Olla Podrida: Julian Stockwin Newsletter, August 2011


Firetrench Reviews

August 2011

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

There’s an anniversary theme in this issue. The Royal Australian Navy (in which Julian served) is celebrating its centenary year. And we’re featuring two historical events that both occurred in the month of August – the Battle of the Nile in 1798 – and the commissioning of HMS “Warrior” in 1861.


Broadly Boats News


Firetrench Reviews

Firetrench Directory

+ VICTORY review

+ Congratulations to the Royal Australian Navy!
Australia’s Navy first came into being as the Commonwealth Naval Forces on 1 March 1901. On 10 July 1911 King George V approved a request for it to be called the Royal Australian Navy. This was promulgated on 5 October 1911 and thus the RAN celebrates 100 years of service this year.

+ Praise, indeed:-
In a recent email the direct descendants of Admiral Hardy thanked Julian “for the fantastic and enthralling world of Kydd…”

+ Battle for Berry Head
Join the Napoleonic re-enactors, August 6-7

+ Not necessarily very scientific, but a bit of literary trivia…

+ Huzzah for CONQUEST
“Rip-roaring, page-turning stuff, superbly written by a master storyteller” – Western Morning News

+ Next time you’re in Hamburg…
Reader Steffen Daehn alerted us about a wonderful maritime museum in Germany, opened just a couple of years ago.

We’d love to hear what are your favourite maritime museums.

+ Publication dates for CONQUEST
Julian’s 12th book, CONQUEST, is out in the UK, Australia/New Zealand and South Africa now. It will be published in Canada next month, and in the US in November. It is also available as an ebook and in audiobook format.

+ Exclusive headwear
Read the book, wear the cap!

+ Major restoration work on HMS “Victory” begins

+ The Battle of the Nile
The Battle of the Nile was fought in Aboukir bay near Alexandria, Egypt, on the 1st and 2nd of August 1798. The British fleet was under the command of Rear Admiral Horatio Nelson and the French fleet under Admiral Paul D’Brueys.

It was a battle of annihilation – the British suffered just over 200 killed and around 670 wounded; figures for the French casualties have been estimated at between 2000 and 5000 killed and wounded.

During the battle the huge French flagship “L’Orient” exploded in an incredible spectacle, with blazing parts of the ship hurled hundreds of yards into the air. Both sides fell into a stunned silence for about ten minutes and then an eerie light pervaded the scene.

Nelson had barely recovered from the loss of his right arm, sustained during the unsuccessful attack on Tenerife the previous year. He was wounded again during the Battle of the Nile when a bullet or splinter gashed open his forehead.

Many monuments were raised to this iconic battle, including Cleopatra’s Needle in London. This was given by Muhammad Ali of Egypt in 1819 in recognition of the battle of 1798 and the campaign of 1801 but not erected on the Victoria Embankment until 1878. Another memorial, the Nile Clumps near Amesbury, consists of stands of beech trees planted by the Marquess of Queensberry after Nelson’s death. The trees formed a plan of the battle; each clump representing the position of a British or French ship.

Julian, in his author’s note to TENACIOUS, says: “When I began the Kydd series, as I plotted out the general content of each book, I knew Tom Kydd would meet Nelson at some time… But it was not Trafalgar that I selected for this first meeting; it was the battle of the Nile – in my mind Nelson’s finest hour.”

For a chance to win a signed hardback of TENACIOUS, see CONTESTS.

“There is little man has made that approaches anything in nature, but a sailing ship does. There is not much man has made that calls to all the best in him, but a sailing ship does.” – Allan Villiers

+ Men who changed the world…

“At this very moment there are around six million shipping containers on huge cargo ships sailing across the world’s oceans, accounting for around 90 percent of the non bulk cargo transported in the world.

I remember in my days serving with Naval Control of Shipping in Hong Kong regularly visiting the huge container port there. I was once privileged to be invited to join the captain on the bridge as one of these enormous vessels came into port and was berthed.

The modern container ship had its origins back in pre-WWII America when the owner of a small trucking firm in North Carolina, Malcom McLean, became irritated at a long wait while longshoremen slowly loaded his cargo of bales of cotton aboard a ship bound for Istanbul.

McLean kept thinking about this experience and the inherent limitations of loading cargo aboard ship – and on a rainy April day in 1956, he did something about it!

A vessel named ‘Ideal X’ cast off from Port Newark, New Jersey and set a course for Houston, Texas. Installed above the vessel’s main deck was a special spar deck with longitudinal slots to which were attached the bodies of 58 trailer trucks. Detached from their running gear on the pier they had become containers! Arriving in Houston six days later, the 58 trailers were hoisted off ‘Ideal X’, attached to fresh running gear, and delivered to their intended destinations with no intermediate handling by longshoremen.

And the rest, as they say, is history; the economic geography of the world was utterly transformed.

Forbes magazine hailed Malcolm McLean as ‘one of the few men who changed the world’. When he died in 2001 container ships all around the world sounded their whistles in tribute.

Lists are always idiosyncratic things but I’d like to compile a list nominated by readers of “Olla-Podrida” of people (with some connection to the sea) who changed the world. Email me at:

And thank you for all your comments on last month’s ‘Jottings from Julian’ – although many of you are embracing the ebook revolution there’s also a +very+ strong and enduring loyalty to – and love of – the physical book among subscribers to this newsletter.”

If you’d like to go into the hat for a copy of “Warrior” (see EDITORS’S CHOICE) name a recent book published by Conway that Andrew Lambert edited.

And for a chance to win a signed hardback of TENACIOUS, who wrote the poignant verse, “The boy stood on the burning deck…” about the young son of Commodore Casa Bianca at the Battle of the Nile.

