The cruel hardened wind howled in the masts billowing the sails out as linen on the line. The tiny ship heeled starboard as fast too the men on deck sped into action. The life at sea was not what the lad had believed but when ordered he jumped into the sails of the Fore mast cross spar and monkey like tackled the twisted ropes. Men on deck marveled at the sight of a 12 year old Midshipman in full navy uniform doing a sailors job aloft. The sea spray hit his face many times he nearly toppled down to 70 foot drop onto the hard oaken sea washed deck. Many believed it would be his fate. Down he came the ropes fast and tied off below. His five foot frame stood straight as a dye and cried out “Hove too, action on the Port side. Mister Mason load the front cannon.Hold fire until we see the whites of his eyes my boys. Frenchie She is.”
Up behind Him came the master .’Good enough lad. See who will mock you now.” He smiled at the little Midshipman who inside swelled out ,then no one noticed all fixed now on taking the ship racing too them.
Head on she came with the wind in her sails to board them. Lagging on tack the British naval frigate loomed limpid out of breath. Seeing her plight the big deck Frenchman gave broadside and tacked to reload and pass again with the wind down her other flank.
Waiting for this British guns on four wooden brass bound wheels could reload six times faster and she let rip as the French lowered their gins to lower deck British shot round after round along her plimsole line and before her Captain could turn her head she was already flooding below, the sea in her belly took her down. A cheer went up and the little Midshipman Pennington was lifted high on his mens shoulders. He had been accepted as one of them and respected for rank by all.
The French taken aboard in chains led into the hold. Enemy to ransom back to France would bring in a tidy gold haul.
The ship ran fast to harbour in the Dover straight down into the Royal docks. Within time her damage repaired and again orders to sail came back from Sea Lords.
The rest had seen the Midshipman tell all to his family in London. His father ever so proud was a Chandler for the Navy Board.
At sea again the Viscount sailed North wards. By midday the rocky point loomed into view on her lee bow. The wind now almost a gale. To round that dreaded rock the Sail Master Mister Falcote asked the set the main sails. ” No Sir”. shouted the Captain, “She cant take it man. ”
.”She will have to Sir we head to that rock unless “Cried the Sail Master. Up that sail unfurled and filled out so fast nearly broke the main mast in part. Around that ragged rocky point she came so close and off her side came speed as wind changed direction and away to sea she opened up. The coast of Sweden in sight to rest in. From here her able Captain had planed the meeting with Jan hoe a man known for battle .A gun master and a dead shot with a cannon or pistol. At dawn with the tide the vessel made good passage down to Gibraltar and filled up with provisions ready to tackle the journey to fight the French.
“Enemy in sight”, came the Midshipmans watch call from the poop deck. Make to you men all stations make ready. ”
In between the the two French men racing at them she sped in tight and fired both banks into each and caught the turn and wind raced her far off as both ships sank. Near the coast they swam and Viscount sped away like a ghost. She had not escaped her rigging in bad way no control of the ship had men up and down repairing splicing and sweating but as soon as she came to hand ahead lay the French Four masted war ship of Napoleons navy . She just remained ready to pounce. Steady her gun decks made ready . She sat like a duck in front of death. Nothing Viscount could do but wait for the run. Her yard arm almost touching as the French man hurled forth head on his guns blazing hit the ship square on. Her figure head in splinters and her fore deck on fire. Slowly she leveled the cannon and before he could reload Viscount fired ball shot and grape into her hull .The oak planks split apart but the shot did not stop her being just a bit too high of the water. Like a sitting duck they drew swords when a little Midshipman aged 13 fired a barrel high over board towards the oncoming hell.
Once in the air Jon the Swed fired a riffle and the barrel bust into flames on to the main sail and down to the decks. On she came a fire ball now ready to explode. Viscount fired again lower and down she went just half a league the suction as waves sucked the big laden ship down to Davy Jones locker Viscount was trapped bobbing around like a cork. Her sides torn out against the rocks the waves racing over her washing all from their feet and no end seems to come. Viscounts last stand sank in the swallows and deep mud basin. The morning came as clouds broke from the rising sun. The dead buried the ship almost gone as rescue would not even aid her now. Over land the survivors slipped away into history. Save for a letter home from a 14 year old navy Midshipman to his dear mother from a French prison someplace out of sight or name. it was found by builders making flats near Marsailles France among the belongings of a navy man.
It was dated by the book on Nelson found in the lads pack. No bones or clothes found led archeologists from Paris to contact London. It seems the crew of the navy vessel Viscount that was lost without trace in 1807 had been located as prisoners but as no bodies found only belongings led to two thoughts. One. They had effected fast escape .Two they had been executed by their captures. The Midshipmans letter to his mother made no mention of the prison or the loss of HMS Viscount and may have been written to stop her worry only. Or a wishful thought and not sent either that he could not or he was dead anyway soon after. War is that way often we hope they did not suffer but we were at war and anything could have happened to that crew.
Although I admit this is a work of fiction many ended up worse in war.
Yours always Sir Kevin.
Copyright Kevin Parr Bt 2020.