The debate rages on:
Fabulous prizes of the real captain of Surprise
SIR – Robert Cutts rightly names Thomas Cochrane as the primary model for the fictional Jack Aubrey (Letters, August 29), a character also inspired by Commodore Rowley, the conqueror of Mauritius, and Patrick O’Brian’s own brother, a Royal Australian Air Force officer killed over Germany during the Second World War.
On the issue of naming the greatest British frigate captain of the age of sail, Cochrane and Pellew are both leading contenders, along with William Hoste.
In sheer financial terms, however, did anyone surpass Sir Edward Hamilton, real-life captain of HMS Surprise, who is said to have realised over £200,000 in prize-money (around £15 million in modern terms) in a two-year cruise?
SIR – Lord Cochrane was not always successful in his forays against the French. On May 14 1806, his ship HMS Pallas was disabled while trying to capture a French guardship. He was saved from capture only because Commander George Seymour disobeyed a direct order from his Admiral not to go close inshore, and instead took in his sloop, HMS Kingfisher, and towed HMS Pallas to safety. Surprisingly, this defiance of orders seems not to have damaged Seymour’s career, as he ended up Admiral of the Fleet Sir George.
A J Loch
SIR – I am proud to plead the case of Thomas Atkinson, who ran away to sea from the rural village of Gilling West, near Richmond, Yorkshire.
The Shaw Manuscript clearly records that Lord Nelson stated: “Atkinson is the best sailing master in the Mediterranean.”