Charles Gauntlett Dicken (1854-1937) was born at No. 13, Westover Villas, Bournemouth, on 26 April 1854, the son of the Rev. Alldersey Dicken (1794-1879) and Caroline Mary Huddleston (formerly Croft) (d. 1859). He was the youngest child of a large family. His siblings were Laura Mary Anne (1840-1860), George Alldersey (1843-1867), Frederick Rowland (1845-1923), Edith Elizabeth (1847-1930), Emily Florence (1848-1910) (married the Revd George H. Statham), and Purefoy Huddleston (1850-1871).
Dicken was brought up at Norton Rectory, near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, where his father held the living, and was sent as a border at the age of 9 to Ipswich Grammar School. He was removed from the school at 12 to received 'special instruction' in preparation for the naval examination, which he failed in the spring of 1867. He was then sent to Bell and Johnson's Academy at Southsea, Hampshire. He passed the naval examination at the second attempt at Portsmouth on 10 December 1867, and entered the Royal Navy as a cadet.
Dicken joined the 'Britannia' (Captain John Corbett) at Dartmouth in January 1868, and passed his exams for midshipman on 20 April 1869. He left Plymouth Sound for Madeira on the frigate 'Bristol' (Captain F.W. Wilson) in June 1869 at the commencement of a voyage around the world as part of the Particular Service Squadron (or Flying Squadron) under Rear Admiral G.T. Phipps Hornby. The 'Bristol' proceeded from Madeira to Bahia in Brazil, where Dicken transferred to the frigate 'Phoebe' (Captain John Bythesea) for the rest of the voyage.
Following the squadron's return to England in November 1870, Dicken served on the 'Monarch' (Captain Murray-Aynsley) in the Channel Fleet for a year, then on the 'Lord Clyde' in the Mediterranean. After the 'Lord Clyde' was grounded badly on Pantellaria Island, he was transferred to the 'Lord Warden' (Captain Thomas Brandreth), flagship of Admiral Sir Hastings Yelverton, and remained on the ship until he was promoted to sub-lieutenant. During this period he saw action against the Spanish rebels who had seized Cartagena, and against the Spanish Navy.
After passing his exams for the rank of lieutenant in England, Dicken joined the 'Audacious' (Captain P.H. Colomb), flagship of Vice Admiral A.P. Ryder, and proceeded to China where he served on the 'Hornet', 'Growler' and 'Vigilant' until his promotion to lieutenant on 8 May 1877, when he returned to England.
After requalifying, he joined the 'Invincible' (Captain Lindsay Brine) for service in the Mediterranean during the Russo-Turkish war. He was with the fleet at Gallipoli and in the Sea of Marmora, and was once sent with despatches to the Russian camp. He returned to England in April 1879, qualifying as a torpedo lieutenant at H.M.S. 'Vernon', the Torpedo School at Portmouth, before joining the staff there. In May 1882 he joined the 'Alexandra', flagship of Admiral Sir Frederick Beauchamp Seymour, of the Mediterranean Fleet as torpedo officer, and served at the bombardment of Alexandria on 11 July, and afterwards on shore. He was mentioned in despatches and received a medal and bronze star. He remained on the 'Alexandra' until Christmas 1884, latterly under the flag of Admiral Lord John Hay.
Early in 1885, as 1st Lieutenant, he helped to fit out the 'Defiance', which was destined to become the Torpedo School at Devonport. He was promoted to commander on 6 January 1888, and commanded the 'Defiance' for three months before becoming Assistant to the Director of Torpedoes (Captain A.K. Wilson) at the Admiralty.
From November 1889 to June 1893 Dicken was second in command of the 'Australia' under Captain Martin J. Dunlop, visiting the Cape Verde Islands en route to serving in the Mediterranean. In March 1893 the 'Australia' was sent to join the North American Squadron under Admiral Hopkins at Bermuda for the occasion of a Great International Review at New York.
