This is the Journal of the Honourable East India Company Ship, the True Briton on her voyage to Whampoa 1804-1805. Commanded by Captain Henry Hughes.

Page under construction






Written by the Commander, Captain Henry Hughes,

Voyage to Whampoa, China,

18 Jan 1804 - 20 Nov 1805

(British Library Ref: L / MAR / B / 297P.)

Extracted by
Bryant G. Bayliffe & Julian A. Rawes
April 2020



East India House, Leadenhall Street, London, 1796-1861
from Trade in the Eastern Seas 1793-1813.

The Library of the Honourable East India Company Service is housed in the British Library in Euston, London. The HEICS library contains many thousands of records including hundreds of ships’ journals, logs, ledgers & pay books. They are contained in large ledgers, the journals & logs in one tome with the ledgers and pay books in separate books. A catalogue of these records was published in 1999 by the British Library, titled ‘Catalogue of East India Company Ships’ Journals and Logs 1600-1834’ and edited by Anthony Farrington. Most of these records have not been microfilmed. If a copy is required then a microfilm copy is made at the expense of the purchaser to whom a photostat or CD is given. A useful site for the explanation on the HEICS library is:

HEICS ships would leave from and return to London using a number of stopping points both in the Thames estuary and the south coast. Passengers would more than likely embark and disembark at these stopping points. The first and major point was at Gravesend or more exactly Longreach. This was a priority for the larger vessels which would on occasion have their guns removed to lighten the ship before proceeding up the river to Deptford or Blackwall for the East India docks.

Map of the Thames estuary indicating some of the navigational points mentioned in the journals.

Until the opening of the East India Docks at Blackwall in 1806, Company ships moored on the tidal river alongside the Royal shipyards at Deptford. Deptford was the anchorage at the start of the Port of London. The ships moored alongside lines of moorings called tiers and all goods were offloaded on to lighters, hoys or barges and carried by them to wharves on shore or further up river.

Deptford from the South London Guide

1806 - the new East India docks at Blackwall
from Trade in the Eastern Seas 1793-1813.

Circa 1830 - East India docks at Blackwall

A major embarkation point for passengers and soldiers in particular was at Motherbank close to Culver Cliff and Spithead near Portsmouth. This was also where, in times of war, a Royal Navy escort would join the annual fleet. The Isle of Wight, with its healthy climate, assumed some importance to the Company, Newport, Cowes, Ryde, St Helens and Carisbrooke attracted Company officials and the Isle itself acted as a granary with production of malt, salt, flour, poultry and biscuit. A number of HEIC ships officers both came from and retired to the Isle. The naval docks at Portsmouth was close to hand for exchange of ships, crew information etc. For the Isle of Wight's connection with the Company see:

Most Company ships were used as troop carriers for soldiers needed in India and the Far East. These were mostly regiments created for and employed by the Company to serve in India. One of the Company's training depots was opened at Newport in the Isle of Wight in 1801. This was superceeded by the Brompton Barracks at Chatham in 1815. Recuitment lists are held in the British Library under Ref: IOR/L/MIL/9/1-106, L/MIL/9/1-28, 1817-1860, L/MIL/9/29-84 for military depots, 1801-1861. and L/MIL/9/85-106 for embarkation lists, 1753-1861. References from:

Every attempt has been made to produce a faithful 'abridged' copy of the Journal and Log Book. A glossary along with explanatory notes has been added to help the reader to understand the transcript along with information of other ships and people noted in the Journal. It is realised that errors are possible owing to the difficulty of transcription. The Editor's notes can be found throughout set within square brackets.

Journals and Log Books,
as well as Ledgers, Payment Books, Absence Books, Imprest books, Receipts &c.

The following can be divided into two types of domument, Journals sometimes called Deck or Dock Logs), Logs were created during the voyage by Officers on board ship to record every day events; Ledgers, Pay Books, Absence Books and Imprest Books were created by Company Officials based in London, and dealt with payments to the crew. In the Journal of the Wexford the 1st and 2nd Officers sign the daily entries on behalf of the Captain.

