HMS Exeter

HMS Exeter (68) was a York-class heavy cruiser of the Royal Navy that served in World War II. She was laid down on 1 August 1928 at the Devonport Dockyard, Plymouth, Devon. She was launched on 18 July 1929 and completed on 27 July 1931. She fought against the German pocket battleship Graf Spee at the 1939 Battle of the River Plate, suffering extensive damage that caused a long refit.

Having been rebuilt, she was sent to the East Indies where she was sunk by the Japanese in 1942.

On completion, Exeter joined the 2nd Cruiser Squadron with the Atlantic Fleet, where she served between 1931 and 1935. In 1934 she was assigned to the America and West Indies Station and remained there, with a temporary deployment to the Mediterranean during the Abyssinian crisis of 1935 and 1936, until 1939.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, she formed part of the South American Division with Cumberland, under Commodore Henry Harwood. Together with the Leander-class light cruisers Ajax and Achilles she engaged the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee in the Battle of the River Plate on 13 December 1939, which culminated in the scuttling of the Admiral Graf Spee several days later. Exeter operated as a division on her own, Achilles and Ajax as the other, in order to split the fire of Graf Spee. Exeter was hit by seven 11-inch shells and several near misses caused significant splinter damage. Sixty-one of her crew were killed and another twenty-three wounded. All three 8-inch turrets were put out of action and her speed was reduced to 18 knots (33 km/h), forcing her to withdraw from battle. Exeter made for Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands for emergency repairs which took until January 1940. For a short time consideration was given to leave the ship there as a hulk and headquarters ship. Shortly later however, the decision was made for her to be made sea-worthy enough to return to Devonport, for full repairs and a modernisation refit between February 1940 and March 1941. On 10 March, 1941, during the repair and refit period, her commanding officer, Captain W.N.T. Beckett MVO DSC died at Saltash Hospital, from complications resulting from surgery related to injuries received earlier in his career. He died the day Exeter was due to be re-commissioned. His replacement was Captain Oliver Loudon Gordon. Upon completion of the repair and refit, Exeter was the most modern heavy cruiser in the Royal Navy, and kept that title for a short 1-month period until HMS London emerged from her extensive rebuild and modernization.

On returning to the fleet in 1941 she was engaged on escort duty for Atlantic convoys, including the escort of convoy WS-8B to the Middle East during the Bismarck episode. After this, she went on to the Far East.

On the entry of the Empire of Japan into the war in December 1941, Exeter formed part of the ABDACOM naval force intended to defend the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) from Japanese invasion.

Fate

On 27 February 1942, Exeter was damaged in the Battle of the Java Sea when she received an 8-inch shell hit to a boiler room and was subsequently ordered to Surabaya for repairs. The destroyer HMS Electra was sunk covering her withdrawal. Two days later, when she attempted to reach the Sunda Strait, she was intercepted by the Japanese heavy cruisers Nachi, Haguro, Myoko and Ashigara and the destroyers Akebono, Inazuma, Yamakaze and Kawakaze on the morning of 1 March 1942. The Second Battle of the Java Sea ensued, now more appropriately called The Battle of Bawean Island, and Exeter was soon badly damaged by gunfire, one hit causing the loss of all power to the ship. Scuttling charges were set and she soon began sinking, initially listing to port only to be hit to starboard by two torpedoes from the destroyer Inazuma which sat her back upright and rolled her to starboard before she finally sank about noon. Her escorting destroyers, HMS Encounter and USS Pope were also lost; Pope temporarily escaped the initial melee, only to be sunk by aerial attack a few hours later. About 800 Allied seamen, including Exeter’s commanding officer, Captain Oliver Gordon, were picked up by the Japanese and became prisoners of war, with 153 of Exeter’s crew dying while in captivity with three more dying after being liberated at war’s end due to their treatment by the Japanese.

The wreck was located and positively identified in February 2007. Exeter lies in Indonesian waters, at a depth of about 200 ft (60 m), 90 miles northwest of Bawean Island – some 60 miles from the sinking position given by her captain.

The Ottoman Fleet

Ottoman fleet anchored at the French port of Toulon in 1543. Miniature by Matrakçı Nasuh who was travelling with the fleet.

The Ottoman Turks transport their fleet overland into the Golden Horn.


