Lieutenant Tinling was in a short letter from Captain Dew containing the announcement. A few days afterwards they received the following letter:--
“When Captain Dew reported to me the death of Acting-Lieutenant Tinling of the Encounter, from the effects of a wound received under the walls of Showshing, I considered it my duty to inquire under what circumstances the deceased officer had been engaged in hostile operations at that place, situated some 80 or 90 miles from the city of Ningpo. The accompanying copy of Captain Dew’s reply, although it states that the officers had the strictest orders not to set against the Taepings, shows that he and his officers were present to prevent any false step being taken by the disciplined force; thus, as it would appear, taking a part in hostilities beyond the prescribed limits of 30 miles, and I have informed Captain Dew that in so doing I consider he exceeded his instructions.—I have, &c., A.L. Kuper, Rear-Admiral and Commander-in-Chief.”
Captain Dew addressed the following letter, dated April 13, to Admiral Kuper:--
“Sir, --In reply to your memorandum of the 28th ult., calling on me to report under what circumstances the late Acting Lieutenant Tinling, of this ship, was engaged in hostile operations at Showshing, I have to state that Acting Lieutenant Tinling had accompanied me to the front, whither I had gone to watch the proceedings, and prevent, if possible, any false step being taken by the Chinese disciplined force, which would have at once imperiled Ningpo. Though both Acting Lieutenant Tinling and the other officers with me had the strictest orders not to act against the Taepings, or run any risk by exposing themselves, still I hold myself responsible for the sad fate of this young and promising officer.”
In the face of that letter, would he, as the official representative of the Admiralty, have been justified, at a time when the authorities were doing everything to discourage these desultory attacks in China, and when positive orders were given to the officers not even to go the extent of the 30 miles radius, unless in a case of emergency and for the safety of British life, in stating to the House that Lieutenant Tinling died in the service of the country? He had not the slightest doubt that the poor young man died, feeling that he was doing his duty, for Lieutenant Tinling was an officer who, though perhaps imprudent, would yet in the exercise of what he considered his public duty, be at his post wherever it might be; but he confessed that, in the face of Captain Dew’s statement, he was not prepared to do what the hon. and gallant member wished, and state to the House that he had been wrong in his conjecture, and that this young officer did die in the execution of his duty. He regretted that the expression he used to the effect that this officer was an amateur at the scene of operations had given any pain to his family; but, however much the Board of Admiralty felt the loss of a young and meritorious officer, he could not under present circumstances admit that the death occurred in the service of the country; but if he should receive further information showing that he was mistaken he should then have great pleasure in apologizing. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. WHITE said that, though they were told that peremptory instructions were sent out to China that no one in Her Majesty’s service should take part in hostilities against the Taepings beyond the radius of 30 miles, yet it appeared that a British officer in command of a vessel proceeded, accompanied by his subordinate officers, to the siege of a city invested by the Imperialists some 100 miles away from Ningpo; and in the prosecution of hostilities a gallant young officer met with an untimely end. His friends were told that he fell performing an amateur part, whereas from information, if not known to the Admiralty, known to everybody connected with China, it was evident that that young officer and others accompanied their chief with pieces of artillery, one of which a 32-pounder, was taken. (Hear, hear.) Nevertheless, the noble lord would not afford to the young officer’s friends the satisfaction of telling them that the gallant young man died in the execution of his duty. No conduct could be more barren of sympathy, or more called for severe observation. (Hear, hear.) In spite of instructions from England, a British officer in command of a vessel was found engaged in hostilities beyond the 30 miles radius, and he must observe that it was conduct like this which involved the country in Chinese wars. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. BAILLIE said that it was perfectly obvious that Captain Dew was not acting in accordance with his instructions, but the case appeared different with regard to Lieutenant Tinling. (Hear, hear.) Captain Dew distinctly stated in his letter that he was responsible for the death of that young man, and therefore it was clear that Lieutenant Tinling was acting under the orders of his commander. (Hear.)
The motion was then withdrawn.