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General Posts => Naval History => Topic started by: stokerstan on June 17, 2020, 05:44:34 PM

Title: Nelsons Navy.
Post by: stokerstan on June 17, 2020, 05:44:34 PM
   Press Gangs.
Much has been made in stories and films of the "press Gangs",that roamed after dark round the bars and taverns of the naval ports of England in the eighteen hundreds.
Most of the tales are myths, although not all.An act of 1744 had allowed magistrates to send the Service "rogues and vagabonds",together with "idle and disorderly persons.
However it seems that at that time the Navy was extremely reluctant to take any class of prisoner,except smugglers and debtors.The handling of a ship was not a simple matter, and the vast majority of the crew would need to be men skilled at working sails at a great height often in gale force conditions, and be skilled in the manning of heavy guns and the use of side arms.
Pressure put on the Navy during the American war when more war ships were needed to be manned,led to a further act being passed in 1795 which widened the scope of those who might lawfully be sentenced to naval service,to smugglers, embezzlers of naval stores and men of no lawful trade.Some county magistrates made a practise of sending thieves and petty criminals to the Navy, but it is unclear how many of these "landsmen" the navy actually accepted.
      I rather think that the title of man with no lawful trade, could be gainfully applied today quite widely, must drop a line to the recruitment office to see if the '95 act still holds good.
Title: Re: Nelsons Navy.
Post by: stokerstan on June 18, 2020, 11:10:09 PM
  Those of us of a certain age, probably remember the now long gone, infamous Royal Naval Detention Quarters sited neatly in Pompey barracks ! Anyone unlucky enough to have had a spell of
their hospitality, 28 days? 60 days ??, will certainly remember the place. I had a half day inside the place, when I had been roped in as a no badge killock,to act as escort to a bad lad who was in for an extended stay.
The royal Navy had a prison far worse than our D.Q's,and much older. Marshalsea Prison based in London, was hundreds of years old,and the navy section entitled Admiralty Division was in the oldest dampest part of the place.The prison housed sailors and on occasion quite senior officers, all who had been weighed off via the Court Martial process.Their offences ranged from mutiny,
desertion, fraud and the crime of unnatural acts between men!(one ships parson accused of an "Act" was sentenced by his captain to be hanged while they were still at sea,but he jumped over board
Prisoners judged to be dangerous were often kept chained to bolts in the floor, in rooms with no window and often with rotten floors. Inmates were expected to pay for their own keep, and family members could meet with inmates to supply food, and could stay over night if they so wished. Lady inmates were housed in the same squalor,and there appears to have been little or no oversight
to control corruption and violence by staff. Charles Dickens father served a tern in this prison,as did the Lord Thomas Cochrane the best fighting captain of the Napoleonic Wars. Tough times.
Title: Re: Nelsons Navy.
Post by: stokerstan on June 21, 2020, 08:43:34 PM
The Royal Navy that Nelson knew had nearly 1000 ships at its peak in 1814.These were divided into six rates according to size and gunpowder, and there was numerous smaller vessels which were unrated.

First Rate      100+guns     850+men
Second Rate  90-98 guns   750  men
Third Rate     64-84 guns   500-720 men
Forth Rate     50-60 guns   350-420 men
Fifth Rate      30-40 guns   215-294 men
Sixth Rate     20-28 guns   121-195 men.   
Title: Re: Nelsons Navy.
Post by: stokerstan on June 21, 2020, 08:56:51 PM
Unrated ships included sloops of 10-18 guns, brigs,bomb vessels, fire-ships,storeships, cutters, schooners, luggers,hospital ships, prison ships and gun boats.

  After service as a midshipman and lieutenant, a successful naval officer would expect to take command of a sloop, with the rank of Commander.
After promotion to Post Captain,he would rise through ships of the different rates, perhaps reaching a third rate after seven to ten years in command of frigates.
    (Not an easy ladder to climb).

 Brian Lavery
Jack Aubreys Ships.
Title: Re: Nelsons Navy.
Post by: stokerstan on June 22, 2020, 10:49:33 PM
 Sick Bays ??
In Nelsons  time, late 1700, early 1800's there existed nineteen medical licensing bodies in Great Britain, each with different and often conflicting powers and rights.
 A medical  practitioner may have been to university,and have a degree of some form, but his studying may well have been to teach him to read medical tracts in Latin or Greek,or he may have served a period of time working in a chemist shop,(an apothecary's shop) and doing little more than sweeping up and keeping the place tidy.
