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Young Nelsons: Boy sailors during the Napoleonic Wars (General Military) (英語) ハードカバー – 2009/9/22
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"The fought like young Nelsons." The words of a schoolmaster, writing from aboard HMS Mars after the battle of Trafalgar, describing the valor of his pupils in the heat of battle. Made immortal by the novels of Patrick O'Brian, C. S. Forester and Alexander Kent, these boy sailors, alongside those of every other Royal Navy ship, had entered the British Navy to fight the French across every ocean of the world. There was a long-standing British tradition of children going to sea, of boys who volunteered to fight for Britain, and along the way found adventure, glory, wealth and fame. During the Napoleonic Wars, these children, some as young as eight or nine, were also fighting for the very survival of Britain. For twenty years, the image of young Nelsons on the frontline of war caught the imagination of the nation.
Drawing on many first-hand accounts, letters, poems and writings, this book tells the dramatic story of Britain's boy sailors during the Napoleonic Wars for the very first time.
"This is a really first-rate book exploring in significant detail a little researched area of Naval Life and the author is to be congratulated on his depth of research to produce such a well structured and fascinating account." -David Clement
"Young Nelsons reads like Tom Brown's Schooldays at Sea. This is a fascinating though heartbreaking account of the little boys who grew into men in the hermetically sealed world of the Royal Navy. Riveting." -Dr Amanda Foreman, Senior Visiting Scholar, AHRB Centre for Editing Lives and Letters, Queen Mary, University of London and author of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire
"Young Nelsons tells of boy sailors who volunteered to fight for Britain and found adventure, glory and fame in the process. These children - some as young as eight or nine - fought during the Napoleonic Wars: their letters, poems and diaries tell of their experience here and makes for an outstanding military history library addition." -The Bookwatch (December 2009)
"Youong boys might well be though a nuisance on board a sailing warship, but it was essential to train them from an early age in the skills and discipline required to maneuver a large sailing vessel during battle... It is therefore surprising that relatively little has been written about the role of boys in Nelson's era. This welcome book redresses that deficiency, using secondary sources and a range of firsthand accounts gleaned from the boys' letters, logbooks, and contemporary reports. Young Nelsons is well-written, well-referenced, and packed full of information - an easy and enjoyable read both for the specialist and the popular market." -Roy Adkins, Naval History (June 2010)
"To the best of my knowledge, this is the first book to examine this area, and its particular value lies in the mass of documentary evidence collected here from naval memoirs recounting the experiences of individual sailors, very often stories of endurance and suffering as these youngsters, some of them as young as 10 or 11, came to terms with the rites of passage (often involving bullying and the theft of their precious possessions) and the rough and tumble and hardship endured by novices at sea; all this graphically before us in vivid contemporary illustrations." - Brian Southam, JASNA News (Summer 2010)
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The book makes for vivid, albeit sometimes disjointed reading, more or less chronologically arranged from the start of Britain's war against Revolutionary France to the surrender of Napoleon Bonaparte (and the American War of 1812). Numerous, sometimes quite lengthy excerpts from first-hand accounts bring forward a great deal of colorful detail.
The publisher is Osprey, best known for its various series of innumerable heavily-illustrated, slender, and somewhat pricey paperbound volumes of military history, with particular emphasis on weapons and uniforms. In recent years, Osprey ventured upon reissuing collections of several of these paperback originals, on a common theme, gathered together in very attractive (and moderately priced) hardcovers. Now, Osprey has expanded its offerings to include some new text-based military history volumes, such as Ronald's "Young Nelsons".
Even if frequently present in the novels of Douglas Reeman (writing as Alexander Kent), Patrick O'Brian, or C. Northcote Parkinson, the Midshipman, R.N. is often a two-dimensional figure, a filling-in stereotype, whose real personality is far more elusive than that of any other officer or rating found on the pages of these acclaimed authors. Ronalds' book redresses the deficiency by providing the modern reader with a view or trigonometry of the sailing warship seen through the eyes of its youngest member - the midshipman. It is by no means a dry, academic treatise on the life in the gunroom, on either the proscribed lessons on seamanship or trigonometry, or the number of cane strokes administered as the punishment by the gunroom's commanding, sometimes even terrorizing, figure - the Gunroom Sublieutenant, himself often freshly transited from the gun- to the wardroom. Instead, it is a book that shows life of a midshipman, with all its challenges, fascinations, and sorrows as seen by children acting like fully grown up men, often surpassing them in achievement, honorable conduct, loyalty and the depth of friendship.
Ronalds provides a rare view of many aspects of the gunroom's live. An important view indeed, since it was the gunroom where the young gentlemen were exposed to the foundations on which the future Cochranes, Smiths, and Moores of Royal Navy grew. It was the gunroom that imbued the "young gentlemen" with the traditions and the ways of the Service. It was the gunroom that helped to convert children into adults within the briefest of times by giving them responsibilities and offering experience far surpassing that many grown-up contemporaries ever faced ashore.
"Young Nelsons" is a book that will speak to anyone who ever went to sea, whose interest centers on the affairs of navies and of men who made and make them, and all those interested in the social history of the Royal Navy. It is also a book that will give the reader unfamiliar with the harsh realities of those long forgotten days a glimpse into the fascinating world, one that is utterly unimaginable today, in which adolescents manning ships of His Majesty helped to shape the fate of the world, rather than playing, as their equivalents of today would, under the protective wing of their teachers. It is, indeed, a fascinating book, and Ronalds is to be congratulated for choosing this extraordinarily unique subject, and for giving it such a superb treatment.