Hodder & Stoughton

"Royal Navy and Maritime Book Reviews" Provided by Rob Jerrard



Tars

The Men who make Britain Rule the Waves

Edition: HB or PB

Author: Tim Clayton

ISBN: 9780340898024 or PB 978 0340898031

Publishers: Hodder & Stoughton

Price: £20 or £8.99 PB

Publication Date: 04/10/2007 PB 2008

Publisher’s Title Information



The extraordinary story of a close-knit team of sailors (or 'Tars' as they were known)

At the cutting edge of the eighteenth century navy

TARS is a gripping firsthand account of life in the Royal Navy at its bloodiest and most tempestuous phase, beginning in 1758. Through the lives of the main protagonists - a small band of sailors from across the ranks - TRAFALGAR author Tim Clayton paints a vivid picture of the navy and the era, from close-quarter battles and roistering on the streets of London to the political decisions that built up and knocked down empires.
In this death-or-glory era the navy became the main weapon of an aggressive and power-hungry government, and fighting at sea was carried out at ever-closer quarters and with ever-increasing amounts of firepower. Using never-before published first-person sources, TARS takes us through these men’s daily struggles as Britain navigated her course on the political map.


Review

TARS is a collection of a first-hand account of life in the Royal Navy during a four-year period.  The book contains some excellent diagrams and photographs, some of which are in colour.  This is a story of the overlapping crews of two ships, Monmouth and Dragon. 

Chapter 3, 'Dead Men's Clothes' reminds me that such a custom as the disposal of the property of a dead man's effects was still the norm in the Royal Navy in the late 50's.  I attended such a sale.  Presumably by this time it may only have been the uniform that was sold, but I can remember it clearly.  People would bid, win and then hand it back to raise more money for the widow. 

'Dead Men's Clothes'

'Tucked into the ship's pay book in the National Archives at Kew was a brief memorandum of the sale of the contents of senior master's mate, James Powell's sea chest. The auction took place at sea ten days after the battle and a week after Powell had died of his wounds at half past two on the morning of 3 March.

Account of Cloaths sold at the mast belonging to James Powell Deceased

The time when sold: 11 March 1758

The sales included, inter alia :-

507 Edward Lunn To a silver watch, 4 shirts, 2 pairs stockings  £4 10s

1084 James Reeves To a sword 7s 6d

1042 James Taylor To 32 shirts & pair Breeches 7s 6d

808 Amos Pitcher To 2 shirts 2 coats 2 waistcoats 10s 6d

770 John Radford To a shirt coat waistcoat breeches & stocking 10s.'

 What a wonderful find - a simple Royal Naval custom, which meant so much to a widow in those days.  Mind you, here we are talking about a better-off member of the crew.  No Ordinary Seaman would have owned some of these items.  James Powell was rated a Master's Mate and as such he also took a one-tenth share of an eighth value of any prize money.

In addition to this, there was an Admiralty Bounty of £36 12s 2d. in compensation for his death and a sum of £36 12s 2d was placed in Trust for his children.  These sums were in addition to the money raised by the sale.

One amusing fact that the author tells us is that the Chaplain was not always a member of the Wardroom and if not would have to use the common heads over the bow instead of the Officer's toilet over the stern, “for sure this answer would be wondrous odd, shit with the common tars thou man of God”.

This is overall an interesting and varied tale of life at this period.  Wives did not fare well in the description of them on Page 89. 

'As we have seen, a few Monmouths were genuinely married in relationships as settled as could be expected. Some of these wives possibly travelled to London to meet the ship, having learned from the newspaper or a letter that she was coming in. Other seamen really did have had 'wives' in every major port. There were plenty of women who would many a sailor, with or without a formal ceremony, for the convenience of relieving him of some of his pay, and would then go on with their normal course of life, in some cases marrying again when convenient. That normal course of life might well involve prostitution, often in combination with some other occupation. Most of the women who came to service the ships in the port of London were pretty rough: quite a number of those desperate or unlucky enough to be hanged at Tyburn claimed to be the wives or widows of seamen. Many had migrated to London from elsewhere, especially from Ireland and the western counties, and were improvising a living there. They were generally pretty young. We know about one group of Hedge Lane prostitutes who were questioned by the magistrate John Fielding in 1758, but it is impossible to know how typical they were'. Not a pretty tale.

If you are interested in the Royal Navy of this period, this is an interesting book to add to your collection.

Rob Jerrard



Thomas Kydd Series

Kydd

Edition: Paperback Edition

Author: Julian Stockwell

ISBN: 13: 9780340837818 ISBN 10: 0340837810
Publishers: Hodder & Stoughton

Price £6.99

Publication Date: 11/10/2004


The Adventure of a Lifetime in the Great Age of Fighting Sail - Guns, Guts, Courage, Discipline, Death. The Year is 1793.