Medical men at this time were divided into three orders,physicians, surgeons, and apothecaries, and each order had distinct area of work. Physicians, top of the medical profession generally held a recognised degree from a university,but his training only allowed him to define a patients sickness,and in some cases to recommend medicine.He was not supposed to actually treat anything.
Being a Physician seems to have been as much about status as about medical skills. A surgeon,seemed to have been considered more as craftsmen rather as scientists,and much of their skills would have been gained "on the job"Not many naval surgeons would have had any formal experience in surgery as we know it, cutting up corpses was a rare and expensive show.A surgeon on joining a ship would get to appoint a surgeon's mate, and identify some members of the crew as Loblollyboys. A man who had worked in an abattoir ashore , and was able to restrain a body while limbs were being removed, usually got the job working in the sickbay. A reasonably educated sailor with experience of working as a surgeons mate,could apply to the Admiralty for a surgeons licence, with a fair chance of getting one.
Apothecaries, were about the bottom of the medical world, their role was to make and sell drugs to surgeons, and anyone else who would buy them.
 Whilst there was increasing pressure to regulate these sales,the profession had many quacks, and taking medicine in this period was a chancy experience.
Title: Re: Nelsons Navy.
Post by: stokerstan on June 25, 2020, 09:56:44 PM
  Wood !
  To build a 74 Gun war ship for Nelsons navy,as incredible as it may sound, took about two thousand oak trees.and Britain had run out of oaks. By 1801 Britain was more or less totally dependent on the import of timber, not only to build new ships, but increasingly, to repair the existing battle fleet. Oak was garnered from all corners of the globe,Fir,Pine and Spruce,was in demand for masts.Riga could supply trees for larger masts,whilst Norwegian spruce was used for top masts and yards.Wood supply was as critical to the Napoleonic war effort,as oil became in the fight against Hitler.
North American timber became difficult to source when America withdrew support, and actually joined in the war supporting  Napoleons ,and when Denmark agreed to close the Baltic sea lanes to British ships,obtaining wood became a dominating factor in the war strategy.The absolute need to keep open the sea routes for supply purposes, might be compared to the Battle of Britain. Fortunately we had Nelson and his victory at Copenhagen.That sorted a major problem. But Timber was never plentiful during this war,ships requiring specific timber replacement might wait months to get the work completed. The capture of enemy ships needed to be done in such a manner as to ensure that the captured vessel could be given a coat of paint and in some cases a new name,
, and the prize money that went with it.and the White ensign run up, and the tricolour taken down. It seems to be the case that many of Nelsons captains much preferred a French or Spanish built ship.
Title: Re: Nelsons Navy.
Post by: stokerstan on June 27, 2020, 09:26:09 PM
  Wood 2.
Title: Re: Nelsons Navy.
Post by: Topsey on June 29, 2020, 10:29:54 AM
 It seems to be the case that many of Nelsons captains much preferred a French or Spanish built ship.

This is probably because they were easier to get hold of............sneak up on a cold wet night with three booties and take the Frenchie.........I've seen it on Hornblower
Title: Re: Nelsons Navy.
Post by: Topsey on June 29, 2020, 11:03:31 AM
I'm sure the 2 1/2 ring doc on the Fife was a Physician . He left me for 1/2 an hour whilst he finished his breakfast bent double when my back locked up, his miracle cure was a cold shower and two paracetamol
Title: Re: Nelsons Navy.
Post by: stokerstan on June 29, 2020, 04:30:49 PM
 Oak was the dominant wood used in the construction of British war ships in Nelsons war,it was tough,water resistant, and bent well.However, there was a further reason why oak was always chosen,
which i will return to a little later when I have allowed a "well informed" seaman to enlighten us with this interesting fact, one not referred to in television fiction!! You are on a 24 hour deadline sailor,.....(well informed seaman... a contradiction in terms ). A little help for  less literate branch. Page 66- Noel Mosterts  "The LINE upon a Wind". 1793--1815. ... 24 HOURS AND COUNTING .Turner !! I know where you live.
 As I was saying before i was rudely interrupted, a lot of oak was required to service the fleet, and Napoleons blockades, and his almost total conquests in Europe made this extremely difficult to sort. The Royal Navy was increasingly sending ships into action barely able to stay afloat. Ships on the crucial blockade duties of keeping French and Spanish ships away from convoy routes,
were noted as being so afflicted with rot, that to fire a broadside would probably lead to their ship sinking. The British crews,were generally considered to be the better trained men,but their ships 
long past their best in almost every way. The tactic of boarding the enemy and taking said ship as a prize became increasingly a preferred Admiralty tactic. However, it could be very expensive in man power. It was not unheard of for a successful cutting out action to end up with half the crew, dead or injured.Captain Thomas Cochrane took large numbers of enemy ships in the early part of his naval career, at least 50 vessels and probably more. One of his final actions was to pursue several slave carrying ships, and freeing large numbers of slaves.
