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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

Nippers and Powder Monkeys

Warships during the age of sail carried a surprisingly large number of children. It was perfectly normal for the five to six hundred compliment of a ship of the line to include fifty or more ship’s boys. They appear in the muster books as either officer’s servant or as ordinary seamen. Admiralty regulations for Royal Navy ships stated that they should be at least thirteen years old, unless they were sons accompanying their fathers, in which case the limit was eleven. But like many such rules it was frequently flaunted, with children as young as eight going to sea. Sending children away at such a young age may seem barbaric to a modern reader but the navy was only reflecting common practice a

The Man who named Australia

Construction work on a new high-speed railway line at London’s Euston station has included the excavation of a former cemetery. One of the newly-opened graves provoked considerable media interest, both in the UK and Australia. The remains were those of a forty year-old Royal Navy officer, identified by a decorated lead plaque which is all that remains of his coffin. The man was Captain Mathew Flinders. Flinders was born in rural Lincolnshire, the son of a surgeon, with little connection to the sea. He received a good education and it was hoped by his parents that young Mathew would follow his father into medicine. Unfortunately for them, the boy was given a copy of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Cr

The Sovereign of the Seas

In 17th century Europe, the Power of Kings was at its zenith and conspicuous display was all the rage. Louis XIV of France built the largest palace in Europe at Versailles. In Russia, Peter the Great planned to go one better, and build a whole new city, modestly naming it St Petersburg, after the apostle rather than himself. Across Europe lesser monarchs ordered new buildings, commissioned artworks and lured the famous to their courts. But the ultimate status symbol for a king with a coast was to own a large, highly decorated warship. There was a long tradition of building big ships to bolster national prestige, including several impractical ones. James IV of Scotland almost bankrupted his c

Mutiny on the Hermione

Mutinies occur much more frequently than most navies care to admit. They have been a part of life on board warships for centuries. The majority are non-violent, with the crew refusing to work or leave port until their grievance is resolved. But for every rule there is an exception, and few mutinies have approached the levels of violence seen during the one which took place in September 1797, on board the Royal Navy frigate Hermione. Most commentators, including those at the time, agree that the captain of the frigate, Hugh Pigot, was a quite unsuitable man to be put in command of a ship. Good connections and interest had been behind his rapid rise to post captain at the age of twenty five. A

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