Issue XXIII ... Autumn 2005
I Remember Nelson
From the letters I receive, some from people who have rarely seen the ocean except from a high-flying jet, I believe our unwavering fascination with all things maritime is the result of two factors: the mystique of those fine, brutal ships and the men who lived and died in them, and the knowledge that we will never see their like again; and also because they represented the last days of true independence and self-reliance. Everything carried or rigged in a ship of that period had to be repaired or replaced with whatever materials were readily to hand: masts and spars, boats, sails, even the food, water and basic supplies that were needed to sustain any fighting ship, large or small. Once out of sight of land, and particularly when sailing without company, a ship was only as strong as those who served her, and as strong as the man in command.
Tactics when fighting an enemy at sea changed little over time, and relied less on strategy than on the ability of one captain to exploit any weakness or lack of vigilance on the part of his adversary, which would permit him to lay his ship as close as possible to another for the first, and often decisive, broadside.
HORATIO LORD NELSON
Only the marines were trained ashore in their barracks. For the rest, from captain to midshipman, from nimble-footed topman to some dazed and frightened landman dragged aboard by the press gang, it was all a question of leadership by example, with the trained and seasoned men ready, if need be, to put a rope into a novice's fingers, if only to avoid a break in the vital chain of command.
One man will always stand out as the personification of courage and the finest qualities of leadership during this entire period of fighting sale. Horatio Nelson inspired all those he met, and many others who knew him only by reputation. So great was the influence of the little admiral, and his power over the imaginations of his commanders, that he won his greatest victory by inspiration alone, even after he had fallen, mortally wounded.
On this, the two hundred anniversary of Nelson's last great battle, we are sometimes in danger of being overwhelmed by the sheer weight of publicity, and its more commercial aspects, and may lose sight, perhaps, of the man's true strength. Even at the height of his fame, Nelson never forgot the hopes and needs of the ordinary Jack. He made a point of remembering a seaman's name whenever possible. It is often all he can call his own in the navy. When wounded himself, he was known to stand fast and refuse treatment, allowing a badly injured sailor to take his place waiting to see the surgeon. He led by example. He died with duty uppermost in his mind.
One of the last sea fights under sail was the battle of Lissa in 1811. The hero and victor of that battle was Captain William Hoste. It is worth noting that Hoste originally went to sea at the age of twelve, to serve under Nelson in his old Agamemnon. Like several youngsters on board, all from Nelson's home county of Norfolk, Hoste was quick to learn, and to benefit from that experience.
When he sailed into battle at Lissa against daunting odds, Hoste flew one significant signal, 'Remember Nelson'. It was enough. For his men, and so, too, for us.
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Band of Brothers
In this, the long-awaited conclusion of Alexander Kent's Midshipman Trilogy, the new year of 1774 seems to offer Richard Bolitho and his friend Martyn Dancer the culmination of a dream. Both have been recommended for promotion, although they have not yet gained the coveted lieutenant's commission.
But a routine passage from Plymouth to Guernsey in an untried schooner becomes, for Bolitho, a passage from midshipman to King's officer, tempering the promise of the future with the bitter price of maturity.
Of Band of Brothers
Alexander Kent says, 'It was always my intention to write the third and final installment in the midshipman series, but over the years there were various interruptions and delays. I was forced to change publishers in mid-course due to takeovers in the industry, and gradually Bolitho and I moved further and further away from that period in his history. But the idea never left me, and finally, after thousands of requests from readers to revisit Bolitho's early career and answer certain questions about what happened, the time seemed right. And so I returned to the years of uneasy peace preceding the American War of Independence, with Bolitho allowing me once more to view the world through his youthful eyes and accompany him on the final stage of his journey from midshipman's berth to commissioned officer.'
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Douglas Reeman in New Tall Ships Documentary,
by Chip Richie
A new film documentary, Sea Warriors - the Royal Navy in the Age of Sail
, by Richie Productions, features interviews with Douglas Reeman. The video is an excellent counterpart to the great seafaring novels of Alexander Kent, C. S. Forester, Patrick O'Brian and others. It gives a factual account of what life was like in Nelson's navy, making it instantly relatable to the novels we all love to read. The re-enactments aboard HMS Trincomalee
and the Endeavour
, along with the original art and graphics used in the film, make it a must-see.
'What I have seen to date is quite fascinating,' states Douglas Reeman, 'Chip's passion for his subject and his craft is obvious. I especially appreciated the scenes near Falmouth, which of course was Richard Bolitho's home.'
