Seafarer’s Voice 5, Life of a Sailor

B1642

Life of a Sailor has been considered a piece of fiction when in fact it was a highly detailed account of one man’s naval career. There are many personal accounts by soldiers and sailors of service during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. If this had been just one more, it would have been a very welcome additional view of history from someone who lived through the times, but it is especially welcome because it covers a remarkably neglected period of British Naval history. The Royal Navy seems almost to have ceased to exist after the Battle of Trafalgar and remained in limbo until the outbreak of World War in 1914. Perhaps this was inevitable when in 1805 the Hero Nelson died in the moment of his greatest triumph aboard his flagship HMS Victory.

Reviews

Firetrench Directory

NAME: Seafarer’s Voice 5, Life of a Sailor
CLASSIFICATION: Book reviews
FILE: R1642
Date: 270611
AUTHOR: Frederick Chamier
PUBLISHER: Seaforth Publishing
BINDING: Hard back
PAGES: 224
PRICE: GB £12.99
GENRE: Non-Fiction
SUBJECT: Race for Empire, Napoleonic War, US War if 1812, privateers,
ISBN: 978-1-84832-97-0
IMAGE: B1642
LINKS: http://tinyurl.com/
DESCRIPTION: Life of a Sailor has been considered a piece of fiction when in fact it was a highly detailed account of one man’s naval career. There are many personal accounts by soldiers and sailors of service during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. If this had been just one more, it would have been a very welcome additional view of history from someone who lived through the times, but it is especially welcome because it covers a remarkably neglected period of British Naval history. The Royal Navy seems almost to have ceased to exist after the Battle of Trafalgar and remained in limbo until the outbreak of World War in 1914. Perhaps this was inevitable when in 1805 the Hero Nelson died in the moment of his greatest triumph aboard his flagship HMS Victory. After 1805, the defeat of Napoleon was firmly commenced. The War was yet to be won, but he no longer credibly threatened invasion and the tide was turning on his career. In this book, the author begins his career in 1809. This does not mean that he was a peacetime sailor because France still sent out raiding squadrons and Britain was embarked on the race for empire. Recently Julian Stockwin’s latest best selling fiction, based on two unusual naval heroes, has been released. Conquest covers the taking of Capetown from the Dutch and denial of this important point on the trading routes from Europe to the East. This is just one of a long list of historically significant battles and campaigns, that led to the final defeat of France and the establishment of the greatest empire the world has ever known, that have yet to receive the recognition they deserve. The author of Life of a Sailor is one of the largely unknown military figures who fought the largely unrecognised battles that changed history. Chamier was an example of the changing style of naval officer. Before Trafalgar, the Royal Navy recruited most of its officers as Midshipmen who went to sea, as did Nelson, at a very young age. Many were not even into their teens. They therefore had very little education until they began their naval service. They then embarked on a hard life, little different in many ways from the common seamen who were mostly pressed into service. Their education in writing, drawing, mathematics, and leading edge technology was advanced for the times, but they missed much of what children from similar backgrounds would have enjoyed as they worked towards university and a Grand Tour of Europe. The remaining officers were promoted from the common seaman on merit. Many would have migrated through the position of sailing master, been educated almost entirely, or completely, at sea, and promoted because of outstanding service. After 1805, better educated officers like Chamier joined the Royal Navy. Their broader education made them more likely to be critical of their superior officers and of the politicians. Chamier fell from favour and onto half-pay ashore for expressing robust views about the conduct of war against the United States in 1812, particularly of the strategy of involving civilians in the conflict. Chamier may have been forced to writing after his naval career was effectively ended, an officer on half pay unlikely to be brought back to service in a period when there would be no major widespread naval warfare. His book was shocking at the time of its first publication and regarded as being an unfair and unpatriotic. To read it now, it is a gripping page-turner that holds the reader as would a well-written novel, and it opens a new view to a neglected period of history. This is a book that should appeal to historical and naval enthusiasts, but also to those who enjoy reading historic novels. An excellent book.

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