1759 – “The Wonderful Year” When I was twelve I found in our local library a leather-bound “Children’s History of the World” in two volumes, each about two and a half inches thick. They dated from the 1890s (the summit of human progress might have been assumed to be Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in [...]
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Training Tragedies: the losses of HMS Eurydice and HMS Atalanta At first glance the picture of a frigate such as HMS Eurydice, as above, immediately evokes visions of single-ship actions of the Napoleonic period. It is therefore all the more surprising that this ship was still in service in 1878 and that her destruction was witnessed by the [...]
Earning Napoleon’s admiration: HMS Grappler 1803 A minor action off the French coast in 1803 which involved the Royal Navy brig, HMS Grappler, was to arouse the admiration of Napoleon himself. The story is a remarkable one. A brig-of-war - in tis case French. HMS Grappler would however have looked very similar. These were [...]
Dynamite Guns: Brilliant Technical Dead-Ends! A major role is played in the Dawlish Chronicles novel Britannia’s Shark, set in 1881, by an experimental “pneumatic projector” – essentially a gun from which the projectile is launched by compressed air. Such weapons were considered very promising in the 1880s and 1890s and indeed the inventor John Phillip [...]
The Iéna and Liberté Disasters, 1907 and 1911 In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries all major navies, other than the German, lost large ships through magazine explosions of unstable ammunition. The first of such tragedies was in the US Navy, when the battleship USS Maine blew up in the harbour of Havana, Cuba, in [...]
HMS Dolphin and the capture of the slaver Firme, 1841 A slaver of the early 19th Century - typically a brutal thug In 1807 Britain was the first nation to outlaw the slave trade, one which had existed for millennia (and that, to a certain [...]
The Crimean War’s North Pacific Theatre: Petropavlovsk, August 1854 The most common image of the Crimean War (1854 – 56) is of Britain’s Light Brigade charging to death and glory against Russian guns at Balaclava. Almost equally well known are the epics of the ”Thin Red Line” and of the Storming of the Redan, [...]
The Intercontinental Junk Keying, 1846 In a 1912 book entitled “The Sea Trader – His Friends and Enemies” I came across the engraving illustrated here. I found it wholly fascinating as it refers to the Keying, “The first junk that ever rounded the Cape of Good Hope, as she appeared off Gravesend, 28th March 1848, 477 days from Canton” My interest [...]
Prize Money: Frigates, Snobbery - and Jane Austen HMS Pomone - frigate, archetypal prize taker In naval fiction set in the Age of Fighting Sail, prize money, accruing from the capture of enemy shipping which would subsequently be sold to third parties or bought by the Admiralty, is rightly shown as an important driver for [...]
More Privateer Action in the Channel: 1799 An earlier article (Click here if you missed it) told of a small vicious action between a British merchant ship and a French privateer in the English Channel at the start of the Revolutionary War in 1793. In the years that followed the pace was not to [...]