Journal & Log Book
A journal is a generic term for logs that covers any document that logs events. It is a fascinating record of day-to-day events on board ship such as location, weather, repairs, washing decks, including the gun deck where the crew slept, discipline, loading and unloading, embarking and disembarking and external events. The Journal records everyone on board, their positions and status whether or not they left ship or perished, including passengers. There is also a distinction between the 'Harbour Journal' and the 'Sea Log'. The ledger starts as large blank pages given to the Commander, Purser or other Officers at the commencement of each voyage. The journal and log was dutifully created by the Commander or assigned officers and the resulting document, signed by the Commander and handed in at the end of the voyage. It was the duty of the ship's Purser to deposit the ship's journals etc. at Company headquarters.

A fascinating survival is a printed form found in the front of the Journal for the Company ship Wexford 1803-4. It is a detailed description of the duties that the Captain and senior officers have to perform in regard to recording the ship's progress and every day events.

Printed form dating to 1803 from
the Journal of the Wexford1803-4

Duplicate logs written on HEICS forms still survive in private hands as in the case of the Warren Hastings in 1825-6 and the Repulse in 1831-32. These have the appearance of being soiled and original as opposed to the rather clean copies handed in to India House. It is not known how many of these copies were kept on a particular voyage or are still extant but their survival must be rare. The keeping of copy journals by midshipmen and junior officers was probably encouraged for training purposes. On a rare occasion such as with the 1822/3 voyage of the ship 'London' to Madras and China, the Captains, the 3rd mate's, a midshipman's and another journal was lodged at Company Headquarters.

Under normal voyages Farrington's Catalogue of East India Company ships' Journals and Logs, usually lists a Journal (and Log Book), a Ledger and a Payment Book. There are occasions however, such as when the voyage of a ship is cut short, the Ledger and Payment Book are often replaced by that of an Absence Book and an Imprest Book. With that of the voyage of the Asia 1780-1783 however there is a surviving Journal, Ledger, Pay Book as well as an Imprest Book and Receipt Book. There does appear to be a direct correlation between the loss of a ship and the Absence, Imprest and Receipt books confirming that these were records based at Company Headquarters and never went to sea with the ship.

Absence Book
The Absence Book was an internal document used by Company Officials to keep a track on interim and final payments relating to individual members of the crew and was often accompanied by an Imprest Book. The Absence Book is as its name implies, an account of payments made to a representative of the crew member concerned such as a wife, mother, relative or friend. An example being Thomas Ainsley Cook, Boatswain on board the Ganges 1805-1807. In the Imprest Book he signed a receipt for £7 on 7th February 1805, presumably when or shortly after he entered service. In the Absence Book, while Thomas was at sea, Mary Cooke, presumably a relative, signed for and received £3.10 on 13th October 1805, "being one month absent". she again received interim payments of £3.10 on 15th April 1806, 15th October 1806 & 15th April 1807. He died at Bombay on 3rd February 1807. The Absence Book of the Ganges, which we have transcribed, is a volume containing payment forms, dealing with one crew member per page. Each page carries six printed receipt forms, usually only partially filled in.

Deck Log
Is a form of a Journal and Log Book.

Imprest Book
An Imprest Book, sometimes accompanied by an Absence or Receipt Book, is similar to a Pay Book but is a listing of payments made to the Crew member upon being hired. A more familiar term is the enforced 'pressing' or pressed used by the Royal Navy to hire seaman by force, hence the term 'Press Gang'. In our sense it is usually an advance payment to the hired seaman. Imprest records appear to survive when a voyage for whatever reason, whether shipwreck or otherwise, had been cut short. The money was often released by increment, sometimes after a considerable period, to either the crew member or his representative, which could be a member of his family. For more information see the Journal of the ship Ganges under the transcription of its Imprest Book.

