Children of the Poor House: Edward Campbell and HMS Queen.

HMS Queen, leaving Malta (Robert Strickland Thomas, 1842)

Edward Campbell was admitted into the Poor House aged 7, alongside his older brother, Alexander, in January 1840. After 3 years in the House, Alexander began an apprenticeship at the farm of William John Anderson. However, Edward’s life,  would not be one spent in the fields outside Belfast. Instead, he would find himself on the ships of the Royal Navy in the Caribbean and Mediterranean.

Discharged from the Poor House on the 6th July 1848, Edward enrolled in the Royal Navy, before finding himself aboard HMS Crocodile, which had docked in Cork on the 3rd December, 1848. HMS Crocodile was a 28 gun sixth-rate warship that had previously patrolled the waters near Quebec, Jamaica, Barbados and Bermuda, whilst returning to Britain for occasional refit and refurbishment.

Edward would later transfer to HMS Queen as Boy, 2nd Class. HMS Queen was a 110 gun first rate warship, and was the flagship of Vice Admiral Sir William Parker in the Mediterranean Fleet. Such a station on the Vice Admiral’s flagship speaks volumes of Edwards “good character” and capabilities aboard a naval vessel, however, Edward’s time in the Mediterranean would be unfortunately cut short.

Malta had been gripped by a cholera pandemic in 1837, and in 1850, it returned. Indiscriminate, it swept through the local population and foreign garrisons stationed there. Of the 1,000 strong crew of the HMS Queen, 61 died of the disease: among those, was Edward Campbell, who died aged 15 on 3rd July 1850 in the Royal Naval Hospital Bighi in Kalkara, Malta.

Current state of Bellona Statue, Malta

Whilst the final resting place of Edward Campbell is unknown, he is remembered alongside the other men of HMS Queen who passed away during the cholera pandemic. Standing within the Msida Bastion Garden of Rest is a statue, presumed to be of Bellona, Goddess of War, standing with three cannon balls, an anchor and a cannon. The statue was erected from the charity of those serving on the ship, who all contributed 10 shillings to have the statue sculpted and engraved.

Whilst the statue and cemetery fell into disrepair after it closed in 1856, and suffered damage during the Second World War, the Garden of Rest was restored and reopened in 2002, with restoration efforts now turning to the statue of Bellona. As the HMS Queen Memorial is restored, the name Edward Campbell, an abandoned boy from Belfast, will be remembered once more on Mediterranean shores.

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