Guest author – Lou Faulkner

Delighted to have Lou Faulkner here today to talk age of sail and her latest release, Men of War.

Bearing in mind that I wrote a lot of the technical stuff a few years ago, and have moved house twice in the last twenty months and still have no idea which boxes the relevant books and notes are in!

Christopher Duffy’s book, “Military Experience in the Age of Reason” was my go-to for information on prisoners of war. Personal honour was an important part of the officer’s code, and his next duty was to his king. So a parole would be seen as more binding than his military duty to escape. This became much more apparent in the Napoleonic Wars, when parole towns existed around England, and officers were free to wander within certain limits and times; but there are examples of officers being paroled during the 1745 Jacobite Rising. One chap was bandaged up after an early engagement by Lochiel’s wife and sent on his way after giving his parole; he showed a letter detailing this at various checkpoints on his way through the Highlands and eventually reached his own lines. A famous example in the early 19th century was that of Villeneuve, the French admiral at Trafalgar, who stayed at an inn in Hampshire and took part in Hampshire society after the battle, before being exchanged back to France and dying in suspicious circumstances shortly afterwards. Field marshals could be exchanged for thousands of men [can’t remember whether I put this in one or other of my previous write-ups.] Generally, if one was of a certain class, one was seen as trustworthy, whether rightly or wrongly…

The most difficult part of writing the naval battles was getting the wind, tide and currents right, and moving the ships through these. I had help from various sailing friends, and went on a couple of tall-ship trips myself, which helped with the hands-on description. But planning battles was really difficult. Sam Willis’ book, “Fighting at Sea in the Eighteenth Century” was absolutely invaluable for this and I can’t recommend it highly enough. And while being taken out sailing by friends, I was shown a piece of hidden coastline which I shamelessly purloined for the first encounter with the pirates.

Edward Boscawen was the third son of Viscount Falmouth. He joined the Navy at the age of twelve, and rose to become an Admiral. He was born at Tregothnan on Cornwall’s sheltered southern coast, now home to extensive gardens, one of many in that county.   He was active during the War of Jenkins’ Ear and the War of the Austrian Succession in the 1740s, and captured Toussaint de Hocquart in 1744, 1747 and 1755. I regret to say that on the third occasion, de Hocquart was told by the British captain Richard Howe that the two nations were at peace before being fired on at point-blank range.   On that occasion the war was less than gentlemanly.

The presence of women at sea was something I had to dig deep for; they’ve mostly been airbrushed. The famous pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read are not in the least unusual, though; and any Jane Austen fan is aware that Sophie Croft spent most of her married life at sea. That was not seen as unusual by any of the characters in “Persuasion”, nor by critics or commentators. Women often sailed as the wives and mistresses of warrant officers, who mostly stayed with one ship rather than moving up through the hierarchy. They worked as powder carriers during battles – or dressed as men and worked the ship as crew. Those who were discovered were often lauded, and went on to make their name on stage or as memoir-writers – and these are just the ones we know about. Women make excellent and enthusiastic sailors today, and there’s no particular reason why the women of a few centuries ago shouldn’t do the same. Whether I would be able to work as crew on a tall ship is another matter; I am not good at heights! But the sense of purpose and being part of a team is certainly appealing.


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