Royal Navy Ship's Captain Napoleonic Wars - B78aRegular price £162.00
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The cry from the sharp-eyed, lookout at the fore masthead ‘Sail Ho- Fine on the Larboard Bow’ sent a rustle of exitement through the crew of the Frigate Hebe, 32 Guns, two months out of Cape Town and homeward bound for Plymouth. As the Officer of the Watch leapt up into the futtock shrouds with his telescope under his arm ready to make an identification as soon as the stange sail became visible from the deck, a midshipman was despatched to call the Captain on deck. A sail could mean many things; a possible prize if it was an enemy merchantman or a small man-of-war which could be quickly overwhelmed by the frigate’s 18 pounders; an opponent to be avoided if it turned out to be a French or Spanish two or three-decker with a broadside weight and range that could disable the frigate in minutes. It could well be a British ship which would be a welcome source of news, stores, water and seamen but, most of all, a chance to check the unreliable chronometer with ‘London Time’ enabling the Captain to check and update the ship’s longtitiude positon.
Hebe’s Captain, John Taylor, depicted in this figurine, was a typical sea-going Captain of the era. He was born into a professional family in Wiltshire, joined the Royal Navy and went at the age of 15 to sea as a midshipman. John Taylor passed the examination at Portsmouth to become a Lieutenant 8 years later; any candidate for promotion to the quarterdeck required a minimum of six years sea experience. Unlike the Army, commissions in the Royal Navy could not be purchased, so that, in general, naval officers were appointed and promoted on merit -although having an admiral or a captain in the family had its advantages. The famous Admiral Rodney promoted his son to the rank of Captain in 1780 at the age of fifteeen. This young man was, unfortuntely, court martialled five years later for negligence and barred from any further promotion. At the age of 50 he was still a Captain!
John Taylor had achieved the rank of Captain just before his 30th birthday and the Hebe was his first command. At 34 he was rewarded his second epaulette denoting three years in post as Captain. He was very aware that when at sea, he more fortunate than many of his fellow officers. There was always a surplus of officers for ships and it is estimated that at the end of the Napoleonic War there were approximately 500 commissioned captains waiting for a sea posting; many officers, after being commissioned, were put on the ‘half pay list’ and remained there for the rest of their lives.
The Navy never had any problem in attracting potential officers. The aristocracy, the gentry and the rising middle-classes competed to have their sons act as midshipmen as, despite all its hazards, a naval career offered the chance of fame, riches and an entry into the highest places in the country. The British class system was very much less rigid than that of many other European countries and it was possible for a family to rise, with luck and ambition, by several ranks in one lifetime. If he could capture a few valuable prizes there was no reason why John Taylor could not buy land to confirm his rising status which would permit his family to marry into the ranks of the lesser aristocracy where substantial financial assets would count for much more than dubious heredity.
John Taylor took one look at the stange topsails through his telescope and decided to have a closer inspection. ‘Steer north-north-east, helmsman, and clear for action’. Perhaps his first land purchase was just over the horizon.
Our collection of Royal Navy figurines make great gift ideas for serving and veteran members of the service. They make great ornaments and memorabilia and are ideal as christmas presents, anniversary presents, fathers day gifts, birthday gifts and as commemoration items.