Why are Royal Navy vessels failing? Why does it take so long for newer ships to be built? Will the Royal Navy even have enough ships? These and a host of other questions, along with solutions, are contained in An Independent Report to Inform the UK National Shipbuilding Strategy as authored by Sir John Parker. This report comes out as the House of Commons Defence Committee releases Restoring the Fleet: Naval Procurement and the National Shipbuilding Strategy that warns of low-replacement rates for the Royal Navy’s current ships. Correspondence as well as oral and written evidence generated in the issuance of the latter report are here.
It is rare indeed to find reminiscences of seamen; so many were illiterate. These are some volumes that speak to the life below deck.
Bates, Joseph. Autobiography of Elder Joseph Bates. (1868).
Firth, C.H. ed. Naval Songs and Ballads (1908. Compiled by a pre-eminent British naval historian, “…the ballads describe with vividness and realism certain aspects of maritime life, and supply a life and colour which is lacking in formal records….”(vii)
Gardner, James Anthony. Recollections of …. (1906).
Goodall, Daniel. Salt Water Sketches; Being Incidents in the Life of Daniel Goodall, Seaman and Mariner (1860).
Glascock, W.N. Naval Sketchbook (2d ed, 2 vols, 1826).
Nicol, John. The life and adventures of John Nicol, mariner (1822).
Wathen, James. Journal of a Voyage in 1811 and 1812 to Madras and China…. (1814).
The Bulletins of State Intelligence were supplements to the [London] Gazette where you can find military and naval exploits culled from the main paper and presented without the “clutter” of many of the other news items. Originally named the Bulletins of the Campaign, the title later morphed into the Bulletins and Other State Intelligence. The above highlighted link contains all three titles in an almost complete run from 1793-1883. As far as I can tell, each volume has its own index; I have not found a cumulative index as of yet.
During World War I, the NID published dozens of “country studies” to acquaint planners with aspects of countries little-known or explored. In fact, some of the volumes, such as those on Saudi Arabia, were based on native sources (5). Each study contains information on geography, native plants, populations, languages, spelling, place-names, diseases, military forces, and importantly, routes through the country. These works were never intended for the general public so it is rare to find them. For a more inclusive look at the NID, please read this dissertation – Studies in British naval intelligence, 1880-1945.
These translated volumes contain the information that the German Naval Staff used to base their operations on. Items can range from the mundane; i.e. total number of coal cars filled, to more pertinent data, such as did the water temperature in the Mediterranean allow for the operation of midget submarines. Each diary is generally divided into five parts: Items of Political Importance, Report on the Enemy, General Situation, Submarine Situation, and Merchant Shipping. Much valuable information can be gleaned from these sources. Additional information about these records can be found here.
I guess that depends on whom you read. Two names, however, rise to the top: Admiral Thomas Cochrane and Admiral Edward Pellew; both individuals possessed the prerequisite skills that would have attracted Patrick O’Brian. The former was more flamboyant and controversial, the latter is considered the greatest frigate captain in the Royal Navy.
The partisans for Cochrane can point to this article – The real master and commander – that certainly presents a strong argument for Cochrane being the role model for Aubrey.
The case for Edward Pellew, who, if you remember, was featured in the early career of Hornblower, is convincingly laid out in this article – The Master and Commander revealed: The real Captain Jack Aubrey, at your service.
I am of the opinion that it is both, but be that as it may, here are some primary sources (along with a few secondary ones) that support their cases.
The trial of Charles Random de Berenger, Sir Thomas Cochrane, commonly called Lord Cochrane, the Hon. Andrew Cochrane Johnstone, Richard Gathorne Butt, Ralph Sandom…1814 [Trial proceedings on conspiracy of stock fraud. See below]
The case of Thomas Lord Cochrane, K. B. : containing the history of the hoax, the trial, the proceedings in the House of Commons, and the meetings of the electors of Westminster (1814) [This deals with Cochrane’s supposed role in the Great Stock Exchange Hoax of 1814. This work is his rebuttal.]
