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Rear-Admiral Bedford Pim (1826-1886)
1887 Obituary 
REAR-ADMIRAL BEDFORD PIM, the son of Commander Pim, a distinguished naval officer, was born in Devonshire in 1826.
He entered the Navy in 1842, and in 1846 was appointed to H.M.S. "Herald," then detailed for a scientific voyage round the world. With the purpose of making astronomical observations, and collecting objects of natural history, Mr. Pim made, in the following year, in company with Mr. Seemann, the naturalist, a journey across the Cordilleras of the Andes.
About this time the public began to feel uneasy respecting the fate of Sir John Franklin, who left England in 1845 on a voyage of discovery to the Polar regions ; and, among other measures, orders were transmitted to the commanding officer of H.M.S. “Herald ” to sail up Behring’s Straits, and ascertain if any traces could be found of the missing ships. In Behring’s Straits Mr. Pim volunteered to remain during the winter of 1848-49 on board H.M.S. “Plover,” and took advantage of the opportunity to make himself acquainted with the language and habits of the Esquimaux. He remained amongst them many months, and, ever keeping in mind the service in which he was engaged, was delighted to learn from them that guns of a different manufacture from those ordinarily supplied by the Russians had been seen in the hands of the Indians of the interior. To test the truth of this information, Mr. Pim obtained leave to attempt a searching journey, and, starting at an unprecedentedly early period, the 10th of March, accompanied only by an Indian half-caste, and scantily supplied with provisions and arms, he commenced his perilous expedition. For many days the adventurous traveller struggled over the frozen solitudes, being at one time three days with scarcely a morsel of food. The strength of the Indian at length gave way under the terrible privations, and Mr. Pim was compelled to push on alone, by great exertion obtaining assistance and rescuing the Indian. He also ascertained that the guns in question were not of Russian manufacture, but whence they came, or how obtained, is to this day a mystery.
On the return of H.M.S. “Herald” to England in 1851, after an absence of six and a half years, Mr. Pim found he had been promoted the previous year to the rank of lieutenant ; at the college examination necessary for confirmation to that rank he passed at the head of upwards OP thirty candidates, and was complimented by the admiral for his superior attainments, which would alone have secured his promotion. Lieutenant Pim having carefully studied the Arctic question, entertained the opinion, then shared by many geographers, that there was an open sea round the North Pole, and that it was but justice to Sir John Franklin to look for him at the end rather than at the commencement of his voyage ; he therefore proposed a careful search of the whole of the Northern Coast of Asia. So great was the enthusiasm excited by this daring proposition, that when Lieutenant Pim went to St. Petersburg to lay his plans before the Czar, Earl Russell, then Prime Minister, afforded material aid, and Lord Palmerston sent with him a special Foreign Office messenger. His Imperial Majesty, however, refused to grant the necessary permission to proceed, remarking to Lieutenant Pim that the risk and difficulties were such as no human being could overcome. Lord Palmerston characterized the conduct of Lieutenant Pim as that of a “true Englishman,” and he also gained the warm sympathy and friendship of Baron von Humboldt, who ever after: wards addressed him a8 his very dear and brave young friend.”
Returning from St. Petersburg, Lieutenant Pim reached England in time to join the last Arctic Expedition, sent out by Government under the command of Sir E. Belcher ; he was attached to H.M.S. "Resolute," and sailed from the Orkneys, in May, 1852. Early in March 1853, the thermometer being at 57” below zero, he made a journey across the ice, employing dogs, for the first time in Arctic search, to draw one of his sledges. After twenty-eight days of severe toil, the journey resulted in the rescue of the crew of H.M.S. Investigator,” which had been frozen in upwards of three years, and was on the point of being abandoned. To use the words of Sir R. Murchison, President of the Royal Geographical Society, “ Lieutenant Bedford Pim rescued that gallant explorer, Captain M‘Clure, from destruction, enabling him, in fact, to complete the journey, which entitled him to the rewards of his Sovereign and from Parliament for completing the North-West Passage.” And the then Hydrographer to the Admiralty, Admiral ‘Sir Francis Beaufort, in addressing Lieutenant Pim, wrote: I am free to say that he practical knowledge you obtained during the several years (nine) you remained in the surveying service, joined to the double kclat you acquired by the embassy to Russia, and by your having been the fortunate link of connection between the Eastern and Western Arctic Expeditions, will for ever stamp your name as the possessor of resources and of enterprise which cannot fail to carry you safely and speedily through all the uphill part of the profession.”
