Naval officer Horace Lascelles’s career was short, but exciting

The vengeful journalist sued Lascelles for false imprisonment, our hero settling the affair out of court with what’s believed to have been a sizeable cheque.

No fewer than 14 Vancouver Island landmarks owe their origin to one man: Lt.-Cdr. the Hon. Horace Douglas Lascelles, RN, seventh son of the third Earl of Harewood. With a handle like that, it’s no wonder that mapmakers have broken it down into its components.

Nanaimo’s Harewood District, Plains and Lake honour his family title and estate; Kelsey Bay area’s Mount Harewood, his father. Also found there, in recognition of his surname, is Mount Lascelles. Queen Charlotte Sound is home to Lascelles Point. Douglas Bay (also off Kelsey Bay) honours his middle name.

Then there’s Thynne Peninsula, Forward Harbour (named after his ship) in memory of his mom, Louisa, Countess of Harewood. We won’t go into those features named after his brother and four sisters.

Lt. Harewood arrived at Esquimalt as first officer of HMS Topaze in 1860, being promoted to command the gunboat Forward the following year. His three-andone-half years in this capacity are among the more exciting in provincial history, it being the Forward’s primary duties to act not as a man-of-war but as policeman, "revenooer" and coast guard for the length of the B.C. coast. She continually risked uncharted waters and storms to aid distressed mariners. Once, she was so long on lifesaving patrol that she and her company were given up as lost. In short, Lt. Lascelles (and his men) earned mapmakers’ respect.

A studio-staged portrait shows him in civvies, derby hat in the crook of his arm, Prince Albert jacket and vest – the picture of sartorial splendour, aristocracy and money. His dark wavy hair (very un-navy-like in its length) parted in the middle, atop a bushy fringe-beard, and eyes staring straight into the camera, show a man comfortable with himself and with his position in life. As indeed he should have been, as an officer and a gentleman of means.

His association with Nanaimo began in 1861 when his friend, Dr. Alfred Benson (Mount Benson), acquired 3,000 acres in the Chase River Valley for coal mining development. Benson didn’t have the necessary capital but Lascelles did, his family having made its fortune in the West Indies sugar trade. With an initial investment of $30,000 (you can multiply that by at least 25 for today’s value), the Harewood Coal Co. was born.

Under the forceful direction of its new manager, an ambitious young Robert Dunsmuir, future coal baron, a small crew exposed a six-foot-wide seam, samples from which were tested in Victoria and said to be of good quality. Alas, to export coal to world markets meant a tidewater terminal, in this case Departure Bay, and a railway across competing Vancouver Coal Co. lands.

Legal, legislative and financial blows doomed the young company. Dunsmuir, soon to strike out on his own and begin a coal mining empire, quit.

Lascelles’s most exciting time on this coast occurred in 1863 when Lamalchi Indians murdered several whites then retreated to their fortified village on Kuper (Penelakut) Island.

With police and marines, HMS Forward anchored offshore and demanded that those responsible be given up. The Lamalchis responded with a volley of musket fire. For 90 minutes Lascalles poured hundreds of rounds of solid shot, shell, grapeshot and musket fire into their camp. When a seaman was killed he withdrew and the Lamalchis abandoned their village, which Lascelles ordered burned the next day.

Victoria’s Evening Express criticized Forward’s (Lascelles’s) role in the expedition. The ship’s company (Lascelles) took offence, lured one of the newspaper’s publishers aboard the gunboat and began to steam out of Victoria Harbour. Panicking, the shanghaied journalist leaped over the side; he’d almost drowned by the time seamen could lower a boat and retrieve him. He was put ashore, the worse for wear, two miles from town.

The vengeful scribe sued Lascelles for false imprisonment, our hero settling the affair out of court with what’s believed to have been a sizeable cheque.

With his increasing involvement in the Harewood Coal Co. and other investments, Lascelles returned to the Old Country to retire from the navy.

Once back on the Island, he settled in Victoria and invested in real estate. He was only 34 years old when he died, purportedly of dropsy, on June 15, 1869. He’s buried in Esquimalt’s naval cemetery beneath an imposing marker of red granite.

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