Title: Re: Nelsons Navy.
Post by: stokerstan on June 30, 2020, 09:54:21 PM
  Wood Three.

  Oak, has a further property when used in the building of a ship in the Napoleonic war, it does not splinter easily in action.
    Flying wood splinters was the shrapnel of that war, they were one of the principal causes of injuries and death in Nelsons war.
The surgeons faced with the wounded men with broken or smash limbs, had little recourse other than to amputate limbs. It seems that major splinter wounds, or compound fractures of limbs, would invariably become gangrenous if not removed.
  Teak wood available in Various parts of the world was seen as a good substitute in the absence of oak but convoying it from places like India was not too successful,and expensive and slow.
 In 1812 plans for a modern frigate were to be sent out to a Master ship builder in Bombay, who was to construct a ship from prime Teak and rush it back to the fight. Unfortunately HMS Java, the ship carrying the plans to India was captured by an unfriendly American war ship. New plans eventually arrived in Bombay in late 1813.The ship was eventually launched in 1817.but by this time Wellington had sorted out the French,and the ship sailed to Portsmouth and to be placed "in ordinary" A solid Teak ship,the hull sheathed in sheets of copper. H.M.S. Trincomalee. Still sitting in Hartlepool.
Title: Re: Nelsons Navy.
Post by: stokerstan on July 07, 2020, 10:19:35 PM

 Fighting Captains.
 On the 2nd September 1805, Lord Nelson had been appointed to overall command of the British Fleet,by Admiral Lord Barham. Nelson had been given a copy of the Navy Lists which contained
the names of all the officers available to serve at that time, and told to choose which officers would take command of which ships. Nelson made no changes to the ships officers, leaving all the vessels under the control of their existing officers, remarking that he had full competence in all the men, and was sure of their fighting spirit.
  The British Fleet had 33 ships  variously commanded by 2 Flag officers, 25 Captains of ships of the line, 2 lieutenants in command of ships of the line (in the absence of the captains), 4 frigate captains. and two lieutenants in command of minor vessels. All the officers had served in earlier battles, several of them under Nelsons command.
 All the commanding officers had similar service back grounds,all had gone to sea as boys in their early teens, some as young as eight or nine. On Average they had become midshipmen by the age of fourteen. The promotion path up the ranks of the Royal Navy, was a complicated affair,family connections helped, length of service was required, and the Fleet boards run by officers who had been there and done it. 
Title: Re: Nelsons Navy.
Post by: stokerstan on July 12, 2020, 04:25:39 PM
The Captain not on the Trafalgar List.   Thomas Cochrane,

Cochrane, came from one of the most distinguished military families in Scotland,he was the eldest son of the ninth Earl of Dundonald, a title he eventually inherited. Whilst he was definitely
a member of the aristocracy, the family had very little by way of money, and his father, spent a lot of his time trying to invent things. One item that his father discovered was that heated coal gave off highly inflammable gas, and he set about trying to harness the gas to use as a means of lighting homes.He was involved in smelting coal to obtain pitch, which he believed could be sold to the navy for water proofing ships hulls, but the navy had already begun to use copper sheeting for this purpose, and it is doubtful if Thomas's father ever actually ever got any returns on his inventions.
 Certainly young Thomas does not seem to have been affluent in his youth, and it is possible that the chance of gaining wealth by the capture of enemy ships, (taking prizes),was not a thing he would pass up on, when he was eventually made Post Captain, and took command of a frigate.
 Cochrane had a real talent for making enemy's, and as a lieutenant was up in front of a court martial for disrespect, but survived with just a censure, and got his first command, a 14 gun brig in  1800. He was taking or sinking French and Spanish ships almost immediately, but when he took on a Spanish 32 gun frigate, he became famous almost over night, and rather rich from prize money.
Title: Re: Nelsons Navy.
Post by: stokerstan on July 23, 2020, 05:20:47 PM
  Thomas Cochrane has been cited as"Probably the greatest proven leader never to have commanded a British fleet in battle". Cochrane might well have agreed with this sentiment, he certainly seems to have been at his best when he had a decent ship, like a 38 gun frigate,and allowed to roam the seas tracking down the enemy.Fleet actions were not really his strong points.and serving under an admiral who he did not respect,caused him considerable problems.
