The gap between the American War – in which France, as usual, sided against Britain – and the next conflict Britain would fight with France, the Revolutionary War, was a short one, just a decade long. In this decade however the British government did what governments have done through history – once victory was gained it was assumed that no further conflict was likely in the near future and that economic advantage could be achieved by standing down armed forces, disposing of warships and running down stores. This was to offer what is now called a “peace dividend”. It was to prove an illusion once revolution erupted in France and launched more than two decades of warfare on a global scale. Britain’s new was began in early 1793 and by then large numbers of warships that had proved so essential in the earlier conflict had by now been disposed of. More ships were needed –and as soon as possible. New construction was immediately committed to but, until these vessels were completed and commissioned, stopgaps were essential.
One such stopgap measure was to purchase ten “East Indiamen”
– stoutly built trading vessels in the service of the East India Company and well
suited to long ocean voyages. Typical of these was the Glatton, a 1253-ton ship, pierced with gun ports like all of her kind
and carrying defensive armament to protect her against Algerine corsairs off
North Africa and other pirates in Eastern Seas. By the time she was requisitioned
by the Royal Navy in 1795 she had already participated in the capture of a
French brig, Le Franc while part of a
trading convoy. On being taken into the Navy, command of her was assigned to
Captain Henry Trollope, who had the responsibility for arming and commissioning
her, and getting her into service as soon as possible. Trollope, building on
his previous experience, made maximum use of the latitude allowed him and armed
Glatton entirely with carronades
rather than with the usual mix of long guns. A total of twenty-eight 68-pounder
carronades were mounted on the lower deck and twenty-eight 32-pounder
carronades on the upper. All were on slides rather than trucks but the vessel’s
gun ports were too small to allow training other than on the beam. Added to
this was the fact that the deck layout did not allow mounting of bow-chasers or
stern-chasers. Careful manoeuvering of the entire ship would therefore be
needed to bring her firepower to bear.
|East Indiaman Woodford by Samuel Atkis (1787-1808) - Glatton would have looked generally similar|
(with acknowledgement to the WikiGallery.ord)
|East Indiaman - contemporary engraving|
Trollope with the mortally wounded Marine Captain Henry Ludlow Strangeways on the HMS Glatton
Trollope’s achievement was immediately recognised as unprecedented. He had deliberately engaged six other powerful ships simultaneously, and had put them to flight. He was rewarded with a well-deserved knighthood. He was to retain command of Glatton for three more years, still in the North Sea fleet and one of his notable achievements was persuading her crew not to join the Nore mutiny in 1797. He went further – by threatening to unleash Glatton’s firepower on two other ships that were in open mutiny, he induced their crews to return to duty. Promoted to command of the “74” Russell, he was to participate in Duncan’s victory at Camperdown later the same year.
And Glatton? She was converted in due course the more conventional armament – her “carronades-only” surprise value could only be of limited duration – and she was to see extensive action in the North Sea, Baltic and the Mediterranean until being hulked for harbour service in 1814.
Britannia’s Amazon by Antoine Vanner
This latest novel runs in parallel in time with the action of the earlier Britannia’s Spartan, and concentrates on the adventures of Nicholas Dawlish’s wife Florence while she is at home in Britain while he and his cruiser are in Korean waters. Dedicated to the welfare of seaman’s families, and especially to those of her husband’s crew, Florence intends to spend the months of separation caring for them. But a chance encounter is to plunge her into the maelstrom of vice, cruelty and espionage that is the corrupt underside of complacent Late-Victorian society. And if Florence is to survive - and to save innocent victims- she must face evil head-on, deal with conflicts of loyalty and employ guile as her most powerful weapon.
This volume also includes the long short-story Britannia’s Eye, which casts a new light on Nicholas Dawlish’s relationship with his uncle, an invalided naval officer who made him his heir. But Nicholas was never to know - or even guess - the truth about what his uncle had really been…