Emails to:

Please include your full postal address. Deadline August 25.

Congratulations to the winners of last month’s contests – STOCKWIN’S MARITIME MISCELLANY plus a Falmouth Shout CD is in the post to H W Brand and a signed paperback of VICTORY goes to Clive Alexander.

– another splendid offering from Conway –
“HMS Warrior 1860” Victoria’s Ironclad Deterrent
by Andrew Lambert
ISBN 9781844861286
“Warrior”, launched in 1860, was the pride of Queen Victoria’s fleet. Powered by steam and sail, she was the largest, fastest and most powerful ship of her day and had a profound effect on naval architecture.

“Warrior” was, in her time, the ultimate deterrent. Yet within a few years she was obsolete…

“Warrior” was designed and built in response to an aggressive French shipbuilding programme which saw the introduction of the first iron-clad warship “La Gloire” designed by the brilliant naval architect Stanislas Charles Henri Dupuy de Lome.

In a bid to see off this challenge to the supremacy of the Royal Navy the First Lord of the Admiralty, Sir John Somerset Pakington, determined to build a ship so superior in terms of quality, speed, size, armament and armour that it would be inconceivable to France that she could take Britain on in a sea battle.

When commissioned by Captain the Hon. Arthur Cochrane, on August 1, 1861, “Warrior” was the largest warship in the world, at 9,210 tons displacement she was 60 percent larger than “La Gloire”.

However having introduced a revolution in naval architecture, by 1864 “Warrior” was superseded by faster designs, with bigger guns and thicker armour. By 1871 she was no longer regarded as the crack ship she had once been, and her roles were downgraded to Coastguard and reserve services. In May of 1883 her fore and main masts were found to be rotten, and not considered worth the cost of repair, “Warrior” was placed in the reserve, eventually converted to a floating school for the Navy and re-named “Vernon”.

In 1979 she became the subject of an ambitious restoration programme and following eight years work she returned triumphantly to Portsmouth where she is now one of the historic dockyard’s key attractions.

This magnificently produced book, a stunning visual record of a revolutionary ship, was published to celebrate the 150th anniversary of her commission. The author Andrew Lambert is Laughton Professor of Naval History in the Department of War Studies at King’s College, London. In the book he analyses key elements in the ship’s design, construction and career history placing her in context in terms of the development of naval architecture, the Anglo-French naval arms race, influence on tactical thinking and the concept of strategic deterrence.

If you’d like a chance to win a copy, see CONTESTS.

+ Coffee, tea and chocolate

Introduced in the late 17th century the new hot drinks of coffee, tea and chocolate soon found favour in England. And they were certainly very popular with the Georgians!

Tea was imported from China, firstly green leafed, later black leafed, too. It was initially served after dinner (which was taken in the late afternoon in the eighteenth century), prepared by the ladies of the house.

Tea also became popular at breakfast, as did coffee and chocolate.

Afternoon tea is said to have originated with Anna, 7th Duchess of Bedford. In the early 1800s she launched the idea of having tea in the late afternoon to bridge the gap between luncheon and dinner.

Coffee was popularised through coffee houses, where the other beverages were often available, too. One of the first coffee house merchants to offer tea was Thomas Garway, who owned an establishment in Exchange Alley. He sold both liquid and dry tea to the public as early as 1657. Three years later he issued a broadsheet advertising tea at ?6 and ?10 per pound touting its virtues at “making the body active and lusty”, and “preserving perfect health until extreme old age”.

The London coffee-houses began to provide a gathering place where, for a small admission charge, any man who was reasonably dressed could smoke, sip a dish of coffee, read the newsletters of the day, or enter into conversation with other patrons. At the period when journalism was in its infancy and the postal system was unorganised and irregular, the coffee-house provided a centre of communication for news and information. Runners were sent round to the coffee-house to report major events of the day, such as victory in battle or political upheaval, and the newsletters and gazettes of the day were distributed chiefly in the coffee-house.

In addition, bulletins announcing sales, sailings, and auctions covered the walls of the establishments, providing valuable information to the businessman who conducted his dealings from a table at his favourite coffee-house. Lloyds of London began its days in this manner.

The popular pleasure gardens of Ranelagh and Vauxhall in London began serving tea around 1730. An evening of dancing and watching fireworks would be capped by tea. The concept caught on, and soon Tea Gardens opened all over Britain. Usually the gardens were opened on Saturday and Sunday, and an afternoon of entertainment and dancing would be highlighted by serving tea.

By the mid 18th century duty on tea had reached 119 percent. This heavy taxation encouraged smuggling activities. Ships from Holland and Scandinavia brought tea to the British coast, then stood offshore while smugglers met them and unloaded the precious cargo in small vessels. The smugglers, often local fishermen, spirited the tea inland to special hiding places, a popular one being in the local church!

One chronicler of the times (a parson) wrote in his diary in 1777: “Andrews the Smuggler brought me this night about 11 o’clock a bag of Hyson tea 6 pound weight… I paid him for the tea 10s 6d per pound.”

Even smuggled tea was expensive, however, and therefore extremely profitable, so many smugglers adulterated the tea with other substances, such as willow, licorice, and sloe leaves. Used tea leaves were also re-dried and added to fresh leaves.

Finally, in 1784 William Pitt the Younger introduced the Commutation Act, which dropped the tax on tea from 119 percent to 12.5 percent, effectively ending smuggling. By the end of the 18th century tea was a very popular drink at all levels of society. Adulteration remained a problem, though, until the Food and Drug Act of 1875 brought in stiff penalties for the practice.

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