On 1 May, 1878 HMS Triumph was commissioned at Portsmouth to replace HMS Shah as Flag Ship for the Pacific Station. On the 24th of May “Triumph departed Portsmouth bound for the Pacific under the command of Captain Richard Bradshaw. Among her officers was Lieutenant Clement W. Swetenham, who along with Captain Richards and three other officers, would return on the “Shah” - the others remaining with "Triumph." After delivering the “Triumph” Captain Richards remained in the Pacific until 4 December when he received orders to bring the “Shah” home.
With the time expired officers and men who were ordered home with the ship, as well as the “invalids” from “Shah and other ships Captain Bradshaw sailed towards Portsmouth. His original route home included a stop a Rio de Janeiro, before crossing the Atlantic, but fate intervened. Captain Bradshaw received word of a “Yellow Fever” outbreak at Rio and decided to avoid exposing the crew to the danger. He changed the “Shah’s” course and sailed for St. Helena. On 4 February, 1879 the “Shah” arrived at St. Helena where the men were allowed ashore. Later the same day the steam ship “Asiatic” arrived at St. Helena with the news of the disaster at Isandlwana. Captain Bradshaw conferred with the island’s governor, and it was decided that after taking on provisions and coaling the ship, he would proceed to the Cape, taking with him a company of the 88th and Number 8 Battery, 7th Brigade Royal Artillery.
On the 12th of February Captain Bradshaw left St. Helena for South Africa. Before he left he prepared a report to the Admiralty explaining his actions. This he left with Lieutenant Clement Swetenham to personally to deliver to the Admiralty.
On the 24th of February the steamer “Anglian” with the Cape mails, stopped at St. Helena. Lieutenant Swetenham took passage on “Anglian” England.
The “Anglian” stopped at Madeira on March 9 where telegrams were sent to England.
Finally, on the 14th of March “Anglian” arrived at Plymouth, and Lieutenant Swetenham left immediately for London to deliver Captain Bradshaw’s report.
The report delivered by Swetenham was received with approval by the Admiralty, and later by the approval of both houses of Parliament.
Lieutenant Swetenham missed out on the Zulu War and was not awarded the South Africa Medal. On May 31, 1880 he retired from the navy with 13 years and 9 months service.
Petty Officer Tom