HMS Surprise fights to aid the fledgling Greek navy in their struggle against Ottoman overlords. After delivering her secret cargo of the Tsar's gold, she is unable to outrun a closing Turk fleet, her capture or destruction seemingly inevitable. A miraculous escape through shallow, uncharted waters and she runs for home. Yet catastrophe follows when, in the dense fog off Cape St. Vincent, her tender Eleanor is run down by an Indiaman, all the crew thrown into the water, the schooner swiftly sinking.
Home in Falmouth at last, the men of the barky are much troubled by the non-arrival of their shipmates, all being longstanding friends and comrades-in-arms. Captain Patrick O'Connor contemplates a bleak future of destitution in the great financial crash of 1825 as many provincial banks begin to fail.There is an inevitable and insidious effect on men at war, usually termed ‘combat fatigue’.