Hornblower's Historical Shipmates : The Young Gentlemen of Pellow's Indefatigable
This book sets out the lives of seventeen 'young gentlemen' who were midshipmen under the famous Captain Sir Edward Pellew. Together, aboard the frigate HMS Indefatigable, they fought a celebrated action in 1797 against the French ship of the line Les Droits de l'Homme.
C.S. Forester, the historical novelist, placed his famous hero, Horatio Hornblower, aboard Pellew's ship as a midshipman, so this book tells, as it were, the actual stories of Hornblower's real-life shipmates. And what stories they were! From diverse backgrounds, aristocratic and humble, they bonded closely with Pellew, learned their naval leadership skills from him, and benefited from his patronage and his friendship in their subsequent, very varied careers.
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Heather Noel-Smith is a genealogist and a retired Methodist minister and Lorna M. Campbell is a digital education manager of the University of Edinburgh and an education technology consultant. The preface and acknowledgements state that the book arose from the authors' shared love of HMS Indefatigable's most famous fictional midshipman, Horatio Hornblower, and a mutual fascination with the career of the historical captain, Sir Edward Pellew.
Using contemporary records and documents held in national, public and private archives in the UK, USA and France the aim was to discover the diverse social backgrounds of the young men of Pellew's Indefatigable, their distinguished careers both within and beyond the navy and their relationship with Sir Edward Pellew, later 1st Viscount Exmouth. The authors explain the criteria set for the study was to concentrate on the seventeen young gentlemen who can be 'identified as midshipmen on the January/February 1797 muster, or who were among the ship's company onboard the Indefatigable on the night of the Droits de l'Homme engagement and were subsequently promoted to the rank of midshipman or master's mate, albeit temporarily in some cases' The significance of the date is the engagement involving the frigates HMS Indefatigable and HMS Amazon against the French 74 gun off the coast at Hodierne Bay, near Brest on the night of the 13th January 1797. Beginning with Edward Pellew, the authors provide the background to HMS Indefatigable and then on through the process and thought behind the research undertaken. The reader is guided through each step until the chapters are reached that cover the individual young gentlemen, their varied background, careers, relationships and in many cases retirement. The main theme running through the book is the bond between the captain, men and ship.
This is a well written and well researched book that not only covers the lives and backgrounds of the young gentlemen and the captain of the Indefatigable. It also gives an interesting insight into the late eighteenth-century navy's way of life. The book would suit a reader interested in the navy in general, the young gentlemen specifically and also as with the authors an interest in the comparison between fact and fiction. Illustration, contents and abbreviations listings are included. Also there is an appendix of The Spencer-Pellew correspondence of February 1799, which the authors have included in full as a testimony to Pellew's devotion to HMS Indefatigable and her crew. The bibliography includes details of primary, secondary and internet sources. There is also a detailed index.
The front cover of this 248 page hardback shows the battle between Les Droits de l'Homme and the frigates Indefatigable and Amazon. The back cover has misty version the same illustration with extracts from the account of the action on the night of the 13th January 1797.
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