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J.M.W. Turner's The Fighting Temeraire Tugged to her Last Berth to be Broken Up (1838) was his masterpiece. Sam Willis tells the real-life story behind this remarkable painting. The 98-gun Temeraire warship broke through the French and Spanish line directly astern of Nelson's flagship Victory during the Battle of Trafalgar (1805), saving Nelson at a crucial moment in the battle, and, in the words of John Ruskin, fought until her sides ran 'wet with the long runlets of English blood...those pale masts that stayed themselves up against the war-ruin, shaking out their ensigns through the thunder, till sail and ensign dropped.' It is a story that unites the art of war as practised by Nelson with the art of war as depicted by Turner and, as such, it ranges across an extensive period of Britain's cultural and military history in ways that other stories do not.
The result is a detailed picture of British maritime power at two of its most significant peaks in the age of sail: the climaxes of both the Seven Years' War (1756-63) and the Napoleonic Wars (1798-1815). It covers every aspect of life in the sailing navy, with particular emphasis on amphibious warfare, disease, victualling, blockade, mutiny and, of course, fleet battle, for it was at Trafalgar that the Temeraire really won her fame. An evocative and magnificent narrative history by a master historian.
Dr Sam Willis is one of the world's leading authorities on the sailing navy and was awarded a PhD in Naval History for his thesis on Command and Tactics in the 18th-century Navy. He is an Honorary Fellow at the University of Exeter's Centre for Maritime Historical Studies and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. Sam was presenter of the BBC series Shipwrecks and has consulted on maritime painting for Christie's and the BBC, spending 18 months as a Square Rig Able Seaman, sailing the tall ships used in the Hornblower television series and Channel 4's award-winning film Shackleton. He is the author of several critically acclaimed books including the bestselling 'Hearts of Oak' Trilogy. www.sam-willis.com.
N. A. M. Rodger is Professor of Naval History at the University of Exeter. He is the author of numerous books including The Wooden World, The Admiralty, The Safeguard of the Sea and Command of the Ocean.
'Cleverly uses the microcosm of the life story of one ship to reflect the wider narrative of the decades-long struggle between Britain and France for mastery of the seas' Sunday Times.
'*****Brilliant ... Sam Willis has written a magnificent tribute to these superb ships and all who sailed in them' Mail on Sunday.
Mail on Sunday
'Willis offers an engaging biography of the Temeraire and gives a detailed picture of life in the sailing navy ... (His) book is infused with his experience and knowledge of seafaring' Times Literary Supplement.
Times Literary Supplement
'an elegant lament for the vanished warships of the world and an eloquent plea for the preservation of those still afloat' Bernard Cornwell in Wall Street Journal.
Wall Street Journal