We have added a new section which contains a transcription of the diaries of Walter Benson Hunkin, originally of Mevagissey in Cornwall. He served aboard the last of the sailing cutters in fisheries and coastal protection right up to the First World War. Most of his time was spent around Ireland and the North Sea. At the end of his career he came ashore with the Coastguard Service in Ireland in the troubled times of the campaign for Home Rule.
His diary was written in old age. As he puts it:
‘Some four years ago, having reached the age when one is apt to recall the past, the thought occurred to me that as my service career afloat had been spent in that branch of the Royal Navy known as the Coast Guard Cruiser Service, and that to the best of my knowledge no-one from the earliest days of the Revenue Cutters had even left the records of the story of their personal experiences, and that if I jotted down some of my recollections, at some future date it might fall into the hands of someone who, regarding it as a glimpse into the past, will consider it worthy of correction and a place on a library bookshelf. The following pages are the outcome of a literary effort by one with no pretention whatever to letters. It has been written from time to time filling in an idle hour now and again. Like many autobiographies, some of it is rather futile and probably without general interest, other items possibly amusing, entertaining and informative, and if were set out in print may help to fill in a dull hour for any casual reader.’
The diary contains some fascinating insights into the sailing Navy of the late C19, the transition from sail to steam and the life in rural Ireland during the ‘civil war’ of the early C20. For ease of reading, we have split the account into two, reflecting these phases of his life: the Years at Sea and the Years Ashore.