Royal Navy and Maritime Book Reviews PROVIDED BY - Rob Jerrard

Boydell & Brewer Ltd

The Admiralís Secret Weapon

Edition: HB

Author: Charles Stephenson

ISBN: 9781843832805

Publishers: Boydell Press

Price 25.00

Publication Date: 19th Oct 2006

Publisherís title Information

The 10th Earl of Dundonald (1775-1860) had as Lord Cochrane been a dashing and highly successful naval captain (he forms the model for Patrick O'Brian's fictional hero Jack Aubrey); he was also an inventor. In 1811 he presented details of his secret war plans to the Admiralty, who thought them likely to be highly effective, but uncivilised, and did not take them up; they remained secret. From time to time throughout the rest of his life Lord Dundonald lobbied again on behalf of his plans, without success. In 1914 the, supposedly, German butler of the then Lord Dundonald allegedly stole the secret documents and passed them to his government, to the subsequent consternation of the Dundonald family, who feared that German use of poison gas in 1915 was the result of this alleged theft. Just what were the secrets? And did the theft lead to the use of poison gas in 1915?

Charles Stephenson, who has been bracketed amongst "the world's leading maritime historians", unravels the details of this interesting and intriguing story.



Diabolical Engines of Warfare



The Stink Ships



"Lord Dundonald Thought Otherwise"



Laying Wood before Walls



Expelling the Russians from Sevastopol



Different Lines of Thought



A National Emergency



Secret No More



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Nelson The New Letters

Edition: Paperback

Author: Edited by Colin White

ISBN: 1843832992, 9781843832997

21 colour illustrations
35 b/w illustrations
8 line illustrations

Publishers: Boydell Press:
Published in association with the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Naval Museum.

Price £14.99

Publication Date: 17th May 2007

Publisherís Title Information

Nelson was a letter writer of great flair and somehow, between his naval service and recovering from various illnesses and wounds and, of course, despite his famously tangled love-life, he managed to write an extraordinary number of them, on all subjects and addressed to all manner of recipients. This widely-praised volume collects together over 500 of those letters, dating from 1777 to just days before the Battle of Trafalgar that would seal both his fate and his fame. They range from detailed battle orders to passionate love letters, from the business of securing - or giving - patronage to diplomatic reports for kings, queens, politicians and dignitaries.

All aspects of Nelson's life are covered here, particularly his seldom-glimpsed family life, so that the reader cannot fail to see him in a new light. Nor can any reader fail to marvel at the combination of traits that made the man great: his brilliant leadership and organisation, his daring and ruthless military mind and, not least, his very real compassion, even for his enemies.

The Author

Dr Colin White is Director of the Royal Naval Museum in Portsmouth, UK. One of Britain's leading naval historians, he is recognised worldwide as an authority on Nelson. In 2005, he was the mastermind behind the hugely successful 'Trafalgar Festival', for which he was awarded the Longman-History Today Trustees Prize.

