Captain Alfred Basil Lubbock, M.C. (1876 - 1944), biographic notes

Alfred Lubbock

Alfred Lubbock

Alfred Basil Lubbock, British sailorman, yachtsman and marine author, was born on the 9th of September 1876 of parents Alfred Lubbock (seventh son of Sir John Lubbock, second baronet, and brother of the first Lord Avebury) and Louisa née Wallroth, and died at Monks Orchard, Blatchington, Sussex on the 3rd September 1944 [1]. He wrote extensively [see Bibliography] on maritime matters, particularly the latter days of sail, including a wealth of detail and personal reminiscences collected from numerous square-rig masters. He was a keen yachtsman, hunter and cricketer; he was a member of the Society for Nautical Research.

He is shown in the 1881 census as Basil A. Lubbock, living with his younger sister Inez Alfreda, age 3, with their uncle William F. Archibald - a barrister - and aunt Florence née Archibald and their four young children in Putney. Meanwhile their parents were staying in a house in Whetstone, near Barnet with Basil's younger brother Robin, age 2, who apparently died young in 1898, but Inez went on to marry banker Harold Edward Snagge. The firstborn of Basil's family had died only 5 months after birth in 1875 and there was also a younger brother Merlin Gordon, born in 1884, who had military career and died only in 1951.

Basil was educated at Eton in R.A.H. Mitchell's House, where he was a member of the cricket team in 1894-5, and while he was probably expected to continue on to Kings College, Cambridge, he in fact left for the Klondyke, hiking over the Chilcoot Trail, and joining the Gold Rush of 1896-97 for several months (experienced the "midday night" and the "midnight sun").

He returned via Vancouver Island thinking of propsecting for copper; then via San Francisco, where on 12 July 1899, he signed on the four-mast barque Ross-Shire[2] of Glasgow as O/S in the apprentices' half deck for £2 per month. The planned voyage was round the Horn to Queenstown for orders.

Lubbock also sailed briefly on the 1,345 ton Commonwealth, a full rigged ship, as a "sort of second mate" (Villiers, introduction to the 1972 reprint of Sail). He fell about 50 feet from the mizen, landing on the poop rail a breaking a belaying pin off inside his thigh.

He fought during the Boer War of 1899-1901 (see Round the Horn before the Mast, 1902, p. 375 "whilst fighting in the late Boer War...") with the Royal Field Artillery and Menne's Scouts [3] for which he was Mentioned in Despatches, for helping safe life under fire [4]. The Ellis Island website suggests that he returned to Canada soon after: "Alfred Basil Lubbock arrived New York 13 Mar 1903 from Liverpool on the GERMANIC. He was single, and in transit for Canada, age 26y 6m."

In 1912 Basil Lubbock married Dorothy "Dot" Mary Warner, widow of Commander Thomas Ulric Thynne and daughter of late Charles Warner C.B. She died only a few weeks after her husband on 15 November 1944. Neither partnership produced any children.

He served during WWI with a territorial commision from October 1914 to April 1919 with the 1/3 Wessex Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, in India and France. He was awarded the Military Cross.

Basil Lubbock was the founder and first Commodore, 1919 to 1931, Hamble River Sailing Club. He was a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron, on the List 1923 - 43.

In 1922, Basil Lubbock approached Alfred Westmacott, to design "an improved Mermaid" from which was born, on November 22, as the Hamble One Design Class (known as the Y Class, as all boat names had to end with a 'y', then Solent Sunbeam). He was the Solent Sunbeam Class Captain from 1922 to 1930 and owned the first hull built, the DAINTY, Sail Number 1. The Class was based at the Hamble River Sailing Club from 1922-1930, the Bembridge Sailing Club (1930-1939), and since the war, at the Itchenor Sailing Club.

"Basil Lubbock took his friend Wilfred Dowman, a square-rigger sailor, racing in the Dainty. Dowman was a man of means who at one time owned the clipper ship CUTTY SARK in her old age. He became interested in the class and ordered one for racing at Falmouth, where the Falmouth Sunbeams became established for some years before 1939, with eight or more racing." [John Leather, The Boatman, Issue No 17, 1994].

Lubbock continued his contacts with Captain Dowman by writing "The Log of the Cutty Sark" which was published in 1924. His writing from then on averaged nearly one book a year [see Bibliography], with his last major work, "The Arctic Whalers" being published in 1937. Articles by Lubbock appeared over the years in The Blue Peter, the Mariner's Mirror and other journals.

The following is from an appreciation of Basil Lubbock by John Masefield (then Poet Laureate) who in 1925 had written the preface to Lubbock's "Adventures by sea from art of old time":

"The last 70 years of the sailing ship (roughly from 1850-1920) were full of change and experiment, as iron supplanted wood, and chain and wire replaced hemp. Extraordinary ships were produced in those years in these islands, in the United States and in Germany. Most of these ships were small (as ships are reckoned now), few of them lived long; and they are now gone, like so many of the men who sailed them. Basil Lubbock made a most readable and sailor-like record of them just before it was too late. He put in his record thousands of vivid memories from old seamen, and of beautiful portraits of ships now scrap or coral. He was only just in time. The ships and sailors were gone or going; the businesses had been wound up or changed and their papers destroyed. The patience, perseverance and hard work put into each of his books can only be known by those who have tried such things. He is honoured throughout the seven seas as one who wrote the history of the sailing ship as she was in the generations of her greatest splendour just before she ceased to be."

[1] - the note by M.K. Stammers in Mariner's Mirror, vol 82, p214 eroneously states 1942

[2] - named the Royalshire in Round the Horn before the Mast, 1902 - describing the 123 day homeward passage under Captain Andrew Baxter, later well known as a master stevedore in the port of New York.

[3] - Kemp, Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, suggests that Lubbock volunteered for service in the Royal Navy at this time and did so again during WWI - we believe this to be erroneous - see note [4] below.

[4] - a photo of Lubbock in Army Uniform was available at but has been removed.


Note: many Lubbock Titles are still in print. Please see the publishers page at Brown, Son & Ferguson Ltd and use the search function.




Note: Our holdings of books by Basil Lubbock in our main cataloge are available.


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