Olla-Podrida: Julian Stockwin Newsletter, January 2012


January 2012

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

We’re coming to you a few days earlier with a reminder that you can still enter some great competitions – but don’t delay if you want to have a chance to win! Full details in CONTESTS


Broadly Boats News


Nighthawk News

Firetrench Directory

+ My new Facebook page – see what you think!

+ Exciting year ahead for Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
The new Mary Rose Museum is due to open in late 2012. The ship, together with her collection of almost 19,000 artefacts, placed in context, will be on display in a brand new boat-shaped museum.

And there’s a free interactive exhibition open until September, “Bones of Oak and Iron” which looks at how HMS “Victory” was originally built in 1759, how she was preserved and cared for in war and peace – and the restoration process over the next ten years.

+ Accolade
“Drink Up and Be a Man” by John J Mahon, published by Seafarer Books, was one of Julian’s picks for Christmas books in our last issue. It was awarded a Certificate of Merit in the Mountbatten Maritime Awards for best literary contribution.

+ The Kydd Club: why not join today?
There’s a welcome pack on joining, regular bulletins, exclusive offers, contests and more… A nominal fee applies. There’s also an automatic draw of all members on December 31 – for the Collectors edition of TENACIOUS no. 001! A highly covetable addition to any library.

+ Congratulations, Ma’am!
The first female admiral is appointed Down Under.

Julian is always delighted to hear from readers and personally responds to every email and letter. Here are two recent ones from his mailbag.

David Stelmach served for 24 years in the RN as a medical technician and now works in the IT field in the north of England. After reading last month’s issue he emailed about “the best Christmas I ever had in the RN”…

Over to David: “One Christmas morning in RNH Haslar [opened in 1753, Haslar closed as the last military hospital in the UK in 2007], the junior rates messes awoke to find that no breakfast had been prepared. We discovered the chef to be absolutely crappers in his pit! So, rather than drop him in it, a couple of us, who didn’t have to turn to, relieved him of the galley keys and knocked up a quick fry-up for the 80 or so ratings that were gagging for their scran.

We noticed that a few large (and, fortunately, very dead) turkeys had been thawing out on the side but, by 0900, it was fairly obvious that the chef couldn’t cope with the task before him. When he fell out of his pit at 1000, we had been joined by another 10 messmates, stuffed the turkeys and shoved them in the ovens with the spuds, loaded the veg steamers and made great headway into making the brandy sauce; I must say that it was the first time I’d ever been drunk on custard!

AT 1300, Christmas dinner was miraculously served, although we had to hide the chef because he had deteriorated quickly after sampling the brandy sauce and declaring it safe.

When the Ruperts [young officers] arrived to serve us, they were surprised to find that we had already started on the dessert (albeit sans pudding, just the sauce), but courageously managed to serve the rest of the meal without mishap, with the QARNNS Sisters dodging between tables, and with the exception of a couple of Sisters, who ended up in the messes upstairs, the officers beat a hasty retreat after an hour or so wondering why nobody wanted to eat the first course, but managed to keep up with the demand for brandy sauce from the huge vat we had concocted!!

On that occasion, lunch lasted 5 hours, with a break for the Queen’s Speech, at which point the NAAFI club opened for the continuation of festivities when we were joined by the nurses who had their own mess and not as much fun during the lunch! Undoubtedly the best Christmas I ever had in the RN!!!”

Dr Mark Lewis, Director and Past President, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 31st Chief Scientist of the U.S. Air Force and Willis Young Prof. and Chair, Department of Aerospace Engineering is a great fan of Julian’s writing and remarkably has occasionally derived examples for lectures on military technology from the Kydd books. The saga of a sailor turned captain also resonates with Mark. This is what he told Julian:-

“My primary research activities are in high-speed flight, but I became rather interested in the subject of processes for adopting new military technologies, including how we discern a promising idea versus a poor one, while in the Pentagon. For example, the U.S. Air Force’s embracing of stealth technology was a rather radical idea, as was the adoption of significant unmanned aircraft assets. This has important implications in determining how we fund science and technology. In speaking on this subject, one of my favorite examples is the adoption of steam power in the British Navy. What in hindsight seems like an obvious choice was, I believe, not very obvious at all. The required logistics chain (coal depots around the globe!), manpower requirements, and technology challenges of the time might have seemed daunting but worthwhile if there was a significant advantage in maneuverability in combat. But in fact, as your novels point out, sailing frigates could be maneuvered quite effectively. I’ve thus drawn some examples of engagements as you describe them to highlight the point that the advantages of engines would not have been immediately obvious to the casual early-19th century observer.

