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Richard Bolitho, recently appointed rear admiral, is in charge of his first squadron, and is thrown immediately into a fierce and bloody struggle with the enemy. The outcome of the crucial Battle of ...
Richard Bolitho, recently appointed rear admiral, is in charge of his first squadron, and is thrown immediately into a fierce and bloody struggle with the enemy. The outcome of the crucial Battle of Copenhagen is in Bolitho's hands....
He was a small, stooped figure, made fragile by his heavy dress coat and gold epaulettes, but there was nothing frail about his mind or the sharpness of his eyes.
It had been a long, tiresome ride from London to Portsmouth, the journey worsened by autumn rain and deeply rutted roads. And Beauchamp's one night's rest in the George Inn on Portsmouth Point had been ruined by a fierce gale which had changed the Solent into a raging mass of white horses and made all but the largest vessels scurry for shelter.
Beauchamp turned from the fire and surveyed his private room, the one he always used when he came to Portsmouth, like many important admirals before him. Now the gale had receded and the thick glass windows shone like metal in sunlight, a deception, because beyond the stout walls the air was chilled, with a hint of winter to come.
The little admiral sighed aloud, something he would never have done if company had been present. Late September 1800, seven years of war with France and her allies.
Once, Beauchamp had envied his contemporaries, at sea in every quarter of the globe, in their fleets, squadrons or flotillas. But in weather like this he was more than satisfied with his office of Admiralty where his shrewd mind as a planner and strategist had won him much respect. Beauchamp had sent more than one flag officer to ignominy, and had placed his confidence in other, more junior men whose experience and ability had been previously overlooked.
Seven years of war. He turned the thought over in his mind. Victories and defeats, good ships left to rot until the enemy were almost at the gates, brave men and fools, mutinies and triumphs. Beauchamp had seen it all, had watched new leaders emerging to replace the failures and the tyrants. Collingwood and Troubridge, Hardy and Saumarez, and, of course, the public's darling, Horatio Nelson.
Beauchamp gave a thin smile. Nelson was what the country needed, the very stuff of victory. But he could not see the hero of the Nile enduring the work of Admiralty like himself. Sitting at endless policy meetings, smoothing the fears of King and Parliament, guiding those less eager towards positive action. No, he decided, Nelson would not last a month in Whitehall, any more than he would in a flagship. Beauchamp was over sixty and looked it. He sometimes felt older than time itself.
There was a discreet tap on the door and his secretary peered warily in at him. "Are you ready, Sir George?" "Yes." It sounded like of course. "Ask him to come up." Beauchamp never stopped working. But he enjoyed seeing his plans come to fruition, his choices for leadership and command rising to his severe standards.
Like his visitor, for instance. Beauchamp looked at the polished doors, the sunlight reflecting on a decanter of claret and two finely cut glasses.
Richard Bolitho, stubborn about some things, unorthodox in others, was one of Beauchamp's rewards. Just three years ago he had appointed him commodore over a handful of ships and sent him into the Mediterranean to seek out and discover the French intentions. He had been a good choice. The rest was history; Bolitho's swift actions and the later arrival of Nelson with a full fleet at his disposal to smash the French squadrons into defeat at the Battle of the Nile. Bonaparte's hopes for a total conquest of Egypt and India had been destroyed.
Now Bolitho was here, but as a newly appointed rear-admiral, a flag officer in his own right with all the doubts behind him.
His secretary opened the door. "Rear-Admiral Richard Bolitho, sir." Beauchamp held out his hand, feeling the usual mixture of pleasure and envy. Bolitho looked very well in his new gold-laced coat, he thought, and yet the transition had left the man unchanged. The same black hair with the rebellious lock above his right eye, the level gaze and grave expression which hid the adventurer and at the same time concealed the man's humility which Beauchamp had discovered for himself. Bolitho saw the scrutiny and smiled.
"It is good to see you, sir." Beauchamp gestured to the table. "Pour, will you. I'm a mite stiff." Bolitho watched his hand as he held the decanter above the glasses, steady and firm, when it should be shaking with the excitement he really felt. When he had seen his own reflection in a mirror he had scarcely been able to accept that he had made the final, definite step from captaincy to flag rank. Now he was a rear-admiral, one of the youngest ever appointed, but apart from the uniform, the gleaming epaulettes, each with the solitary silver star, he felt much as before. Surely something should have happened? He had always assumed that the move from wardroom to captain's cabin would alter a man. But the stride from it to the right of hoisting his own flag was like ten leagues by comparison.
