Thomas Cochrane: A Fighting Captain indeed!

Thomas Cochrane

The publication of a biography of one of the heroes of the Napoleonic-era Royal Navy, Edward Pellew, (Reviews: Telegraph and Sunday Times [behind the paywall £]) is timely. Pellew was indeed a great Captain, though like all Heroes, somewhat flawed. He undoubtedly deserves being dusted off and re-presented to a Grateful Nation which is woefully bereft these days of genuine Heroes.

He has, of course, had a bit of a run out in recent years with the Hornblower TV series where Pellew was played by the excellent Robert Lindsay. (Napoleonic stuff normally does not appeal to the Ladies, but if this series, or Mutiny on The Bounty – Marlon Brando as Flethcher Christian and a suitably irascible Trevor Howard as Bligh – or the Gregory Peck Hornblower hoves into sight on the flat screen, they seem to have a fit of the vapours. All those tight white trousers, I dare say). There he was a sort of mentor to the up-and-coming Ioan Gruffudd.

But there is another infinitely better candidate for the title of Britain’s greatest Frigate Captain ad that is this blog’s icon: Thomas Cochrane.

Arms of the Chilean Navy

As well as being the greatest exponent of aggressive frigate tactics, he ended up as founderof the Chilean Navy, being stitched up by the Establishment in a classic financial sting, serving in Parliament as a Radical politician, taking part in at least one incident involving in the siege of a house in Piccadilly and some gunpowder (I somehow cannot envisage, say, Chukka Umanna MP or Diane Abbott MP rolling a barrel of gunpowder around the streets of Westminster in defence of a colleague…..), before being fully exonerated and reinstated in the Royal Navy in which he rose to very high rank. He was, in the Napoleonic Wars, a veritable sea-wolf who fought his ship with consummate skill and accounted for a serious amount of enemy shipping.

Thus one is grateful for an excellent letter in the Daily Telegraph:

SIR – I read with interest the review (August 25) of Stephen Taylor’s biography of Edward Pellew. However, I am unconvinced that Pellew was “the greatest frigate captain in the age of sail” and “the likely model for Jack Aubrey in Patrick O’Brian’s novels”. Surely these accolades belong to Thomas Cochrane.

It could be argued that most of Cochrane’s astonishing achievements were accomplished while he was captaining the brig Speedy. But he later had charge of the frigate Pallas, in which he sailed around the Azores and French coast capturing several Spanish and French ships.

So it is surely Cochrane rather than Pellew who was the greatest frigate captain and the model not only for O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey but also for C S Forester’s Horatio Hornblower.

Robert Cutts

The Royal Museums at Greenwich are also agreed:

Peter Weir’s 2003 film Master and Commander is based on the fictional naval hero, Captain Jack Aubrey, created by the writer Patrick O’Brian. O’Brian’s books have received literary and historical acclaim and have sold in their thousands all over the world. However, O’Brian based his character on the real life exploits of Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald.

There you have it.

Cochrane’s Sloop HMS Speedy taking El Gamo








Hattip: The Sailing Master of England Expects (who else?)


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On The Killing Veld Without The Sanctimonious Bit

The Cape Times 17-08-2012

The front page of the Cape Times, left, pretty much sums it up.

The South African Police (SAP) have shot down at least thirty-five striking miners at a platinum mine owned by Lonmin at Marikana, near Rustenburg, about 100 miles North-West of Johannesburg.

A bitter strike is being played out at the mine as South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), an ally of the governing African National Congress and  the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) vie for supremacy amongst South Africa’s poorly paid mineworkers.

The shootings came as strikers moved in the direction of police lines. There have been suggestions that shots were first fired by the strikers, and the re are, indeed, photographs of armed strikers. Armed that is with machetes, pangas, the odd spear and knobkerries, the latter being a handy walking stick with a hardwood knob for the hand that is the traditional and rather handy weapon of choice in a good punch-up in these parts.

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A bit late to the Party, Dan!

Early to bed, early to rise. So this morning, as so often, an early tour of the online press takes place. Thus one is greeted with the following headline:

The case against Europe: MEP Daniel Hannan reveals the disturbing contempt for democracy at the heart of the EU

To be honest, I fell off my chair. Whereupon I lay on the ground kicking my legs in the air, prostrated with mirth.

Revealed, eh?

Dan Hannan, Conservative (we shall come back to that) MEP for the Euro Region of the South East of England, has descended from  Mount Sinai and delivered unto us, graven on tablets of stone, the astounding news that the European Union has a disturbing contempt for democracy at its black heart.

Oh , please……..give me strength.

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Cameron and the Love That Dares To Speak Its Name

It has been evident for some quite  considerable time that Dave is something of a wrong’un.

Somehow a person who is neither a Tory nor a Conservative has managed not merely to become leader of the Conservative Party but also to become Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland whilst masquerading as a conservative.

He also seems, Huffington Post tells us,  to have smuggled some fellow travellers into the Cabinet:

Mitt Romney Snubbed By UK Government As Cabinet

Minister Tells HuffPost ‘Our Heart Is With Obama’

The Cabinet Minister is, as HuffPo tells us, a Tory one:

Mitt Romney fails to resonate with senior Conservative Party figures, most of whom have a much closer connection to Barack Obama, a Cabinet minister has disclosed to The Huffington Post on Friday. Their comments will add to the sense that the presidential hopeful’s trip to London on the eve of the Olympics has been something of a PR disaster for the Republican party.

“Our head is with Romney, but our heart is with Obama,” the senior Tory told us, the day after Romney caused outrage in London by suggesting the city wasn’t prepared to stage the 2012 Olympics. “Romney would be a fantastic CEO president but in our hearts there’s connection that we all have with Obama,” claimed the cabinet minister.

There you are: in its full jaw-dropping gob-smacking awfulness.

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