Cause of death


When introducing myself I sometimes like to say “My mother was a Dolphin†… it causes some odd reactions! It is true – Her father was Chief Cook W. Dolphin, and his father, my great grandfather, was Leading Stoker J. Dolphin.

My great grandfather served in the survey vessel HMS Sylvia on the China Station during 1874-1880. On the voyage back to Chatham to pay off and refit, Sylvia anchored in Simons Bay, South Africa. An entry in the deck log reads – “Wednesday 11 August 1880. At Anchor, Simons Bay, S.Africa. p.m. Discharged J.Dolphin, Lead. Stoker, to Hospital†– A day or so later the ship sailed, leaving J. Dolphin, where he died in hospital.Presumably this would have been the R.N.Hospital.

With the very kind assistance of the lady curator of Simonstown Museum, We have located and have photographs of his grave. He shares a grave and Headstone with a “Kroomanâ€. But we have not been able to find out his cause of death. The hospital records could not be found in the archives in London.

I remember as a very young child , sitting on my grandfathers knee while he told me stories of the exploits of his father. One story ended with J. Dolphin being injured in a fall from aloft – but would a Leading Stoker be required to go aloft? Another story was that the ship’s steam pinnace was inshore overnight and J.Dolphin drew the short straw and was the boat keeper while the rest of the boat crew went ashore. Some thieves boarded the pinnace and there was a fight. J.D. killed one with a blow with a heavy spanner and the others fled but leaving J.D. with unspecified injuries. Either of these two incidents might have resulted in his death at some future date, or of course he could have died of one of the fevers – malaria or worse. The stories may have been just fiction to entertain a young child!

I would be grateful if anyone could help us to find his cause of death

I think there are sites that record all personel pre world war 1, both ratings and commissioned, maybe one of the OTHER RR MEMBERS could shed more light .


Thanks RuggerBob. I have checked the records I could locate in the archives. They are marked DD (Discharged Dead). I was hoping someone might know if the RNHospital Simonstown records still exist somewhere.

Sorry Curly, (Or should it be short n curly) :D

I wish I could help you further, really not sure, hopefully on of the ex or serving medic type bod's, could poss point you in the right direction.



Curly, I have phoned Haslar and apparently they have no records going back that far. I also phone the RN Museum and blanked there. All I can offer now is The Public Records Office at Kew.

Keep Striving.


Onions - Thanks a lot for your help. I tried Google and Ask, and came up with all sorts of interesting stuff that I might take a look at, but nothing on records.

As you say, another try at Kew is is needed. It is some time since I last tried and the catalogue has probably expanded since then.

And I'll try again with the S.A.N. Museum.

Thanks again - Robert

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