The officer corps of the Royal Navy during the long wars of 1793-1815 was among the most successful military cadres in history, winning the vast majority of its battles, and often in the face of daunting odds. But the general competence of the profession disguised the existence of officer specialisations, of whom the most glamorous and high-profile group were undoubtedly the frigate captains. Over the centuries the idea grew up that these were not only different, but also better than the majority of their fellows. Because independent action and rugged individualism were essential to their stories, it is not surprising that naval novelists did much to foster this image. But is it true? This book looks at the nature of frigate command, asks important questions about how and why such officers were appointed, what was expected of them, and how they were rewarded. The picture that emerges is one of conscious selection and 'fast-track' promotion - not merely young men serving an apprenticeship before moving on to the command of a battleship, but a real elite with specific and highly prized skills. For the first time it reveals that the romanticised image portrayed in the novels of C.S.
Forester and Patrick O'Brian were indeed close to the truth - frigate captains were outstanding officers, whose careers followed separate paths from their less talented contemporaries.
Author: Tom Wareham
Title: The Star Captains: Frigate Command in the Napoleonic Wars
First Published by: US Naval Institute Press
Date: October 2001