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I publish them regularly on topics based around my enduring love for all matters maritime. I keep them short and light, so they should be no longer to read than the time it takes to drink a coffee. If you want to receive them, please subscribe below

Samuel Pepys’s other great achievement

If Samuel Pepys came back to life, he would surely be delighted to find out that he was still famous three hundred years after his death. But he would be flabbergasted that he was known principally for keeping a diary. He only did so for less than ten years of his long life, as a private hobby. The diary ends in May 1669, and although it records many of the major events of the 1660s, such as the Great Fire of London, and the Dutch raid on the Medway, it sadly misses most of his more important achievements as the premium naval administrator of his age. By the end of the seventeenth century the Admiralty had a problem. Over the last two centuries, warships had developed into highly specialist

Animals Onboard

When the Mary Rose, pride of Henry VIII’s fleet, sank in to the muddy waters off Portsmouth in 1545 she took most of her crew with her. She also took at least one dog to the bottom of the Solent. The skeleton of this animal, thought to have been owned by the ship’s carpenter, is on display in the excellent Mary Rose museum in Portsmouth. Animals were an integral part of life onboard the wooden ships of the 18th century too. They came in all shapes and sizes. Some were welcome, but many were not. As well as the skeleton of the dog, an inordinate number of fine toothed nit combs were found in the Mary Rose, ample evidence that hair lice was rife on board. This was a major problem in 18th centu

The hunt for Napoleon

According to both History and Hollywood the story of Napoleon usually ends with a lonely figure in a large hat, one arm thrust into his grey coat, as he stands before the ridge at Waterloo on the evening of the 18th of June, 1815. All around him are the broken ruins of his once proud army, and night is falling. The great gambler has failed in his last throw of the dice. The next thing we generally hear of him is of his last years, spent as an exile on the island of St Helena, in the distant Southern Atlantic. But what happened between these two events? As he boarded his coach that night and sped off towards the west, the former Emperor was a man in serious trouble. When the Napoleonic wars h

Can't swim, won't swim

On the 29th of August 1782, the Royal George, a hundred gun first rate that was a sister ship to Nelson’s Victory, was anchored in the sheltered waters of Spithead. Her gun ports were open to allow much needed fresh air and sunlight into the ship. On board was her crew of eight hundred, together with approximately four hundred visitors, mainly the wives and children. In her stern cabin, Rear Admiral Richard Kempenfelt worked away at his desk. The ship was due to depart for Gibraltar later that day, once work was completed on her hull. To allow access to the planking that needed attention, she had been heeled over to port by moving all her starboard guns onto the centre line of the ship. Some

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