Publisher’s Title Information


Thomas Paine Kydd, a young wig-maker from Guildford, is seized by the press gang, to be a part of the crew of the 98-gun line-of-battle ship Royal William. The ship sails immediately and Kydd has to learn the harsh realities of shipboard life fast.  Despite all that he goes through in danger of tempest and battle he comes to admire the skills and courage of the seamen - taking up the challenge himself to become a true sailor.  KYDD launches a masterly new writing talent and a thrilling new series. Based on dramatic real events, it is classic storytelling at its very best, rich with action with exceptional characters and a page-turning narrative


Review

I must admit it took me a while to get into the story because I was adjusting to the style of writing.  This is the author's way of absorbing us into the language of the lower deck and mostly uneducated seamen of 1793 e.g. 'You'll be slingin' yer 'mick here, being as you're afterguard.  Part-of-ship stays together so's yer can be found in the dark for a shake - yer oppo's alongside yer, o' course.'  Seeing Kydd's look he explained, 'The man who does the same job as you but in t' other watch.' Kydd nodded.  He probably had no idea what it meant, even the term oppo has changed over the years, it now means a special friend.

You have to assume that this is authentic - however added to this are lots of nautical terminology and any reader including ex-Royal Naval seamen such as I, would be advised to have a copy of 'A Sailors Word Book' by Admiral WH Smyth or 'A Sea of Words - A Lexicon and Companion for Patrick O'Brian's Seafaring Tales'.  Other books, which would assist, are 'The Admiralty Manuals of Seamanship' often for sale on e-bay. 

The story of young Thomas Paine Kydd (Thomas Paine 1737-1809) will certainly awaken the memories of any ex-Royal Navy Boy Seamen.  I am one of that 'Band of Brothers', who the Royal Navy took as boys of 14, 15 and 16 between the years of 1800 and 1956,  still 15 in my case.  I certainly had empathy for Thomas Kydd as he struggled to learn the ropes - remembering twelve months of training at HMS St Vincent, climbing the mast, up at 5.30am to dhobey and being treated as the lowest of the low on my first ships and sleeping in a hammock as Thomas did.  What a good sleep if you 'slung your mick' correctly.  I had the same problem as Thomas, being allocated very little space.  On my first ship I slung my hammock above a hatchway leading down to the Boys' Mess in a main passageway, which I also had to scrub clean at 5.30am every morning. 

This is a gripping story of a young wigmaker, who was press-ganged into the 'Andrew' from his hometown of Guildford.  We are told why the press-gang were so far up the Portsmouth Road (now the A3); taking Thomas was illegal.  The press-gang from the ships were issued with press warrants, These forms, signed by the Lords the Admiralty, authorised the captain to appoint lieutenants to 'impress seamen, seafaring men, and persons whose occupations a callings are to work in vessels and boats upon rivers', a wigmaker would not have fitted that description.

Finding it tough he learnt the hard way and perhaps with those not familiar with this genre instead of rushing though the book as the excitement builds, they would be advised to move with him through the learning process with the companion books I have mentioned and learn what a 'Spithead Nightingale is, (not to be confused with a Spithead pheasant' ), or a 'Purser's Pound at 14oz', 'Soft Tack' and 'Hard Tack' and how you 'Fleet the Messenger' and what 'Handsomely' means.  Incidentally even in 1958 we still called the supply officer 'Father Famine'. 

You will also need a little French: 'Kydd advanced slowly, so focused on the animal were they that the little girl was able to come upon them unawares. 'Qu' est-ce que vous faites avec ma chevre?' she cried out, aggrieved.  'Sois calme, mon enfant! Renzi said, in a soothing tone, removing his battered hat politely. 'Your little goat, my friend thinks it has hurt its foot,' he continued smoothly in French.  Even Nelson struggled with this language in 1783 he wrote, "I want to be proficient in the language, which is my only reason for returning to France.  I hate their country and their manners".

This is the story of a young man forced into a new world where he has to learn the language of the sea, where what counts is  'Messmates before a shipmate, shipmates before a stranger and strangers before a dog', or as we said 'one hand for me and one for the Queen' and 'always cut away from yourself or towards your oppo'.

The test of a good book is not being able to put it down and Kydd passed with flying colours.  I have now started the second book in the series - 'Artemis'.  Watch this space when Kydd moves, with a pierhead jump from OD to AB and from a ship-of-the-line to a frigate!

Rob Jerrard



Artemis

Edition: paperback

Author: Julian Stockwin

ISBN: 9780340837825

Publishers: Coronet Books Hodder & Stoughton

Price £6.99

Publication Date: 2002


Our young Perruquier (Wig Maker) is certainly moving fast.  By the time of his pierhead jump to the frigate Artemis, he has advanced rapidly from a landsman to Able Seaman, eg 'one who is not only able to work, but is also well acquainted with his duty as a seaman'.

It was the first Lieutenant’s duty to rate a man.  During the course of his service in Artemis, Thomas is rated quartermaster’s mate.  Albeit junior, he is in fact a Petty Officer and consequently moves Mess.  Knowledge of the naval system is certainly required when we are told that, "Mr Parry – 'as the deck, Evans has the wheel and Kydd has the conn". 

