Frederick the Great and the Corporal's Watch
One day, Frederick the Great learned that a corporal in one of his regiments had a gold watch, which he wore suspended at the end of gold chain. Impressed by the man's frugality, the King approached him. Sure enough, he could see hanging from the man's waistcoat a gold chain which disappeared into a pocket.
"Corporal! You must be a very prudent fellow, to have saved enough out of your pay for a watch."
"I flatter myself that I am, Your Majesty, but the watch is of little consequence."
Hearing this, the king took out his watch, studded with diamonds, and examined it. "My watch says that it's five. What does yours say?"
The corporal hesitated, somewhat taken aback. Then he tugged on his watch chain. What emerged from his pocket at the end of the gold chain was not a gold watch but a lead musket ball. In a firm voice, the man said, "My watch, Sire, says neither five nor six – but tells me that I ought to be ready at any hour to die for Your Majesty."
Robert Jeffrey, HMS Recruit, and Sombrero /a>
in Polperro, Cornwall,
in 1789, Robert Jeffrey went to sea in a privateer in 1806, to help support his
widowed mother and three younger siblings.
In 1807, as Jeffrey's ship was returning home, it was intercepted off Cornwall by HMS Recruit,
an 18 gun brig-rigged sloop-of-war.Along with several of
his shipmates, Jeffrey, then just 17, was pressed into service by the Royal
by Captain Warwick Lake,
sailed to the West Indies. Shortly after reaching the Antilles,
in December of 1807, Jeffery was caught stealing beer from the midshipmen's
stores He was hauled before the
captain. Apparently deciding that
several score lashes were not sufficient punishment to fit Jeffrey's crime, on December 5, 1807 Lake marooned the young man without food or water on a
remote and barren island known as Sombrero.
northernmost islet in the Lesser Antilles, about 38 miles from Anguilla,
Sombrero is essentially a large, flat rock about a mile long, and about 400
yards across at its widest point. With a
total area of about 95 mostly barren acres, the island never stands more than
about 40 feet above sea level. Even on
relatively calm days it's not unusual for larger rollers from the north to wash
over the entire island. Needless to say,
the "naked lump" of an island had neither food nor potable water.
after Jeffrey was marooned, Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane, the commanding
officer of the West Indies Station, learned of Lake's
cruel deed and ordered him to rescue the lad.
But when Lake returned to Sombrero, about two months after having abandoned the
young man, there no sign of him. What
had happened was that on December 13th, just eight days after being
marooned on Sombrero, the half-dead Jeffery
had been rescued by a passing American schooner. The Americans took Jeffrey to Massachusetts, where he
found employment as a blacksmith. .
Jeffrey was making a living in America,
word of Lake's cruelty to the young seaman
created a stir in England. Questions were raised in Parliament, by such
notable "radicals" as Samuel Whitbread and Francis Burdett. After making inquiries, Whitbread discovered
that Jeffrey's family, in Polperro, were in contact with the young man. A ship was sent to fetch him, and early in
1810 he landed in Portsmouth,
and was taken to London,
where he became a temporary celebrity; and appeared on stage as the "Governor
of Sombrero" and "Jeffrey the Sailor."
pressed by Burdett, one of the great liberals of the age and later a champion
of Catholic Emancipation, the Royal Navy subjected Captain Lake
to a court martial. On February 10, 1810, the
court ruled that Lake be cashiered from the
service and pay Jeffrey, £600 in compensation, an enormous sum for the day,
equal to many years' pay for a common seaman.
With that nest egg, Jeffrey returned to Polperro, where he was accorded
a tumultuous reception. He bought a
small schooner and entered the coasting trade, married, and had a
daughter. Alas, his business efforts did
not prosper, and he also acquired consumption.
Robert Jeffrey died in 1820, leaving his family in poverty.
As for Sombrero, well,
naturally, it's still there, and something of a tourist attraction, due to
Jeffrey's ordeal, not to mention the fact that there's good fishing in the
vicinity; in 1938 F.D.R.
caught a 20-pound pompano off the island.