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Heather and I are delighted to announce that at the end of last month we finally submitted the manuscript of our book, Naval Careers in the Napoleonic Wars – Hornblower’s Real-Life Shipmates The Lives of the Young Gentlemen of Pellew’s Indefatigable, to our publishers Boydell and Brewer.

This book initially arose from our shared love of HMS Indefatigable’s most famous fictional midshipman, Horatio Hornblower, and a mutual fascination with the career of his historical captain, Sir Edward Pellew. Despite the honours Pellew earned during his long and distinguished naval career, the Droits de L’Homme engagement still stands as the apotheosis of his career as a fighting captain. Our original intention was to explore the lives and careers of the commissioned officers of the Indefatigable, the Amazon and Les Droits de L’Homme, who fought through the night and the storm during one the most iconic frigate engagements of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. However it didn’t take us long to realise that our original plan was hopelessly over ambitious; any one of these officers warranted extensive biographical research in their own right, so we narrowed the scope of our project to concentrate on the junior commissioned officer of a single ship, HMS Indefatigable.

Bataille entre le vaisseau Les Droits de l'Homme et les frégates anglaises Indefatigable et Amazon by Léopold Le Guen. © Musée des Beaux-Arts, Brest

Bataille entre le vaisseau Les Droits de l’Homme et les frégates anglaises Indefatigable et Amazon by Léopold Le Guen. © Musée des Beaux-Arts, Brest

One theme that emerged early in our research was the high regard, mutual affection and lasting friendship that bound Pellew and the young gentlemen of the Indefatigable together not just during their careers, but throughout their later civilian lives.  If anything, this book is as much about friendship as it is about the grand panorama of naval warfare, daring frigate engagements and individual acts of undoubted courage.

Although few of the Indefatigable‘s ‘young gentlemen’ achieved fame in their own lifetimes, the stories that have emerged from the archives rival anything dreamed up by the creator of their famous fictional shipmate. We have been continually astonished and inspired by the resourcefulness, bravery and humanity of these previously obscure young officers and we sincerely hope that this book will bring their achievements to wider notice.

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