During the six years I spent on this book I never ceased to enjoy delving into the evidence of lives shaped by early sea voyages. In March 2020 the pandemic shut down all the wonderful libraries, record offices, museums and art galleries I visited but I hope that researchers like me will soon be able to view their rich collections again, guided by their dedicated volunteer and professional staff. Here are some glimpses of the delights such investigations gave me.
Tag: maritime Page 1 of 2
A bit of background as to why I wrote the book
My maternal grandfather, Alexander Kinsey, was one of thirteen children born and raised in a large house in the leafy London suburb of Merton in the 1890s. Around that time, his father – my great grandfather – was a civil engineer by profession and accepted a post to advise on the expansion of the Port of Durban, South Africa. With his wife and brood of children they set sail for the lengthy sea voyage to Durban.
George Cross Island
‘Sleeping or waking Malta is always in my thoughts’, so said Admiral Lord Nelson during the Napoleonic Wars. With the rise of the Nazis in 1930’s Germany, and the increasing prospect that Europe would again plummet into war, Malta was once more destined to become vital to Allied interests.
Almost everyone knows about the great land battles of history – Hastings, Waterloo, Stalingrad, Gettysburg and so on. But strangely – and perhaps disconcertingly for a sea faring nation – not many British people know much about the important sea battles of history. They are battles that did literally change the world.
One of the earliest but most significant was the Battle of Salamis which took place in 480BC. Victory for the Athenian Navy prevented the Persian fleet of King Xerxes linking up with his formidable army – already victorious in the Pass of Thermopylae – to form an unbreakable force that would have conquered Greece and then marched on into Europe. If that had happened European history, culture and lifestyles would be very different from the way they appear today.
The Last Invasion of Britain
Everybody knows the date 1066, don’t they? The date of the last invasion of Britain – except that it isn’t! The last time any invading army landed on British soil was actually 29 February 1797 when 1400 members of the French Legion Noire descended upon Fishguard in Pembrokeshire.
This real “Last Invasion” is now largely forgotten but at the time it terrified the British people who immediately ran for the hills. As they went they buried their valuables in their gardens.
Roger Keyes – Churchill’s Admiral in two World Wars
I had eight relations at the Battle of Jutland. My father was not among them, he was busy working up HMS Resolution a super dreadnaught battleship. The most distinguished of my family’s sailors was Commodore William Goodenough who gained well deserved plaudits for his performance, scouting for the battlefleet and sinking a German cruiser with a torpedo. I’ve never done anything brave like that -actually I have done nothing brave at all, but I have felt a curious affinity for the Royal Navy and I have an enormous admiration for the officers and men who served in it early in the last century. It was no place for milksops. The Commodore and his fellows were brought up under sail. They had to climb masts and fight with flapping heavy canvass a hundred feet over a raging sea. They had to handle small sailing cutters dodging around big ships in gigantic ocean waves. Ashore they were sometimes expected to establish order among frightened or furious crowds, drawing on the authority invested in a Royal Navy officer in those days. It is impossible not to admire the courage and the self confidence of that generation of British sailors.