The author is a well established specialist in sailing warships of the 18th and 19th Century, having been technical and historical advisor to HMS Victory in Portsmouth for more than 20 years. The Conway imprint has an even longer experience of publishing high quality books on the sailing navy and producing well-executed sketches and technical drawings to illustrate authoritative text. Given that joint experience of author and publisher, this book was bound to be outstanding. This is a first class coverage of perhaps the best known warship in the world and offered at an extremely affordable price.
NAME: Admiral Nelson’s Warship at Trafalgar, HMS Victory, Pocket Manual 1805
AUTHOR: Peter Goodwin
PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury, Conway
BINDING: hard back
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Napoleonic Wars, sailing navy, history, entertainment, Napoleon, Trafalgar, 1805, Nelson, line-of-battle-ship, 100 guns, Georgian navy, Portsmouth, construction, fitting-out
DESCRIPTION: The author is a well established specialist in sailing warships of the 18th and 19th Century, having been technical and historical advisor to HMS Victory in Portsmouth for more than 20 years. The Conway imprint has an even longer experience of publishing high quality books on the sailing navy and producing well-executed sketches and technical drawings to illustrate authoritative text. Given that joint experience of author and publisher, this book was bound to be outstanding. This is a first class coverage of perhaps the best known warship in the world and offered at an extremely affordable price.
Pocket manuals are a very valuable and portable form of information that manage to pack a considerable amount of knowledge into a very small book that can genuinely be carried in the pocket. By tradition, books of this type tend to be offered at very low prices that make them readily available to younger readers, in addition to those professionals and enthusiasts with a keen interest in the topics covered. By the 1950s and 1960s, there were a number of publishers releasing pocket books of various kinds and a strong part of their readership was composed of young readers who frequently received pocket books as birthday or Christmas presents from fond aunts and uncles. Sadly, most of these publishers either no longer exist, or they no longer publish pocket books. Conway Maritime has been an exception, bringing out an upgraded form of pocket book or pocket manual. Even with a succession of acquisitions of the Conway imprint, their pocket books have continued to prosper, forming an expanding and popular series.
This latest pocket manual marks the 250th birthday of HMS Victory, a 100 gun, first rate, line of battle ship. She was designed with the experience of the Seven Years War, when the Royal Navy established supremacy as a global naval force, and her defining moment was in 1805 when she was the legendary flagship of Admiral Nelson and he achieved immortality by dying at the moment of his greatest victory, appropriately on a ship named ‘Victory’. Trafalgar underlined the achievements of the Royal Navy a half Century earlier and was so decisive that for a hundred years, no other navy challenged the Royal Navy.
More by luck than planned action, HMS Victory survived the indignity of becoming a prison hulk, before being towed off to the breaker’s yard. She continued to float on her own bottom and became the subject of a series of restorations. As her next restoration is being planned and costed, she has reach the magic 250th birthday and is the oldest warship still in commission. Every year, she is the focus of attention of visitors to Portsmouth’s historic naval dockyard, but few understand her full history and the detail of her design, construction and deployment. This pocket manual changes all of that and is an ideal primer before a visit to the ship and her home port.
To fit the drawings and text into the small envelop, that is this pocket manual, is a major achievement. The author has provided incredible detail of the design of HMS Victory, the materials employed and her construction, her sea service, the Georgian navy, the manning of the ship, what it was like to live in her, the conditions of service, her Royal Marines, her guns, training, boat work, battle tactics, Trafalgar, surgeons and sick berth, Nelson and much more. A most useful section of appendices, a list of primary sources and a good index complete the work. Even with the book in the reader’s hand, it is difficult to fully appreciate how much has been covered and how well it has been done.
HMS Victory spent less than 2% of her time in battle and the Battle of Trafalgar was a small percentage of that time, and yet most who have heard of Victory know only the story of Trafalgar. The sole reason for the ship was to carry a formidable collection of guns that could weaken an enemy to the point where she could be boarded. More than that, the great guns could destroy an enemy solely by gunfire, minimizing the risks to the crew and platform. The Royal Navy was a great opportunity for young men to become rich on prize money and this justified the additional risk of boarding and taking an enemy as a prize. The Royal Navy devoted much effort to ensuring that guns could be laid with great accuracy and that the rate of fire was the fastest possible. It was not unusual for a Royal Navy warship to successfully take on an enemy of twice her size, because the high rate of accurate fire meant that the effective power of her guns was more than twice the striking force of the average enemy vessel. A one hundred gun first rate like HMS Victory was therefore a formidable fighting unit. When that was coupled with unrivalled seamanship it should be no surprise that the RN had achieved global naval supremacy.