Obituary in Western Morning News 27 November 1912

Death of Capt H Rogers
Career of a Crimean Veteran

Plymouth in general, and Mannamead in particular, will lament the passing of one of the oldest and most sterling characters in the borough - Captain Henry Rogers R.N., whose life of nearly 88 years had been marked by many stirring incidents and constant effort for the moral and spiritual welfare of those among whom he lived. About a fortnight ago he was taken seriously ill. Since then he had been confined to his bed, and, despite the skill of Dr Colin E Lindsey and careful nursing, the end came at half-past two yesterday afternoon. He maintained his mental powers to a remarkable degree until a few hours of his death. He could read his newspaper without the aid of glasses, and his hearing was almost as good as his sight. Consciousness did not leave him until the very end was near.


Captain Rogers' father, Rev John Rogers, although a Plymothian by birth, was the representative of a family whose connection with Cornwall dates from 1688. Born in 1788, he by his wife, Mary Jope, daughter of Rev John Jope, vicar of St Cleer, Cornwall, had five sons, all of whom attained to distinction. The eldest was John Jope Rogers, MP for Helston 1859-64, a chairman of the old Cornwall Quarter Sessions, and president of the Royal Institution of Cornwall. The other sons were William Rogers, who succeeded his father as rector of Mawnam, near Falmouth, in 1842; Reginald Rogers, who practised as a solicitor in Truro and Falmouth; Saltren Rogers, the saintly vicar of Gwennap, canon of Truro Cathedral, and president of the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic society, 1880; and Henry Rogers, the youngest, whose death is now mourned. Having been born at Mawnam Rectory on Christmas-eve 1824, he had nearly completed his eighty-eighth year. His father, who was the eldest son of Mr J Rogers MP, held the rectory of Mawnam from 1807 until his resignation in 1838, six years afterwards succeeding to the beautiful estate of Penrose, on the banks of the Loe Pool, near Helston. From 1820, until his death in 1856, he was a canon-residentiary of Exeter, and one of the promoters of the man-engine at Tresavean mine, the first ever erected in Cornwall. A voluminous writer, and a considerable controversialist, his subjects related largely to the Prayer-book, the Catechism, and the revision of the Holy Scriptures; but he also contributed papers of geological and antiquarian matters, including accounts of two stones discovered on Castel-an-dinas, a Roman tablet at St Hilary, and a Norman font at Sithney. In 1852, he published a letter in favour of the establishment of a central school of mines.

Mrs Rogers, soon after the birth of her youngest child, Henry, fell ill, and she proceeded with her husband and baby to Pisa, in Italy. There she died on March 11th 1829, and was buried at Leghorn. When seven years of age, Capt Rogers and his elder brother went to school at Chudleigh, later proceeding to Blundell's, Tiverton. The late Captain Rogers was twice married. His first wife was Miss Jane Mary Enys, the eldest daughter of Mr John Samuel Enys, of Enys, near Penryn, the wedding taking place at St Gluvias Church on August 28th 1860. Mrs Rogers, whose brother, John Davies Enys, died a few weeks ago, was born in 1835, died in 1874, leaving 8 children - the Rev Enys Henry Rogers, vicar of Herodsfoot 1900-2, and since then of St Stephens, Brighton; Charles Gilbert Rogers, of the Indian Woods and Forest Service, conservator in Burmah; Ernest Rogers of Cheltenham, retired from the Indian Civil Service; Claude Somerset Rogers, of the Woods and Forests Department, Trinidad; Surgeon-Major Leonard Rogers of the Indian Medical Service, the author of an important work on tropical diseases and their remedies, based largely upon his own researches; the Rev Kenneth St Aubyn Rogers, a missionary in British East Africa under Bishop Peel; John Davies Rogers commander R.N. retired, and lay reader of Emmanuel Church; and Miss Catherine Mary Rogers, who lived at home with her father. In 1876 Captain Rogers married Miss Shortland, a daughter of Dr Shortland, by whom he had six children - Hester Marian, the wife of Mr C.W. Buxton of the Bank of England, Plymouth; the Misses Charlotte and Dorothy Eugenia Rogers; Lieut Edward Rogers, R.E.; and Messrs Frederick William and Henry Peverell Rogers. Mrs Rogers died in 1899.