The following is based upon the transcribed Ledger of the ship Juliana. This is a book originally of blank forms prefaced by index pages. The index is arranged in alphabetical manner on pages divided in two so that columns for names beginning with A B appear on the first page. The forms are arranged two per page and are set out as per the following image.

The ledger is only partially filled, probably because the Juliana was only in service for two voyages. The first entry begins on 2nd May 1810 with image 16, with a voyage under Captain Toussaint to Bengal. The voyage under Captain Rawes begins with image 136. The last entry is on 24th September 1813, after the completion of a voyage under Captain Rawes from Batavia. There are blank pages both between the two voyages and after.

There are two forms per crew member, including the captain, and they are spread across two pages therefore when one opens the ledger there are two pages one and so on. Form one gives wages and deductions while the second form gives length of service and the amount received per month. There are usually two crew members on each two page. Each form can have two or more entries as they represent both salary and expenses covering the voyage.

Payment Book
Often accompanying a Ledger, the Payment Book is a book of printed receipts filled in and signed, either by the crew member or his assignee, depending on whether he was unable to sign or deceased etc. Each receipt is numbered which refers one back to the Ledger. There are four receipts per page. There is an image of the Ledger in the Journal & Log of the Juliana.

Receipt Book
A receipt Book is a Company document and is believed to be similar to a payment Book and often all there is left when a ship is lost with no surviving journal and log book. On another occasion a ship remained in India and there is only a Receipt Book and an Imprest Book, while on another occasion it accompanies a Ledger and Pay Book.

Approaches to Whampoa

Whampoa anchorage, now called Huangpu, on the Pearl river, was the import and export port
for all foreign ships entering China at Canton (Guangzhou), which is about 12 miles further up river.

Taken from The Opium War 1840-1842 by Peter Ward Fay.

Taken from The Opium War 1840-1842 by Peter Ward Fay.

Directions for Sailing to and from the East Indies

John Horsburgh, The India Directory or Directions for sailing to and from the East Indies, China, Australia, and the interjacent ports of Africa and South America: originally compiled from the Journal of the Honourable Company's Ships, and from observations and remarks. First published in two volumes plus supplement in 1811, is a most interesting book which describes the route and landmarks to the Far East, including approaches to the ports of India and China. An electronic version of the book is available on the Internet.

  • Vol. 1: London to the Bay of Bengal.
  • Vol. 2: Bay of Bengal to China, &c.

True Briton (4)

True Briton in two positions and calling for a pilot off Dover by
Thomas Whitcombe.
Extracted from Wikipedia

Farrington describes the True Briton as follows: She was the 4th of that name, built by Wells and launched 1790; 3 decks, 4in bottom, length 165ft 2in, keel 134ft ½in, breadth 41ft 2¼in, hold 17ft, wing transom 25ft 8in, port cell 28ft 11in, waist 3ft 7½in, between decks 6ft 3in & 6ft 6½in, roundhouse 6ft 6½in, ports 14 middle & upper deck range 98ft, 1209 tons. Principal Managing Owenrs: 1-4 Robert Wigram, 5-8 Robert Wigram jun.

There is a description of the True Briton on Wikipedia where her voyages, including this one, are detailed. On her 8th voyage to the Far East, commanded by Captain George Bonham, she had called at Bombay and was bound for Whampoa when she parted company from the convoy on 19th October 1809 and was never seen again. Lloyd's reported on 31 July 1810 that she had not arrived at China by 5th March.

