The Royal Navy in the Age of Sail
(One-hour documentary special)
Where fact and fiction meet is the subject of Sea Warriors – The Royal Navy in the Age of Sail. Capt. Richard Woodman, historian, author and Captain in the Trinity House Service protecting Britain’s coasts, presents it. A veteran of British television, Richard's dynamic presence and vast nautical knowledge makes him a lively and entertaining host. From the deck of a frigate to the ratlines of a bark and other historic locations throughout the UK, Woodman expounds on day-to-day life in the service of the Kings Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. Through interviews with noted historians and popular authors we examine where fact and fiction are true to course and where they run afoul.
These naval stories of adventure, romance and daring-do have captured the public imagination since British Captain Frederick Marryat published his widely acclaimed novels in 1850 (He was the most popular author of the time between Jane Austin and Charles Dickens). In the 1930’s, C.S. Forrester reinvented the genre with his character Horatio Hornblower. Since then Patrick O'Brian with the Aubrey/Maturin series, Douglas Reeman (writing as Alexander Kent) with Richard Bolitho, Julian Stockwin, with Thomas Kydd, Richard Woodman with Nathaniel Drinkwater, and more have brought tremendous characters to life with over 50 million books in print.
In Sea Warriors – The Royal Navy in the Age of Sail we walk the decks, mess with the crew, rouse the watch, talk with the Captain, perform surgery in the orlop and discuss the fiction that’s based on the facts. Climb the rigging, sail a square-rigger and walk the oak forests that supplied the wood for the great ships. We travel from one end of England to the other visiting the locations where this glorious history took place. Animated three-dimensional graphics and maps detail British strategy and illustrate vessels structure.
Many popular notions about navy life are wildly exaggerated while others are, sadly, very true. Food ranged from quite hardy to adequate though often boring. Punishment under the lash is excessive to the 21st century but not out of bounds for the times. Surgery was brutal but saved more lives than were lost while many more men died from disease and accident than from battle. Possibly the most malicious convention was the Press Gang. Naval Press officers, required to round up merchant sailors from port and port towns and send them to serve King George often took whoever else fell in their path in order to meet their quota. As the war dragged on, more and more men were needed which led to dastardly abuse of the system.
The Americans were quick to understand the potential of a far ranging navy and it wasn't long before they established a force that would soon prove the equal to the British. This was played out clearly in the War of 1812 when the Royal Navy suffered heavy losses to the Americans. (Sea Warriors – The War of 1812 coming in 2004)
Sea Warriors – The Royal Navy in the Age of Sail is an exciting story of fact and the fiction it spawned a tale of hard men in a brutal environment continually facing overwhelming odds. It was a period that originated many idioms that we commonly use today (sky-larking, son-of-a-gun, scuttlebutt) and germinated a sense of honor and adventure that continues to capture the imagination and stir the blood.
- Capt. Richard Woodman (Host - Author/Historian)
- Douglas Reeman ((Author/Historian)
- Julian Stockwin (Author)
- Andrew Lambert (Historian)
- Collin White (Author/Historian)
- Tom Pocock (Author/Historian)
- Margarette Lincoln (Author/Historian)
- Geoffrey Huband (Maritime Artist)
- HMS Trincomalee (British frigate, Hartlepool, UK)
- HMS Victory (British line-of-battle-ship, Portsmouth RN Dockyard, UK)
- Old Admiralty Building, (London, UK)
- Greenwich Observatory, (Greenwich, UK)
- Buckler’s Hard Shipbuilding Yard, (Beaulieu, Hampshire, UK)
- HM Bark Endeavour (sailing out of Falmouth, UK)
- Captain Cook Museum (Whitby, UK)
- Square-Sail (Charlestown Harbour, UK)
- The Ropery (Chathum, UK)
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