Young Thomas is about on par with the likes of a 'captain of a part of ship'.  In fact Renzi is raised to 'captain of the mizzen top' at the same time, the mizzen mast being the aftermost mast.  Thomas  might also mess with the cooper, gunsmith, sailmaker’s mate and cook.  As a captain of a top there is some doubt if Renzi would have been paid as a Petty Officer.  We are told by Brian Lavery in 'Nelson's Navy, the ships, men and organisation 1793-1814' that the actual rank was not established until 1806 and they were then paid the same rate as a quartermaster’s mate. 

Of course it doesn’t follow that all former landsmen move as fast as Thomas.  There are records showing landsmen taking eight years to read ordinary seamen.

The exciting life of Thomas Kydd continues; in the ship, after a fight with a French ship they 'descry St Catherine’s at seven bells'.  It must have looked as exciting to them as the first blip of England on our radar set.

Thomas is introduced to the King who seems to think that Guildford is a good place for turnips and sheep, "Fine place f'r turnips, very fine! An' sheep too - prime sheep, y'r Surrey cross.'this may raise a few eyebrows!  He also met a Princess ('with a rustle of material a vision in light rose and cream paused in front of him'), who enquires,  'You lif on the schip all zer time?'  she uttered, in thick, German-accented English. 

'Puss to show me your brafe schip,'  she begged, and smiled winningly'.  We always showed them our brave ship didn’t we?

As a Portsmouth boy born and bred and a matelot at that, I am puzzled by one part of the book; what were sailors of around 1800 doing on a 'run ashore' that took them up Portsdown Hill part of the south downs,

the playground of my youth? (Photographed by me Feb 1960 from our garden. Sorry about the power lines) It is a steep road up to the summit, most of my generation never got beyond Commercial Street. Renzi however must have been made of sterner stuff. It was and still is a wonderful view from the top. It must have been an interesting journey in those days.  In my youth there was still a farm at Hillsea on the right before the Coach & Horses Public House and my Grandfather born in 1873 told me when he was a boy it was all farmland.

Half of me cannot imagine sailors in 1800 going on a drunken run ashore as far as Portsdown hill to admire the view, however on reflection it always took all kinds to make a Navy, what was it Admiral Cunningham said, "It takes three years to build a ship; it takes three centuries to build a tradition".  Many of us did see beyond the pubs.

Without wishing to spoil the story, our duo and shipmates travel to China and en route Thomas experiences something I miss and have missed for decades now, 'time at sea allowed a different quality'.  I have never felt it ever again anywhere - never that quality of tranquillity during the morning watch alone on look out for instance.

The nearest was night duty as a policeman in the City of London, This is better explained by Detective Sergeant Alec J Comryn in his book, 'Your Policemen are Wondering', Victor Gollancz 1947, 'The early hours of the morning, from two, when he has finished his meal, to six, when he retires from duty, drag heavily for the policeman on night duty....There is no sunrise yet even at this hour, but a cold lemon gleam, breaking out all along the north-eastern sky, is enough to dispel the darkness and light me home.  Presently the wintry sun rises, pale at first, but soon of enough energy to spill a thin wash of light over snow-covered roof tops and down the sides of houses. How clean and placid everything looks in the first few minutes of dawn.  The grubbiest streets and houses are transformed.  And how brazenly, too, the sun comes up as though, brand new, he were making his first appearance and knew nothing of what had gone off during the night.  (By the way, to catch the sun in this deception you must prowl the streets all night and be erect and alert ahead of him.  It is not enough to rise early, for then it is one awakener facing the other and you are easily outbluffed.)'

The Crossing the Line ceremony brings back memories with all the usual fun, which only the Royal Navy can do, you curtsey to Neptune on leaving harbour, but we all know only too well what penalties await those who dare enter his domain without permission.  As an OD when I first crossed, I know what it means to be addressed thus "Is this scrawny mortal worthy of entry to my realm?"  The answer must have been 'Yes' because I have a certificate to prove it -

Taken 26th Feb 1959 on the way to Australia HMS Chichester. First photo is PO Allan and the Buffer 'Been there, done it, got the T shirt' as they say, twice in fact. 

Kydd’s adventures continue.

Rob Jerrard


Seaflower

Edition: 2004

Author: Julian Stockwin

ISBN: 0340837837

Publishers: Hodder & Stoughton

Price £6.99

Publication Date: Paperback 2004

Now the events of 13 April 1794 are relived as our story opens with Acting Quartermaster Kydd being questioned about the loss of Artemis, from the point of view of his duty of being bound to obey the helm orders of the Officer 'o' the Watch.

Although the title of this book is Seaflower, she does not figure in the story until Page 197.  However, it is worth the wait as Kydd and Renzi serve in Trajan, a 74 ship-of-the line with the backward step to AB - 'could be worse Cully, topman ain’t a bad start'!  Mind you, very soon he is rated Petty Officer again and a Quartermaster’s Mate. 