Reviews to Date

Colin White...successfully reminds us why the memory of Nelson and his achievements has endured. THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS
In Nelson - The New Letters Colin White has brought to life a treasure-trove of 1,200 letters, creating a virtual Nelson autobiography.SEAFARER, the Journal of the Marine Society a sharp insight....[the] letters give a distinct sense of how Nelson was able to inspire so high a degree of loyalty and devotion.....this is a work very much for scholars.MARINER'S MIRROR
In Trafalgar's bicentennial year, there have been several Nelson biographies, but no book about this authentic English hero could surpass the fascination of Nelson's own words...faithfully edited by one of our pre-eminent naval scholars, this compulsive volume paints a picture of the man in all his astonishing complexity.OBSERVER [Robert McCrum]
They are coruscatingly vivid letters, alive with bright expressiveness. [...] On important matters, he writes with gripping verve; the letters giving accounts of engagements, especially those to the Duke of Clarence, are extraordinarily exciting. [...]This is an important addition which the general reader shouldn't overlook. SPECTATOR
Adds a new dimension. [...]This is the closest we will ever get to reading Horatio Nelson's autobiography.EASTERN DAILY PRESS
There is much fresh evidence here to illustrate Nelson's virtuosity as a leader. INDEPENDENT
Impressively wide-ranging....A Nelson fan's delight and a welcome addition.DAILY EXPRESS
In so far as Admiral Nelson has a representative on earth it is Colin White. [...] SUNDAY TELEGRAPH
[An] important addition to the printed Nelson sources [by] perhaps the best-known "Nelsonian" of our day. TLS
Standing far above the bicentenary fanfare...White has significantly added to our understanding of Nelson's tempestuous personality.MAIL ON SUNDAY
Nelson's character and conduct, his tactical ideas and strategic insight emerge from his correspondence, in essence in the form of autobiography.....White has served his subject well.COUNTRY LIFE
By any standards, Nelson The New Letters is a distinguished scholarly achievement....Colin [White] has done real service, including printing riches which are still not in the public domain...[he] is a judicious and widely-read editor and he presents his chosen letters with explanation and caution.THE TRAFALGAR CHRONICLE


It is a fact that because we read Nelsonís letters we are as Colin White points out able to, as it were, stand behind the great man and look over his shoulder.Truly, there is no substitute for his own words for revealing his heart and mind.

What these letters also reveal is how others, and in many cases his own family sought to use him to advance themselves.To this end his brother William, who gained the most is shown in a bad light.He was prepared to let Horatio commit fraud on his behalf, by falsifying a shipís Muster Book to claim money for time not spent on HMS Boreas.If submitted it would have been a false document.Under the common law, to be false a document must not only tell a lie but tell a lie about itself.He was always seeking something and finally after he gained so much, at his brotherís death he worked even harder to shape his own place in history by deliberately suppressing a number of letters, which reveal how he pestered his brother for preferment. He writes, "My Dear Brother

I have received your letter of the 16th: in answer to the first part what ever may be repeated in the Coffee Houses I am totally ignorant of any influence I have over the mind of His Royal Highness. Should that ever be the case and it is in my power to Serve any part of our family nothing could possibly give me greater pleasure.

In respect to the 2nd: part from the day you sail'd for England you cannot be paid as Chaplain of the Boreas. I have this day been to the Navy Office about it & have seen the Order of the Admiralty against paying any Chaplain who is bore on a Ships books if he is absent from Her. Prince William being arrived will prevent my coming into Norfolk so soon as I intended....

Your Most Affectionate Brother

Horatio Nelson"

This was in fact a false claim -William had returned to England in September 1784 and had never served at sea again. The fact that the certificate is still among William Nelson's papers shows that the claim was never submitted.

What must strike you about Nelson must surely be, how one man has written so much.However by doing so, he has certainly left us with a treasury of words and thoughts to help us understand his mind - as Colin White says, a wonderful wordsmith and this is truly a treasure trove of new material and a deep insight into a great mind.

He was from a young age a very confident person, Writing to Admiral Sir Peter Parker 18th Jan 1780 he says,

"Sir, I am much oblig'd to you for the Good Opinion you entertain of me which I hope will always continue. The Hinchinbrooke is ready for Sea, and will Sail when ever the Troops are Embark'd. I beg you will give me leave to represent to you, that in my opinion it will be much for the Good of the Service, that all the Seamen in the Transport Service be left entirely to my direction and that orders be given to the Commanding Officer of the Land Forces for all Applications for Seamen be made to Me, as I shall then be Enabl'd to Send Good Men and Officers instead of their taking Raw Undisciplin'd Men, and also that the masters of Transports be Order'd to follow only my directions

I am Sir

Your Most Obt: Humble Servt: Horatio Nelson"

He was 21 when this was written.

Colin White hopes that Nelson would approve of his latest 'honourable undertaking', I am sure he would.

Rob Jerrard