Olla-Podrida: Julian Stockwin Newsletter, December 2011


December, 2011

[Olla-podrida: an affectionate 18th C term for a colourful medley of items]

In this issue: Julian’s book suggestions for Christmas gifts; Alphonse, the ship’s mascot; the story behind “Magnificent Hayes” – and a contest for a limited edition John Chancellor print!


Broadly Boats News

Nighthawk News


Firetrench Directory

+ The Kydd Club
For a nominal fee, there’s special offers, exclusive competitions and other benefits. Join up now for 2012 and get a month’s free membership, in addition to the whole of next year.

+ Ebooks
All Julian’s books, including STOCKWIN’S MARITIME MISCELLANY, are now available as ebooks.

+ Get your purchase refunded in full!
If you buy a book set from Stockwin to Go before midnight, 30 November, you’ll automatically go into the hat – one lucky winner will be refunded in full for his purchase.

Please note our closing dates for post from the UK (Julian is happy to write personal inscriptions on request): December 2 for overseas addresses; December 13 for UK addresses.

+ Praise for CONQUEST
“There is no disputing Stockwin’s ability to tell a good yarn backed by meticulous research… Stockwin’s eye for authentic detail is faultless. This is a compelling work of historical fiction which is difficult to put down.” – Pennant

With Christmas just around the corner, and presents to be bought for friends and relatives, here’s Julian’s ten picks of the best salty books around, with something for all palates.

“Maritime memoirs are appreciated gifts by anyone with a nautical connection and I greatly enjoyed reading two on a recent cruise. The first, ‘But No Brass Funnel’ by Douglas J Stewart, Whittles Publishing, is an engaging account of 35 years at sea. A boyhood visit to the battleship HMS ‘Nelson’ left the author with the ambition to be a midshipman in the Royal Navy and to be in charge of a steam picket-boat with a brass funnel. Although he served under the White Ensign and the Red Ensign, and had many adventures, he never did get to command that picket-boat!

The second, ‘Drink Up and Be a Man’ by John J Mahon, Seafarer Books, is the story of a young man going to sea as a steward on passenger liners who later served in various ships as a donkeyman, greaser and engine-room hand. It is both a vivid and affecting portrayal of life ashore and at sea in the 1950s and 60s and also the story of one’s man’s triumph against a personal demon, addiction to alcohol, which was readily available in his role as a steward.

Of course I am rather partial to any age of sail books. I have many books about HMS ‘Victory’ in my reference library and did not think another treatment would add something new but Jonathan Eastland and Iain Ballantyne have created a visually stunning and informative guide in ‘HMS VICTORY, First Rate 1765’, Seaforth. A somewhat larger book, coming in at nearly 450 pages, is ‘Russian Warships in the Age of Sail’ by John Tredrea and Eduard Sozaev. In the eighteenth century the Russian navy, created from nothing by Peter the Great, was the third largest in the world – yet until this major reference work on this subject, was virtually unrecorded in the West. Also by Seaforth.

As Kydd started on the lower deck, books about the ordinary sailor of the Royal Navy have special appeal to me. Brian Lavery’s ‘Able Seamen’, Conway, is an illuminating social history of Jack Tar covering the period 1850-1939, the Victorian and post-Victorian navy. As well as addressing the evolution of the role of the seaman through 89 years of change, the book includes a useful appendix for family history buffs for tracing naval ratings ancestors. Age of sail ship model-makers will appreciate ‘Rigging Period Ship Models’ by Lennarth Petersson. This classic work has been reprinted by Seaforth and contains 250 meticulous drawings showing how each separate item of rigging is fitted to masts, yards and sails. Another book for model-makers (and steam and steel afficionados) is ‘Clydebank Battlecruisers’ by Ian Johnston, brought out by Seaforth. The section on the mighty HMS ‘Hood’, the largest of her era, is splendidly illustrated with contemporary photographs, many never published before.

The Second World War is within living memory and few families have not been touched in some way. The Royal Navy needed a massive injection of manpower at the outbreak of the conflict. Brian Lavery’s ‘Hostilities Only’, Conway, takes a fascinating look at Britain’s first real citizen navy, the men and women who were plunged into a challenging and unfamiliar environment.

‘The Wheezers and Dodgers’ by Gerald Pawle, Seaforth, recounts the inside story of the Admiralty’s intriguingly named Department of Miscellaneous Weapon Development, and the many ingenious weapons and devices – such as the Hedgehog and the Great Panjandrum, to name just two – it invented. The book is written with panache and humour by one of the actual wheezers and dodgers.

The last book is not strictly nautical, but dealing as it does with Boney, I’ve included it in this selection. ‘Napoleon’s Chicken Marengo’ by Andrew Uffindell, Frontline Books, cuts through the tangle of myths that has sprung up around this famous dish. As well as the emperor himself, there’s a cast of other, unforgettable characters from Napoleon’s bickering generals, to celebrity chefs, wealthy eccentrics and famous writers.

