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Captain Wentworth’s trip to Portsmouth is a Victory

Captain Wentworth aboard ship

From Captain Wentworth’s Travel Journal:

Visiting Victory is ‘one off the bucket list’

So Admiral Horatio Nelson has been something of a hero of mine for… well, for as long as I can remember. My hero worship started (believe it or not) with Star Trek’s very own Captain James Tiberius Kirk. When William Shatner accepted the role he had trouble getting into the head of the starship captain whose ship and crew were more important to him than his own life. He asked the shows creator Gene Roddenberry for help in finding the character’s motivation and Roddenberry suggested he read the Hornblower novels by C.S. Forester.

Everything you need to understand Kirk resides with Hornblower – his courage, his self doubt, his sense of duty. From there it was a short hop to the wonderful Patrick O’Brien novels and more recently the phenomenal work of Julian Stockwin and Dudley Pope. From there further still, the real life stories of the men and women who served as inspiration to these novelists – Lord Cochrane, Edward Pellew, and of course Admiral Nelson.

It is because of my naval history obsession that I was able to turn up for work on my first day at the Jane Austen Centre with my own historically accurate costume. An Admiral’s dress coat and white ‘smallclothes’, breeches, stockings, waistcoat appropriate to a Napoleonic officer. I was most fortunate to be ‘offered the part’ of Captain Frederick Wentworth. I put the badge on for the first time and suddenly with immediate effect felt a pressure to live up to peoples pre-existing expectations of the character. Wentworth is one of literature’s greatest naval characters. He can hold his head high with the likes of Hornblower, Jack Aubrey, Ramage, Kidd etc.

I do my very best on a daily basis to embody all that Wentworth stands for. Honourable, courageous, purposeful, loyal, dutiful. Now comes the small confession… I am (slightly) older than Captain Wentworth. In fact I recently celebrated an important, let’s just say… round numbered birthday. To that end, my fiancée surprised me with an arranged trip to Portsmouth to visit HMS Victory.

Wentworth with his ‘Anne Elliot’

So it was that on my birthday I found myself on board this amazing 104 gun first rate ship of the line, launched in 1765, the oldest commissioned warship in the world, and Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

I simply couldn’t resist visiting without looking the part so I toured the ship in my naval attire. The naval enthusiasts will probably notice from the photos that my coat (rather than my usual Captain’s frock coat) is an exacting replica of the rear Admiral coat worn by Nelson at the Battle of the Nile.

It was a strange experience walking the decks just as Captain Hardy and Nelson would’ve done 200+ years earlier. In fact an odd symbiotic fusion of man and ship took hold from the moment I stepped aboard. I was able to get a sense of the overwhelming responsibility the captains of these ships must have felt as they ‘did their duty’ for what would then have been king and country.

It was a truly fantastic experience. I enjoyed every second of it and I think it shows in the photographs.

Boarding HMS Victory for a birthday treat

 

Wentworth on the quarterdeck

 

Pacing the upper gundeck

 

Making sure the 32-pounders are aimed straight

 

Here is Captain Wentworth concerned that his battle plan won’t work without a few other captains around the table for support.

 

Looking over some battle plans in Captain Hardy’s quarters

 

Now where did I anchor that ship again?
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William Bligh: Captain of Bountiful Mutineers

blighVice Admiral William Bligh,  (9 September 1754 – 7 December 1817) was an officer of the British Royal Navy and a colonial administrator. His naval career was contemporary with that of Jane Austen’s brothers and the Austen family no doubt followed the details of his unusual history through the London papers.

A historic mutiny occurred during his command of HMS Bounty in 1789; Bligh and his loyal men made a remarkable voyage to Timor, after being set adrift in the Bounty’s launch by the mutineers. Fifteen years after the Bounty mutiny, he was appointed Governor of New South Wales in Australia, with orders to clean up the corrupt rum trade of the New South Wales Corps, resulting in the so-called Rum Rebellion.

Bligh was born in Tinten Manor in St Tudy near Bodmin, Cornwall, to Francis Bligh and his wife Jane. He was signed for the Royal Navy at age seven, it being common to sign on a “young gentleman” simply to gain experience at sea required for promotion. In 1770, at age 16, he joined HMS Hunter as an able seaman, the term used because there was no vacancy for a midshipman. He became a midshipman early in the following year. In September 1771, Bligh was transferred to the Crescent and remained in the ship for three years.

In 1776, Bligh was selected by Captain James Cook for the position of sailing master of the Resolution and accompanied Cook in July 1776 on Cook’s third and fatal voyage to the Pacific. Bligh returned to England at the end of 1780 and was able to give details of Cook’s last voyage.

Bligh married Elizabeth Betham, daughter of a Customs Collector (stationed in Douglas, Isle of Man), on 4 February 1781. The wedding took place at nearby Onchan. A few days later, he was appointed to serve in HMS Belle Poule as Master (senior warrant officer responsible for navigation). Soon after this, in August 1781, he fought in the Battle of Dogger Bank under Admiral Parker. For the next 18 months, he was a lieutenant in various ships. He also fought with Lord Howe at Gibraltar in 1782. Continue reading William Bligh: Captain of Bountiful Mutineers