This is the story of the Bellerophon, a ship of the line known to her crew as the Billy Ruffian. And like any good biography it runs from birth (in a small shipyard on the river Medway near Rochester in 1782), to death (in a breaker's yard a mile or so upstream at the age of fifty-four).
In the intervening years, under fourteen captains, she played a conspicuous part in three of the most famous of all sea battles: the battle of the Glorious First of June (1794), the opening action against Revolutionary France; the battle of the Nile (1798), which halted Napoleon's eastern expansion from Cairo; and the battle of Trafalgar (1805), which established British naval supremacy for 100 years and during which her captain was shot dead with a musket ball an hour before Nelson was mortally wounded. But her crowning glory came six weeks after the Battle of Waterloo, when the Napoleon, trapped in Rochefort, surrendered to the captain of the ship that had dogged his steps for more than twenty years.
Author: David Cordingly
Title: Billy Ruffian: The Bellerophon and the Downfall of Napoleon
First Published by: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC