Bookpick: Something old, something new…
This selection spans two centuries – from the Napoleonic wars to the upcoming 100th anniversary of the shipwreck site of Scapa Flow. It includes two classics, recently reprinted, and brand new publications. Whether it’s an addition to your library or just a good holiday read, I hope there’s something for everyone in this special selection.
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Dive Scapa Flow by Rod Macdonald
Although I’m a trained open water wreck Padi Diver I’ve never explored Scapa Flow, one of the world’s greatest wreck diving locations. It’s on the Bucket List! The scuttle of the 74 warships of the interned German High Seas Fleet at Scapa Flow on 21st June 1919 was the greatest act of maritime suicide the world has ever seen. And over the years many other vessels have come to grief there. Although recreational wreck diving in Scapa Flow is more than 40 years old, in the dark depths much still awaits exploration. This is a classic dive book updated and revised, and a fitting tribute to the memory of all those who perished in that body of water.
Chronometer Jack edited by Robin Craig, Ann Nic and Michael Nix
John Miller was born in Edinburgh in 1802. His working life began aboard East India Company ships as a midshipman. He later owned his own trading vessels and settled for a time in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania, and where I lived for a number of years…) when still a convict colony. When he and his family returned to Britain he joined the Coastguard. Many historical events are featured in this entertaining autobiography: opium smuggling in the 1820s; the foundation of the Royal Naval Reserve; Napoleon’s captivity on St Helena; the founding of Hong Kong and the cholera pandemic in Bombay. A compelling account of an extraordinary life.
Wellington’s Headquarters by S P G Ward
A great insight into the structure and inner operation of the Duke of Wellington’s command during the Peninsular War. This classic study, first published over sixty years ago, describes the complicated tangle of departments that administered the army, departments which had grown up haphazard and survived virtually unchanged until the time of the Crimean War. Wellington adapted the existing system in order to turn it into an efficient instrument in the war against Napoleon, despite clashes of responsibility and personality that frustrated him and impaired the army’s performance on campaign. A must-read for all students of the period.
The Forgotten War Against Napoleon by Gareth Glover
The campaigns fought against Napoleon in the Iberian peninsula, in France, Germany, Italy and Russia and across the rest of Europe have been described and analysed in detail, yet the history of the fighting in the Mediterranean has rarely been studied as a separate theatre of the conflict. Glover, a former Royal Navy officer, presents an insightful and absorbing account of the struggle on land and at sea for control of a region that was critical for the outcome of the Napoleonic Wars. An important contribution to our understanding of a fundamentally pivotal period in history.
Man of War by Anthony Sullivan
I have an abiding admiration for Guernsey-born Admiral James Saumarez and in fact dedicate my upcoming book The Baltic Prize (out in November) to this Royal Navy officer. His first battle was against the American revolutionaries in 1775, thereafter his main opponents were the French and the Spanish, and the first fighting ship he commanded, the eight-gun galley Spitfire, was involved in forty-seven engagements before being run aground. Rising through the ranks, Saumarez fought on land and at sea. He was involved in actions in the English Channel, served in HMS Victory, took part in the Battle of Cape St Vincent, the Blockade of Cadiz, and was with Nelson at the Battle of the Nile. Promoted to Rear Admiral, he led his ships at the battles of Algeciras and the Gut of Gibraltar. Saumarez was then despatched into the Baltic, where he was crucial in keeping open Britain’s last vital trade route by an astute combination of diplomacy and a mailed fist. A fascinating biography of a hero by anyone’s estimate of the Great Age of Fighting Sail.