On the manpower issue, your detailed explanation of the social hierarchy of a sailing ship provides wonderful background in addressing concerns about where the new category of engineers would fit in. Again, we have had similar issues in the U.S. military, including profound arguments over whether operators of unmanned must be rated officers or perhaps enlisted airmen. When I was in the Pentagon I argued strongly for the enlisted airman model, and pointed out the tradition of enlisted men of great ability rising to higher ranks, again inspired by Kydd and the real historical figures you reference.

And finally, in addressing the importance of technologies for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, the contrast of our modern systems to the incredible uncertainties of finding an enemy on a vast ocean, as you so effectively describe, provides a great example. Your depiction of Nelson’s search for the French fleet in ‘Victory’ is the best I have read.”

The words of the darkly comic song penned by Flanders and Swann in the 1950s, are very familiar: “Have Some Madeira M’Dear, You really have nothing to fear…”

The lovely island of Madeira (about twice the size of the Isle of Wight) was one of the Stockwin’s destinations in their recent location research trip. In Kydd’s day it was a much-favoured stop for provisioning en route to India and the East. As well as fresh water, grapes, figs, dates, melons, oranges, pumpkins and onions from the island were eagerly sought for their quality and very economical price. One naval chronicler tells of sailing from Madeira with “four splendid bunches of bananas” hanging between the boat’s davits.

But it was Madeira wine that was the main attraction – and barrels of this were often taken aboard naval ships to be exposed to heat and air on long sea voyages. This process caramelised the sugars and oxidised the wine, enhancing the flavour. Nowadays, this effect is achieved by heating the wine in vast vats using the natural heat of the sun – but as late as the end of the 19th century it was still sent on board ship in barrels across the equator and back.

To this day, at the end of dinner, Royal Navy officers pass decanters of port and Madeira around the table – always to the left!

Captain James Cook anchored off Madeira’s capital Funchal on September 12, 1768 to load various provisions, including 3300 gallons of wine.

Two hundred and thirty years later the modern-day replica of “Endeavour” took on board a special cask of Madeira, which was stored in the ship’s hold. After sailing around the Atlantic for almost twelve months “Endeavour” returned and the cask was taken ashore for storage. It was bottled in 2008 and later tasted at a special fund-raising event at the Australian National Maritime Museum.

When Napoleon was taken into exile on board “Northumberland” the ship called at Madeira where Napoleon was presented with a cask of 1792 Madeira by the British consul. However Napoleon was forbidden drink by his doctors and eventually the unopened cask was returned to Madeira where it was used to make a lot called “Battle of Waterloo”. Winston Churchill, visiting in 1950, was given a bottle of this wine which he served to guests with these words: “Do you realise that when this wine was made Marie Antoinette was still alive?”

Ned “The Songbird” Doud has a different connection with Madeira. We first meet the “wiry, perky young man” in KYDD, when it’s his turn to collect the evening meal of pease pudding and Irish Horse. Edward Doud was of Kydd’s age, but of a very different origin. Born at Pegwell in Kent, into a fisherman’s family, he was out in a sprits’l bawley, stowboating whelk and whitebait before he could walk. His songster’s gift he ascribed to his father who would keep his large family entertained in the whitewashed stone cottage during endless winter easterlies by singing age-old songs of the country and the sea. With the Downs and its busy anchorage within sight it was to be expected that young Ned would find his calling on the sea: at the age of 12 he signed on in a timber trader to the Baltic, and did well, but was cast away in the Kattegat in the great storms of 1792. He then signed on for a voyage to the West Indies, but at Madeira was pressed into the Navy at the outset of war by the homeward-bound “Duke William” and rated able seaman.