Farrington extract for this voyage:-
The extract from Catalogue of East India Company Ships’ Journals and Logs 1600-1834, edited by Anthony Farrington:-

6 1803-4 China
L/MAR/B/297P Journal 18 Jan 1805 - 20 Nov 1805*
L/MAR/B/297HH(1) Ledger
L/MAR/B/297HH(2) Pay Book
Capt Henry Hughes
Portsmouth 9 Jun 1804 - 17Aug Rio de Janeiro - 12 Jan 1805 Whampoa
- Second Bar 15 Feb - 30 Jun St Helena - 8 Sep Downs.
* inc illus

What the Papers Said

Images relating to the start of her voyage are taken from newspaper articles:-

  1. Caledonian Mercury, 6 Aug 1801.

The Convoy

Honourable East India Company Service ships, were generally well armed and capable of holding their own against single adversaries. The Journals often mention the cleaning of guns and drills taking place. Passing Royal Navy ships would occasionally come alongside Company ships and press some of the crew. However, especially in times of war, Company ships would set sail in convoy, accompanied by a Royal Navy ship with the captain described as a Commander. During the long voyage there would be a fair amount of 'watching out', both for each other and for 'strangers'. If a stranger was not identified quickly then the Royal Navy ship would peel off and give chase. Royal Navy ships would not necessarily be any larger than merchant ships, which had to provide cargo space but they were specifically prepared and better armed with their crew trained for war. A convoy would not remain fixed as there would be ships, both HEICS, Royal Navy ships and others peeling off or joining. This would be especially the case when the convoy reached its port of destination.

Seasonal weather patterns such as prevailing winds would play a part in when ships or convoys would leave England. January to July seems to have been the favoured time to set sail for the Far East.

List of Ships noted in this journal.

Every journal contains sightings of other craft, whether in passing, in a convoy, or in or near to a port. There was a good reason for this in that, before the age of telecommunication, it helped to keep record of ships encountered. These sightings were entered in to the journal on a daily basis. There is also the occasional mention of Royal Navy ships in the crew lists where crew have been pressed. Sometimes there is just one note of a passing ship, other times, especially in a convoy, the particular vessel is mentioned on a number of occasions.

Encounters Page:
is a list of all ships encountered in the transcripts we have done so far. Additional details of these ships have been added by the Editors from a number of sources. The main sources for the HCS ships and for their commanders come from Farrington: Catalogue of East India Company's Ships' Journals. Another site used is:, a useful source for 'country' ships. Information on HM ships comes from the website:, and there is also the Internet, mostly Wikipedia.

Only the first sighting in the Journal has been recorded, unless there is a particular event that is thought worthwhile recording. Therefore it is worthwhile searching this journal for other references to a particular ship. Please click:-

~ Encounters ~.

Contents of Ship's Log

Log Pages Description Date

1 Title Page: Captain Hughes' Log

The Journal & Log of the True Briton 1804-5.

[Page 1:]

First page of journal and an example
of Captain Hughes' handwriting.

Received 30th March 1803

This is my original Journal
R Barker [signed]
Witness: C Collingwood [signed]

[Pages 2 - 9: - blank pages]

[Page 10:]

A list of the True Briton Ships Company.

No, Names Stations Dead, Run, or Discharg'd
1 Henry Hughes Commander [Henry Hughes, was born Wexford 17th Oct 1767, son of Abraham, gent. Seaman HMS Adventure sloop 1780 (3m); seaman Vansittart (3) 1782; 6th mate General Goddard 1785/6; 3rd mate Lsdy Juliana to Jamaica, home as 1st mate Princess Mary; 3rd mate Ganges (1) 1788/9; 3rd mate True Briton (4) 1790/1; 2nd mate Triton (3) 1792/3; Captain Contractor 1797/8; Captain True Briton (4) 1803/4; Captain Tottenham 1807/8. Abraham Hughes, his father married 8th Jan 1867 Jane, youngest daughtrer of Colonel Robert Clifford and had, apart form Henry, six sons and two daughters. Henry died unmarried, not known when or where.]

Return of Troops Received on board at Bombay 27 March 1802

[Page 17:]
[Start of Harbour Journal]


The Ledger & Pay Book for this voyage has not been transcribed.


Glossary of Abbreviations and Terms.

This section is now in a separate page of its own under:



This section is now in a separate page of its own under: