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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

Tolstoy vs Jane Austen

Readers of my Alexander Clay series may have noticed a similarity between the main character’s sister, Betsey Clay, and the early life of Jane Austen. Both came from a comparable background, both aspired to be novelists and both had brothers who served as officers in the navy. When Betsey comes to publish her first novel, just like Jane Austen, she does so anonymously. None of Jane Austen’s six novels ever appeared under her name while she was alive. The late eighteenth century was an age with very definite ideas of what activities were acceptable for “well brought up” ladies. Their education was largely confined to the skills that would make them suitable wives for gentlemen. Jane Austen’s

England Expects

On the 21st of October 1805, the most famous naval battle of the age of sail was about to begin. On board his flagship Victory, Vice Admiral Nelson decided to send a signal to his fleet that was not an order, or a request, but an inspirational message. It was the first time that any Admiral had sent such a signal, and he was only able to do so because of the flexible signalling system that had been provided to him by Captain Home Popham. The thirty two coloured flags were hauled aloft, and “England expects that every man will do his duty” entered the history books. The signalling system in use that day converted words and phrases into a numbered code. Those codes were then transmitted using

A Ship called Ranger

At the end of 2017, the American aircraft carrier Ranger (CV-61) was finally scrapped, having been out of commission for over twenty years. She was one of the first of the post-war super carriers built for the US Navy, and served throughout the Vietnam War as well as the first Gulf War. She also featured in a number of films, including Top Gun. But this elderly flat top was just the latest of a number of American ships to carry the Ranger name, a tradition which began with an altogether more diminutive vessel. The first Ranger was launched in 1777, at the very birth of the United States, and was an 18 gun sloop of war. She may have had a displacement that was about a 250th of that of CV-61,

James Cook and the conquest of Canada

Captain James Cook is famous for the three epic voyages of scientific exploration that he led into Pacific Ocean between 1768 and his death on a beach in Hawaii in 1779. He is much less well known for the role he played before that, in the British conquest of Canada. Cook came late to the Royal Navy. He learnt his seamanship in the merchant service, aboard Whitby colliers that brought coal from the North East of England down to the growing metropolis of London. He was a talented and ambitious sailor, and by the age of 27 was first mate of a ship. He also had the promise of the owners that he would be made master of his own vessel soon. This proved an insufficient draw to keep a man of his ta

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