In 1453 the Ottoman fleet participated in the historic conquests of Constantinople, Gökçeada, Lemnos and Thasos. The conquest of the Duchy of Athens in Morea was completed between 1458 and 1460, followed by the conquest of the Empire of Trebizond and the Genoese colony of Amasra in 1461, which brought an end to the final vestiges of the Byzantine Empire. In 1462 the Ottoman fleet conquered the Genoese islands of the northern Aegean Sea, including Lesbos. This was followed by the Ottoman-Venetian War of 1463-1479. In the following period the Ottoman fleet gained more territory in the Aegean Sea, and in 1475 set foot on Crimea on the northern shores of the Black Sea. Until 1499 this was followed by further expansion on the Black Sea coasts (such as the conquest of Georgia in 1479) and on the Balkan peninsula (such as the final reconquest of Albania in 1497, and the conquest of Montenegro in 1499). The loss of Venetian forts in Montenegro, near the strategic Castelnuovo, triggered the Ottoman-Venetian War of 1499-1503, during which the Turkish fleet of Kemal Reis defeated the Venetian forces at the Battle of Zonchio (1499) and the Battle of Modon (1500). By 1503 the Ottoman fleet raided the northeastern Adriatic coasts of Italy, and completely captured the Venetian lands on Morea, the Ionian Sea coast and the southeastern Adriatic Sea coast.
According to Katib Celebi a typical Ottoman fleet in the mid-17th century consisted of 46 vessels (40 galleys and 6 maona’s) whose crew was 15,800 men, roughly two-thirds (10,500) were oarsmen, and the remainder (5,300) fighters.
The restored Byzantine Empire was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1453 while the Empire of Trebizond managed to survive until 1461, when it too was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. Manuel III (1390–1417), the second son and successor of Alexios III, allied himself with Timur, and benefited from Timur’s defeat of the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Ankara in 1402. His son Alexios IV (1417–1429) married two of his daughters to Jihan Shah, khan of the Kara Koyunlu, and to Ali Beg, khan of the Ak Koyunlu, while his eldest daughter Maria became the third wife of the Byzantine Emperor John VIII Palaiologos. Pero Tafur, who visited the city in 1437, reported that Trebizond had fewer than 4,000 troops.
Alexios IV’s eldest son, John IV (1429–1459), could not help but see that his Empire would soon share the same fate as Constantinople had suffered in 1453. The Ottoman Sultan Murad II first attempted to take the capital by sea in 1442, but high surf made the landings difficult and the attempt was repulsed. While Murad’s son and successor, Mehmed II, was away laying siege to Belgrade in 1456, the Ottoman governor of Amasya attacked Trebizond, and although defeated, took many prisoners and extracted a heavy tribute.
John IV prepared for the eventual assault by forging alliances. He gave his daughter to the son of his brother-in-law, Uzun Hasan, khan of the Ak Koyunlu, in return for his promise to defend Trebizond. He also secured promises of help from the Turkish emirs of Sinope and Karamania, and from the king and princes of Georgia.
After John’s death in 1459, his brother David came to power and misused these alliances. David intrigued with various European powers for help against the Ottomans, speaking of wild schemes that included the conquest of Jerusalem. Mehmed II eventually heard of these intrigues, and was further provoked to action by David’s demand that Mehmed remit the tribute imposed on his brother.
Mehmed’s response came in the summer of 1461. He led a sizeable army from Bursa, first to Sinope, whose emir quickly surrendered, then south across Armenia to neutralize Uzun Hasan. Having isolated Trebizond, Mehmed quickly swept down upon it before the inhabitants knew he was coming, and placed it under siege. The city held out for a month before David surrendered on August 15, 1461. With the fall of Trebizond, the last remnant of the Byzantine Empire, and thus also of the Roman Empire from which the Byzantine Empire sprang, was extinguished.

The Development of Naval Tactics in the 19th Century

It was on this day in 1866 that the naval battle of Lissa was fought, during the Third Italian War of Independence, which was a stunning defeat for the Kingdom of Italy. In the end, the Prussian victory over Austria eventually brought Venice back into the Italian nation but no more, with other formerly Venetian territories remaining under Austrian control. The battle was a loss for a variety of reasons, paramount of which was probably the feuding Italian commanders failing to put personal squabbles aside for the sake of the country and work together but also some faulty naval ordinance. Austrian shells penetrated Italian ships while Italian shells often bounced off the Austrian vessels (many of which included Italian sailors as well). However, despite being a defeat, there were still moments of extreme heroism and sacrifice on the part of the Italian fleet; such as the sailors of the Palestro refusing to abandon ship but staying with their captain and going down fighting. It did not help that the battle was first reported as a victory which only made the eventual news of defeat all the more shocking and terrible. Worse, it was mostly hushed up by the high command whereas it should have been looked at honestly to learn from the mistakes made.

