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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

How ‘Glorious’ was the Glorious First of June?

In 1794, the fledgling French Republic stood on the brink of starvation. Paris was in the grip of the Terror, and her leadership was paralysed by the relentless, scything advance of the guillotine. In the countryside, huge changes in land ownership had combined with harsh weather to ensure that food production had sunk to catastrophic levels. Under normal circumstances, France would have been able to import the food she needed from her European neighbours, but she was at war with almost all of them. The only place she could turn for the grain she so desperately needed was from the other side of the Atlantic. In the spring of that year, a convoy of several hundred merchant ships gathered at H

The Foundering of the Ramillies

Rear Admiral Thomas Graves, or “Admiral Tombstone” as his sailors called him, had a reputation in the Royal Navy as an unlucky commander. In 1780 he was censured for being too slow crossing the Atlantic with critically needed reinforcements. The following year he failed to defeat the French fleet in the Battle of Chesapeake Bay, which led to the disastrous British surrender at Yorktown. So in 1782, when he left Jamaica with a convoy of merchantmen, just as the season of autumn storms in the Atlantic was at hand, his sailors might have been forgiven for feeling uneasy. Admiral Tombstone did not disappoint them. On the afternoon of the 16th September, the convoy was hit by a savage gale from t

James Lind and the cure for scurvy

When George Anson left Britain in 1740 on his expedition to the Pacific, he took 1,854 men with him. He captured the most valuable treasure ship in existence at the time, circumnavigated the globe, and returned home in 1744 with only 188 souls. The majority of those who had perished on the voyage, had done so from disease, principally scurvy. At the time this was thought to be a painful, but inevitable price to be paid for the considerable achievements of Anson’s voyage. Scurvy was an accepted risk of lengthy ocean travel. Between the 16th and 18th centuries it has been estimated that the disease killed two million sailors globally. But news of Anson’s appalling casualty rate did shock a you

Boatswains

Boatswains have long been part of the crew of sailing ships. The word is old, coming from the Middle English bote-swayn, meaning one who looks after ships. Shakespeare included one in the opening scene of The Tempest and when the first European ships set out on their epic voyages of discovery, they all took boatswains with them. Traditionally boatswains began life as seamen, who through talent, experience and ability were promoted. They had a deep understanding of seamanship, gained over long years of practice, which made them highly prized members of any crew. In the 18th century Royal Navy, a boatswain was one of a ship’s standing officers. This meant that they were warranted to the ship w

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