His Majesty’s cutter Seaflower is a fore-and-aft rigged topsail cutter, and because of Renzi’s skill with the pen, the old crew are all present and correct together, to the amazement of their Captain who cannot believe his luck - 'Kydd caught a look of incredulity on his face', 'Seaflower now had a core of prime han....'  Bringing the old crew back together in this manner may be a bit unbelievable, but it helps to keep the series going. 

Kydd reflects on his career.  A Quartermaster to go any higher needs an Admiralty warrant. 

Things hot up when they take a prize - a Merchant Packet.  No gun money, no head money, but a Merchant Packet had cargo, which could be better. 

Kydd’s education continues as he learns chart work.  The three Ls 'Lead, Latitude, 'n', Lookout', which is similar to bowling 'Length, Line and Luck' but as he says to that is added a fourth, Longitude, thanks to the invention of the chronometer. 

'Now, what we have there is a great circle. Nobody sails a great circle - we only steer straight or th' quartermaster-o'-the-watch would be vexed. What we really does is alter course a mort the same way once in a watch or so, an' that way we c'n approximate y'r circle.'

Then follows a boating adventure which has its low ebb with Renzi quoting Thomas Gray’s  (1716-1771) 'An Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard'

'The Curfew tolls the Knell of parting Day,

The lowing Herd winds slowly o'er the Lea,

The Plow-man homeward plods his weary Way,

 And leaves the World to Darkness, and to me.'

Perhaps he thought of Napoleon, as he would have continued later.

'Some Village-Hampden that with dauntless Breast

The little Tyrant of his Fields withstood;

Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,

Some Cromwell guiltless of his Country's Blood.'

Hardy; Thomas, not Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy, Nelson’s Captain, took inspiration from Gray,

'Far from the madding crowd’s  ignoble strife,

Their sober Wishes never learn’d to stray.'

Doud, Renzi and Kydd come though it all, Doud as Petty Officer and our duo are now Master’s Mates.  After only four years before the mast, Kydd is no longer a common sailor.  Perhaps he is destined for the top?

'Youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown:

 Fair Science frown'd not on his humble Birth,

And Melancholy mark'd him for her own.'

Rob Jerrard


Mutiny

Edition: Paperback

Author: Julian Stockwin

ISBN: 9780340837849

Publishers: Hodder & Stoughton

Price: £6.99

Publication Date: 2003

The title of course gives a clue to the matter that takes up a large part of the narrative, 208 pages in fact concerning the mutiny at the Nore.  Kydd becomes involved in this and at its conclusion is saved from the consequences of being involved.  The historical facts are that it concluded with its leader Richard Parker being hung.  In fact out of approximately 10,000 only 30 of the 400 who appeared before a court were actually condemned to death.

Kydd is at the start a Master’s Mate in Achilles, a Warrant Officer, not a real officer as the author tells us.  At this stage he reflects on the fact that, 'It was the pinnacle of achievement for a common sailor to have a cracking Admiralty Warrant in his sea-chest'.  He is now above the Midshipmen who he messed with.  His transition to a real officer begins you might say, with his learning to dance.  This reminds me of dancing lessons on HMS St Vincent, when it was decided we boy seamen should attend lessons run by a lady, who attended our establishment.  Of course the only partners available were other boys and it didn’t seem to progress much beyond a waltz.  I understand therefore the comments by Kydd’s male dancing teacher 'you look at the lady, not her feet - is she not to your liking Sir?'  One, two, three, one, two, three...

The author has introduced Kydd into the Nore Mutiny along with the chief delegate Richard Parker of Exeter, a former Naval Officer who was elected "President of the Delegates of the Fleet".  The problem with the Nore Mutiny was that one of their demands had been that Parliament make immediate peace with France and whilst the leader of the Spithead Mutiny had remained anonymous, Richard Parker was very much to the fore and paid the price along with 29 other ringleaders.

The Nore Mutiny began on HMS Sandwich and it could be said to have ended on her, as Richard Parker was hung onboard on 29 June 1797 at 9.30am.  It had begun on 12 May 1797 and involved 28 ships. 

Kydd comes through it all and is finally promoted Acting Lieutenant at the Battle of Camperdown and ordered to take up a vacancy on HMS Tenacious which of course places him back with his friend Renzi and he returns in a boat, 'Boat Ahoy! Aye Aye, of course for an Officer and a big sigh came from the depths of his being'. 

Another good story, full of excitement, but I don’t want to give it all away as Kydd moves on to the quarterdeck - how will Renzi take it?  You will have to discover for yourself!

Rob Jerrard


Quarterdeck

Edition: Paperback

Author: Julian Stockwin

ISBN: 9780340832196

Publishers: Hodder & Stoughton

Price: £7.99

Publication Date: 2004


This book begins with Kydd - Acting Lieutenant Thomas Kydd, being temporarily lost for words.  It's examination time and often it's that feeling in the bowels - 'Come, come Sir an easier enough question.... You must have seen a flying moor about a dozen times'.  Fortunately for all of us, the author explains what it is!  After what must have seemed an eternity in front of the Admiralty board, Thomas Kydd is confirmed in the rank.

