Cornishmen from Port Issac perform a sea shanty.
Monthly Archives: May 2009
On June 18, 1809 HMS Inflexible (64) and HMS Bonne Citoyenne (20) departed Spithead for Quebec escorting a convoy of merchantmen.
Bonne Citoyenne was a sloop which had been taken from the French by HMS Phaeton in 1796. She carried eighteen 32-pound carronades, two long nines as bow chasers, and had a crew of 120 officers and men. Her captain was Commander William Mounsey. Mounsey, was 44 years old, old for a commander, and had left Carlisle to go to sea at age 13. He’d been promoted to commander in 1802 and probably was looking with trepidation at being placed on half pay for the rest of his life.
Drumbeat is the second of the Nicholas Ramage novels by Dudley Pope. It picks up where Ramage left off, with Nicholas Ramage commanding the cutter HMS Kathleen and en route to Gibraltar from Corsica. It ends with the Battle of Cape St. Vincent, February 14, 1797.
Major spoilers follow.
While our modern sensibilities cause us to look askance at primitive weapons, like boarding pikes, they were incredibly effective weapons. One has to consider that under the best of circumstances the reliability of flintlock firearms was problematic. When used at sea they were often unreliable. The most reliable weapons for boarding enemy ships or repelling boarders were the point and edge weapons available to the crew. Cutlass, boarding axe, and boarding pike.
While most useful for repelling boarders, the boarding pike was a formidable offensive weapon. As we recounted in The Taking of Banda, when Captain Christopher Cole attacked this Dutch outpost he had his men armed with boarding pikes in anticipation of frequent tropical downpours making their muskets inoperable.
Boarding pikes were about eight feet long and stored in beckets around the masts.
A quick perusal of this blog will show that I’ve shied away from writing much on major figures of the Age of Sail. While I have biographical entries on lesser known figures, like Sir Henry Duncan and Midshipman Flinders, there is no story on Horatio Nelson or, perhaps the most swashbuckling figure of the Napoleonic Wars, Lord Thomas Cochrane.
My reasoning is grounded equally in two sensibilities, practicality and snobbishness. Practicality because these two men have been the subject of an immense amount of study and literature and there is little I could add to anyone’s understanding of either. Snobbishness because these two men, etc. etc.
I’ll be deviating from this a bit as I delve more deeply into Dudley Pope’s Nicholas Ramage novels because Pope, probably because of his background as a chronicler of the Royal Navy, pulls in a significant number of incidents from the lives of these two men as plot elements.
Now to the story.
The Dubliners [natürlich] and Paddy’s Gone to France.
Devil To Pay is the second nove, chronologically, but the first in order of publication, in the Richard Delancey series by C. Northcote Parkinson.
Parkinson is best known for his work in the field of public administration and is credited with the eponymous “Parkinson’s Law” or “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” But he was an accomplished naval historian as well, writing a classic biography of Admiral Sir Edward Pellew. He is best known to Horatio Hornblower fans as the author of The Life and Times of Horatio Hornblower.
Devil To Pay opens in July 1794. Lieutenant Richard Delancey is unemployed and seemingly unemployable. He was involved in giving evidence at a court martial against the captain of his last ship, the frigate HMS Artemis, unfortunately for him the captain was acquitted and he was beached with a reputation for disloyalty attached to him. He has no friends or family to provide the necessary influence to find employment for him and it looks as though he will spend the rest of his naval career either on a receiving ship awaiting an assignment that will never come, or as an unemployed lieutenant on half pay.
Since that time HMS Artemis has been shipwrecked with heavy loss of life, including the captain, and many in the navy are now beginning to think that Delancey may have been right in giving his testimony. But no one is willing to offer him employment.
Major spoilers follow.
Having found myself temporarily deprived of Dewey Lambdin’s Alan Lewrie novels and totally dissatisfied with Julian Stockwin’s Thomas Kydd novels (despite the slamming cover art by Geoff Hunt) I’ve been searching for other naval fiction to use as a focal point for the historical features on this blog.
As I mentioned, I’ve rediscovered Dudley Pope’s Nicholas Ramage and I suspect I’ll get around to doing the same for Alexander Kent’s Richard Bolitho. In the meantime I found my local library carried some of the Richard Delancey novels by C. Northcote Parkinson. And I’ve decided to read this series as well as Pope’s Ramage novels for the time being.
As we’ll be serializing C. Northcote Parkinson’s Richard Delancey novels over the next weeks it seems appropriate to start with Delancey’s hometown.
On occasion combat at sea during the Age of Sail could be a display of sailhandling virtuosity, or a tour de force of surprise, which caused the enemy to strike with little bloodshed. More often than not, however, ship to ship combat resembled nothing so much as two drunks having at each other with pool cues in a parking lot.
The October 6, 1779 engagement between HMS Quebec and the French frigate, Surveillante, off Ushant was much more the latter than the former. Continue reading