The documentary film is hosted by author/historian Richard Woodman (Nathaniel Drinkwater novels) and was shot on location throughout the United Kingdom, as well as on board HM Bark Endeavour
. There are interviews with Colin White aboard HMS Victory
in Portsmouth, with Robert Gardiner in the mold loft in Chatham, and others. In addition, author Julian Stockwin (Thomas Kydd novels) discusses the life of the common seaman.
The film is available now. For more information see Richie Productions' www.seawarriors.com
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The Bolitho Collection
Alexander Kent takes pleasure in presenting this exquisite bone china figurine portraying Captain Richard Bolitho, the hero of his best-selling novels about the men and ships of Britain's eighteenth and nineteenth century navy. Bolitho wears the uniform of a post-captain, as he would have appeared while commanding HMS Hyperion
, one of the most popular ships in the series.
Each figurine is one of a numbered edition, ten inches (twenty-five and a half centimetres) high including the base, hand-crafted and authentic in every detail - a remarkable recreation not only of a stirring period, but of an individual. A limited number of figurines are still available at £180.00 including VAT, postage, packing and insurance. Payment by cheque or international money order in sterling only, to Bolitho Maritime Productions Limited, 10 Eaton Park Road, Cobham, Surrey, England, KT11 2JH.
Limited edition, fine art prints of Geoffrey Huband's paintings for the covers of To Glory We Steer
, The Inshore Squadron
, Sloop of War
, Form Line of Battle
, Passage to Mutiny
and Midshipman Bolitho
, numbered and signed by the artist, are now available from our associates George and Amy Jepson, former owners of Tall Ships Books, who have proudly launched Bowsprit Maritime Art in response to increasing demand. For more information or to order Geoffrey Huband's prints, please contact Bowsprit Maritime Art at (001) 269-372-4673.
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Richard Bolitho: A Life
1756 born Falmouth, son of James Bolitho
1768 entered the King's service as a midshipman in Manxman (80)
1772 Midshipman Gorgon (74) (Richard Bolitho - Midshipman and Midshipman
Bolitho and the Avenger)
1774 promoted Lieutenant Destiny (28) Rio and the Caribbean (Stand into Danger)
1775-77 Lieutenant Trojan (80) during the American Revolution. Later appointed
prizemaster (In Gallant Company)
1778 promoted Commander Sparrow (18) Battle of the Chesapeake (Sloop of War)
1780 birth of Adam, illegitimate son of Hugh Bolitho and Kerenza Pascoe
1782 promoted Captain Phalarope (32). West Indies. Battle of Saintes (To Glory
1784 Captain Undine (32). India and East Indies (Command a Kings Ship)
1787 Captain Tempest (36). Great South Sea. Tahiti. Suffered serious fever.
(Passage to Mutiny)
1792 Captain, The Nore. Recruiting. (With All Despatch)
1793 Captain Hyperion (74). Mediterranean. Bay of Biscay. West Indies. (Form
Line of Battle and Enemy in Sight!)
1795 promoted Flag Captain Euryalus (100). Involved in the Great Mutiny.
Mediterranean. Promoted Commodore (The Flag Captain)
1798 Battle of the Nile (Signal - Close Action!)
1800 promoted Rear-Admiral. Baltic. (The Inshore Squadron)
1801 Biscay. Prisoner of war. (A Tradition of Victory)
1802 promoted Vice-Admiral. West Indies. (Success to the Brave)
1803 Mediterranean. (Colours Aloft!)
1805 Battle of Trafalgar. (Honour This Day)
1806-07 Good Hope and second Battle of Copenhagen. (The Only Victor)
1808 shipwrecked off Africa. (Beyond the Reef)
1809-10 Mauritius campaign. (The Darkening Sea)
1812 promoted Admiral. Second American war. (For My Country's Freedom)
1814 defense of Canada. Second American war. (Cross of St. George)
1815 killed in action. (Sword of Honour)
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Unabridged cassettes of Relentless Pursuit (£20.95) and Twelve seconds to Live (£20.95) are now available by mail order by calling 0116 230 1216 or by writing to Clipper Audio, W.F. Howes Ltd., Units 6/7 Victoria Mills, Fowke Street, Rothley, Leicester LE7 7PJ. Other Kent and Reeman titles, complete and unabridged, are available from Chivers Audio Books, Windsor Bridge Road, Bath BA2 3AX, England.
Signed copies of books by Alexander Kent and Douglas Reeman are available from the official Richard Bolitho stockist, Hatchards, 187 Piccadilly, London W1J 9LE, England, telephone 0207 439 992l.
If you have any queries regarding Alexander Kent or Douglas Reeman or if you would no longer like to be part of the Bolitho Readers' Club and receive this newsletter please contact: William Heinemann Marketing Department, Random House, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 2SA, www.randomhouse.co.uk.