Tuesday, October 11

Young Nelsons

Young Nelsons – Boy Sailors during the Napoleonic Wars 

by D.A.B. Ronald
A brief book review by Tony Gerard

 This was an easy book for me to put down. I’m not saying it was bad- just not overly interesting. It should really have been about midshipmen during this period, because that is 90 percent of the content. Ship’s boys get a mention, but that’s about it. I’m not really faulting Ronald for that since information pertaining to them directly is practically nonexistent, but why try and include something on which you have no material?

The book takes a historical timeline approach, following the major events of the war with its chapters. It gives lots of period quotes, which is good, from a number of different midshipmen. However I never really felt I got a good feel for any particular individual, which I think would have made the book a more interesting read. I don’t “not recommend” this book, especially for someone doing a midshipman impression, I just don’t think it should be top of your “to read” list. That place should be reserved for “Jack Tar” by Roy and Leslie Adkins.

1 comment:

  1. I'd recommend The Real Jim Hawkins by Roland Pietsch for research into the actual ship's boys. I have also recently acquired Midshipmen and Quarterdeck Boys in the British Navy 1771-1831, but that's a much more academic work, and also quite pricey. And I have also recently acquired (but not yet looked into) Hornblower's Historical Shipmates: The Young Gentlemen of Pellew's Indefatigable by Heather Noel Smith and Lorna M. Campbell.

    Young Nelsons is not the middies' version of Richard Holmes' Redcoat, but it's not meant to be - and with any sort of research, it shouldn't be looked at in isolation.

    On a different note, I would definitely like to recommend Steering To Glory, which goes through 24 hours aboard a fictional 74-gun ship of the line, talking through the routine of a ship in Nelson's navy - and everything in it is taken from primary sources somewhere.