…I have named her, Sir, after yourself,—the Undaunted

HMS Zebra providing covering fire to Commander Robert Faulknor at Fort Louis, Martinique

HMS Zebra providing covering fire to Commander Robert Faulknor at Fort Louis, Martinique

We’ve mentioned a few times that the writers of naval fiction set during the Age of Sail have an immense amount of material available to them that only needs minor adjustments to read as fiction.

For instance, the HMS Cockerel, an Alan Lewrie novel by Dewey Lambdin, there is an interesting scene set at the end of the novel. The setting is a dinner aboard the flagship of Admiral Sir Samuel Hood. Lieutenant Lewrie is fresh from the siege of Toulon where he managed to capture a French corvette. The corvette is named San Culotte (in real life a 118-gun first rate) and Lewrie jokes about how it will have to be renamed as it would quickly be known as the “Bare Assed” by British sailors. Hood is amused and renames the Sans Culotte the HMS Jester in honor of Lewrie’s wit and appoints him into her as commander.

This is a nice incident for a novel. A prominent admiral acknowledging a character trait in a junior officer and promoting him into a ship christened in honor that trait. From David Marley’s Wars of the Americas:

[A 1794 expedition led by Admiral Sir John Jervis and Lieutenant General Sir Charles Grey] arrives off Martinique by 5 February, finding only the 32-gun French frigate Bienvenue anchored before Fort Royal (modern day Fort de France) and an 18-gun corvette at Saint Pierre. The troops are therefore disembarked at three different places, with little opposition. By 16 March they have General Rochambeau’s 600 defenders besieged within Forts Louis and Bourbon, the rest of the island being in English hands at a cost of 71 redcoats killed, and 196 wounded or missing. The capital’s main citadel of Fort Louis is stormed by 20 March, Commander Faulknor’s sloop Zebra working so close during the bombardment that he leaps ashore with a landing party and carries a crucial part of its works. Once this stronghold falls, Rochambeau surrenders Fort Bourbon on 22 March, and Martinique passes entirely into British hands.

Another outcome of the battle is that Bienvenue was taken prize. Faulknor was ordered to report aboard Jervis’s flagship, there he received an uncharacteristic embrace from the legendarily stern Jervis. According to story, Jervis posted Faulknor captain on the spot saying:

“Captain Faulknor, by your daring courage this day a French frigate has fallen into our hands. I have ordered her to be taken into our service, and here is your commission to command her, in which I have named her, Sir, after yourself,—the Undaunted.”

Again, fact is stranger than fiction.

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Filed under Age of Sail, Alan Lewrie Novels, Naval Operations, Naval Operations Ashore, The Rest of the Story

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