Skip to main content

Midshipman Benjamin Danford

Benjamin Danford was just 14 years old when he was serving in the British Navy as a Midshipman in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

He was the son of Nicholas and Mary Danford who lived in the village of Shroton in North Dorset. When he was baptised, in December 1792, it was quite a family event because also christened there at the same time were his brothers Joseph and young Nicholas junior.

Benjamin had volunteered to join the Royal Navy and began his maritime career in March 1805 on HMS Ajax. He saw early bloody action just four months later when his vessel was involved in the Third Battle of Finisterre. This conflict cost Ajax two men killed and 16 injured. The vessel had to return to Plymouth for repairs and then sailed for Cadiz with Nelson’s HMS Victory. At the Battle of Trafalgar, Ajax lost a further two men killed and nine wounded. While this bloody naval battle would have been traumatic and stressful for all involved it must have been particularly so for a 14 year old.

After Trafalgar, Benjamin remained in the British Navy but lost his life when HMS Ajax caught fire when berthed off Tenedos in the Aegean Sea in February 1807. Although 380 men were rescued another 250, including Midshipman Danfield, lost their lives. Many like him had been at Trafalgar. Also among the dead was Blandford born seaman, Joseph Coffin, aged 23, who had also served on HMS Ajax at the Battle of Trafalgar.

(Illustration: Portrait of a Young Midshipman) 

(Credit: Bequest of George D Pratt 1935)



Popular posts from this blog

True Lovers Knot - a Tragic Tale

True Lovers Knot public house describes itself as a traditional  inn set in a picturesque Dorset valley in Tarrant Keynston. Yet, this historical hostelry is said to have gained its name from a particularly tragic tale and still to be haunted by a distressed former publican. This publican’s son met and fell in love with the daughter of the local squire. Because the young lad was not from the gentry they decided to keep their relationship secret from her father. Unfortunately, a stable hand saw the two young lovers together and told her father. Set firmly against this friendship the squire made plans to send his daughter away from the district. Not able to face up to life without her boyfriend, the young girl decided to commit suicide and hanged herself from a tree in the village. So upset was the publican’s son of hearing of his girlfriend’s death he too hanged himself from the same tree. The Tarrant Keynston publican had, himself lost his wife at child birth and now losing his son b

Tarrant Rushton's Nuclear Secret

Tarrant Rushton was a large RAF base used for glider operations during World War II. It was then taken over by Flight Refuelling for the conversion of aircraft for the development of aircraft in-flight refuelling. However, between 1958 & 1965, the Tarrant Rushton airfield had a much more secretive and less publicised role. This was in support of the nation’s nuclear bomber deterrent, as Tarrant Rushton airfield became a QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) dispersal unit.   During 1958, contractors Costain reinforced the main runway and carried out other work to ensure the giant bomber aircraft could be accommodated. At times just a few miles from Blandford, there would have been up to four RAF Vickers Valiant bombers at Tarrant Rushton ready to become airborne in minutes charged with nuclear weapons. The bombers were from 148 Squadron at RAF Marham in Norfolk. As there was no suitable accommodation at the airfield, an old US Air Force Hospital building at Martin was used. At the time, the

Chimney Sweep Tragedy

Crown Hotel, Blandford is reckoned to be one of Dorset’s oldest hostelries. Yet its most tragic day, during a long history, must surely be when a young chimney sweep lost his life. The chimney sweep, who was just a child, suffocated and was burnt to death in a Crown Hotel chimney which had been alight a little while before. ‘His cries were dreadful and no-one could give assistance. Part of the chimney was taken down before he was got out.’ (Salisbury & Winchester Gazette 27th March 1780) The lad had gone up one chimney and attempting to go down another had become stuck. At the time children were used to climb up chimneys to clean out soot deposits. With hands and knees, they would shimmy up narrow dark flue spaces packed thick with soot and debris. After the 1731 Great Fire of Blandford it was realised that it was important to sweep chimneys regularly while many rebuilt houses had narrower ones. Smaller chimneys and complicated flues were a potential death trap for children. The sw