Only in others had he seen any real difference. His coxswain, John Allday, could barely stop himself from beaming with pleasure. And when he had visited the Admiralty he had seen the amusement on his superiors' faces when he had shown caution with his ideas. Now, they listened to his suggestions, when before someone might have crushed him into silence. They did not always agree, but they heard him out. That was a change indeed.
Beauchamp eyed him severely above his glass. "Well, Bolitho, you've got your way, and I've got mine." He glanced at the nearest window, steamy with the room's heat. "A squadron of your own. Four ships of the line, two frigates and a sloop of war. You'll be receiving orders from your admiral, but it will be up to you to translate them, eh?"
They clinked their glasses, each suddenly wrapped in his own thoughts. To Beauchamp it meant a fresh, young squadron, a weapon to fit into the complex of war. To Bolitho it meant a lot more. Beauchamp had done everything to help him. Even to his choice of captains. All but one of them he knew well, and with good reason, and some he knew like old friends.
Most of them had something in common in that each had served with or under him in the past. Bolitho glanced around the room. In this same room, nineteen years ago, he had been given his first major command, and in many ways his best remembered. In her he had found Thomas Herrick, who had become his first lieutenant and his loyal friend. In the same unhappy ship he had also met John Neale, a twelve-year-old midshipman. Neale was in his squadron now, a captain commanding a frigate of his own.
"Memories, Bolitho?" "Aye, sir. Ships and faces." That said it all. Bolitho had gone to sea, like Neale, at the age of twelve. Now he was a rear-admiral, the impossible dream. Too many times he had stood eye to eye with death, too often he had seen others fall about him to hold much confidence beyond the month or the year.
"Your ships are all gathered here, Bolitho." It was a statement. "So there's no sense in wasting time. Get 'em to sea, exercise them as you know how, make them hate your guts, but forge them into steel!" Bolitho smiled gravely. He was eager to leave. The land held nothing for him any more. He had visited Falmouth, his house and estate there. It had affected him in the same way as before. As if the house had been waiting for something. He had stood before her portrait in his bedroom several times. Listening to her voice. Hearing her laugh. Yearning for the girl he had married and lost almost immediately in a tragic accident. Cheney. He had even spoken her name. As if to bring the picture to life. When he had left to make for London he had turned in the doorway to look at her face once more.
The sea-green eyes, like the water below Pendennis Castle, the flowing hair with the colour of new chestnuts. She, too, had appeared to be waiting.
He shook himself from his thoughts and remembered the one enjoyable thing he had shared when Herrick had returned to England in his old Lysander.
With surprisingly little hesitation Herrick had married the widow Dulcie Boswell whom he had met in the Mediterranean. Bolitho had made the journey willingly to the small Kentish church on the road to Canterbury. The pews had been filled with Herrick's friends and neighbours, with a good sprinkling of blue and white from fellow sea officers.
Bolitho had felt strangely excluded, the feeling made harder to bear when he had recalled his own wedding at Falmouth, with Herrick beside him to offer the ring.
Then, as the bells chimed and Herrick had turned from the altar with his bride's hand on his gold-laced cuff, he had paused by Bolitho and had said simply, "You being here, sir, has made this just perfect for me."
Beauchamp's voice intruded again. "I would like to take lunch with you, but I have business with the port admiral. And no doubt you've much to do. I'm obliged to you for many things, Bolitho." He gave a wry smile. "Not least for accepting my suggestion for a flag lieutenant. I've had my fill of him in London!"
Bolitho guessed there was a lot more to the request than that but said nothing. Instead he said, "I shall take my leave, sir. And thank you for seeing me."
Beauchamp shrugged. It looked like a physical effort. "Least I could do for you. You have your orders. You're not being offered an easy passage, but then you'd not have thanked me for one, eh?" He chuckled. "Just keep a weather eye open for trouble." He fixed Bolitho with a flat stare. "I'll say no more than that. But your deeds, your rewards, well earned though they were, will have made you some enemies. Be warned." He held out his hand. "Now be off with you, and mark what I said."
Bolitho left the room and strode past several people who were waiting to see the fierce little admiral. For advice, for favours, for hope, who could say?
