The Trafalgar Chronicle. Pearson, Heuvel and Rodgaard. 2021

The Trafalgar Chronicle. Pearson, Heuvel and Rodgaard. 2021

Pearson, Judith E., Sean Heuvel and John Rodgaard. 
The Trafalgar Chronicle
Seaforth Publishing. 
New Series 6. 
ISBN 978-1-5267-5966-5. 
230 pages.

This review is of a journal of one of our fellow organisations, “The 1805 Club”, a society dedicated to naval history in the Nelson era.  It is a relatively modern organisation, having been founded in 1990.  Its aims are threefold.

  • To preserve graves, monuments and memorials relating to seafaring people of the Georgian era, in particular the Royal Navy during the French Revo­lutionary and Napoleonic Wars, and Admiral Lord Nelson.
  • To promote and publish research into the Royal Navy of the Georgian period (1714-1837).
  • To organise cultural and historical events for the enjoyment and edification of its membership and the public in general.

Members of The 1805 Club receive copies of two separate publications each year.

  • The Kedge Anchor, an A4 magazine (like Cook’s Log) published twice a year.  It contains a range of articles, news and details of past and future events.
  • The Trafalgar Chronicle, the organisation’s “flag­ship” production, with an in-house editorial team, and an external publisher.  It can be purchased by non-members.

The book under review contains 14 articles, all well-researched and presented.  The four main articles relate to the theme of Georgian Navy encounters with indigenous populations and enslaved people.  Two of the articles are of particular interest to CCS members.

One article is about Governor King, New South Wales, recounting his meetings with those Māori who travelled in whalers to visit Port Jackson.  The Governor’s hospitality and friendship greatly impressed them, and King’s kindness is remembered to this day.

The article entitled “Captain Nathaniel Portlock”, although only five pages long, nevertheless provides copious new information about this American.  He joined Discovery on 12 March, 1776, as an A.B., and found himself promoted to Master’s Mate before the month was out.  Beaglehole’s biographical notes on Portlock were most welcome.  However, for every sentence given by Beaglehole, here there is a paragraph of notes!  The author is Gerald D Holland Jnr., a member of the US Coast Guard.  He is interested in the American Revolution in Virginia, prior to the commencement of the War of Independ­ce, and has drawn upon his research into that period to provide details of the Portlock family and Nathaniel’s early life in Virginia.  His article is a significant addition to what is known about Captain Nathaniel Portlock.

Another article is “The Watery Maze: with Wolfe and Saunders at Quebec 1759”.  It is primarily about Vice Admiral Sir Charles Saunders, the commander of the British fleet.  It tries to redress how Saunders’s role in the capture of Quebec has been eclipsed by the actions of General Wolfe.  It concentrates on Saunders’s strategic decisions, rather than on their detailed implementation; as a result, Cook has only a passing mention.  After the capture of Quebec, Saunders informed the Admiralty in 1760 that he intended to publish a detailed chart of the St Lawrence River.  It was published later that year but, although it was based upon the surveying of James Cook, his contribution was not acknow­ledged.

I also read an interesting article about the rise in the status of surgeons in the Royal Navy during the wars of 1792-1805.  This was a fascinating tale that provided an historical overview of the development of naval surgery throughout the 18th century.  The sailor’s nemesis of scurvy was not overlooked, and I could feel the author’s exasperation as he wrote “Nevertheless, the Admiralty was criminally respon­sible for major loss of life by not mandating antiscorbutic lemon/lime juice on warships until 1796”.  That was twenty years after Cook had demonstrated the efficacy of such antiscorbutics.

The final article in this issue is devoted to the development of vessels designed to carry mortars.  The Bombarde, developed first by the French in the late 17th century, was soon followed by British Bomb vessels.  The author reviews the various battles in which the British used its bomb vessels, and then points out that their sturdy construction also made them ideal for voyages in the Arctic and Antarctic.  He recites the various expeditions that used bomb vessels in their attempts to find the Northwest Passage linking the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean, from Christopher Middleton in 1741, to John Franklin in 1845.

I was very impressed with the range of articles and the research undertaken by the authors, as reflected in their extensive reference notes.  This review has shown me that the two societies are remarkably similar in their aims, size, international membership, and treatment of naval history.  Long may they both flourish.

Cliff Thornton

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 28, volume 45, number 2 (2022).

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