After serving as captain of the 'Wild Swan' in manoeuvres, he was promoted to captain on 1 January 1894. He served as flag captain to Rear Admiral A.K. Wilson on the 'Hermione' during manoeuvres in 1895, and in October that year he became Assistant Director of Naval Intelligence at the Admiralty under Sir Lewis Beaumont. In November 1897 he joined the 'Royal Arthur' as flag captain to Rear Admiral Sir Hugo Pearson, Commander-in-Chief in Australian waters. During this period he went to Perth, Western Australia, and brought the first Governor General, Lord Hopetoun, to Sydney. He returned to England in April 1901.
Dicken was offered command of the 'Hannibal' and 'Bulwark', but both fell through at the last moment owing to the requirements of the Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean who wanted the latter as his flagship. In early 1902 he accepted the appointment of Director and Inspector of all Destroyers in Home Waters, and in October 1903 he was appointed Commodore in Charge at Hong Kong at the time of the Russo-Japanese War. He was made a rear admiral on 5 July 1905, and returned to England in October. He retired in October 1908, and was promoted to vice admiral on the Retired List on 30 April 1910, and admiral on 3 June 1913.
Dicken lived for over thirty years at Winchester; from 1922 at The Hermitage, Weeke. He played an active role in Winchester society, where he lived out his retirement, including in the Boy Scout Movement, Winchester Red Triangle Club, British Legion, and Winchester Lawn, Tennis, Croquet and Bowls Club. He was also a Governor of the Royal Hampshire County Hospital. He died on 7 September 1937.
Dicken married his first wife Margaret Christiena Cornish on 14 October 1880. They had three sons: (Charles) Vernon, Frank and Edward Bernard Cornish. Following Margaret's death at Devonport on 25 January 1888, he married Ada Mary Byron on 9 June 1894, and had a further son, John Aldersey (Jack). Dicken's second son Frank was born on 25 September 1885, but died only five years later; at Surbiton on 16 December 1890. However, his other sons feature regularly in the memoirs:
(Charles) Vernon Dicken (1881-1955) was born at Southsea on 13 August 1881. He entered the Egyptian Civil Service in 1906, and was the Financial Expert at the Four Power International Conference at Paris in 1928 on the question of Tangier. He served as Assistant Administrator and Director of Finance of the Tangier Zone, Morocco, 1924-1937, and was Minister of Finance, Patiala State, India, 1937-1944. He married Alice Mary, eldest daughter of William Ogden, Indian Public Works Department, in 1917, with whom he had a son (Michael Perry, 1923-1943) and daughter (Susan). He was awarded the C.B.E. in 1927, and died on 28 January 1955.
Edward Bernard Cornish Dicken (1888-1964) was born at Plymouth on 18 January 1888. He entered the Navy in 1902, and was promoted to commander, 1922; captain, 1929; and rear admiral, 1940. He was Naval Attaché to France, 1922-1925, based at Paris. In 1936 he married Monique (Mona) O'Ryan, only daughter of Edmond O'Ryan and Madame Ryan. He was awarded the O.B.E. in 1925 and C.B.E. in 1947. He died on 3 April 1964.
John Aldersey Dicken (1896-1959) was born at Surbiton on 23 September 1896. He joined the Royal Navy as a cadet in 1913, becoming sub-lieutenant in 1916, and lieutenant commander in 1926. He was appointed A.D.C. to Sir Murray Anderson, Governor General of Newfoundland, in 1932. Aside from his naval career, Dicken also ran a motor car business at Chelsea. He died on 8 April 1959.
The principal part of the collection is comprised of Dicken's detailed hand-written memoirs, accompanied by related documents and photographs. The remaining items are a printed volume on the cruise of the Flying Squadron, 1869-1870, in which Dicken participated; a journal from his service on H.M.S. 'Alexandra' in the Mediterranean, 1883-1884; and assorted papers collected for the memoirs.
Presented by the executors of Admiral C.G. Dicken, 22 April 1953.