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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


The naval cannon during the age of sail hardly changed for the best part of three centuries. Improvements were made over time, notably more reliable metal casting and better gun tackles, but the basic design barely altered from the 16th to the end of the 18th century. Warships were equipped with long, muzzle-loading guns mounted on a movable carriage. If gunners from the Mary Rose, which sank in 1545, were transported two and a half centuries through time to the lower deck of the Victory at Trafalgar, they would have had little difficulty recognising the weapons around them. But they might have been puzzled by the carronades mounted on the first rate’s upper deck. The carronade was the inven

The Battling Cannoniere

On a dark night in November 1805, the 40 gun frigate Cannoniere slipped her moorings in the French port of Cherbourg and headed out to sea on a secret mission. She was setting out on a long journey, carrying a cargo of desperately needed naval stores out to the Indian Ocean. For the previous three years Admiral Linois, with a squadron of five warships, had been operating from the French controlled islands there against British commerce, but they now needed help from France to be able to continue. The frigate’s talented captain, César-Joseph Bourayne, managed to evade the Royal Navy’s numerous patrols, and after a voyage of five months arrived in the Indian Ocean. What he did not know was tha

The Eddystone Lighthouses

Plymouth is one of the Royal Navy’s most important naval bases. It has a spacious natural harbour that is well protected from the elements. It has a hinterland able to supply the city with plenty of food from the agriculturally rich West Country, together with sailors from its many ports and harbours. The position of Plymouth, at the western end of the Channel, also made it the ideal place to base a fleet powered by sail. The prevailing wind is from the west, ensuring that ships starting here are upwind of any threat to Britain’s south coast. By sailing southwards across the wind, the fleet could also easily reach the main French naval base at Brest. Small wonder that it was from Plymouth th

The Loss of the Anson

The Anson was one of a class of small, two decked ships of the line with 64 guns that were rushed into service during the War of American Independence. The Royal Navy had gone into that war poorly prepared for the challenges ahead, and by the late 1770s found herself fighting all the maritime powers of Europe at the same time, and very short of ships. Small 64s were cheaper and quicker to build than larger ships of the line, so they were ordered in substantial numbers during this crisis. The Anson was launched in September 1781, just in time to take part in Admiral Rodney’s victory at the Battle of the Saintes, the following year. The war ended in 1783 with US independence, and left the Roya

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