War Services

On November 26th 1841, at the age of 17, Capt Rogers entered the Royal Navy and in the following year took part in the opium war in China. He was present at the bombardment and capture of Woosung and at the surrender of Shanghai, events which resulted in both places becoming ports of the first magnitude. For these services he received the China medal. On December 20 1849, he was advanced to the rank of mate (corresponding to sub-lieutenant of today), and on May 21st 1852 he was promoted lieutenant. In that rank he served in the war with Russia, first in the Black Sea and then in the Baltic. He was present at the bombardment of Odessa, 1854; for a time served in the trenches before Sebastopol, and was present at the desperate soldiers' battle of Inkerman. In the following year he took part in the bombardment of Sveaborg by the allied squadrons, and was awarded the Baltic, Crimean and Turkish medals, with clasps for Sebastopol and Inkerman. On June 3rd 1865, he was promoted to commander. A few months later an accident which befell him cut short a most promising career. Whilst in his ship a heavy chain cable fell upon him, incapacitating him so seriously that he was invalided out of the service. On June 3rd 1880, he was advanced to the rank of captain on the retired list on completing fifteen years in his former rank of commander.

Suppressing the slave trade

From 1843 to 1850 he was engaged in the suppression of the slave trade on the east and west coasts of Africa. The trade, carried on by men from Brazil, Spain and Portugal, was characterized by great cruelty. Captain Rogers heard of one case where the vessels which were to have shipped slaves having been captured, the 3,000 negroes who had been brought down for shipment were all starved to death. At great risk he once visited the slave depot in Ambriz, sixty miles south of the Congo river, whence some 12,000 slaves were embarked every year, about one thousand of whom were captured by the British. When serving in the Pluto, a keen cruiser, who captured six slave ships while on the west coast, he had an exciting experience. Commander Hillyar, in the Cyclops, arrived with the news that a suspicious vessel was in Ambriz. The Pluto (Lieutenant-commander Joliffe), anchoring with the kedge out of sight of land, sent to Kroomen in a canoe to report. They saw slaves being shipped in the brigantine Caesar, of 190 tons, which was to have carried 800 negroes. But when the Cyclops was seen to have steamed away to the south, 440 slaves were hurriedly got aboard, and the brigantine set sail early in the morning. The Pluto, estimating how far the light wind would take her, steamed to that position, and on a fog clearing, was close to her, and the capture was easily effected. Capt Rogers was sent on board of her with a quartermaster, four seamen and Royal Marines, to take her to St Helena. The voyage occupied 21 days during which time as many slaves died. All the slaves, men, women, boys and girls were found tightly packed in the hold under the hatches. The first thing Capt Rogers did was to accommodate the females and children on the after-deck, while the men slept on firewood in the hold, coming up for air and exercises. At six o'clock each morning the male slaves were assembled on deck and washed down with buckets of sea water thrown over them, while they clapped their hands and sang a monotonous song to warm themselves. But for the Pluto's interference, the Brazilian captain of the Caesar would have netted 4,000 dollars. The laws of Brazil against the importation of slaves, although very severe, were a dead letter. One man at Rio de Janeiro sent monthly two vessels to the coast for slaves, and when his cargoes arrived, he divided among the men composing the Brazilian Government between 40 and 50 slaves.

