Tag Archives: Horatio Hornblower

Adventures in the Fog

Periodically, we’ve noted instances where actual events enter naval fiction set during the Age of Sail will little more than the names of people and ships changed. Sometimes the actual events are toned down for the novel because of the implausibility of the real event, such as Cochrane taking El Gamo or Nelson using one Spanish first rate as a bridge to board and take a second first rate.

Another incident ties together Midshipman Horatio Hornblower, Lieutenant Lord Ramage, and Commodore Horatio Nelson. Fog and the Spanish Fleet.

In the short story, Hornblower, the Duchess, and the Devil, which is included in C. S. Forester’s Mr. Midhipman Hornblower, Hornblower, commanding a prize en route to England, finds himself enshrouded in fog, a fog which also includes the Spanish fleet and is subsequently captured and imprisoned at the fortress at Ferrol. In Dudley Pope’s Ramage, Lieutenant Lord Ramage, commanding the cutter HMS Kathleen, finds himself in the same unpleasant circumstances. He however, evades imprisonment, gains key intelligence on the Spanish fleet then in port in Cartagena, and is able to warn Admiral Sir John Jervis of their intentions.

The real story is just as strange.
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How Much Was Enough On A Man O’ War?

Yet something had to be done. The Lydia had supplied him with two hundred able-bodied seamen (his placard said nothing of the fact that they had been compulsorily transferred without a chance of setting foot on English soil after a commission of two years’ duration) but to complete his crew he needed another fifty seamen and two hundred landsmen and boys. The guardship had found him none at all. Failure to complete his crew might mean loss of his command, and from that would result unemployment and half-pay — eight shillings a day — for the rest of his life.

One of the underlying themes of most novels set during the Age of Sail is the difficulty of manning a ship of the era. Those familiar with C. S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower will recall the sleepless nights Captain Hornblower spent worrying about his ability to man HMS Sutherland (quoted above) because he knew if he could not man her, Admiralty would give her to someone who could. Continue reading

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The Alan Lewrie Novels: A Perspective

I’ve recently finished working my way through Dewey Lambdin’s series of novels following the career of his character Alan Lewrie. I stumbled onto the first by accident, was captured in the first paragraph, back in November and to a certain extent that novel, The King’s Coat, crystallized some ideas that had been floating around in my head about providing a researched resource covering life at sea, particularly life in the British navy, in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

It seems that I have nearly a year to wait until the next installment arrives, so I’ll close this chapter with my perspective on the novel and the character.

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A Great Hornblower Fansite

If you are interested in all things Hornblower, ScaryFangirl.com is the place for you.

Plot lines of movies and television shows, genealogy, synopsis of novels, and discussion boards are all there, albeit with a heavy dose of estrogen (not that there is anything wrong with that).

Check it out.

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HMS Glatton Takes On All Comers

Captain Henry Trollope with the moratlly wounded Marine Captain Henry Ludlow Strangeways on the deck of HMS Glatton

Captain Henry Trollope with the moratlly wounded Marine Captain Henry Ludlow Strangeways on the deck of HMS Glatton


We’ve observed on several occasions that many of the incidents in novels set during the Age of Sail are heavily influenced by actual events. In most cases, the novel’s protagonist expands on the accomplishments of the actual character. In Ramages’s Diamond, Lord Ramage manages to turn the battery later known as HMS Fort Diamond into a combat multiplier that enables his mini-squadron consisting of his frigate, a prize frigate, and a prize sloop to snap up a French convoy and its escorts.

Alexander Kent, on the other hand, perhaps feeling that the actual event was too improbable, actually downplays Nelson’s use of one Spanish ship of the line as a bridge to board and take a second, larger Spanish ship of the line and has Richard Bolitho use a friendly brig as a bridge to board and take a French frigate.

Every once in a while, though, the novel’s protagonist makes out worse than the actual character.

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Filed under Age of Sail, Famous Ships, Horatio Hornblower Novels, Lord Ramage Novels, Naval Battles, Naval Fiction, Naval Gunnery, Naval Weapons, Richard Bolitho Novels, The Rest of the Story

Casting the Lead

leadsman

“Mr. Bush, do you see the battery?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You will the longboat. Mr. Rayner will take the launch, and you will land and storm the battery.”

“Aye, aye, sir.”

“I will give you the word when to hoist out.”

“Aye, aye, sir.”

“Quarter less eight,” droned the leadsman — Hornblower had listened to each cast subconsciously; now that the water was shoaling he was compelled to give half his attention up to the leadsman’s cries while still scrutinizing the battery. A bare quarter of a mile from it now; it was time to strike.

From Ship of the Line, C. S. Forester.

For a sailor, knowing the depth of the water under the keel was probably more important than knowing a precise northing and easting. You can fix being lost. Not so much with being sunk.

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Cap de Creus, Spain

Cap de Creus, Spain. Easternmost point of Catalonia.

Fans of C. S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower will instantly recognize this a dominant feature in Hornblower’s patrol area off Catalonia in HMS Sutherland (see Ship of the Line). It is off this point that Hornblower, by masterful seamanship, was able to tow a ship of the line carrying the flag of the Rear Admiral Leighton which had been dismasted in a sudden storm.

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Roses, Spain


This is what remains of the fortress overlooking the harbor at Roses, Spain on the Costa Brava.

It is from the ramparts of this fort that a captive Horatio Hornblower (see Flying Colors) watched a British squadron destroy the four ships of the line his Sutherland had damaged as well as firing the captured Sutherland.

This fort had changed hands several times over the centuries. When the French abandoned Catalonia for good in 1814 they destroyed the fortress.

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Ferrol

ferrol3

Ferrol, Galicia, has been linked to the sea for its entire history. The remnants of the Spanish Armada took shelter here and it remains the major Spanish naval base on the Atlantic coast.

Ferrol, of course, is also well known to fans of C. S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower novels. The fortress at Ferrol, in the foreground, is where Midshipman Hornblower was imprisoned for two years and where, despite his lack of an ear for pronunciation, he learned Spanish that aided him in later adventures.

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Vado Bay

Vado Ligure

Most readers of naval fiction of the Age of Sail are fairly familiar with the broad outlines of the Napoleonic Wars. In reality, Britain had been at war with Revolutionary France for nearly seven years when the 18 Brumaire Coup brought Napoleon to power.

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Filed under Age of Sail, Alan Lewrie Novels, Geography, Horatio Hornblower Novels, Naval Fiction, Naval Operations