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In the Hour of Victory: The Royal Navy at War in the Age of Nelson

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Between 1794 and 1815 the Royal Navy repeatedly crushed her enemies at sea in a period of military dominance that equals any in history. When Napoleon eventually died in exile, the Lords of the Admiralty ordered that the original dispatches from seven major fleet battles - The Glorious First of June (1794), St Vincent (1797), Camperdown (1797), The Nile (1798), Copenhagen Between 1794 and 1815 the Royal Navy repeatedly crushed her enemies at sea in a period of military dominance that equals any in history. When Napoleon eventually died in exile, the Lords of the Admiralty ordered that the original dispatches from seven major fleet battles - The Glorious First of June (1794), St Vincent (1797), Camperdown (1797), The Nile (1798), Copenhagen (1801), Trafalgar (1805) and San Domingo (1806) - should be gathered together and presented to the Nation. These letters, written by Britain's admirals, captains, surgeons and boatswains and sent back home in the midst of conflict, were bound in an immense volume, to be admired as a jewel of British history. Sam Willis, one of Britain's finest naval historians, stumbled upon this collection by chance in the British Library in 2010 and soon found out that only a handful of people knew of its existence. The rediscovery of these first-hand reports, and the vivid commentary they provide, has enabled Willis to reassesses the key engagements in extraordinary and revelatory detail, and to paint an enthralling series of portraits of the Royal Navy's commanders at the time. In a compelling and dramatic narrative, In the Hour of Victory tells the story of these naval triumphs as never before, and allows us to hear once more the officer's voices as they describe the battles that made Britain great.


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Between 1794 and 1815 the Royal Navy repeatedly crushed her enemies at sea in a period of military dominance that equals any in history. When Napoleon eventually died in exile, the Lords of the Admiralty ordered that the original dispatches from seven major fleet battles - The Glorious First of June (1794), St Vincent (1797), Camperdown (1797), The Nile (1798), Copenhagen Between 1794 and 1815 the Royal Navy repeatedly crushed her enemies at sea in a period of military dominance that equals any in history. When Napoleon eventually died in exile, the Lords of the Admiralty ordered that the original dispatches from seven major fleet battles - The Glorious First of June (1794), St Vincent (1797), Camperdown (1797), The Nile (1798), Copenhagen (1801), Trafalgar (1805) and San Domingo (1806) - should be gathered together and presented to the Nation. These letters, written by Britain's admirals, captains, surgeons and boatswains and sent back home in the midst of conflict, were bound in an immense volume, to be admired as a jewel of British history. Sam Willis, one of Britain's finest naval historians, stumbled upon this collection by chance in the British Library in 2010 and soon found out that only a handful of people knew of its existence. The rediscovery of these first-hand reports, and the vivid commentary they provide, has enabled Willis to reassesses the key engagements in extraordinary and revelatory detail, and to paint an enthralling series of portraits of the Royal Navy's commanders at the time. In a compelling and dramatic narrative, In the Hour of Victory tells the story of these naval triumphs as never before, and allows us to hear once more the officer's voices as they describe the battles that made Britain great.

30 review for In the Hour of Victory: The Royal Navy at War in the Age of Nelson

  1. 4 out of 5

    Urey Patrick

    In the Age of Sail, communications were primitive and excruciatingly slow. Battles were fought, crucial conflicts were engaged, and news of the event as well as the results would take weeks to become known. Commanders were required to notify the Admiralty of engagements and the results by the most expeditious manner possible. Communications inevitably took the form of letters from the Admiral commanding to the Secretary of the Admiralty for transmittal to the Lords of the Admiralty. These letter In the Age of Sail, communications were primitive and excruciatingly slow. Battles were fought, crucial conflicts were engaged, and news of the event as well as the results would take weeks to become known. Commanders were required to notify the Admiralty of engagements and the results by the most expeditious manner possible. Communications inevitably took the form of letters from the Admiral commanding to the Secretary of the Admiralty for transmittal to the Lords of the Admiralty. These letters (“dispatches”) would detail the battle and its results, casualties, damage reports and observations on the performance of subordinate officers. Each dispatch illuminated the character and priorities of the respective Admiral commanding and opens a window into the nature and character of warships and war at sea in the unique Age of Sail. The original dispatches are preserved, collated and bound into a collection in the British Library where Willis stumbled across them by chance. From this original source, he has selected seven Fleet battles fought in the critical period between 1794 and 1806 when Britain was engaged in wars variously with France, Spain, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Russia and others, individually and in shifting alliances. The seven Fleet battles are: The Glorious First of June St. Vincent Camperdown The Nile Copenhagen Trafalgar San Domingo Willis discusses each in turn, in context politically, strategically and with a perceptive eye to personalities, relative differences in Naval equipment and capabilities, and the world situation as it affected the adversaries. It is a wonderful work – compelling, engrossing and deeply illustrative of the times, the cultures and the realities of war ships at sea in that time. In his own words, “It was an intense sliver of history, a period of unmatched ferocity at sea, a period that characterized and shaped the history of the and a period populated by men whose achievements and sacrifices deserve the widest possible recognition.” He reproduces the original dispatches transposed into a readable font, annotates the content and uses them to explain the wider significance of the events and the related details such as tactics, damage reports, casualty figures. He personifies and makes real the people, many of them major historical figures, using their own words. It is a superb and richly rewarding immersion in a unique and hugely important historical era. It is just a wonderful reading experience written in an engaging and appealing style. It is exceptionally rewarding, informative and revealing. You will learn things you did not know!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Hyarrowen