At the foot of the stairs, standing near a crowded coffee room, he saw Allday waiting for him. As always. He would never alter. The same homely face and broad grin whenever he was pleased. He had thickened out a bit, Bolitho thought, but he was like a rock. He smiled to himself. At any other time an inn servant would have hurried a mere coxswain round the back to the kitchens, or, more likely, outside into the cold.
But in his blue coat with its gilt buttons, new breeches and polished leather boots he looked every inch an admiral's coxswain.
And how Allday had struggled over the past three years to call him sir. Before, he had always addressed Bolitho as captain. Now he was having to get used to a rear-admiral. Just that morning as they had left for Portsmouth from a friend's house where Bolitho had been staying for a few days, Allday had said cheerfully, "Never mind, sir. It'll be Sir Richard soon, and I can manage that well enough!"
Allday handed him his long boat-cloak and watched as Bolitho tugged his cocked hat firmly over his black hair.
"This is a moment, eh, sir?" He shook his head. "We've come a long road."
Bolitho looked at him warmly. Allday usually managed to put his finger on it. Times and places, blue seas and grey ones. Danger with death swiftly on its heels. Allday was always there. Ready to help, to use his cheek as liberally as his courage in every situation. He was a real friend, although he could do much to try Bolitho's temper when he wanted to.
"Aye. In some ways it feels like beginning all over again." He glanced at himself in the wall mirror near the entrance, much as he had done when he had gone out to take command of the frigate Phalarope, younger then than any captain in his new squadron.
He thought suddenly of the country house where he had been staying, recalling one of the housemaids, a pretty girl with flaxen hair and a trim figure. He had seen Allday with her on several occasions and the thought troubled him. Allday had risked his life and had saved Bolitho's many times. Now they were off again, and Allday, because of his dogged loyalty, was being taken from the land once more. Bolitho toyed with the idea of offering him a chance of freedom. To send him to Falmouth where he could live in peace, to stroll the foreshore and drink ale with other seafaring men. He had done more than his share for England, and there were plenty who never risked life and limb aloft in a gale or standing to the guns while the air was rent by the enemy's iron.
He saw Allday's face and decided against it. It would hurt and anger him. He would have felt the same way.
Bolitho said, "There'll be a few fathers looking for the sailor who wronged their daughters, eh, Allday?" Their eyes met. It was a game they had learned to play very well. Allday grinned. "My thoughts, too, sir. It's time for a change."
Captain Thomas Herrick walked from beneath the poop and stood with his hands behind his back while he allowed his mind and body to adjust to the ship and the cold, damp wind which dappled her decks with spray. The forenoon was almost over, and with practised eye Herrick noted that the many seamen working about the decks and gangways, or high overhead on the yards, were moving more slowly, probably dwelling on the midday meal, the thoughts of rum, a moment's respite in the crowded life between decks.
Herrick let his gaze stray around the broad quarterdeck, the stiff-backed midshipman of the watch, obviously conscious of his captain's presence, the neat lines of guns, everything. He still could not get used to the ship. He had brought his old command, the Lysander of seventy-four guns, home after many months of continuous service. Age, storm-damage and the heavier strains of battle had left deep wounds in the old ship, and it had been no surprise to Herrick to be told to pay off his command and be prepared to turn Lysander over to the dockyard. He had gone through a lot in that ship, had learned even more about himself, his limitations and his skills. As flag captain to Commodore Richard Bolitho he had discovered more paths of duty than he had known existed.
Lysander would never stand in the line of battle again. Too much damage had taken its toll, and her many years of service would probably be ignored and she would end her days as a store-ship, or worse, a prison hulk.
Her complement had been scattered throughout the fleet in an effort to feed the unending appetite of a navy at war. Herrick had seen it all before, and had wondered more than once what his own fate would be. To his astonishment he had been given this ship. His Britannic Majesty's seventy-four-gun ship of the line Benbow, absolutely new from her builders in the main dockyard at Devonport, the first new vessel Herrick had ever served in, let alone commanded.
He had been with her for months, worrying and working while the dockyard completed their part and Benbow grew and grew to her present appearance.
Everything was strange and untried, not least the men who were gathered into her eighteen-hundred-ton hull, and Herrick had blessed every ounce of experience which he had gained on his long climb up the ladder of advancement and service.
Luckily, he had been able to hold on to a few of his old professionals from the Lysander, some of her 'backbone' of skilled warrant and petty officers who, even now, after the previous night's howling gale, were to be heard bawling around the upper deck as they, like their captain, grew conscious of their responsibility and what the next hour would bring.
