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Trafalgar Chronicle: New Series 7

11 Apr 23


(Seaforth – £20.00)

ISBN  978 1 3990 9046 9

(Journal of the 1805 Club)

304 pages

Having reviewed the two previous and excellent Trafalgar Chronicles, your reviewer looked at the subject of New Series 7, ‘scientific and technological advances in the eighteenth-century’, and dwelt a pause of several marching paces before entering in, but having taken the first step he visited each of the 13 platoons presented with pleasure. They range from the story of Sir Samuel Bentham, the engineering brother and equal genius of the more famous Jeremy who not only created Britain’s first mass-production factory, to create ships’ blocks but, amongst many other innovations, provided an enduring supply of fresh-water for ships and a dockyard-wide fire-fighting main. Articles follow on Sir Thomas Blomefield and Benjamin Robins whose improvements in both naval guns and gunnery theory were so significant that it would not be exaggeration to state that they made as great a contribution to the victory at Trafalgar as did Nelson’s tactics. Blomefield introduced a thorough method for ‘proofing’ cannons, so many of which had exploded onboard killing their crew and damaging their vessels that the King became involved in the controversy. Research, testing, redesign and drastic action were all necessary: in Blomefield’s first year in charge, 496 brand new cannons exploded during proof. From April to November 1787, 436 guns were condemned for scrap in Portsmouth alone.  Robins’s New Principles of Gunnery was ‘the first work that can be considered as attempting to establish a practical system of gunnery’.

It’s not all theory. Sea fights have their part to play in this volume. There are articles on: the Fighting Instructions, contrasting their use between centralised control (Howe, Rodney) to decentralised (Nelson, whose charts are examined in another article); shipboard medical care; the hubris, traumatic defeat and vindication of the loss in single ship actions, ofGuerriere, Macedonian and Java, to superior American warships in the war of 1812; Fulton’s development of the torpedo and mine and their use against the British in that same war; and the Danish expedition to Morocco in 1753, which, although not a success was part of the Danish Crown’s use of their navy to promote global reach.

A good read for all, a must for engineers and Gunners.