The tragic tale of matilda lodge’s visit to hms dauntless

Looking down London Road circa 1903. The Horndean Light Railway tracks are on the right.  Picture: Barry Cox Collection

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On this day in 1854 Matilda Lodge and a friend were chatted up by a Lieutenant Knight, a Royal Marine, while waiting for the floating bridge back to Gosport.

They went to the Fortitude pub at Point and were then invited to his ship in the harbour. A waterman rowed them to a hulk attached to HMS Dauntless.

The next morning Matilda was taken to The Hard by a waterman. She was missing her stays, the sleeves and hooks of her dress were torn and her breasts were exposed.

Her arms from her shoulders to her wrists were black with bruises; she had a black eye, a bruised chin and bruises running from her lower ribs to her shoulder blades and on her thighs and knees.

She was taken home to Gosport where she died from a ruptured bladder.

Lt Knight maintained she had been drunk and had fallen off a chair or a bed.

Magistrates could not find enough evidence to send him for trial on a manslaughter charge.

A court martial in HMS Victory found him guilty of bringing ‘two improper women’ on board and giving them drink and for not wearing proper uniform, for which he was demoted – from John Sadden’s The Portsmouth Book of Days.