Category Archives: Age of Sail

Lieutenant Robert Pigot on the St. Mary’s River

Having finished another Alan Lewrie adventure, it is time to take a quick look at the historical incidents that were form a backdrop for the novel.

How effective was French privateering operations against British commerce? Not very. It was a nuisance, siphoning off numerous minor combatants to protect convoys and patrol against privateers but the losses were minor. As a strategic weapon aimed at the British economy it was an abysmal failure.

The highlight of Reefs and Shoals is the small boat action on the St. Mary’s River. Like so many incidents by Pope or O’Brian or Lambdin this one is rooted in fact. Continue reading

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Invasion Year

Invasion Year, the latest Alan Lewrie novel by Dewey Lambdin, begins with Captain Lewrie and HMS Reliant attached to the British fleet operating against the French fleet in Haiti. They arrive on the scene as the French capitulate on land. Lewrie plays a key role in negotiations with the rebels based on the knowledge he attained in Sea of Grey.

True to form, Lewrie causes some discomfiture on the part of his commodore, even though he is the senior captain, but in the end they are on friendly terms.

While replenishing supplies in Kingston, Jamaica, Lewrie receives unexpected news from England in the form of a letter informing him he has been knighted for his services to the Crown with the ceremony held in abeyance until his return. The squadron receives orders to return to England but they have to act as convoy escorts en route. The largish, 100+ ship, convoy loses some vessels to French privateers but not so many as to affect the career of the commodore.

Upon arrival in England, Lewrie is eventually seen at Court and knighted by a somewhat befuddled King George III. In the process he makes the acquaintance of Lady Lydia Stangbourne. She is a well connected young woman who has had her reputation besmirched in the course of a rather ugly and public divorce. In short, her reputation will not suffer for her association with Lewrie.

HMS Reliant is caught up in a secret mission being carried out by Admiralty revolving around using floating bombs, torpedoes, against the French invasion fleet in port. In the course of this experience Lewrie renews his acquaintance with the former commander of Lewrie’s HMS Thermopylae, Captain Joseph Speaks, and with Foreign Office operative James Peel.

Reliant tests the devices and eventually takes part on Admiral Lord Keith’s inconclusive raid on Boulogne.

When Lewrie returns from the raid he finds Peel has a distasteful new mission for him.

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Thoughts on King, Ship, and Sword

King, Ship, and Sword is a decidedly mixed bag.

On the one hand, it doesn’t move the development of Alan Lewrie forward much, if at all. The major focus of the novel seems to be tying up lose ends, like Lewrie’s rocky marriage and the ever diminishing villain Guillaume Choundas, and setting the stage for the second half of Lewrie’s life which, if he avoids court-martial, should see him hoist his flag by the time Waterloo rolls around.

It is obvious that Charitė de Guilleri and Phoebe Aretino are reentering the picture. Lewrie seems to be building an expertise in New Orleans and environs that one suspects will result in him being present for the Battle of New Orleans. As the War of 1812 looms, he will undoubtedly encounter his son who, at last look, was an officer in the US Navy.

Now Lewrie (quick close your eyes if you don’t want to read a spoiler) has two sons in the Navy which will certainly cause him some anxious moments.

His roguish father has started putting his affairs in order which hints at his upcoming demise. Unfortunately, looks like Sir Hugo is destined to die peacefully in his own bed rather than violently in someone else’s.

His half-brother, Gerald, has been absent since Lewrie had him press-ganged into the navy. His half-sister, Belinda, hasn’t made an appearance since the first novel, The King’s Coat. Even though she is pushing 40 she is still a highly desired hooker. It’s hard to believe she won’t reappear at some point.

On the whole, this is not the best of the series. The naval action seems to be an afterthought. A respected, upright Lewrie isn’t quite as much fun as the devious, edgy Lewrie we’ve known in the past. And Lambdin makes some technical errors, like complaining about the “purser’s pound”, i.e. rations being issued at 14 rather than 16 ounces to the pound, a practice which ceased with the Spithead Mutiny. He also describes the cheese in terms that could only be Suffolk cheese which was dropped by the Victualling Board in 1758.

But we’re waiting for the next in the series, The Invasion Year.

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King, Ship, and Sword

King, Ship, and Sword is the 16th and latest of Dewey Lambdin’s naval adventures chronicling the career of Alan Lewrie.

We left Lewrie in Baltic Gambit in the aftermath of the Battle of Copenhagen as the captain of HMS Thermopylae. He survives the battle with his professional reputation enhanced but staring the wreckage of his marriage and close friendships in the face.

King, Ship, and Sword picks up with Thermopylae on close blockade of the Dutch ports as peace becomes more and more inevitable. Lewrie, as usual, is in a state of disfavor with the powers at Whitehall and his ship is one of the last to be called home and paid off when the Peace of Amiens is signed.
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The Gale at the Nore. Part 7. Retribution.

With Richard Parker’s surrender and imprisonment, the inevitable retribution began. The British Navy had a tradition of leniency towards certain kinds of mutiny but by the same token ruthlessly suppressed mutinies which struck at the authority of the captain. The Nore mutiny clearly fell into the latter category and the mutineers, by their blockade of the Thames, had forfeited any claim to being considered loyal subjects, a theme, we will recall which was relentlessly repeated by Valentine Joyce and the Spithead mutineers.

The sailors involved in the mutiny were under no illusions about what was coming.

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The Gale at The Nore. Part 6. Mutiny FAIL.

The arrival of part of Admiral Duncan’s Yarmouth based fleet at The Nore gave a new boost the morale of the mutineers which had been battered by the change of attitude of the people of Sheerness towards them and the defection of several ships to the government, (that story is detailed here).

While their morale may have improved their situation had not. They were cut off from shore, denied supplies, and the government refused to enter into further negotiations with them. Some unnamed genius came up with the idea that two could play at that game and conceived the idea of a blockade of the Thames and, therefore, of London. Accordingly, on the evening of May 31, Richard Parker presented himself at the home of the port commissioner at Sheerness and announced that London was under blockade.

At first, it seemed like this was mere bluster but on June 2 HMS Swan, sloop, began intercepting inbound merchantmen and detaining them. The traffic soon outpaced the capabilities of a single ship and HMS Brilliant (28), HMS Standard (64), and HMS Inspector (16) were called upon to lend a helping hand.

Parker and the mutineers desperately needed a bring the mutiny to an end and this move seems calculated to do just that.

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The Gale at The Nore. Part 5. Climax.

HMS Clyde escapes from the mutinous fleet at The Nore

HMS Clyde escapes from the mutinous fleet at The Nore

When we last visited the mutiny at The Nore, the Lords Commissioner of the Admiralty had departed their conference with the mutineers disappointed. Their offer, to apply the same conditions as those received by the mutineers at Spithead and to offer them a royal pardon, was rejected by the delegates.

It was now obvious that lines were being firmly drawn. On the one hand the controlling forces behind the mutiny at The Nore, and those forces weren’t necessarily the delegates themselves, were unwilling to settle for less than their demands — and their actions actually lead one to believe that no concessions by the government were going to end the mutiny but rather the demands represented a ever moving set of goal posts — and the government did not feel that it could given into mutineers so soon after caving to the Spithead mutiny.
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