Archive for the ‘Naval History’ Category

U.S. Navy Communiques, 1941-1945

June 13, 2019

Communiques and various press releases dated December 10, 1941 through May 24, 1945 are available online. One can trace the westward progress of U.S. forces by these tersely written memos. The first volume covers December 10, 1941 through March 5, 1943; the second volume contains messages from March 6, 1943 through May 24, 1945.


Sailors of the Ancient Mediterranean

June 6, 2019

The late A. Bernard Knapp, a prodigious researcher and author, wrote this wonderful tome that was published in 2018 Seafaring and Seafarers in the Bronze Age Eastern Mediterranean. As the abstract for this work states: “By the Late Bronze Age (after ca. 1700/1600 BC), seaborne trade in the eastern Mediterranean made the region an economic epicentre, one in which there was no place for Aegean, Canaanite or Egyptian trading monopolies, or ‘thalassocracies’. At that time, the world of eastern Mediterranean seafaring and seafarers became much more complex, involving a number of different peoples in multiple networks of economic and social exchange.” Utilizing material sources in concert with letters, reliefs, and business accounts, Knapp presents an accessible portal into this bygone world.

Mutinies During the 1790s – 1840s

May 21, 2019

This special issue of the International Journal of Social History, 58( Special issue 21, December 2013) – Mutiny and Maritime Radicalism in the Age of Revolution: A Global Survey – is the result of two major conferences on these topics. Articles discuss the mutinies that spread through the European navies (both single ship and fleet) during the 1790s as well as the Amistad rebellion, mutiny in South African waters, the Lascar mutiny, and others that occurred during this time period. Replete with notes, these articles present a depiction of activities that were just not limited to western Europe but form part of a global movement.

Online Primary Sources: Matthew Flinders

May 16, 2019

If one looks at the Gazetteer of Australia and inputs the term “Flinders”, you are greeted by hundreds of place names from Cape Flinders to Flinders Bay to Flinders Island. What could be the reason for this multitudinous proliferation of this name? Could it be that they are all in honor of Captain Matthew Flinders, the Royal Navy officer who circumnavigated Australia while simultaneously charting and describing the land and its flora and fauna?

He had a remarkable, but short, life; he lived long enough to see his major work published before he died.

Some of his extraordinarily detailed maps (or maps based on his observations) can be found here. His magnum opus – A Voyage to Terra Australis (1814) – volume 1 and volume 2is online. Other published material include Observations upon the Marine Barometer, made during the Examination of the Coasts of New Holland and New South Wales, in the Years 1801, 1802, and 1803, Philosophical Transactions, 96(1806): 239-266, and his biography of his beloved cat Trim – A biographical tribute to the memory of Trim(1804).

The Historical Records of New South Wales, vols 3(1895) -7(1901),  provide a rich contextual background of official documents and sources detailing Flinders’ actions.

The Flinders Papers are an absolute treasure trove of missives between Flinders and other luminaries of the day, such as Joseph Banks. The glossaries themselves are well-researched and by themselves prove to be a valuable tools. This is a site built with love and affection for this individual.

Sir Edward Scott’s The Life of Captain Matthew Flinders (1914), besides being based on primary/archival sources, also has a list starting on p. 465 of all the names Flinders gave to Australian coastal features.

His biographical memoir can be located in The Naval Chronicle, 32(July – December, 1814):177-191.

Commissioned paintings of his exploits along with additional Flinders-related objects, such as his sea chest, can be found here.

What Do the South China Sea and the Hunt for the Bismarck Have in Common?

March 14, 2019

They are both separate subjects of extended, well- researched articles in the latest issue of Naval War College Review (72, #1 Winter 2019).

The first article – China’s Global Naval Strategy and Expanding Force Structure – highlights China’s continuing development of its navy and its projection of this force into the Pacific arena. A previous post points to a valuable document outlining the problems that currently face this county as China continues to build both military and economic strengths (think Belt and Road). Figures, exhibits, and copious notes lend credibility and veracity to this article.

The second article – Operation Rhine Exercise, May 18-27, 1941 – concentrates on one of the largest fleet to fleet operations in the ETO. Using printed and archival sources, the author deftly weaves an analysis of this operation, showing that the risk of detailing so many ships to pursue the Bismarck was ultimately worth the gamble. I have included here the War Diary of the Commander U-Boats concerning the sinking of this fast battleship.

Maritime History Videos

March 8, 2019

Well researched and deftly presented, this series of videos covers a wide variety of topics from the Dutch invading the Medway to Martin Frobisher. As someone who appreciates accurate historical research, these presentations are definitely worth a view.

Patrick O’Brian’s “The Fortune of War” On the Radio

November 28, 2018

An episodic treatment of this novel has just begun on BBC Radio 4. It is worth a listen.

Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation by Richard Hakluyt

October 16, 2018

This multi-volume work has been re-issued and re-published over the centuries. The version I am employing is a clean, easy-to-use rendition. This lecture –  “How to read Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations” – is a most bracing analysis.

The Hakluyt Society re-published this original work in a 12-part series between 1903 and 1905. Most of the volumes are here in sequential order; the only missing volume (#7) is here.

Hakluyt sold his work and unfinished manuscripts to Samuel Puchas, who continued in Hakluyt’s tradition and published Hakluytus Posthumus , or, Puchas his Pilgrimes.

Early Naval Confrontations Between the British and the Spanish

October 9, 2018

This blog has already examined the Spanish Armada, but there were other engagements between these opponents in the late 16th century. Volume 7 of the Principal Navigations, is devoted to England’s Naval Exploits Against Spain; it details various encounters ranging from the Azores to Gibraltar. (The Armada is represented by a couple of sources as well.)

An Evacuation Larger Than Dunkirk

September 11, 2018

On this date seventeen years ago when the towers fell, 300,000 to 500,000 people were evacuated from lower Manhattan by a rag-tag assemblage of boats, fishing vessels, Coast Guard cutters,  and ferries. The brotherhood of mariners is real. Please view this wonderful documentary on these events.