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.
St. Peter Port, shown here with Castle Cornet in the right midground, is the capital of Guernsey. During the Age of Sail, Guernsey was a hotbed of smugglers and privateers.
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
Personnel is policy. This is just as true in mutiny as it is in business and government. Where the Spithead Mutiny was led by experienced and accomplished seamen, the mutiny at The Nore was led by an embittered quota man: Richard Parker.
Parker is a character swathed in legend. What we know for a fact is that he was baptized at St. Mary Major, Exeter, on April 24, 1767, and his father was a prosperous baker in Exeter.
The Dictionary of National Biography states:
He entered the navy as a midshipman in a frigate cruising in the Soundings, and is stated to have been acting-lieutenant at the close of the American war. He is also said to have returned home with a considerable share of prize-money, which he spent riotously to have conceived himself ill treated by his captain, and to have sent him a challenge, which the captain promised to answer with his cane.
Ramage is the first novel in the Lord Ramage series by Dudley Pope which chronicles the adventures of Nicholas Ramage, a British naval officer during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Ramage is set in the Mediterranean theater around 1796, after Nelson has left HMS Agamemnon for HMS Captain. We join Ramage when he is already a lieutenant.
Major spoilers follow.
Nothing nautical, but they are the Dubliners and the song is by Dominic Behan, and that is enough.
Like the mutiny at Spithead, the Nore mutiny was born of anger and frustration on the part of the common sailor. There were significant differences in the make up of the fleets at those two locations. That in turn led to different leadership and that leadership led to tragically different outcomes.
Where Spithead was the home to the Channel Fleet, The Nore was the home of the North Sea fleet under Admiral Adam Duncan. The Channel Fleet regularly stayed at Spithead because if they were caught at sea in adverse weather conditions they could be driven completely up the Channel and leave England vulnerable to a cross Channel attack, in the worst case, or allow the French fleet to sortie. So while frigates screened the major French ports with some reinforcing ships of the line, most of the fleet was best deployed by being at anchor.
The North Sea fleet presented a different set of facts. Admiral Duncan’s North Sea fleet was constantly at sea and split between The Nore, the anchorage at Great Yarmouth, and on station off Texel. The duty was arduous and Duncan’s ships were old. Some of them nearly 30 years old at the time of the Battle of Camperdown, later in 1797.
Most importantly, Admiral Duncan was kept at sea and unable to exert the same influence over either his men, or his officers, as Bridport at Spithead.