I have not been in a writing mood because I have been in reading mode lately. These past few weeks, I have been trying to finish reading the books my wife and I accumulated this past year which have been lying around the house for months just waiting to be read. I will be writing about a couple books I liked and sharing some of the insights I learned in the next days.
“TO RULE THE WAVES: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World” by Arthur Herman retraces the entire history of the Royal Navy from its “birth by fire” during the Spanish Armada invasion of England to Admiral Horatio Nelson’s glorious victory over Napoleon Bonaparte’s fleet during the Battle of Trafalgar up to the Falklands War in 1982.
While it is already a well-known fact that Great Britain built its empire on the back of its Royal Navy, it is not common knowledge that most of the men who built, manned and captained her ships came mostly from one small corner of England, in an area commonly referred to as “West Country” comprised of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset. It is quite astonishing to learn that although no place in
Most of Britain’s most famous naval captains such as John Hawkins, Sir Francis Drake, Sir Richard Grenville, Sir Walter Raleigh all grew up in Devon and Cornwall (John Hawkins and Francis Drake were in fact first cousins). During Queen Elizabeth’s reign in the 1500s, these “West Country men” assembled a hodgepodge of ships and surprisingly, defeated the mighty Spanish Armada thereby setting off
During its heyday, the Royal Navy had an all-encompassing influence on British society. Not only was the Royal Navy viewed as the savior of
Two World Wars sapped the imperialist spirit of the British and by the 1970s, the Royal Navy was just a mere shadow of its formal self (so much so that when Argentina invaded the small British outpost in the Falklands in the 1980s, then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher forgot to invite the Royal Navy to her command conference meeting on how to address the crisis – an outrageous thought just 50 years ago). Here is a passage from the concluding pages of the book:
“One by one the substance and symbols of British naval supremacy, the embodiment of three centuries of tradition and pride, vanished. The mighty battleship Queen Elizabeth has served 33 years and carried the flags of 16 admirals, including David Beatty the day he received the surrender of the German High Seas Feet in 1918 – the greatest bloodless naval victory in history. As her ensign came down the last time in March 1948, a Royal Marine band played “Auld Lang Syne” and “God Save The King” as the commander in chief and other senior officers stood at attention.
HMS Renown has been Repulse’s sister ship. Rodney was one of two battleships that had sunk the
But none were sadder, perhaps, than that of HMS Implacable. Like the rest, the ship had held the king’s commission during the war: but her heart was not of steel but oak. The Implacable was the last survivor of Trafalgar still afloat. After Trafalgar, in 1855, Implacable was refitted as a training vessel for boy seamen at Devonport. For fifty years she taught young men the art of handling sails and going aloft on it, on the very sound where Hawkins, Drake, Raleigh had begun the modern age of fighting sail.
By 1908 that era had closed for good. The navy put the Implacable on its disposal list. However, a millionaire bought the ship and refurbished her at his own expense, so that she was able to serve as a training ship again in 1932, this time in
And so on