Herrick looked up at the mizzen masthead and felt the spray stinging his cheeks. Even at anchor it could be lively at Spithead. Soon now the flag of a rear-admiral would break at the mizzen truck. They would be together again. Different tasks, harder responsibility, but they would surely be unchanged.
Herrick walked to the hammock nettings and looked at the misty shoreline. Even without a glass he could see Portsmouth Point with its buildings crowded together as if fearful of toppling into the sea below. The church of Thomas ˆ Becket, and somewhere to the left was the old George Inn.
He climbed on to a bollard and looked down at the swirling water alongside the stout black and buff hull. Boats were bobbing about, tackles rising and falling as last minute stores were swayed aboard. Brandy for the surgeon, wine for the marine officers, small comforts which would have to last them how long?
The past months had been not only demanding on Herrick but intensely rewarding, too. From a poor sea officer without influence or property he had become a man with roots. In Dulcie he had discovered a warmth and happiness he had not dreamed of, and to his utter surprise, which was typical of him, he had found himself to be married to a woman who, if not rich, was extremely well off.
She had stayed near the ship while the finishing touches had been completed. Yards crossed, fresh rigging blacked-down and made taut. Canvas spread, guns hoisted aboard, all seventy-four of them, and the miles of cordage, hundreds of blocks, tackles, crates, casks and equipment which turned a hull into the most modern, the most demanding and probably the most beautiful creation of man. Benbow was now a man-of-war, and not only that, she was flagship of this small squadron anchored in Spithead's fleet anchorage.
He said sharply, "Mr Aggett! Your glass, if you please!" Herrick had always been good at remembering names. It took him longer to know their owners.
The midshipman of the watch scurried across the quarterdeck and handed him the big signals telescope.
Herrick trained it across the starboard nettings, seeing the hazy humps of the Isle of Wight beyond the other anchored ships. He studied each vessel with slow, professional interest. The other three two-deckers, looking almost bright in the dull glare, their closed gunports presenting a chequered pattern above the choppy wavecrests alongside. Indomitable, Captain Charles Keverne. With each ship Herrick pictured her captain in his mind's eye. Keverne had been Bolitho's first lieutenant in the big prize Euryalus. The Nicator, Captain Valentine Keen. They had served together in another ship on the far side of the earth.
Odin, a smaller two-decker of sixty-four guns. Herrick smiled despite his list of anxieties. Her captain was Francis Inch. He had never imagined that the eager, horse-faced Inch would ever have made post-rank. Any more than he had expected it for himself.
The two frigates, Relentless and Styx, were anchored further astern of the squadron, and the smaller sloop, Lookout, was showing her copper in the watery sunlight as she rolled sickeningly to her cable.
All in all it was a good squadron. Its officers and men lacked experience for the most part, but had the youth to make up for it. Herrick sighed. He was forty-three and senior for his rank, but he was content, although he would not have complained about dropping a few years from his age.
Feet thudded on the quarterdeck and he saw the first lieutenant, Henry Wolfe, striding to meet him. Herrick could not imagine what he would have done without Wolfe in the past months of commissioning Benbow. In appearance he was quite extraordinary. Very tall, well over six feet, he seemed to have difficulty in controlling his arms and legs. They, too, were gangling and lively, like the man. He had fists like hams and feet as bulky as swivel guns. Dominating all these things, his hair was bright ginger, jutting from beneath his cocked hat like two vivid wings.
He was old for his appointment, and had served in merchantmen when laid off from naval service in peacetime. Collier brigs, speedy schooners with lace from Holland, men-of-war, he had been in them all. It was rumoured he had even been in the slave trade, and Herrick could well believe it.
Wolfe slid to a halt and touched his hat. He took several deep breaths, as if it was the only way he knew of controlling his energy, which was considerable.
"Ready she is, sir!" He had a harsh, toneless voice which made the nearby midshipman wince. "I've just about got everything in place an' a place for everything! Give us a few more hands an' we'll make her show her paces!"
Herrick asked, "How many more?" "Twenty prime seamen, or fifty idiots!" Herrick added, "Those I saw brought aboard yesterday by the press, are they useful?"
Wolfe rubbed his chin and watched a seaman sliding down a backstay to the deck.
