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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

Admiral Duncan

One of the ironies of Lord Nelson’s famous “England Expects” signal before the Battle of Trafalgar, is the number of its recipients who were not English. Among his fleet that day some forty percent of the ratings were drawn from other nations. Many were Irish and plenty more came from Wales, North America or Scandinavia. Even aboard his flagship, the Victory, his crew included Swiss, Indians, Brazilians and four Frenchmen. On the quarterdecks of his ships the cultural mix was different, but no less surprising. Up to a third of the commissioned officers at Trafalgar were from Scotland. The 18th century Royal Navy attracted a large number of Scottish officers, many of whom rose to senior rank.


The first ships, which emerged in the Bronze Age, had little need for anchors. They evolved from trading boats that operated on great rivers like the Nile and the Euphrates, where the crew could head for the bank when the crew needed to secure the craft. In the largely tide-free Mediterranean, Red Sea or Persian Gulf, the first sea-going vessels were small enough to be hauled onto a beach at the end of a voyage, or if a storm threatened. It was only as ships grew to a size where this was no longer practical that the need for an alternative means of securing a ship was needed, and the anchor was born. The very first anchors were probably developed by fisherman looking to hold their boat in a

“To Glory We Steer” - The Battle of Quiberon Bay

By 1759, it was clear that France was losing the Seven Years War. From the jungles of India to the forests of North America, French forces were in steady retreat from Britain and her allies. What was required was a bold plan to turn the war around. The British Army was much smaller than that of France, and most of it was fighting overseas. In Paris the Duc de Choiseul argued that the enemy was over-stretched and poorly protected against the threat of invasion. A force of forty thousand French troops were gathered around Calais, ready for the short journey across the straits of Dover. Meanwhile a second army was assembled in Quiberon Bay, a roadstead in southern Brittany, to invade Scotland.

Ship Time

In the 18th century, timekeeping on land was very much a local affair. There were no time zones, nor any concept that a whole area should be obliged to share a single time. The hour in a particular place was generated from a prominent shared clock, such as that on the village church, or mounted on the front of the town hall. Its chimes rang out to inform one and all the time, and those wealthy enough to have their own clock or watch would adjust it accordingly. It provided a convenient way of arranging the start of a local event, or meetings between people, but it mattered little if the time in one town was different from that in the next. It was only the advent of the railways in the 19th c

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