Finally, a Parliamentary Committee, appointed to inquire into the circumstances connected with the discovery of the North-West Passage, showed their appreciation of his conduct in the following terms :- “We, the undersigned members of the Select Committee appointed to inquire into the circumstances of the Expedition to the Arctic Seas, commanded by Captain M‘Clure, R.N., have had our attention drawn to the gallantry, perseverance, and judgment of Lieutenant Bedford Pim, R.N., as displayed in the rescue of Captain M‘Clure and the officers and crew of H.M.S. “Investigator.’ “The instructions from the House of Commons did not allow of our including any name but that of Captain M’Clure in our report to the House, but Lieutenant Bedford Pim’s conduct in the discovery of the ‘ Investigator ’ did not escape our notice, and we consider he is not only deserving of praise but of high reward.” Lieutenant Pim’s next appointment was to H.M. gunboat "Magpie,” and in her he did good service at the bombardment of Sweaborg and other minor affairs in the Baltic, where he received a wound in the leg from a splinter.
At the breaking out of hostilities with China, in 1857, he was given command of H.M. gunboat “Banterer,” and took his frail vessel from England to the Canton River. A proclamation had been issued that the English did not intend to wage war against the people of China, but simply against the Mandarins, and immediately after Lieutenant Pim’s arrival a Mandarin of high rank visited the town of Seelow, situated a few miles inland from the “Banterer’s ” station on the Canton River, and began what is called in China, to squeeze the inhabitants. The oppressed people appealed to him to take the Mandarin ; and he determined, with a volunteer crew of fifteen men in all, to attempt his capture. The Government buildings in the centre of the town were soon reached, and as quickly searched, but no Mandarin found, and the treacherous townspeople surrounded the party, aided by about one thousand braves. Hemmed in on all sides by overwhelming numbers, the little band had literally to cut a road to the boat, which was reached after a most severe hand-to-hand fight ; the Chinese then attempted to board, but Lieutenant Pim, who remained alone in it to cover the retreat of his few surviving followers, shot the leader of the boarding party, who was in the act of cutting him down, and whilst the Chinese fell back with his dead body, the boat, riddled with shot and encumbered with dead, went to the bottom ; Lieutenant Pim, covered with wounds, succeeded in reaching the opposite side of the creek, and was rescued by the boats of H.M.S. "Nankin.” In this severe struggle only three escaped without serious injuries, the loss amounting to five killed and seven dangerously wounded Lieutenant Pim himself receiving no less than six gunshot wounds of so severe a nature as to compel his being invalided home. On leaving the station, the Admiral-Commander-in-Chief, Sir Michael Seymour, wrote to express his high sense of Lieutenant Pim’s gallantry and firmness on this occasion.
On the 19th of April, 1858, Lieutenant Pim was advanced to the rank of Commander, and as soon as his health was sufficiently re-established to enable him to move, he accompanied his friend, the late Robert Stephenson, M.P., Past-President Inst. C.E., on a voyage to Egypt. After visiting the Isthmus of Suez, Commander Pim returned to England early in 1859, and read, before the Royal Geographical Society, a Paper on the Suez Canal, which received high commendation.