An address from Lord Cochrane to his constituents, the electors of Westminster. (1815) (From his prison cell]
A letter to Lord Ellenborough from Lord Cochrane. (1815) [Ellenborough is the judge who sentenced him.]
Narrative of services in the liberation of Chili, Peru, and Brazil, from Spanish and Portuguese domination (2 vols., 1859)
The life of Thomas, Lord Cochrane, tenth Earl of Dundonald; completing “The autobiography of a seaman.” ( 2 vols, 1869) [Written by his son, the eleventh Earl of Dundonald]
His speeches in Parliament. (use Cochrane or Dundonald, depending on the decade you are searching). You also have recourse to the Naval Chronicle and the London Gazette.
There does not appear to be a great deal of writing by Pellew available online. Here are his speeches in Parliament.
Some works of interest:
A narrative of the expedition to Algiers in the year 1816, under the command of the Right Hon. Admiral Lord Viscount Exmouth (1819)
The life of Admiral Viscount Exmouth (1835) [With a few examples of his writings in an appendix.]
Types of naval officers drawn from the history of the British Navy; with some account of the conditions of naval warfare at the beginning of the eighteenth century… (1901) [Chapter 7 on Pellew]
Edward Pellew (1934) [A goodly number of letters both to and from him.]
I have had the pleasure of reading Bryan Perrett’s work “The Real Hornblower” in which he postulates that C.S. Forester at least partially based Hornblower’s adventures on the exploits of Admiral James Gordon. The bibliography contains valuable links to primary sources, among them the London Gazette and the Naval Chronicle, both titles that have appeared in previous entries here. Being as this blog is intended to find primary sources in a digital format, I must express my regret at not being able to locate an online version of Letters and Records of Admiral of the Fleet Sir James Alexander Gordon, GCB. This just goes to prove that not everything is online, and also that this work was privately published and almost certainly there are few copies available. To make up for this deficiency, I tried to find other primary sources that might help define Gordon. In the Memoir of the Life of Admiral Sir Edward Codrington. With selections from his public and private correspondence (1873) we do find a couple of reference to Gordon, one of which calls him “Jemmy”. There are fuller mentions of Gordon in Memoirs and letters of Capt. Sir William Hoste (1833). (Hoste was his commander in the Adriatic.) In The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History, a treasure trove of primary sources scrupulously edited, you will find repeated mentions of Gordon, along with his report of his expedition in concert with the burning of Washington, D.C. (all found in the index to volume 3).
In Chronicling America, the Library of Congress is assembling a vast digital treasure trove of newspapers from every state in the Union. Ranging from 1789 to 1922, the millions of pages of newspapers form an inestimable resource of primary research material. A featured portion of this site is the Topics section, a selected listing of important events in American history that can be searched alphabetically, by date or by subject. Each topic has a brief summary of the event, a timeline, suggested search terms, and a linked list of articles relevant to the historical occurrence. As far as maritime subjects go, the following are now available (the dates indicate the year range of article coverage): Blockade Runners in the Civil War (1862-1904); Ironclads (1861-1931); Sinking of the SS Sultana (1865-1898); Submarines (1864-1918); The Sinking of the Maine (1898); Battleships. Pre-World War I naval arms race. (1906-1910); Slocum Steamboat Tragedy (1904-1906); Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet (1907-1909); The Sinking of the Lusitania (1915); and Titanic, Sinking of (1912).
The Dictionary of Canadian Biography has a special topical section listing mariners. This is not limited to those born in Canada but rather lists those who impacted this country through maritime exploits/endeavors. Hence the inclusion of John Cabot (born in what is now Italy) and Newman Coyles (born in Dartmouth England). Extensive bibliographies are appended to each biography, and appropriate links are also included.
In honor of the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary, I thought it appropriate to direct your attention to its Maritime Heritage Program. Here you will find a listing of maritime-related national treasures as well as documentation for reporting candidates for inclusion. Parks, historic ships, life-saving stations, and light houses are all featured.