His greatest fear is that he will become a 'Tarpaulin Officer' aft through the hawse, staying a Lieutenant all his life, a fine Mess Mate, but plain in his habits and staying onboard alone making friends with the bottle.  What can he do to be one of them?  Previously Renzi has pointed out, 'This does require a mort of reflection'.

I am sure that times have changed.  However, I remember in the sixties how the Duty Officer, when a cocktail party was being held, always seemed to be an officer that came aft through the hawse pipe. 

Only the other day an ex-Hostilities-Only (HO) Fleet Air Arm Rating told me how Rating Pilots often missed a meal when on operations.  Upon landing on the Carrier, Officers could always go the Wardroom for a bite to eat, whilst a Petty Officer Pilot had to wait until the next mealtime. 

Kydd pays his first visit to Falmouth.  'Kydd moved up and stood next to him. 'My first visit t' Falmouth, Mr Hambly,' he said. 'I'd be obliged should you tell me something of the place.'….The head turned slowly, eyes cool and appraising.  'A fine harbour, Falmouth, in the lee of the Lizard, and big enough for a fleet.  At the beginning o' last year, you may recollect the great storm -'twas then four hundred sail sheltered f'r three weeks in Falmouth without we lost one. Fine port, Mr Kydd.'

'Then why doesn't we have the Channel Fleet there instead of Plymouth?'

The master's expression cracked into a smile. 'Why, now, sir, that's a question can't concern an old shellback like me.' 'Th' hazards?'

'No hazards, sir, we have nine mile o' ten-fathom water inside, Carrick Roads, and no current more'n a knot or two.'

Why Plymouth?  There are times when I have asked the same question.

Kydd is accused of sang-froid – he appears to be the Signal Lieutenant and we are introduced to the methods of Communications in these days of sail, signals were made

("Make a Signal" Naval signals are made, not sent),  by numbers.  The old seamanship manuals will give you some idea of the use of flags and the recently republished Seaman's Pocket Book from June 1943 displays them in full colour (the Seaman's Pocket Book is reviewed on this site).  These are of course the modern meanings, well modern by some standards.

In this latest adventure Kydd finally makes it, he is finally the equal of Renzi and his fellow Officers.  How does he do this, well a certain Madame Therese Bernardine-Mongenet, who departs with the words 'Bonne chance Mon Ami', with Kydd not knowing how chance (luck) has intervened yet again.   Now at least he has assez bonne chance in the wardroom.

Kydd is now his own man and Renzi tells him 'You don't need airs and my clever words ….my fellow go forth and conquer, know that you can match any gentleman for wit and reputation and at last take your place in society'.  Renzi concludes that Kydd no longer needs him.  Does he?  For my part I have already started reading the next book 'Tenacious' to find out!

Rob Jerrard


Tenacious

Edition: Paperback 2006

Author: Julian Stockwin

ISBN: 0340832223

Publishers: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd

Price: £6.99

Publication Date: 2005

Tenacious was published in 2005, the Bicentenary of Nelson’s great victory of Trafalgar and this book is dedicated to Sir Horatio Nelson, "There is but one Nelson", Lord St Vincent. 

In this adventure, Thomas Pane Kydd, Lieutenant Kydd meets Nelson and is present at the Battle of the Nile (1798) and the Siege of Acre (1799) (Akko-Israel) in Syria, where Commodore Sir Sidney Smith was helping the defenders in Palestine to hold up the advance of Bonaparte’s army.

At the Siege of Acre, although Nelson sent ships and supplies, he never once visited this location in person.  Many believe the Nile was Nelson’s finest hour. 

It is a brave author who seeks to incorporate one of our greatest heroes into his storyline, whilst at the same time introducing into it a comparative stranger, but wait, why not?  Who is to say a Stockwin or a Jerrard was not present at the Nile or Acre?  Why not a Kydd?  Whatever their names, the list of those who were hero’s with Nelson at all the actions is endless.  Here we live with Kydd, Renzi and the others when they lived through the Battle of the Nile and the aftermath. 

As usual the author has done his research with Sir Sidney Smith and HMS Tigre entering the story.  HMS Theseus is replaced for the purposes of this story by Tenacious.  HMS Theseus was a 74 gun third-rate frigate, which also fought at the Nile.  Kydd, Renzi and the crew are involved ashore, as was the case with the Royal Navy, landing seamen, marines and guns whilst the two ships anchored off and used their broadsides to good effect. 

At the end of this story, we find both Kydd and Renzi still alive at the top of the ‘cursed tower’.  As dawn broke, Renzi, still stunned and shocked to find they had both come through it can only say, ‘Brother’, as neither spoke another word. 

Has Bonaparte crept away in the night - is he finished?  We who live in this century have the benefit of knowing, but in our series, how will Renzi and Kydd fare?  Will they be present at Trafalgar, will they be in Tenacious or will they step aboard one of the actual ships present - if so will it be a 74 gun or something smaller like Pickle?

Just one comment I would make is that of the spelling of the name for Napoleon Bonaparte who was born as Napoleon Buonaparte, the second son of a Corsican family with dual Italian heritage. The changing of the family name from Italian to French seems clearly political.