Enjoy your Christmas reading!”

The battle class destroyer HMS “Saintes” sailed from Plymouth on Trafalgar Day, 1960. There were three new members of the ship’s company aboard: a brace of kittens and “Alphonse”, a pet skunk – and ship’s mascot.

Although not often adopted as pets, skunks are reputedly sensitive and intelligent animals – but of course there is +that+ smell… Fortunately Alphonse had his scent glands removed at an early age.

Known as “Alphy” aboard, he was officially Junior Seaman Alphonse P/ J 4711. He grew fat and sleek on a diet of raw meat, fruit and diluted baby milk – and had his own miniature hammock to sleep in.

Alphy liked to inhabit the area under the duckboards on the bridge. Being a nocturnal gentleman he turned out at 1800 and in at 0600.

At one point on a photo call ashore he made a great hit with the press by biting the navigator to the bone of his index finger.

Although happy aboard, he once went AWOL for two and a half weeks and was sentenced to 14 days “stoppage of digging”.

His owner Lt David Gunn wrote a book about his unusual pet. Now out of print it sometimes pops up on specialist booksellers lists.

Most people acquire nicknames at some point in their lives, but “Magnificent Hayes” must rank as one of the most highly prized monikers!

This was how John Hayes was known from the latter part of 1812 for the rest of his life.

Hayes was born in 1775 and nominally entered the navy aged seven, but he didn’t actually go to sea until 1787, when he joined “Orion”. After a number of years’ fairly uneventful service around the world, in August 1812 he was given temporary command of HMS “Magnificent”, a 74-gun ship-of-the-line.

On 16 December she was anchored in Basque Roads off Brest. There were rocks on every side and a dangerous reef immediately to leeward. During the night a violent storm arose, the ship lost both anchors and she was driven towards the reef.

Hayes urged his men to be quick in obeying the commands given them and to be extremely cautious not to let a sail fall unless it was particularly named.

He went on to tell them it was a matter of life or death: if they executed his orders to the letter the ship would be saved, if not they would drown in minutes.

Hayes then, in the coolest manner, gave a succession of complex sail-handling and helm orders, and the ship, in the later words of one of the crew: “flew round from the reef, like a thing scared at a frightful spectacle”.

The quarter-masters were ordered to keep her south and Hayes declared aloud: “The ship is safe.”

It was only the discipline of the crew and the faultless seamanship of Hayes that saved the ship from almost certain destruction. Thereafter he was known as “Magnificent Hayes”.

Hayes later came up with the idea, which was accepted by the Admiralty, that ships-of-the-line be cut down and fitted expressly to deal with the American super-frigates.

On 15 January 1815, he engaged with USS “President” and after an action of two and a half hours she struck her colours. Following this triumph he was made a CB, and went on to become a rear-admiral in 1837.

Two of his children became admirals.

Christmas at sea for the navy, hostilities of the enemy permitting, brings a temporary relaxation of normal work and discipline and is an occasion for traditional fun and games, many rooted in the ancient past.

The merchant service also holds this time of the year special. In 1928 the purser of “Garthpool” wrote a warming account of the passing of Christmas on one of the last voyages ever made to the Antipodes by a British square-rigger. At midnight, preceded by a boy with a lanthorn, Father Christmas called at every cabin with carols and presents. He then went forrard with gifts for the crew and “Christmas peace settled over the dark ship”. Christmas Day was honoured with carefully shaved faces, neat ties and white shirts. Festive yarning, Christmas toasts and a game of deck quoits preceded the Christmas dinner which included soup, tongue, plum duff and brandy sauce, cheese, nuts, sweets along with paper hats and crackers. Apparently the cook’s private consumption of the pudding brandy was such that he needed assistance to remain upright…

In the Royal Navy (and a number of others) it has long been a tradition to change roles, the youngest crew member finding himself “captain” and fining the real commanding officer a bottle of champagne for some “indiscretion”. This dates back to pagan times when, during certain festivals, masters would wait on the slaves, who in turn assumed their lordly roles.

Up to the introduction of modern victualling methods individual messes provided their own Christmas fare. On Christmas morning the mess tables would be groaning with edible luxuries. The captain, accompanied by his officers and preceded by the ship’s band, made a customary tour around the mess decks. Stopping briefly at each mess, he exchanged the compliments of the season and partook of various delicacies from proffered plates, which was sacrilege to pass without due recognition. One wit describing such an event wrote: “A captain would require the digestion of an ostrich and the capacity of an elephant if he even sampled all that he feels it incumbent on him to accept. Yet it all disappears to some mysterious place known only to a captain – and perhaps his coxswain.”

Before rum was abolished in the Royal Navy in 1970, several months before Christmas a much-loved ceremony occurred as each ship made a giant batch of Christmas pudding mixture. Supervised by the ship’s cooks, the captain and crew added a goodly amount of rum to the mix, which was stirred with a wooden paddle.

