Pim, Bedford Capperton Trevelyan (DNB00)

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Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 45
Pim, Bedford Capperton Trevelyan

by Charles Henry Coote
other sources refer to him as Bedford Clapperton Trevelyan Pim

PIM, BEDFORD CAPPERTON TREVELYAN (1826–1886), admiral, born on 12 June 1826 at Bideford, Devonshire, was son of Lieutenant Edward Bedford Pim, who died of yellow fever off the coast of Africa in 1830, when he was engaged in the suppression of the slave trade, in command of the Black Yoke, tender to the Dryad. His mother was Sophia Soltau, eldest daughter of John Fairweather Harrison. Pim was educated at the Royal Naval School, New Cross, and entered the navy in 1842. He served under Captain Henry Kellett [q. v.] in the Herald from 1845 till 1849. In that year he was lent for duty on the brig Plover, and, wintering in Kotzebue Sound, Alaska, made a journey in March and April 1850 to Michaelovski in search of intelligence of Sir John Franklin. He reached England on 6 June 1851. In the following September he was raised to the rank of lieutenant.

At this period Pim proposed an expedition in search of Franklin to the north coast of Asia, and offered to survey the coast. After receiving a grant of 500l. from Lord John Russell, unlimited leave from the admiralty, and recommendations to the authorities in St. Petersburg, he went to Russia in November 1851; but the Russian government refused to sanction his project. On board the Resolute he left England on 21 April 1852, and served under Sir Edward Belcher [q. v.] in the western division of his Arctic search expedition. In the following October, when the Resolute was in winter quarters off Melville Island, a travelling party discovered in a cairn on the island the information (placed there by McClure the previous April) that McClure's ship, the Investigator, was icebound in Mercy Harbour, Banks Land, 160 miles off. It was too late in the season to attempt a communication; but on 10 March 1853 Pim was despatched as a volunteer in charge of a sledge for Banks Land. The journey was accomplished in twenty-eight days; and on 6 April Pim safely reached the vessel, only just in time to relieve the sick and enfeebled crew [see McClure, Sir Robert Le Mesurier].

In January 1854 Pim was appointed to the command of the gunboat Magpie, and did good service in the Baltic. He was wounded at the bombardment of Sveaborg on 10 Aug. 1855, for which he received a medal. In April 1857 he was appointed to the command of the Banterer in the war with China, being severely wounded at Sai Lau, Canton river, 14 Dec. 1857. He was invalided home in June 1858, and promoted to the rank of commander. In June 1859 he was appointed to the Gorgon, for service in Central America. While stationed off Grey Town he originated and surveyed the Nicaraguan route across the Isthmus, through Mosquito and Nicaragua, which now bids fair to supersede the ill-fated Panama route. While on the station he purchased a bay on the Atlantic shore, now known as Gorgon or Pim's Bay. For this he was somewhat harshly censured by the lords of the admiralty in May 1860. Returning to England in June, he retained the command of the Gorgon, and took her to the Cape of Good Hope in January 1861. On his way home he exchanged into the Fury. The following June he retired from active service; his name, however, remained on the navy list. He became captain on the retired list in 1868. Pim made three journeys to Nicaragua, in March 1863, October 1863, and November 1864, in reference to his transit scheme. After he had obtained additional concessions, in November 1866 a company, called the Nicaraguan Railway Company, Limited, was registered; but the necessary capital was not forthcoming, and it was dissolved in July 1868.

Pim now turned his attention to the law. On 20 April 1870 he entered as student of the Inner Temple, and on 28 Nov. of Gray's Inn, being called to the bar on 27 Jan. 1873. He was admitted a barrister of Gray's Inn ad eundem the following month. His practice was almost exclusively confined to admiralty cases, and he went on the western circuit. At Bristol his name became a household word among seamen. He represented Gravesend in the conservative interest in parliament from 1874 to 1880, but failed to retain the seat at the following general election. He was elected F.R.G.S. in November 1851, and an associate of the Institute of Civil Engineers on 9 April 1861. He laid before the institute, on 28 Jan. 1862, his mode of fastening armour-plates on vessels by double dovetail rivets. He was on the first council of the Anthropological Institute, 1871–4, and remained a member of the institute up to the time of his death. He was raised to the rank of rear-admiral on the retired list in 1885. He died at Deal on 30 Sept. 1886, in his sixty-first year, and a brass tablet and window were placed in his memory at the west end of the church of the Seamen's Institute, Bristol, by the pilots of the British empire and the United States of America in 1888. He was a true-hearted sailor of the old school—brave, generous, and unselfish. Pim married, on 3 Oct. 1861, Susanna, daughter of Henry Locock of Blackheath, Kent, by whom he had two sons.

His published works include: 1. ‘An Earnest Appeal … on Behalf of the Missing Arctic Expedition,’ 1857; 5th edit. same year. 2. ‘Notes on Cherbourg,’ with map, 1858. 3. ‘The Gate of the Pacific,’ 1863. 4. ‘The Negro and Jamaica,’ 1866 (special No. of ‘Popular Magazine of Anthropology’). 5. ‘Dottings on the Roadside in Panama, Nicaragua,’ &c., 1869 (in conjunction with Berthold Seemann). 6. ‘An Essay on Feudal Tenures,’ 1871. 7. ‘War Chronicle: with Memoirs of the Emperor Napoleon III and of Emperor-king William I,’ 1873. 8. ‘The Eastern Question, Past, Present, and Future,’ 1877–8. 9. ‘Gems from Greenwich Hospital,’ 1881. He also contributed an article on shipbuilding to Bevan's ‘British Manufacturing Industries,’ 1876.

[Family papers; Foster's Men at the Bar, 1885; McDougall's Voyage of H.M.S. Resolute, 1853; Osborn's Discovery of the North-west Passage, 1856; Seemann's Voyage of H.M.S. Herald, 1853; Arctic Expedition Papers (Blue-books), 1852–4; Inst. Civil Engineers Proc. 1861, vol. xx.; Roy. Geogr. Soc. Journal, vol. xxii. p. lxxiv, 1852, and Proceedings, 1857 and 1862; Times, 10, 14, 19, and 25 Nov. 1851, 13 Jan. 1852; United Service Mag. 1856, pp. 57, 58, 61, 68.]

C. H. C.