Rob Jerrard



Command

 Edition: 1st

Author: Julian Stockwin

ISBN: 0340898550

 Publishers: Hodder & Stoughton

Price £16.99

Publication Date: 2006

Publisher’s Title Information


"Command is a watershed book in the Thomas Kydd series.  My hero has finally achieved the majesty of his own quarterdeck, and his life will never be the same again. It may seem an improbable transformation of a young perruquier of Guildford, press-ganged into His Majesty's Navy less than ten years before, but historical records tell us there were Thomas Kydds, not many admittedly, but enough to tantalise a writer's imagination. It seems that in the bitter French wars at the end of the Eighteenth Century, there were one hundred and twenty of them who, by their own courage, resolution and brute tenacity, made the awe-inspiring journey from the fo'c'sle, as common seamen, to King's officer on the quarterdeck.

I remember my feelings when I became an officer, having begun my sea career on the lower deck.   And sometimes, I wonder idly, had I lived back then, could I have been a Thomas Kydd? " Julian Stockwin

Jubilant at his advancement, Commander Kydd fervently races to transform his little brig-sloop, with its deserted deck and empty gun-ports, into an impervious man-o'-war. But before he is able to truly test her mettle on the open sea, an armistice is declared with the French, leaving HMS Teazer out of commission, and her unproven captain, ashore, on half pay.

'Uniform blues and fighting sword stowed, Kydd's petition for another ship is to no avail, until a merchant ship company offers an unexpected opportunity to return to sea. Now captain of a convict transport, bound for a penal colony in New South Wales - far from the comfort of Teazer's cabin - Kydd's seamanship, ideals, friendships and humanity will all be tested to the limit.

Command is a rip-roaring adventure, full of the seafaring detail and historical fact that have made the Thomas Kydd chronicles so popular.  Stockwin's passion for the fighting age of sail and his ardent admiration for the men of the King's Royal Navy, provide a portrait of the time that is hard to beat.

Review

The author in his note describes this as a watershed book in the series.  Thomas Kydd, a young Perruguier (Wig Maker) of Guildford, press-ganged into the Royal Navy, achieved the Majesty of his own quarterdeck.  This makes him one of a very elite few who have taken that step.  The first Captain’s orders he had ever seen dealt sternly with his duty - 'To take, burn, sink and destroy such of the King’s enemies as he came into contact with.  Hereof you may not fail as you will answer to the contrary at your peril', perhaps a Nelson quote? 'Taken, burnt or sunk.'

As ever the author may have you reaching for 'The Sailors Word Book' or something similar - 'A Purser’s Moon' - a rush dip in an iron saucer, instead of a candle.  Or alternatively described as a Purser’s Dip.  The Purser is often accused of meanness as the ballad entitled, 'The Sailor’s Complaint' tells us in 'The British Tar in Fact and Fiction' by Charles N Robinson Harper & Brothers 1909, page 416:-

The feeling of the men towards both the purser and the boatswain is indicated in the musical piece written by Sir William Davenant, where the helmsman of Sir Francis Drake sings:­

"Oh, how the purser shortly will wonder,

When he sums in his book

All the wealth we have took.

And finds that we'll give him none of the plunder;

At sight of our gold the boatswain will bristle,

But not finding his part

He will break his proud heart,

And hang himself strait i' the chain of his whistle.

As his name foully stinks, so his butter rank doth smell, 

Both hateful to sailors, scarce good enough for hell

The nation allows men what's fitting to eat,

But he, curse attend him, gives to us musty meat;

But bisket that's mouldy, hard stinking Suffolk cheese,

And pork cut in pounds, and pork cut in pounds,

for to eat with our pease."

Obviously this 'Command situation' isn’t quite settled in Kydd’s mind because when a ship is sighted, the Boatswain prepares to go aloft, "No, thank ‘ee’ Kydd said quickly, 'I’ve a mind I’ see myself", the net result of which is the lookout aloft could not believe the evidence of his own eyes.  Worse than that, Kydd then leaves his ship and takes charge of the boarding party.  This is in true Nelson spirit, 'Well! I have fought contrary to orders, and I shall perhaps be hanged: never mind, let them - To Lt Col William Stewart 2 April 1801.  'If I had been censured every time I had run my ship or Fleets under my command, into great danger, I should have long ago been out of the service and never in the House of Peers'.  Horatio Nelson.

I have to express some disappointment with this book.  Kydd temporarily without a ship takes command of a merchant ship and his cargo are a small number of convicted felons for the colonies, a convict ship.  However there is little description given of the actual voyage, other than that the adventure continues with Renzi trying his hand at something different.  However, the story is still flowing and I look forward to its continuation.

Rob Jerrard



Kydd: The Admiral's Daughter

Edition: 1st HB 2007

Author: Julian Stockwell

ISBN: 0340898598

ISBN: Paperback 2008 9780340898611

Publishers: Hodder & Stoughton

Price: £17.99 or £7.99 Paperback

Publication Date: September 2007, Paperback 2008

Publisher's Title Information


A gripping adventure of smugglers, spies, love and scandal, set in the West Country 200 years ago...