"The usual, sir. Rough-knots and a few gallows-birds, but some good men also. They'll be fine when the boatswain has had his say." A tackle squeaked and some canvas covered cases were hauled up and over the gangway. Herrick saw Ozzard, Bolitho's personal servant, fussing around them and directing a party of seamen to carry them aft. Wolfe followed his gaze and remarked, "Have no fear, sir. Benbow'll not let you down today." In his blunt fashion he added, "It's a new experience for me to serve under an admiral's flag, sir. I'll take whatever guidance you see fit to offer."
Herrick studied him and said simply, "Rear-Admiral Bolitho will tolerate no slackness, Mr Wolfe, no more than I will. But a fairer man I never met, nor a braver." He walked aft again adding, "Call me the moment you sight the barge, if you please."
Wolfe watched him leave and said to himself, "Nor a better friend to you, I'll wager."
Herrick went to his own quarters, aware of bustling figures, the smells of cooking and the stronger, unused scents of new timbers and tar, paintwork and cordage. She felt new all right. From keel to mainmast truck. And she was his.
He paused by the screen door and watched his wife sitting at the cabin table. She had pleasant, even features, and brown hair like his own. She was in her mid-thirties, and Herrick had given her his heart like a young lover to an angel.
The lieutenant with whom she had been speaking stood up instantly and faced the door.
Herrick nodded. "Be easy, Adam. You are not required on deck as yet." Adam Pascoe, the Benbow's third lieutenant, was glad of the interruption. Not that he did not enjoy talking with Captain Herrick's lady, it was not that at all. But, like Herrick, he was very aware of today, what it could mean to him personally when his uncle's flag broke to the wind, what it might mean for them all later on.
He had been under Herrick's command in Lysander, beginning as the junior lieutenant, and because of the advancement or death of his superiors had risen to fourth lieutenant. Even now, as Benbow's third lieutenant, he was still only twenty years old. His emotions were torn between wanting to stay with Richard Bolitho or going elsewhere to a smaller, more independent vessel like a frigate or sloop.
Herrick watched his face and guessed most of what Pascoe was thinking. He was a good-looking boy, he thought, slim and very dark like Bolitho, with the restlessness of an untrained colt. Had his father been alive he would have been proud of him.
Pascoe said, "I had better attend my division, sir. I'd not want anything to go badly today." He bowed slightly to the woman. "If you'll excuse me, ma'am."
Alone with his wife, Herrick said quietly, "I worry about that one sometimes. He is still a boy and yet has seen more action and fearful sights than most of the squadron."
She replied, "We were speaking of his uncle. He means a lot to him." Herrick passed her chair and laid his hand on her shoulder. Oh dear God, I have to leave you soon. Aloud, he said, "It is mutual, my love. But it is war, and a King's officer has his duty."
She seized his hand and held it to her cheek without looking at him. "Oh, stuff, Thomas! You are talking with me now, not one of your sailors!"
He bent over her, feeling awkward and protective at the same time. "You will take good care when we are away, Dulcie." She nodded firmly. "I will attend to everything. I shall see that your sister is provided for until her marriage. We shall have a lot to talk about until you return." She faltered. "When may that be?" Herrick's head had been so much in a turmoil with his new command and his unexpected marriage that he had not thought much beyond sailing his ship from Plymouth to Spithead and assembling the little squadron together.
"It will be north, I believe. May take a few months." He squeezed her hand gently. "Never fear, Dulcie, with our Dick's flag at the masthead we'll be in good hands."
A voice yelled overhead, "Secure the upper deck! Side party to muster!" Calls shrilled like lost spirits between the decks and feet thudded on the planking as marines bustled from their quarters to fall in at the entry port.
There was a sharp rap at the door and Midshipman Aggett, his wind-reddened eyes fixed on a half-eaten cake on the table, reported breathlessly, "First lieutenant's respects, sir, and the barge has just shoved off from the sallyport."
"Very well. I will come up." Herrick waited for the youth to leave and said, "Now we will know, my dear."
He took his sword from its rack and clipped it to his belt. She stood up and walked across the cabin to adjust his neckcloth and pat his white-lapelled coat into place.
"Dear Thomas. I'm so very proud of you." Herrick was not a tall man, but as he left the cabin to meet his admiral he felt like a giant.
Unaware of what was happening in his flagship, or indeed the whole squadron, Richard Bolitho sat very upright in the barge's sternsheets and watched the anchored vessels growing larger with each stroke of the oars.