The interval of ninety years between the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 and the beginning of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904 was marked by no major naval war. There was fighting at sea, and there were prolonged blockades, but there were no campaigns between large and well-appointed navies. During this period an entire revolution took place in the means of propulsion, armament and construction of ships. Steam was applied to warships, at first as an auxiliary force, in the second quarter of the 19th century. The Crimean War gave a great stimulus to the development of the guns. It also brought about the application of iron to ships as armour-plate. Very soon metal was adopted as the material out of which ships were made. The extended use of shells, by immensely increasing the danger of fire, rendered wood so inflammable that it was too dangerous for employment in a warship. Changes so sweeping as these could not take place without affecting all the established ideas as to propulsion, armament and construction.

Revival of ramming

Steam allowed the ship herself to be used as a projectile. Many thought that the use of the ram would again become common and the sinking of the Re d’Italia by the Austrian ironclad Erzherzog Ferdinand Max at the battle of Lissa in 1866 seemed to give force to this supposition. Accidental collisions such as those between the British warships Vanguard and Iron Duke, Victoria and Camperdown showed how fatal a wound could be given by the ram of a steam warship. But even the sinking of the Re d’Italia was largely an accident, and steam-powered ramming turned out to be impractical.

Between vessels both under full control, a collision was easily avoided where there was space to move. In a mêlée, or pell-mell battle, opportunities would occur for the use of the ram, but the torpedo and the mine soon made it very dangerous for one fleet to rush at another. The torpedo may be said therefore to have excluded the pell-mell battle and the use of the ram except on rare occasions.

Ramming as a tactic also invalidated the former need to concentrate guns on the broadside, which in any case was being made obsolete by the larger guns developed as a consequence of the Industrial Revolution and made necessary by the iron or steel armour now being used. Fewer of the large guns could be carried or mounted, and a wider arc of fire was required to compensate.

Operation Cherry Blossoms at Night

During the last months of the war, Ishii was preparing for a long-distance attack on the United States. This operation, codenamed “Cherry Blossoms at Night”, called for the use of airplanes to spread plague over Southern California at night. The plan was finalized on March 26, 1945. Five of the new I-400-class long-range submarines were to be sent across the Pacific Ocean, each carrying three Aichi M6A Seiran aircraft loaded with plague-infected fleas. The submarines were to surface near San Diego and launch the aircraft towards the target, either to drop the plague via balloon bombs, or to crash in enemy territory. Either way, the plague would then infect people in the area and kill perhaps tens of thousands. The mission was extremely risky for the pilots and submariners, likely a one-way kamikaze mission. A pilot under the command of Ishii, Ishio Kobata, recalled the plan in 1998:

I was told directly by Shiro Ishii of the kamikaze mission “Cherry Blossoms at Night”, which was named by Ishii himself. I was a leader of a squad of seventeen. I understood that the mission was to spread contaminated fleas in the enemy’s base and contaminate them with plague.

The plan was scheduled to begin on September 22, 1945, but was not realized because the Imperial Japanese Navy was committed to defense of the home islands, did not see the mission as practical, and they did not want to risk any of the new I-400-class submarines, of which only three had been built. In any case, the Japanese surrender on August 15, 1945, made the operation moot.

It was the Japanese during World War II that then developed plague into a biological weapons agent. In Unit 731, the Japanese biological weapons program in Manchuria headed by army officer and physician Shiro Ishii, the flea bomb or Uji-50 was created. The simple design of the bomb was a ceramic container filled with plague-infested fleas and flour. Once the container reached the ground and broke, the flours would attract rats, the fleas would mount the rats, and the rats would spread the disease. The Japanese tested the weapon on Manchurian villages. One witness wrote:

    “I was fifteen years old at the time, and I remember everything clearly. The Japanese plane spread something that looked like smoke. A few days later we found dead rats all over the village. At the same time, people came down with high fevers and aches in the lymph nodes. Every day, people died. Crying could be heard all through the village. My mother and father – in all, eight people in my family – died. I was the only one in my family left.”

Rats infested with plague-carrying fleas were also released by the Japanese. Nobuo Kamaden, a former Unit 731 member, spoke of releasing 500-gram rats with 3,000 plague-carrying fleas into local populations. Chinese prisoners called ‘logs’ were infected with the plague. Autopsies were performed on these prisoners without the benefit of anesthesia and before they had fully died to harvest fresh tissue samples and infected organs. It was reported that Ishii had devised Operation Cherry Blossoms at Night, a plan to send kamikaze bombers loaded with plague to San Diego, California. The operation was scheduled for 22 September 1945. The Atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945.

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As the end of the war approached In 1945, Unit 731 embarked on its wildest scheme of all. Codenamed Cherry Blossoms at Night, the plan was to use kamikaze pilots to infest California with the plague.