    This is an astonishingly immediate compilation of dispatches from the naval commanders of the days of fighting sail. We all know the great novel series set during this time; here are the reports as written by the men who fought the historical actions, in the immediate aftermath of battle. I can almost smell the still-smouldering tar and canvas: my ears ring with the sound of hammers as urgent repairs are carried out. As always with battle accounts, the question arises: how did they do it? But th This is an astonishingly immediate compilation of dispatches from the naval commanders of the days of fighting sail. We all know the great novel series set during this time; here are the reports as written by the men who fought the historical actions, in the immediate aftermath of battle. I can almost smell the still-smouldering tar and canvas: my ears ring with the sound of hammers as urgent repairs are carried out. As always with battle accounts, the question arises: how did they do it? But they did.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    When Willis discovered these dramatic documents on the British navy during the Napoleonic Wars, he decided to present them to the world with a truly dramatic flair. The result is engaging and fascinating! A really wonderful exposition of some important additions to British naval history!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Matt Caris

    The dispatches themselves are fascinating, and the analysis around what they say (and don't say) quite interesting as well. The problem with this book is that it cannot decide if it is a micro- or macro-level history of these battles and the course of the sea fights in the Napoleonic Wars (term used loosely to include the French Revolutionary conflicts as well). In the end, Willis' treatment of neither perspective proves satisfying. The primary documents themselves (the dispatches, the casualty The dispatches themselves are fascinating, and the analysis around what they say (and don't say) quite interesting as well. The problem with this book is that it cannot decide if it is a micro- or macro-level history of these battles and the course of the sea fights in the Napoleonic Wars (term used loosely to include the French Revolutionary conflicts as well). In the end, Willis' treatment of neither perspective proves satisfying. The primary documents themselves (the dispatches, the casualty lists and damage reports, and other first-person accounts Willis provides to counterbalance inaccuracies in some of the dispatches) are much more enjoyable than the analysis. Finally, one emerges from the book with a question that Willis tries to answer, but to which he never really gives a more than superficial treatment: If the fleet battles themselves weren't the strategically decisive events that we remember them to be - the French grain convoy sought by Howe at the Glorious First of June arrived safely in France; the Danish fleet at Copenhagen was not the linchpin of the "Neutral League," and Tsar Paul had just died anyway, ensuring the end of Franco-Russian collaboration; by Trafalgar, Napoleon had already turned his attention to Russia and away from trying to invade Britain - why do we focus on them so much?

  5. 4 out of 5

    André Mutter

    Reads like a novel, it gives you textbook Naval history Readable for experienced amateur naval historians as well as beginners. Admirals, naval heroes become ordinary men bij reading their unabridged dispatches. Loved it!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jordan Ricks

    The primary sources in this book are excellent!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sandro

    Sam Willis is a very talented writer. I just finished his latest work "In The Hour Of Victory - The Royal Navy at War in the Age of Nelson". It's been a while since I've come across such a fluid and vivid style of storytelling. I found myself slowing things down towards the end of the book - re-reading pages and cross-checking facts with earlier passages in the book - the way you save the best stuff on your plate as 'dessert' for later on... It's a terrific book worth reading if you're at all in Sam Willis is a very talented writer. I just finished his latest work "In The Hour Of Victory - The Royal Navy at War in the Age of Nelson". It's been a while since I've come across such a fluid and vivid style of storytelling. I found myself slowing things down towards the end of the book - re-reading pages and cross-checking facts with earlier passages in the book - the way you save the best stuff on your plate as 'dessert' for later on... It's a terrific book worth reading if you're at all interested in the age of sail. Well done Sam.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lashonda Slaughter Wilson

    This is one of the most well thought out and formatted books on Naval battles and I truly recommend it to anyone who is interested in this period and the British navy.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kate Jamieson

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ian

  11. 4 out of 5

    Marko Werth

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jared

  13. 5 out of 5

    Shawn.Jenna Champagne

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ernie Proudfoot

  15. 5 out of 5

    Chris

  16. 4 out of 5

    Steve

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  18. 5 out of 5

    Michael O'Morah

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bill McDevitt

  20. 5 out of 5

    Peter

  21. 5 out of 5

    John Todd

  22. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Lim

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jason

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jim Apps

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rob Messenger

  26. 4 out of 5

    Karl Pearson

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lyndon Burns

  28. 4 out of 5

    Subhajit Das

  29. 4 out of 5

    Earl Noble

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dennis

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