‘There was a warm stillness to the night. They were trying to close the land in murky darkness.  A smugglers’ moon; a filmy crescent of light was just enough to make out shapes and movement without betraying detail. That same stillness was robbing the ship of steerage just when it was needed…. As many as Kydd could spare mould go with Standish and lie concealed in undergrowth behind the long, Lizard–like Cudden Point overlooking Stackhouse Cove ... Teazer left them to it, ghosted back offshore… An hour passed in absolute quiet, the slap and chuckle of water and the creaking of timbers in the slight swell the only sounds....’

Commander Thomas Kydd has sailed with the Royal Navy in the perilous South Seas, against Napoleon's fleet in the Mediterranean and to the edge of the known world in a convict ship to Australia, but now HMS Teazer and her crew must fight to gain control of home waters.

It's 1803: tensions are escalating again between England and France and while the Royal Navy launches reconnaissance, rescue missions and spies on the continent, French privateer ships lurk around Cornwall and Devon's coastline - poised to intercept British trade.

Posted to Plymouth to ensure safe passage along the entire coastline between Portland Bill and the Isles of Scilly, Kydd steers Teazer through the secret bolt-holes of Lizard Point and Stackhouse Cove towards the rustic fishing village of Polperro, hot in pursuit of the infamous privateer ‘Bloody Jacques’ as he vanishes between pillagings.

But another prize has caught Kydd's eye on dry land - the hand of the Admiral's daughter, the exquisite and determined, Miss Persephone Lockwood. As rumours of the unlikely match spread through town, it looks like Kydd will finally get his foothold into high society, but an unexpected infatuation with the rustic charms of Polperro suddenly throws his aspirations into question.

Kydd's technical excellence and daring is tested to the limit as Teazer braces herself for a bloody showdown with Jacques, but the battle between heart and mind over whether to marry for social gain or for love - and whether he is truly ready to give up his first mistress, the sea - is one that Kydd must resolve alone.

From the clatter of joinery work-shops and the rich stink of the pitch house in Plymouth Dockyard, to the rickety antiquity of Cockside and all the coastal landmarks, like the rockface of the Great Mewstone, the sprawling heights of Rame Head, the tiny ports of Portwinkle and Looe and the ten-mile sweep of Whitsand Bay, Julian masterly recreates the colourful past of Nelson's Southwest.

Kydd: The Admiral's Daughter is the eighth novel in the series.


Review

In The Admiral’s Daughter we find both Kydd and Renzi back in HMS Teazer.  Whilst being interviewed by the Admiral (the one with the daughter) Kydd is desperately seeking a command, when the Admiral says, "There is one other in my gift, no one seems to take her.  That’s probably because she’s a trifle odd in her particulars, foreign-built, Malta I think" - "Sir her name’s not Teazer... Sir - I’ll take her!"

The story is off to a flying start as HMS Teazer is immediately despatched with war against France once more imminent and once again like Kydd you will need your French, 'C'est la guerre' not of course 'c'est la gare'.  Memories of a recent TV programme where a participant jumped in a taxi and said "Take me to the war!"

Something totally alien appears on the horizon, certainly something that Kydd was not trained for.  The Admiral turns to his daughter, "My dear Persephone may I present Commander Kydd".  Poor Kydd, he tries his best at small talk with all the ladies but it helps to know that Falmouth is in Cornwall not Devon.  It reminds me of a Cornish farmer who said after finding out that I lived in Devon, "There’s only one place worse than Cornwall and that’s Devon".

As well as the Royal Navy this is also a tale involving free trade.  "Sir, are there any parts o’ the coast that we should especially watch?" "Devonshire and Cornwall might be accounted as having the worst rascals in the kingdom sir".  Being a resident of Devon I would like to say that the locals did not carry out the latest incident of Free Trade at Branscombe, which shows how times have changed.  Mind you Dorset had its fair share of smugglers, I am not sure if I should admit that some at Chideock were called Jerrard.

Kydd overcomes the smugglers.  However he doesn't get to grips with the female of the species and the twist in the story may leave you wondering how the next book will develop.  It cannot end here, Commander Kydd will surely be promoted to Post Captain unless the Admiral, Admiral’s wife or daughter have anything to do with the move!  It may be safer for him to stick with his first mistress, the sea.

Another absorbing sea yarn.

Rob Jerrard



Treachery
Edition: 1st Hardback
Format: Hardback
Author: Julian Stockwin
ISBN: 978 0340961117
Publishers: Hodder & Stoughton
Price: £17.99
Publication Date: 02/10/2008
 
Publisher's Title Information

 
Commander Kydd has dragged himself up in the navy from press-ganged seaman to master of his own ship. Now he faces disgrace.
 
His career in the Royal Navy in tatters and his happiness destroyed Commander Kydd is sent to Guernsey in disgrace, consigned to a quiet backwater guarding the Channel Islands. Would he ever escape the exile? When he is brutally betrayed off the Normandy Coast and forced out of the Service, only his old friend Renzi is willing to stick by him.
 
