“A British frigate backing her sails” by Thomas Luny (1759-1837)
Note the large windows at the stern, similar to those out of which Pellew escaped on HMS Amphion
In Captain Pellew’s cabin, he and his guests were thrown from their seats and stunned. Pellew had however sufficient presence of mind to head to the windows, and seeing the two hawsers, one slack and the other taut. He launched himself outwards and managed to hold on to one of them. His first lieutenant followed suit but Swaffield of HMS Overyssel was not so lucky and his body was only found a month later. Pellew himself was so badly shocked that, after he had been brought ashore, he was hardly aware of where he was or what had happened.
An enquiry into the disaster was initiated by the port-admiral and various theories – many wild –were advanced as to the cause. Though this was never ascertained with total certainty, a grisly discovery some weeks later may have thrown light on it. Salvage efforts had been initiated immediately and bodies were released from the wreckage in the process. Also recovered was a sack containing gunpowder, disguised with a layer of biscuit over it. It was surmised that HMS Amphion’s gunner might have been stealing gunpowder and taking it ashore to sell. He had apparently been seen drunk earlier in the day and, as a consequence, might have neglected essential precautions in the magazine. There may have been a more prosaic explanation however – Pellew disbelieved the theory about the gunner and complained that the magazine was poorly constructed and unsafe.
The loss of HMS Amphion did not damage Pellew’s career. Five months later, recovered from the effects of the explosion, he was appointed to command of another 32-gun frigate, HMS Greyhound. He suffered the indignity of being put ashore by her crew during the Nore mutiny. He resigned Greyhound’s command thereafter but took over yet another 32-gun frigate, HMS Cleopatra.
Years of action – and the glory of Trafalgar – lay ahead.
The seventh Dawlish Chronicle was published on November 30th 2018 in paperback and Kindle, and is available to subscribers to Kindle Unlimited and Prime at no extra charge. It can be read in sequence or as a standalone.
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1883: The slave trade flourishes in the Indian Ocean, a profitable trail of death and misery leading from ravaged African villages to the insatiable markets of Arabia. Britain is committed to its suppression but now there is pressure for more vigorous action . . .
Two Arab sultanates on the East African coast control access to the interior. Britain is reluctant to occupy them but cannot afford to let any other European power do so either. But now the recently-established German Empire is showing interest in colonial expansion . . .
With instructions that can be disowned in case of failure, Captain Nicholas Dawlish must plunge into this imbroglio to defend British interests. He’ll be supported by the crews of his cruiser HMS Leonidas, and a smaller warship. But it’s not going to be so straightforward . . .
Getting his fighting force up a shallow, fever-ridden river to the mission is only the beginning for Dawlish. Atrocities lie ahead, battles on land and in swamp also, and strange alliances must be made.
And the ultimate arbiters may be the guns of HMS Leonidas and those of her counterpart from the Imperial German Navy.
In Britannia’s Mission Nicholas Dawlish faces cunning, greed and limitless cruelty. Success will be elusive . . . and perhaps impossible.
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