Book reviews: naval history

Who’s Who In Nelson’s Navy: Two Hundred Heroes

by Nicholas Tracy

Published by Chatham Publishing

This is a superb book. Beautifully written and presented, it tells the tale of two hundred officers of Nelson’s Navy, who fought against the French.

Under Nelson the political divisions in the Royal Navy began to change for the officer class, creating a most noteworthy body of men, the proof of this being the fact that it led to the Royal Navy taking complete command of the world’s seas, due in no small part to their skills and commitment.

Each biography of approximately 1,000 words describes the achievements of the men concerned, as well as personal details like their family lives. Of course, connections, then as now, played an important part in the advancement (or failure to do so) of an officer’s career.

Tracy’s research is first class and he is a writer of rare economy that makes every word count.

Pepys’s Navy: Ships, Men and Warfare 1649-89

by J.D. Davies

Published by Seaforth

This fine book covers all aspects of the English navy in the second part of the 17th century, from the period when the fleet came under parliamentary control after Charles I’s defeat, until the accession of Mary and William of Orange in 1689 when the long period of war with the Dutch ended.

This is the era that begat a permanent Royal Navy in the modern sense of the word.

The book covers shipbuilding, the types of ships used, dockyards, administration, the foreign navies and the three major wars which were fought against the Dutch in the Channel and the North Sea.

It is proper that this fine book is named after Samuel Pepys, who, in his thirty years of service, did a great deal to innovate and improve the navy, readying it for a century of struggle with the French.

This book is essential for anyone with an interest in the Royal Navy, the Civil War and Restoration period, and indeed Pepys himself. Indeed, this book truly deserves the Samuel Pepys award it has won.

Truly superb.

Heavy Metal on the High Seas

It’s not the navy, but…

Steve Earles is author and co-author of numerous projects, including To End All Wars: The WWI Graphic Anthology, available summer 2014 (

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