At this time the Board of Admiralty appointed Commander Pim to the command of H.M.S. “ Gorgon,” and dispatched that vessel to the River Tyne, with a view of popularizing the navy and encouraging the entry of seamen. So admirably was this duty performed, that to his exertions may be mainly attributed the subsequent steady growth of the naval reserve in the north of England. His next service was the settling a delicate question with France respecting the fisheries ; this satisfactorily concluded, the "Gorgon” was dispatched to the West Indies, and employed on the coast of Central America for the prevention of any further filibustering attempts against Nicaragua on the part of General Walker. The "Gorgon,” however, being in a very dilapidated condition, was ordered home in April, 1860. Commander Pim’s career in this ship is soon told. He was sent to search for and aid the line-of-battle ship “ Hero,” with the Prince of Wales on board, then on the return voyage from America; and in November, 1860, sailed in the ‘‘ Gorgon ” for the Cape of Good Hope and coast of Africa station ; but in the June following, having exchanged into and brought home H.M.S. “Fury,” he paid that ship off at Portsmouth, and afterwards retired on half-pay, although perhaps more actively and usefully employed than at any former period of his life. During his term of service in H.M.S. "Gorgon” on the coast of Central America, Commander Pim was very seriously impressed with the unsatisfactory condition of English interests in that part of the world (especially aa regards the means of transit across the isthmus), and therefore brought his practical knowledge to bear on the subject. With this idea he narrowly examined the Atlantic coast line, and selected a deep bay 40 miles north of Greytown as a fitting terminus for a great railway to cross the isthmus, and then commenced exploring the interior. Realejo was chosen as the Pacific terminus, and the project of a new through transit by railway across Central America started. Commander Pim at once purchased the entire Atlantic harbour from the King of Mosquito, and obtained a concession from him for a railway through the intervening country between the Atlantic and Nicaraguan boundary line. , Next came the necessity for a scientific examination of the proposed route, and Commander Pim, accustomed to hardship and danger, and trained in the surveying school, determined to go through himself and then seek from the Nicaraguan Government a right to construct the line.
In March, 1863, he sailed for Central America, accompanied by two civil engineers, afterwards joined by a third. His subsequent intercourse, however, with the Nicaraguan Government was not so fortunate. War having been declared with San Salvador, and a revolution having broken out at the same time, it was impossible to do more than open negotiations for the required concession. Twice was Commander Pim taken prisoner, and was at the city of Leon when the conclusive battle of the war -.vas fought there ; but he escaped unhurt, and returned to England to make preparation for returning in October of the same year. This time he thoroughly examined the entire western section, and collected scientific information till February, 1864, when he laid his concession before Congress, and, notwithstanding every effort to throw out the Bill, he had the satisfaction of triumphing over all opponents and gaining his object. On his return to England he had the great disappointment to find that in spite of his untiring exertions he had to do his work over again, as the nature of the concession was. not quite satisfactory to the capitalists in London; he had therefore to return a fourth time to get it altered. In this he was entirely successful, at the meeting of Congress, in January, 1865, though again opposed clause by clause. This scheme was, however, not destined to be carried out, and for the next nine or ten years Captain Pim was occupied in such desultory pursuits as commended themselves to a half-pay officer. Being endowed with a most active mind, he turned his attention to politics, and twice contested, unsuccessfully, Totnes in the Conservative interest; but at the general election of 1874 he was returned for Gravesend. In politics he was an old-fashioned Tory, yet all his efforts in the House were directed to the subject of Naval reform.
In 1880 Captain Pim retired from Parliamentary life, and fire years after obtained his flag rank. In the course of his career he was successively seaman, surveyor, explorer, fighter, engineer, financier, politician, journalist, author and lawyer, something of many things, and a good deal of a few. If amid this multitude of vocations he was not destined to rise to first rank in any one, he will yet be remembered as a singularly upright and sincere man, perhaps too honest in his convictions, and in his mode of expressing them, for the majority of those with whom he came in contact. His principal contributions to literature were The Gate of the Pacific,” in which he advocates his most cherished project-one to which, for more than twenty years, he devoted most of his time and study- "Dottings by the Roadside,” "An Earnest Appeal on behalf of the Framklin Expedition,” "The Negro of Jamaica,” "The Eastern Question,” "The Political Situation Abroad.”
Admiral Pim was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 9th of April, 1861. He died at Deal on the 30th of October, 1886.