+ The school of the sea

“I’m a bit of a hoarder and have to admit I part with anything reluctantly. Kathy is the opposite – she does not believe in hanging on to things if they’re not being used. So at her instigation I was sorting through some old bits and pieces recently and came across my ‘housewife’ – a small sewing kit familiar to all Old Salts of a certain age. It contained an assortment of needles, thread and scissors – and my name was crudely embroidered on the dark blue cotton fabric exterior. I hadn’t seen this bit of kit for many years and although today I rarely use the sewing skills I learned through its use, it made me think about just what I owe to my years at sea.

Seamanship aside, the navy taught me pretty early on the importance of getting on with people, teamwork – and skills of man management. As a young petty officer, barely 20, I had to lead much older seamen from the front on a number of occasions in the face of life and death situations. This certainly set me up for putting life’s minor irritations in perspective.

Being at sea also gave me a unique appreciation of man’s place in the universe and the rhythm of life. The sea touches something very fundamental in us; man will never triumph over the sea in the same way as we have conquered the land.

And when I first started out on the path of becoming a published author, having been to sea gave me the confidence to write about Neptune’s Realm as it really is. I’m not saying that all those who write about the sea +must+ have personally experienced it, but for me, this has certainly been an advantage.”

Back in March 2010 we had a feature on the fate of the wooden walls of the Royal Navy when their services were no longer required.

Jim House, a US Coast Guard veteran for some 13 years, recently got in touch about CG-32 “Campbell” (the fifth to bear the name) and her moving last message. She was the longest lived and most famous “Campbell”. Built at the Phildelphia Navy Yard in 1936 she became known as “Queen of the Seas”.

After she was decommissioned she was turned over to the US Navy to use as a target. She was sank on 30 November 1984 off Guadeloupe. The old warrior transmitted this final radio message as she disappeared beneath the waves:-

“Subject: Final Farewell :
I served with honor for almost 46 years, in war and peace, in the Atlantic and Pacific, with duty as diverse as saving lives to sinking U-boats, ocean stations to fisheries enforcement, and from training cadets to being your flagship. I have always been ready to serve. Today was my final duty. I was target for a missile test. Its success was your loss and my demise. Now King Neptune has called me to my final rest in 2,600 fathoms at 22-48N 160-06W.

Mourn not, all who have served with me. A new cutter Campbell bearing my name, WMEC-909, will soon continue the heritage. The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen.”

We’d love to hear more memories of Old Ships.

A trio of Age of Sail books this month.

The Naval Institute Press, one of the world’s largest and most respected publishers of naval and military books, was created in 1898. Two books recently published by them are highlighted this month:-

“Nelson’s Refuge” by Jason R. Musteen
Gibraltar has a history stretching back 2500 years. As the gatekeeper of the Mediterranean Gibraltar’s commanding position was to become of great importance during England’s two-decade struggle with Napoleonic France. This book examines how the defensive might of Gibraltar was converted to offensive potential during this period, and how The Rock allowed Nelson to achieve his victories at the Nile and Trafalgar.

“Utmost Gallantry” by Kevin D McCranie
Focusing on the oceanic war rather than the war in the Great Lakes, this study charts the War of 1812 from the perspectives of the two opposing navies, one, the largest in the world – and the other, just three decades old. McCranie discusses the strategic decision-making processes on both sides of the Atlantic and their impact on the war at sea. A fresh perspective on this important conflict.

“British Naval Armaments” edited by Robert D Smith and published by the Royal Armouries, is not a new book but one Julian recommends to anyone with an interest in the history of sea artillery in the period 1600-1900. Among the eleven varied papers, Brian Lavery’s contribution, “Carronades and Blomefield Guns”, discusses how these two armaments were fundamental for most of the wars with France and provides detailed diagrams of their mounting and firing, and John Bingeman’s “Gunlocks: Their Introduction to the Navy” evaluates their effect on accuracy and rate of fire, all of which are precise and lucid in their details, and which are very well illustrated.

Take your pick – or enter them both! Deadline: December 31, 6pm GMT.

+ A superb limited edition Chancellor print

+ A Stockwin Tote brimming with goodies…
Come up with your name for a newly-commissioned ship in Britain’s Georgian navy. There’ll be a Julian Stockwin Tote filled with a Kydd Cap and other goodies each for two lucky winners. The winning entries will be those judged most apt and original! You can choose any type of ship – brig, frigate, ship-of-the-line etc. Please include ship type, ship name and your postal address in the email.

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

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