He had recognized several of his old bargemen from the Lysander as he had stepped aboard, back at sea again probably without even a sight of their homes and families.
Allday sat near him, his eyes everywhere as he watched the white-painted oars rising and falling like polished bones. A lieutenant no less was in charge of the boat, Benbow's most junior officer, and he seemed as much ill at ease under Allday's scrutiny as he did in his admiral's company.
Bolitho was wrapped completely in his boat-cloak, with even his hat held firmly beneath it to prevent it from being whipped into the sea. He watched the leading two-decker, recalling what he knew of her as she took on form and substance through the blown spray.
A third-rate, the strength in any sea fight, she was slightly larger than Lysander. She looked very splendid, he thought, and guessed that Herrick must be equally impressed. He saw the figurehead standing out as if to signal the barge with its raised sword. Vice-Admiral Sir John Benbow, who had died in 1702 after losing a leg by chain-shot. But not before he had lived to see the execution of his captains who had deserted him in battle. It was a fine figurehead, much as the dead admiral must have been. Grave-eyed, with flowing hair, and wearing a shining breastplate of the period. It had been carved by old Izod Lambe of Plymouth, who although said to be nearly blind was still one of the finest in his trade.
How many times he had wanted to go across from Falmouth to see Herrick in the final stages of getting his ship ready for sea. But Herrick might have taken it as lack of trust in his ability. Bolitho more than once had been made to accept that a ship was no longer his direct concern. Like his flag, he was above it. He felt a shiver lance up his spine as he studied the other members of his squadron. Four ships of the line, two frigates and a sloop of war. In all nearly three thousand officers, seamen and marines, and everything which that implied. The squadron might be new, but many of the faces would be friends. He thought of Keverne and Inch, Neale and Keen, and of the sloop's new commander, Matthew Veitch. He had been Herrick's first lieutenant. Admiral Sir George Beauchamp had kept his word, now it was up to him to do his part.
With men he knew and trusted, who had shared and done so much together. He smiled in spite of his excitement as he thought of his new flag lieutenant when he had tried to tell him his feelings. The lieutenant had said, "You make it sound exclusive, sir. As the bard would have it. We happy few."
Perhaps he had been truer than he had understood. The barge turned, swaying over a trough, as the lieutenant headed towards the flagship's glistening side.
There they all were. Red coats and cross-belts, the blue and white of the officers, the mass of seamen beyond. Above them all, towering as if to control and embrace them, the three great masts and yards, the mass of shrouds, stays and rigging which were incomprehensible to any landsman but represented the speed and agility of any ship. Benbow, by any standard, was something to be reckoned with.
The oars rose as one while the bowman hooked on to the main chains. Bolitho handed his cloak to Allday and jammed his hat firmly athwartships across his head.
Everything had gone very quiet, and apart from the surge of the tide between the ship and the swaying barge it seemed almost peaceful. Allday was standing, too, and had removed his hat while he watched and waited to lend a hand should Bolitho miss his footing.
Then Bolitho stepped out and upwards and hauled himself swiftly towards the entry port.
He was aware of the sudden bark of orders, the slap and stamp of marines presenting arms simultaneously with the fifers breaking into Heart of Oak.
Faces, blurred and vague, loomed to meet him as he stepped on to the deck, and as the calls shrilled and died in salute, Bolitho removed his hat to the quarterdeck and to the ship's captain as he strode to greet him.
Herrick removed his hat and swallowed hard. "Welcome aboard, sir." They both stared up as some halliards were jerked taut by the signal party.
There it was, a symbol and a statement, Bolitho's own flag streaming from the mizzen like a banner.
The nearest onlookers would have watched for some extra sign as the youthful-looking rear-admiral replaced his hat and shook hands with their captain.
But that was all they saw, for what Bolitho and Herrick shared at that moment was invisible but to each other.
Posted April 6, 2009
Alexander Kent's knowledge and portrayal of wooden ships and iron men from 1775-1825 is broad and instructive. The Bolitho protagonists, Richard and Adam are as real people brought to life for us by the author's pen. In this particular volume, Richard Bolitho has been promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral in His Majesty's Navy, and, in this year of 1800, is to take part in the blockade of ships of the French and their allies in the Baltic Sea. The tension of the neutral Swedes, the aggression of the Danes, who are allied with Napoleon, and the battles that take place are gripping. The author's novels are real page turners.
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