!806 found Cochrane probably as popular as Nelson, he was rich with prize money, had been awarded a K.B. and was member of parliament in his spare time !!  !809, was a defining year for Cochrane,he had accumulated a long list of successful actions against the French fleets,but it seems that he had been too critical and outspoken against the way the navy worked to have many friends in high places.A number of French ships of the line had taken refuge in the Aix roads, and Cochrane was ordered to attack and destroy the French ships. Cochrane serving under Admiral Lord Gambier was to use fire ships loaded with explosives to destroy the French ships, a plan fraught with much risk. Cochrane said openly that if the plan worked, Lord Gambier wouldgain the praise, if it failed he, Cochrane, would get the blame.
The attack was a brilliant success, and Cochrane created havoc in the French port, however he felt that an even greater victory could have been gained if Admiral Gambier had chosen to release the remaining British ships into action  as French ships fled in disarray.
Title: Re: Nelsons Navy.
Post by: stokerstan on July 28, 2020, 09:09:04 PM
  1806 was not a good year for Cochrane. The Battle of Aix Roads, was a significant victory that cost the French ships and men, and scuppered a major French plan to take Martinique, which would have cost Britain dearly. Cochrane had done what many thought impossible blowing his way into highly protected French port setting enemy ships ablaze and causing others to flee.
Admiral Gamier had laid off nine miles from the coast, and allowed French ships to scatter and escape. Cochrane believed the Admiral had failed to grasp the opportunity to capture enemy vessels,
badly needed in England.
   Admiral Gambier's report of the battle gave little credit to Cochrane,and in fact he removed Cochrane from his command and sent him home to deliver the report to the Admiralty.
 The arrival back in England of other ships and captains who had been present at the battle and who let it be known that the Admiral had in fact viewed the action from some nine miles out at sea,
soon gave rise to a general outcry. Cochrane had been awarded the Order of the Bath, and was the national hero, but he felt that there needed to be a formal investigation into Gambier's behaviour,
and broadened his demands in Parliament to a complete overhaul of the workings of the Admiralty. Not a Wise Move for a young captain to make however good he was, he was never going to win.
Title: Re: Nelsons Navy.
Post by: stokerstan on July 28, 2020, 09:50:55 PM
 Cochrane Ashore.
Title: Re: Nelsons Navy.
Post by: stokerstan on August 02, 2020, 08:13:24 PM
   Admiral Gambier, requested that a formal court martial be held to refute allegations being made against him by the popular press, and loudly expressed in Parliament by Captain Cochrane.
The court martial was never going to find in favour of a captain,when an Admirals reputation was on the line. the board hearing the case was comprised of seven Admirals. The issue was turned into an administration question. Gambier simply stated that he believed keeping the fleet safe was in the best interest of the navy, and no officer as junior as Cochran, regardless of his outstanding experience and succession should question orders. No person who was actually present at the battle was allowed to give evidence in support of Cochrans submission, that the whole French fleet could and should have been taken or sunk. and for him to raise the issue was deemed deeply disrespectful. Gambier, as Admiral of the home fleet had not been on a ship for over seventeen years, but his neither his fitness to serve or his obvious incompetence were questioned. Gambiers sword was returned to him, and soon after,parliament voted overwhelmingly to grant a vote of thanks to him with no mention Cochrane.
 The opinion of the general public and universally among serving men in the service was that Admiralty had conducted a white wash. However what Cochrane had done was to expose that a large and dangerous part of the establishment was irreparably corrupt,and he had signalled his intention to expose it further. He had made a lot of enemies in high places.
Title: Re: Nelsons Navy.
Post by: stokerstan on August 03, 2020, 04:23:22 PM
  Cochrane, was captain of HMS  Imperieuse at the time of Aix Roads Battle, and had already performed remarkably well both at sea in her, and on two occasions when he had conducted extraordinary amphibious actions at Mongat and Port Vendres. He had further won international acclaim for a spectacular defence of Fort Trinidad, landing gunners and other members of his crew to set up defences that thwarted a French operation to take the Fort.
  It was obvious throughout the navy, and similarly acknowledged by senior officers of the army, that Cochrane with his highly trained crew, was an irreplaceable force for the allied cause.
