Painting, The Burning of the Kent 1825


On the 7th of February, 1825 the 31st (Huntingdonshire) Regiment marched to Gravesend to embark for Calcutta on board the Honourable East India Company’s ship Kent, under Major Tovey. The voyage of the right wing of the regiment was the subject of a catastrophe by fire during a storm in the Bay of Biscay. On board were some 640 people. The ship was crowded and uncomfortable and was loaded with 100 tons of shot and shell as well as the victuals and equipment for the voyage. The soldiers, with great fortitude and discipline under the direction of Colonel Fearon and the ship’s Captain, Henry Cobb used wet blankets, greatcoats and water to try and quell the blaze but it was soon evident that the fire was out of control. It became imperative that as many people as possible could be saved and the ship’s boats and some hastily built rafts were hoisted out. As many women and children as could be assembled were put into the boats. The Kent blew up at 2am the following morning, Of the 640 on board the Kent 76 lives were lost including one woman and 21 children. It has to be said that Captain Cobb, Colonel Fearon and the officers and men of the 31st showed exceptional courage and discipline and without the humanity of Captain Cook and the courage of his crew and passengers of the tiny Cambria many more lives would have been lost.