H.M.S Temeraire, one of Britain's most illustrious fighting ships, is known to millions through J.M.W. Turner's iconic 1838 painting The Fighting Temeraire, which portrays the battle-scarred veteran of Britain's wars with Napoleonic France being ‘tugged to her last berth to be broken up'. Sam Willis tells the fascinating story of the vessel behind the painting as well as the making of the painting itself.
The 98-gun Temeraire warship broke through the French and Spanish line directly astern of Nelson's flagship Victory during the Battle of Trafalgar (1805), saving Nelson at a crucial moment in the battle, and, in the words of John Ruskin, fought until her sides ran ‘wet with the long runlets of English blood ... those pale masts that stayed themselves up against the war-ruin, shaking out their ensigns through the thunder, till sail and ensign dropped.' It is a story that unites the art of war as practised by Nelson with the art of war as depicted by Turner and, as such, it ranges across an extensive period of Britain's cultural and military history in ways that other stories do not.
Based on original research, the result is a detailed picture of British maritime power at two of its most significant peaks in the age of sail: the climaxes of both the Seven Years' War (1756-63) and the Napoleonic Wars (1798-1815). It covers every aspect of life in the sailing navy, with particular emphasis on amphibious warfare, disease, victualling, blockade, mutiny and, of course, fleet battle, for it was at Trafalgar that the Temeraire really won her fame.
Author: Sam Willis
Title: The Fighting Temeraire
Series: The Hearts of Oak Trilogy
First Published by: Quercus Publishing Plc
Date: 1 October 2009