Penniless and alone, Kydd refuses to leave Guernsey till he can clear his name. Then he is given an extraordinary opportunity to salvage his fortunes and return to sea: as captain of a hated privateer... But privateers are hated by the French and the Royal Navy alike. To keep fighting his country's battle and win back the glory taken from him, he must prowl the Atlantic, a lone wolf of the seas, prepared to risk everything to capture the wealthy French traders and heavily-armed fighting ships returning to Bonaparte.
 

Review
With Treachery the adventures of Kydd and Renzi continue. We find Kydd very low following the death of his wife and he is fortunate that Renzi is still around to give guidance and support.
 
This story centres around Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands and one of its local heroes Admiral Sir James Saumarez, who had served at St Vincent and the Nile where he commanded the Orion. He was a superb seaman and Guernsey was his home. In 1794 when in command of the frigate Crescent he used his local knowledge to his advantage to escape from four French ships. 'On a hill in Guernsey rises an obelisk 90 feet high in memory of Sir James. It looks down on the rock-edged coast, on the restless waters of the channel on the dim and far-off coast of France', 'Nelson and His Captains', WH Fitchett, Smith Elder & Co 1911.
 
The point we have reached now is when the great Earl St Vincent is in charge and the author reminds us of what he said, “It is not for me to find agreeable words of comfort - that is not my way. You asked me to assure you that Bonaparte will not prevail. That cannot be in my power to guarantee to you. This only I am sure upon: I do not say, my Lords, that the French will not come. I say only that they will not come by sea”.
 
In this story Kydd loses his command and Renzi becomes involved in spying, but all ends well and if like me you have holidayed in Guernsey you will be reminded of a very attractive and exciting island whose history itself is fascinating, who's allegiance was once owed to the Duke of Normandy - who since his conquest of England in 1066 occupied the throne.
 
Once again Kydd triumphs when all seems lost, where will his adventures take him next?
 
Rob Jerrard

The Author

Julian Stockwin was sent to the sea-training school, Indefatigable, when he was fourteen.  At the age of fifteen he joined the Royal Navy, and after transferring to the Royal Australian Navy, he served for eight years, and saw active service with a carrier task force.  He retired a Petty Officer and later held a commission as a Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Naval Reserve in Honk Kong.  He now lives in Devon with his wife.


Praise for the Kydd Series
 
'In Stockwin's hands the sea story will continue to entrance readers across the world'
Guardian
 
'Another thundering good read for those who love seagoing stories in the Hornblower mould'
Peterborough Evening Telegraph
 
'I was soon turning the pages almost indecently fast .. . Roll on, the promised adventures of Kydd and Renzi' Independent
 
'Fans of fast-pace their fill with this book' Historical Novel Society
 
'Stockwin paints a vivid picture of life aboard the mighty ship-of-the-line ... the harsh naval discipline, the rancid food,' and the skill of the common sailor are skilfully evoked' Daily Mail.
 
'The appeal of the story is in the telling, which is atmospheric, authentic ... The author had a long career in the Royal Navy, which adds to his prose that extra dash of salty realism'

Invasion
Edition: Paperback
Format: Paperback
Author: Julian Stockwin
ISBN: 9780340961179
Publishers: Hodder & Stoughton
Price: £7.99
Publication Date: 27th May 2010
 

Publisher's Title Information

Napoleon`s forces are poised to invade Britain, and Commander Thomas Kydd`s ship is at the forefront of the fleet defending the English coast. His honour restored after temporary disgrace in the Channel Islands, and reunited with his ship Teazer, Kydd seizes the chance to fight for his country.
 
Then Kydd is abruptly withdrawn from the fleet and sent back to Dover on a secret mission to guard a mysterious American inventor. Having worked his way up from press-ganged seaman to captain of his own ship, Kydd is furious to find he will miss his opportunity to prove himself in battle. And Kydd`s baffled superiors are equally angry to lose Kydd and his ship at such a dangerous time.
 
Yet Kydd`s role in the approaching war may be the most crucial part he has ever played.


Victory - Kydd, Nelson and Trafalgar
Edition: Hardback
Format: Hardback
Author: Julian Stockwin
ISBN: 9780340961193
Publishers: Hodder & Stoughton
Price: £18.99
Publication Date: 24th June 2010
 

Publisher's Title Information

Commander Thomas Kydd is eager to play his part in thwarting Bonaparte's plans for the invasion of England.
 
Joining Admiral Nelson's command, Kydd and his ship soon find themselves at the heart of the action that leads up to the famous clash of the mighty British and French fleets at Trafalgar. Kydd's journey takes him from false sightings of the enemy and dramatic chases across the Atlantic, to the bloody annihilation of the enemy during the actual battle, and the heroic aftermath.
 
This is Kydd's most important adventure so far, and the most thrilling - the description of Trafalgar itself reads as freshly as though it happened yesterday, and Stockwin's trademark rich historical detail and heart-pounding action combine to bring the life the greatest sea battle in history.


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