Hornblower’s Historical Shipmates: The lives and naval careers of the Young Gentlemen of Pellew’s Indefatigable

Heather and I will be publishing our research with academic publishers Boydell and Brewer in summer 2016.   In honour of the Indefatigable‘s most famous fictional young gentleman the title of our book will be

Hornblower’s Historical Shipmates: The lives and naval careers of the Young Gentlemen of Pellew’s Indefatigable

Captain Sir Edward Pellew and the frigate HMS Indefatigable are well known to both naval historians and readers of naval adventure fiction; particularly the Hornblower series by C. S. Forester, who chose to place his eponymous antihero under Pellew’s command during his formative years as a midshipman.

This book investigates the lives of the 19 “young gentlemen” who were Hornblower’s historical shipmates in January 1797 when the Indefatigable and Amazon frigates took on the French ship of the line Droits de L’Homme in one of the most celebrated naval engagements of the French Revolutionary Wars.

Thomas Luny: The Indefatigable engages the Droits de L’Homme

This group presents a fascinating snapshot of the late 18th century sailing navy in microcosm. The great diversity of their backgrounds and naval career paths, together with their close relationship with their captain, illustrates that Pellew’s patronage extended far beyond his own sons and those of the wealthy and influential, and provides a counterbalance to those who have maintained that Pellew was held in no great affection by his men.

The lives of these young gentlemen have been brought to light through extensive research into naval records, personal papers, public and private archives in the UK, USA and France, many of which have been examined for the first time. As this generation of naval officers had to adapt to the transition to peace and civilian life at the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, this book also explores a wealth of genealogical material to present a rich and detailed account of these men’s diverse lives and later careers. This research also reveals a lifelong network of personal and professional relationships that the Indefatigable’s young gentlemen maintained with their shipmates and their former captain, which allows for a substantial reappraisal of aspects of Sir Edward Pellew’s legacy and reputation.

We now have two years to complete our research and write the book and during this time we’ll be posting snippets of our findings here on this blog.

Related Publications

Noel-Smith, H. and Campbell, L.M., (2013), The Christian and The Hero: A study in the contrasting church and community service of Edward Pellew (1757 – 1833) and Thomas Groube (1774 – 1850), in The Light, Annual Journal  of St Hildeburgh’s Parish Church Hoylake, No. 1, June 2013.


6 thoughts on “Publications”

  1. Very excited to stumble upon your fascinating blog. I shall be spending more time than I have this evening scouring your various posts. I shall also eagerly await publication of your book. Many thanks. MHM (aka M Howard Morgan)

    • Many thanks Howard! I’m afraid we’ve been rather neglecting this blog recently as a result of trying to get our book finished, but I hope we will be able to update more regularly in the future. We’ve uncovered some amazing stories about Pellew and the young gentlemen of HMS Indefatigable that we’re dying to tell!

  2. Excellent blog! Looking forward to the updates!

    You may find this of possible interest:

    • Dear John, many thanks for your kind comment. I’m afraid we haven’t updated the blog much recently as we are working hard trying to get the final chapters of our book finished. Hopefully once we get the manuscript completed we can turn our attention to the blog again.

      Thank you for sharing your wonderful work with us. I confess I’ve been lurking on your tumblr and have been following the progress of your Indefatigable model. She is absolutely breathtaking! Your workmanship is really extraordinary. Of course we have many images of the ship and also copies of the plans from Greenwich but I have always struggled to picture what she really looked like until I saw your model. Incidentally we have a copy of the plan for the original scroll work that was designed for the stern of the ship from Buckler’s Hard which we could share with you if you’re interested. We don’t think if was ever added to the ship before she was razeed but it’s interesting nevertheless. All the best, Lorna.

      • Thanks so much Lorna, haven’t blushed since high-school 😉

        Would love to see a copy of the original scroll work, whenever you may have the time!

        All the best with getting your book finished, let me know if I can help in any way with a little publicity. I may not be ‘big’ but have a very targeted audience.

        Best Regards,


  3. Hi John,

    I finally found time to look out the sketch of the Indefatigable’s stern scroll work and have forwarded it to the mail address on your website. It’s a rough partial sketch but I hope it will be of interest.

    Thank you very much for offering to help us publicise our book, that’s very kind of you indeed. We’re working on the last two chapters and are hoping to get the draft manuscript off to the publisher in the not too distant future.

    Best Wishes

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