The Baltic Prize

The latest Kydd story from the master Napoleonic War naval novelist is another cracking read. The author is now completing two books in the series each year but each new story is as fresh as the first to be released almost 21 years ago – Most Highly Recommended.

NAME: The Baltic Prize
FILE: R2613
AUTHOR: Julian Stockwin
PUBLISHER: Hodder & Stoughton
BINDING: hard back
PAGES:  384
PRICE: £18.99
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Baltic, Hansa, Sweden, Vasa, King Gustav IV Adolf, Russia, 
Finland, St Petersburg, Tyger, Victory, Vice Admiral Saumarez, 
Swedish Navy, Swedish Army, gunboats, Denmark, Sveaborg, Ragervik, 
Matvig, Bornholt, Gothenberg, Karlskrona, Norway

ISBN: 978-1-473-64100-6

IMAGE: B2613.jpg
DESCRIPTION: The latest Kydd story from the master Napoleonic War 
naval novelist is another cracking read. The author is now 
completing two books in the series each year but each new story 
is as fresh as the first to be released almost 21 years ago – 
Most Highly Recommended.

Trafalgar, Nelson and Victory are both a shining light of Royal 
Navy achievement and service to Great Britain, but they also cast 
a long shadow over the naval events after 1805. Stockwin is now 
well into the post Trafalgar period with this novel set in the 
year 1808. Once more he is shining a light onto another important 
event beyond 1805 with a return of Kydd and Tyger to the Baltic 
and the Kola above the Arctic Circle.

In 1808 Britain was left with a single ally, Sweden and its 
unpredictable, perhaps mentally unstable, autocratic King. The 
Baltic Trade has been important to England and the British Isles 
since the early Medieval period, but now it is critical to British 
survival. Kydd returns in Tyger to join the British Baltic Fleet 
which has been sent to control Russia without prompting the Czar 
to prevent all British trade with Russia, a very delicate and 
conflicting task.

Once more, Stockwin's thorough research during field trips to the 
locations of his next novel have produced a wealth of information 
that sits naturally in the gripping tale that is about to unfold. 
He presents the factual situation entwined with the creative story 
around his hero. This tale only briefly mentions his great friend 
Renzi, now the Earl of Farndon, and Kydd's sister, now married to 
Renzi after a lengthy courtship in previous tales. One question 
that comes to mind is – will Renzi feature strongly in the next 
story in the New Year?

In reviewing novels, it is important to attempt the walk between 
telling the reader why this is another exciting tale in a 
gripping saga, without spoiling the plot. Once more there are 
all the twists and turns, the ups and down, the highs and lows 
that fans of the Kydd stories have come to expect, and which make 
this an absorbing tale that keeps the reader turning pages to the 
very end without any disappointment. So the most a reviewer should 
say about the plot and characters is that there are familiar 
characters that appeared in the first story and followed the hero 
on from there. These characters reveal more layers in this new 
tale. There are also new characters that are part of the plot but 
may yet appear in later tales.

The story of military action in the Baltic and above the Arctic 
Circle has never been told well before in either fact or fiction 
and this is a puzzle for English language histories and novels 
because they have long been very important to Britain, woven into 
the history from before the Dark Ages. British merchants and 
whalers travelled to these waters and Elizabeth Tudor granted 
monopolies for trade and whaling. King James VI (James I of 
England) made it an early priority on the joining of the Crowns 
of England and Scotland to claim the Spitzbergen as British 
territory for British whalers. Timber came in huge quantities 
from Scandinavia and Russia, furs and grain from around the 
Baltic. Iron ore and other minerals were brought back, traded 
mainly for British manufactured goods.  All of this lucrative 
and important trade was threatened by Napoleon's attempt to deny 
the markets to British ships and enforce a customs union, with 
Russia now on his side and threatening to close the Baltic with 
the sizeable Russian Fleet based at Kronstad near the Russian 
city of St Petersburg.

Britain responded by sending a substantial fleet into the Baltic, 
led by HMS Victory. Relations with Sweden were very difficult 
because the Swedish King was no military strategist and wanted 
to invade and annex both Denmark and Norway. Swedish society was 
split between those strongly supporting Sweden and Britain and 
those who sided with the French. The Swedish Navy was not 
dependable in loyalty, morale, or equipment. When the Russian 
Fleet sailed to destroy the Swedish Navy and command the Baltic, 
it was two venerable British line-of-battle ships that tuned back 
the mighty Russian force, and the arrival of the full British Fleet 
with HMS Victory once more in the van persuaded the Russians to 
hide in port and take down their sails and spars to lie in 
idleness, leaving command of the Baltic to the British. It is a 
great story and the victory over the Russians may have been 
largely bloodless, but of import to equal Trafalgar. Stockwin 
has cleverly woven fact and fiction. It is a really great tale.

Many readers will be unfamiliar with the region and Stockwin has 
beautifully described the territories and climate. Vardo in North 
East Norway is largely today as it was in 1808 the most noticeable 
change being the large golf ball antenna housing on the hills 
above the town that looks into the Kola and beyond, a vital 
intelligence gathering system during the Cold War and again 
important to keep an eye on Russia. The seas around North Cape 
and down into the Kola are as inhospitable today as in 1808. 
Giant waves make conditions very dangerous in breaking out into 
the North Sea from the Barents Sea. The White Sea can be as 
unfriendly and although this coastline is nominally ice free, 
making Archangel and Murmansk important Russian northern ports, 
ice is a constant danger that is today controlled not by 'global 
warming' but by very large nuclear powered Russian icebreakers 
and ice-hardened merchant ships that have propellers designed to 
chop up ice, going ahead or astern.

Before the listening station at Vardo, flying at 9,000 ft along 
the Russian coast, outside Russian limits, the scene below looks 
very uninviting even in Summer. Air pockets frequently afford an 
even closer look as the aircraft drops like an express lift, the 
wings bending upwards as it reaches denser air. For a mariner in 
a wooden sailing ship, the conditions were harsh and dangerous in 
the extreme. In the northern Baltic, conditions are little better 
in a harsh year. Today, ice-hardened ships provide a level of 
increased safety. Icebreakers in constant operation keep navigation 
channels open, but the host of Baltic islands are often joined as 
an ice mass in winter, slowly emerging as the Spring progresses. On 
the Western shore in the North of Sweden, the land mass is still 
rising  from the pressure of ice during the last Ice Age, leaving 
jetties stranded, as we hurtle toward the next Ice Age, estimated 
as being about 1000 years away. To see it today, still gives a 
taste of what it would have been like for the wooden warships of 
Kydd's time.