By Peter Padfield
In a series of major victories at sea against the French, the Spanish and the Dutch during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, the Royal Navy gained for Great Britain what later historians termed the ‘Empire of the Seas’, that complete dominion over the seas and oceans of the world that allowed Britain to build a world empire.
This period, culminating in the battle of Trafalgar, 1805, was notable for the emergence of several outstanding admirals: Howe, Jervis, Duncan and Nelson. Between them they revolutionised fleet tactics. Although very different in character, all were united in their determination to exploit the superior gunnery and seamanship of British ships’ companies over that of their enemies and press in close for the kill whatever the consequences.
Peter Padfield describes the great battles resulting: The Glorious First of June, St Vincent, Camperdown, the Nile, Copenhagen and Trafalgar, and shows how traditional, usually indecisive line of battle tactics were discarded, to become in Nelson’s hands tactics of contempt. He paints a lively picture of the sailors whose skill and phenomenal disregard for danger delivered these famous victories – together with one very dangerous mutiny.
Generously illustrated, Nelson’s War brings to life in fascinating detail the admirals, men and ships of the golden age of the Royal Navy and its inspiring genius, Horatio Nelson.