Archive for the ‘Primary Sources’ Category

The Literature of the Sea

May 22, 2017

Such a topic as the above is featured in volume 4 of the inestimable Cambridge History of English and American Literature. Although the eighteen-volume compendium is indeed dated, it still provides valuable background on numerous topics, including maritime writing, in this case from early writers to Hakluyt. The chapter following this is entitled Seafaring and Travel. Both come with substantial bibliographies of primary sources. Searching this multi-volume work for entries such as “sea” or “maritime” yields additional information.

Great Yarmouth in the 19th Century

March 29, 2017

Great Yarmouth was the staging area for the North Sea fleet as well as the jumping off point for the invasion of Denmark during the Napoleonic Wars. Here are several descriptions of the area from 19th century sources:

An Historical guide to Great Yarmouth in Norfolk with the most remarkable events recorded of that town. (2d ed, 1817) by George Manby.

Picture of Yarmouth….(1819)

Historical and Topographical Notices of Great Yarmouth, in Norfolk, and Its Environs  (1826).

Pictorial Guide to Great Yarmouth (1854)

The History of Great Yarmouth (1856) [This is a continuation of The History of Great Yarmouth that was published in 1854 and concerns the earlier years of this area.]

Terms of Naval Armistice That Ended World War 1

March 22, 2017

The full text of the document is here; in it are listed the names of the interned High Seas Fleet ships.

Online Primary Sources: The United States Navy in World War 1

March 17, 2017

These documents range from personal narratives to official compilations of naval laws and resolutions. It is by no means complete, but the list does offer good examples of the literature associated with the maritime aspects of the Great War.

Our navy at war (1916); United States submarine chasers in the Mediterranean, Adriatic and the attack on Durazzo (1920); The war with Germany; a statistical summary (1919, although this work is from the American perspective, beginning on page 137 are “international comparisons”); Beatty, Jellicoe, Sims and Rodman; Yankee Gobs and British Tars as seen by an “Anglomanic,” (1919); The victory at sea (1920, written by the commander of American naval forces in Europe); Being the “Log” of the U.S.S. Maui in the World War (1919?, written by some of the crew of this troopship); 70,000 miles on a submarine destroyer; or, The Reid boat in the world war (1919, written by a crew member); The cruise of the U. S. S. Sacramento  (1919, written by crew members); History of the U.S.S. Leviathan, Cruiser and Transport Forces, United States Atlantic Fleet (1919?, the ship’s “History Committee”); A history of the transport service; adventures and experiences of United States transports and cruisers in the World War (1921, by the admiral in charge of transport operations); German submarine activities on the Atlantic coast of the United States and Canada (1920, official US SecNav report); Queenstown Patrol, 1917: A Diary… (1996); Account of the Operations of the American Navy in France During the War With Germany (1920, by the commander of naval forces in France); Digest Catalogue of Laws and Joint Resolutions: The Navy and the World War 1920); Lieutenant Picking’s Diary, May – June 1918 While Observing English and French Submarine Operations in the War Zone ; and World War I British and German Naval Messages (1920, deals with the armistice).

Some unique secondary sources: US Naval Forces in Northern Russia (Archangel and Murmansk), 1918-1919 (1943); US Naval Detachment in Turkish Waters, 1919-1924 (1943); US Naval Port Officers in the Bordeaux Region, 1917-1919 (1943);  American Naval Mission in the Adriatic, 1918-1921 (1943); and American Naval Participation in the Great War With Special Reference to the European Theater of Operations (1928, written by the pre-eminent naval historian Dudley Knox).

The French Version of Trafalgar

March 7, 2017

In an exercise worthy of the best of alternative history, the French scored a resounding victory over Lord Nelson at Trafalgar. A translated version of this account is found in volume 14 of the Naval Chronicle, commencing on page 377. (I was tempted to add the subject heading “naval fiction”, but I demurred.)

Annual Reports of the [U.S.] Secretary of the Navy

March 3, 2017

There are selected runs of this title (what adds to the confusion is that the title varies) that allow us to glimpse the workings of the US Navy from the early part of the 19th century into the 20th. The Annual reports of the Secretary of the Navy contains the volumes for 1821-1843; the Annual Reports of the Naval Department run from 1855 to 1932; and the Annual reports of the Navy Department. Report of the Secretary of the Navy. Miscellaneous reports covers the same time period. They are not just dry recitations but hold fascinating historical value; for example, the volume for 1823 details the Navy’s involvement in the suppression of the slave trade in Africa along with letters recounting the Navy’s role; the 1851 volume has a passing mention of the “disastrous” invasion of Cuba; and the 1917 tome discusses the Navy’s anti-submarine efforts.

Each volume is a goldmine of information: personnel statistics; funding; reports of the various departments within the Navy, including the Marines; and contemporary primary source documents, such as reports and letters.

The Parker Report on the Royal Navy

November 29, 2016

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.

Life below Deck

November 7, 2016

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).

Leech, Samuel.  Thirty years from home, or A voice from the main deck (1843).

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).

Naval Exploits from the London Gazette

November 3, 2016

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.

War Diaries, Part A, of the German Naval Staff

October 29, 2016

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.