Why was a Shanty crew formed in Guernsey in 1992 called Jenkins Ear?
In 1731, the British ship Rebecca was boarded by the Spanish Coastguard from Havana, searched for contraband and its captain Robert Jenkins subjected to a period of torture, during which his ear was cut off. There had been tension between Spain and England for some time, which steadily increased and in 1738, Jenkins was called to Parliament to produce his ‘pickled ear’. This, with the help of the media, (some things never change) so horrified Parliament and Public, that Walpole was obliged to declare a state of war with Spain in 1739. This became known as ‘The War of Jenkins Ear’, was never resolved, won or lost and lasted until 1748 when the War Of Succession took over in prominence. (Although to all intents and purposes it really ended in 1742)
During this period, Commodore George Anson set sail in The Centurion, with 6 ships, charged with generally making a real nuisance of himself to the Spaniards in the Pacific, to capture the ports of Callao in Peru, Lima and Panama, lead a Peruvian revolt against Spanish ‘oppression’, capture the Acapulco treasure galleon and generally be a pain in the #####.
He reached the Acapulco area in January 1742, to discover that the attacks against the land targets were not advisable and a Spanish fleet was waiting for him to return around Cape Horn. He therefore set off across the Pacific for Macau, near Hong Kong, arriving on 11 November 1742, refitted, replenished and left on 19th April to look for the Acapulco galleon which was destined for the Philippines. The Acapulco galleon, Nuestra Senora De Covadonga, was intercepted of Cape Espiritu Santo on 20 June 1743 and captured, with relative ease, after a 90 minute battle with the loss of 1 man and 17 injured against the Spanish toll of 67 dead and 84 injured.
Anson sent his second in command, a Guernseyman called Phillip Saumarez to take command of the prize and sail it back to Macau, where it was eventually sold for the bargain price of $6,000
The Covadonga was carrying 1,313,843 pieces of eight and 35.862 ounces of silver, which combined with the prize money from other exploits during that trip, would today be worth over 50 million pounds.
So there you have it, during the War of Jenkins Ear, a Guernseyman by the name of Phillip Saumarez was partly responsible for the capture of the biggest naval prize ever taken, which funded the Royal navy for about 2 years and also paid for the sailors uniform which is still worn in a modified form today.