Julian gives us a touching Christmas ashore in SEAFLOWER. If you have special memories of Christmas at sea, we’d love to hear them…

Following Julian’s musing on ancestors in the last issue we’ve had quite a few emails on the subject.

Steven Montgomery, a former commander in the Royal Australian Navy, wrote: “A bit of family history…Gommerri Ragnarsson and his brother Rollo invade Normandy about 850 AD. Being Scandinavian the Viking way is their occupation. They become the first Dukes of Normandy. Gommeri builds a fortified arrondisement on a hill – a Mont. It is known as Mont Gomeri – the origin of my surname Montgomery.

A couple of centuries later the cousins Roger de Montgomery, descendant of Gommeri, and William the Conqueror, descendant of Rollo, give the Saxons a bit of stick in the eye for Harold at the Battle of Hastings. 1066 and all that.

Roger is made, inter alia, Earl of Shrewsbury. Being of the rape, pillage and plunder type, he eyes over the border and takes and gives him his name to Montgomeryshire in Wales.

Bit of fictional license there. But based on fact.”

Regular readers of this newsletter will know of Julian’s admiration for the work of the marine artist John Chancellor, who, sadly, died in his prime having completed only a relatively small portfolio of paintings. His daughter, Tessa Makepeace, has generously donated a very special Chancellor print, “From Under Their Noses” as a prize this month.

The print is 396mm x 889mm, limited to just 850 copies and normally retails at GBP120.00.

There is a connection with the Kydd series. One of the ships depicted in the print, “La Nymphe”, was acquired by Sir Edward Pellew in a heroic action in 1793 – and the capture of “Citoyenne” in ARTEMIS is based on this.

Chancellor’s print captures a special moment in time. At dawn on 9 March 1797, two British frigates, “San Fiorenzo” and “La Nymphe”, carry the last of the flood up into the Goulet to assess the size of the French fleet anchored in Brest. Not four miles distant from the enemy, they count 14 line-of-battle ships and 16 frigates.

Mission completed, they tack and stand out to sea, reefing their topsails to the freshening NNE wind. Shortly after clearing St Mathieu Point, they sight two sail coming from the WNW. These are the French ships “Resistance” and “Constance”; the former a frigate, mounting 44 guns.

The British ships are both originally French and in all probability this is the reason for the belief that they are friendly. When the British vessels suddenly wear and shape for “Resistance”, which was leading, the French ships are a good mile apart and unable to put up a combined defence. This enables “San Fiorenzo” and “La Nymphe” to concentrate their combined bombardment on “Resistance”. After fifteen minutes of battering she strikes her colours and the British vessels turn their attentions to the corvette “Constance” who is by then coming on the scene. This is the moment of the painting.

For a chance to win, here’s the question: which other prints in Tessa’s collection feature a ship under Pellew’s command?

Emails to<admin@julianstockwin.com> Please include your full postal address. Deadline: December 31.

And there’s also a special purchase offer of a discount of 20 percent for ANY print featured on the website. The discount code JRC 20 must be entered at the time of ordering. This offer expires December 31, 2011.

+ Another year gone by…

“This year seems to have really flown. As usual, I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting readers and booksellers around the country, giving talks at venues as varied as a Martello Tower and a converted eighteenth century church-cum library.

My twelth book, CONQUEST, came out and I’ve delivered the manuscript of book 13, to be published in 2012; working title BETRAYAL. It’s set in South America in 1806.

One of the highlights of this year was my first passenger cruise deep into the Atlantic and down to the Fortunate Isles, the Canaries. I’d always been somewhat wary of doing this – being ex-Navy I suspected that I would have a nagging feeling all the time that I should be up on the bridge checking the charts or some such. However I found I very soon chilled out and had many glorious days watching the many moods and states of the sea – as well as being thoroughly pampered by a very attentive crew.

And being a foul weather sailor I was delighted when the Bay of Biscay turned on a bit of a blow. At 42 degrees 18.2′ N 010 degrees 21.7′ W on November 4 – the wind came in from the NW at a spanking Force 8! Kathy, for some reason, did not seem to share my appreciation…

We did go ashore, of course, to the lovely island of Madeira which was so favoured in Kydd’s day – and the Tenerife, where Nelson lost his right arm in 1797, to name just two.

At each shore stop Kathy and I took in local maritime museum/archives and were particularly impressed with Casa Museo de Colon, the house in which Columbus once lived, in Gran Canaria, and which is now a splendid museum. In the interests of research we also visited Blandys Wine Lodge in Madeira to sample that special tipple so popular in Kydd’s day.

The Museo Do Mar de Galicia in the old Spanish port of Vigo was interesting, too, especially the exhibit of Sanjurjo’s submarine. It was built in the 19th century in Vigo by an entrepreneur who became a good friend of Jules Verne…

I’m now beginning the planning and deep research for my next book. More anon!

Kathy joins me in sending very best wishes for a Happy Christmas and New Year.”

Browse Julian’s website at<http://www.julianstockwin.com/>

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