 Britain, and the rest of Europe at this time was being beaten down at virtually every turn. The sole star being a young Wellesley, later the Duke of Wellington, who was struggling in the
Spanish peninsula, and was desperate for support that was seldom supplied. Senior officers in England had committed 40,000 men and most of the British fleet to the battle Walcheren, against
the advice of more experienced soldiers and sailors (Cochrane being one). Cochrane had offered plans for this battle which were ignored, and it proved to be the most expensive fiascos in British military history. 3000 soldiers died of disease in the swamps that they were expected to fight in. Leading the army was the Earl of Chatham( the prime ministers brother),reported to be an
appalling and inexperienced general. Wellesley was winning the bloody battle of Talavera, and getting very little praise at this time.
Title: Re: Nelsons Navy.
Post by: stokerstan on August 04, 2020, 12:41:10 PM
 When Cochrane continued to express his view on Gambiers court marshal. He was summarily told to report to his ship, and take up a position in the long standing blockade of Toulon.
He would be under the tight control of an Admiral,and his days of chasing (and catching) enemy ships would be at an end.Admiralty thinking was that he would be quietly forgotten, and the systems
that made them rich would continue. Cochrane declined the instruction, and was immediately "brought ashore", but having retained his parliamentary seat in the Commons, he had a ready made base to start a his campaign against the "Establishment.
    Cochrans campaign was waged with same fury he had shown against the French ships.He toured navy dockyards, checking for obvious corruption, he found it in vast amounts.
 Cochrane was particularly loud about the vast sums of money that was filtering out of the system, and could be traced all too easily up to very senior establishment figures. The navy was and always had been a hard life on the lower deck. Even senior captains were paid very poorly in a world where injury and death were a normal part of the job .Cochrane exposed massive amounts of money that should have been paid to injured men being diverted to senior officials, like wise widows pensions for men killed in action that had never been paid. In a famous speech made in the Commons Cochrane produced detailed accounts of sailors having served twelve or fourteen year on ships without a break, or pay, even when prize money running into millions of pounds had been won, and divided up in such a manner that an admiral thousands of miles away became millionaires without ever seeing action.Corruption was endemic through lowly dockyard clerk up to Admirals of the Fleet.
Title: Re: Nelsons Navy.
Post by: stokerstan on August 04, 2020, 04:51:29 PM
  Fraud.  For almost five years Cochrane chased the trails of corruption, he was without doubt obsessed. He likened the life of seaman to that of a slave, pointing out that the slave could hope to live
out a reasonable life time, in the navy it was unusual to live on the lower deck into advanced years.He had a small group of like minded M.Ps. and together they carried their protests round the country. Cochran often came close serious action when the group were threatened with force.On one occasion he got himself thrown into prison, and escaped with the help of sailors, and the warder turning a blind eye. On another occasion when one of the radicals was threatened with prison, Cochrane located a large barrel of gun powder in the adjacent house and nobody could say if he would have blown up the whole road, but the authorities decided not test the matter and withdrew, Cochrans friends persuaded him to move the barrel to a safer place. Cochrans campaigns were not limited to naval matters, he exposed the conditions prevalent in prisons, and the whole judicial system, its with hangings and floggings.Not everything Corchran campaigned on were popular, but he continued to be a major thorn in the side of the established order. Cochrane also upset his very wealth Uncle Basil. The uncle had decided to restore the wealth and fortune of the Dundonald dynasty
by leaving most of his lands and fortune to Thomas, providing Thomas married a rich lady.The bride to be was to be the daughter of an official at the Admiralty court who had become rich by the exact means that Thomas was fighting against. He eloped instead with a sixteen year old house maid called Katherine who had nothing they got married in Scotland.Thomas inherited nothing
Cochrane was a "Whistle Blower" and for almost five years he campaigned against establishment corruption, and financial inequality, he made many enemies, and he was without a command or a ship.
Title: Re: Nelsons Navy.
Post by: stokerstan on August 07, 2020, 09:17:09 PM
Early in 1814 it seemed his naval career might be restored. England was at war with America, and Thomas was offered the chance to act as Captain aboard HMS Tonnant, one of the best ships in the fleet. Tonnant was an 80 gun vessel, and was to be the Flagship of Thomas's uncle Sir Alexander Cochrane who believed that his nephew deserved to be back in action.
 Thomas was to take command of the ship immediately, and see to the provisioning of her in preparation for an Atlantic crossing and her entering the fight.Thomas was over the moon, and whilst he was aware he had many enemies in high places,he felt he could make a new start in a new theatre of war.
 Cochrane, had not reckoned on the deep reserves of hatred that were still in place in parts of the establishment, particularly among the governing political diehards many who he had so offended.,
and subsequent events soon swept over Thomas Cochrane in a way no enemy ship had been able to do.