By the time the Caesar was nearing St Helena, she had run short of water. Capt Rogers was the first to sight land. He was never so happy in the whole course of his life. "I jumped on the poop and danced on it", he stated, "and led off with three cheers for the land. I had the slaves on deck for an hour and had a right good song. The tears that the slaves had shed during the last few days were dried up and they appeared nearly as happy as I was." By his kindness and firmness, he had won the affection of the poor negroes. Only once had he to inflict punishment; a big slave who tried to throttle a small one was given "two dozen, inflicted with a rope's end, pretty severely." When he landed the slaves at the depot, many were very sorry to go, and shed tears plentifully. One wanted to stay with him, but that was impossible, as the slaves' freedom was but nominal. They were sent to the British Indian Islands and apprenticed to planters, who undertook to fit them for freedom at the end of their indentures.

In 1845 Capt Rogers was in the brig Mutine when she captured the Brazilian barque Princesa off the mouth of the Quillimane river, on the east coast of Africa. When sighted she crossed the bar and anchored inside. The Mutine followed in, anchoring close to her to prevent her escaping during the night. The waters being held by the Portuguese, Capt Crawford, of the Mutine, sent an officer in the pinnacle up to Quillimane, about forty miles inland. When the captain of the Princesa saw the pinnacle returning he weighed anchor at high tide and re-crossed the bar. By the time the pinnacle reached the Mutine and she was got under sail the tide had fallen so much that the brig struck on the bar. Eleven of her twelve 24-pounder guns, shot and shell, and her spare spars were thrown overboard, and after bumping so heavily that her crew were shaken off their legs, the brig scraped over the bar. With a fair wind and stern sails set both sides she sailed like a witch. The barque was soon overtaken and captured. An Arab dhow, bringing 240 slaves for the Princesa, was also taken, and her slaves proved useful in keeping the brig afloat, for her timbers were so strained by the stranding that she was making 16 inches of water an hour. The black cook of the dhow, on being taken into British pay, gave such useful information that the Mutine secures ten prizes in as many months, and Capt Rogers prize money as a midshipman amounted to 75, the British Government giving 5 for each slave liberated. Another valuable prize was lost through lack of judgement. It was known that an Arab dhow was bringing slaves for the Princesa to Bozanna Bay, Madagascar. The Mutine anchored deep in the harbour, leaving the Princesa near the entrance, and stationing an armed cutter behind some rocks near by. The cutter's crew showed themselves too soon, and the dhow, hoisting her green lateen sail, made off. She dropped slaves overboard one at a time, hoping the boat would stop to pick them up, but although that was not done she easily outsailed the Mutine's cutter and got clean away.

Work as a Churchman

Upon leaving the navy in 1865, Captain Rogers settled down with his family at Hartley House, Mannamead, and it has been his home ever since. The making of his home in the pleasant Plymouth suburb was fraught with great advantage to it. About that time the establishment of a district church for the convenience of those who had taken up their residence there was mooted. The nearest churches to Mannamead in those days were Charles in Plymouth and Pennycross in the country to the north-west. Captain Rogers entered into the matter with characteristic spirit and thoroughness as became the son of a canon of Exeter. He was one of the most ardent supporters of the scheme at the first public meeting at which the church was decided upon. In a large measure owing to his generous gifts, great personal service, and inspiring enthusiasm the beautiful church advanced by stage to stage to its present proportions. Directly one section was finished, he advocated the commencement of the next, and one of the fondest wishes of his last years was to see the design completed by the raising of a spire on the tower. The laying-out and planting of the grounds around the church was done under his supervision. He made good bargains for the soil, solicited gifts of trees and shrubs, assisted at their planting, and kept a record of the number of hours spent on the work. For very many years he was the vicar's warden, only relinquishing the office when the infirmities of old age crept upon him. He was also a great upholder of the Rev G.B. Berry, who recently resigned the living, in his strenuous efforts to maintain the church schools at Compton, and subscribed generously to the fund for carrying out improvements the Education Board insisted upon. In the Mission Church at Mutley, out of which has grown the district of St Gabriel, he took a deep interest. The Bishop of Exeter's Three Towns Church Extension scheme he heartily approved and generously assisted. On many occasions his house and grounds were thrown open for the promotion of Church and charitable causes.