Toshimi Mizobuchi, who was an instructor for new recruits in Unit 731, said the idea was to use 20 of the 500 new troops who arrived in Harbin in July 1945. A submarine was to take a few of them to the seas off Southern California, and then they were to fly in a plane carried on board the submarine and contaminate San Diego with plague-infected fleas. The target date was to be Sept. 22, 1945.

Ishio Obata, 73, who now lives in Ehime prefecture, acknowledged that he had been a chief of the Cherry Blossoms at Night attack force against San Diego, but he declined to discuss details. “It is such a terrible memory that I don’t want to recall it,” he said.

Tadao Ishimaru, also 73, said he had learned only after returning to Japan that he had been a candidate for the strike force against San Diego. “I don’t want to think about Unit 731,” he said in a brief telephone interview. “Fifty years have passed since the war. Please let me remain silent.”
It Is unclear whether Cherry Blossoms at Night ever had a chance of being carried out. Japan did indeed have at least five submarines that carried two or three planes each, their wings folded against the fuselage like a bird.

But a Japanese Navy specialist said the navy would have never allowed Its finest equipment to be used for an army plan like Cherry Blossoms at Night, partly because the highest priority in the summer of 1945 was to defend the main Japanese islands, not to launch attacks on the United States mainland.

If the Cherry Blossoms at Night plan was ever serious, it became irrelevant as Japan prepared to sur-render in early August 1945. In the last days of the war, beginning on Aug. 9, Unit 731 used dynamite to try to destroy all evidence of its germ warfare program, scholars say.

Incredible discovery of boat wreck in Croatia dated to 3,200 years

An example of a sewn boat. Photo credit: World of Boats.
Marine archaeologist and researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in France, Giulia Boetto, has announced the incredible discovery of a boat wreck in Zambratija Cove, Croatia, which has just been dated to 1,200 BC.  The unique and rare finding is a Bronze Age sewn boat, a type of wooden boat which is literally sewn together using ropes, roots, or willow branches.
The boat wreck was first seen by fishermen in 2008, just 600 metres from the beach and only two metres below the surface, however, they believed it to be a fairly recent wreck.  Giulia Boetto, and two of her Croatian colleagues, Ida Koncani from the Archaeological Museum of Istria, and her husband Marko Uhac from the Ministry of Culture, investigated the site and believed the boat to be quite old.  Initial dating led to the surprise discovery that the boat was from pre-Roman times.
The research team returned to the site in 2011 to take further samples and to conduct more rigorous analyses.  Finally, results of radiocarbon dating have revealed that the boat dates to a much earlier period – the 12th century BC.  Ms Boetto described the finding as “an extraordinary discovery [translated]”. She added, “It is extremely rare to find a wreck dating from the Bronze Age [translated]”

Ancient Warship Archaeology Program

The Ancient Warship Archaeology Program (AWAP) was initiated after the discovery of numerous warship rams in the Egadi Islands, Sicily. Together with previous ram discoveries, this increase in the corpus of rams provides a signficant body of evidence for warships studies from an archaeological perspective. Having relied almost solely on literary, iconographic and indirect architectural evidence to date, it is now possible to bring archaeological evidence, direct evidence, to this study. Research objectives include warship construction, ram construction and function, warship tactics, warship deposition. 

Is a bronze warship ram a weapon? The definition of weapon is really quite broad being anything used to cause harm, injury, or damage. Such a definition can include almost anything including a roof tile that killed an invading King Pyrrhus in Greece. More instructive for this discussion is to limit ‘weapons’ to those objects that were purposefully manufactured for use in warfare, and are a composite of several materials. In antiquity weapons can be broken into two main categories: ranged and melee. Ranged weapons are designed to shoot a projectile and inflict harm at a distance from the wielder of the weapon. These type weapons included javelins, bows, catapults, and slings. Melee weapons were used in a manner that the wielder maintained contact with the weapon as it inflicted harm. The most common weapons of this type were swords, spears, axes, daggers, clubs, maces, and hammers. A warship’s ram was part of a larger weapon, the warship, which falls within the broad category of melee weapons. The warship was powered and wielded by individuals who were required to stay with it and directly operate the vessel for it to function. Warships were not propelled forward to travel unmanned with intention to strike another warship, a case where they would be ranged weapons, rather the crew and officers directly propelled and steered them into their intended targets.

In addition to being a component of a weapon, the warship, a bronze ram also served in the capacity of armor. Armor is a covering of material that is designed to offset the penetration or impact force of projectile or melee weapons. Clear examples are the body armor worn by soldiers in antiquity that protected the soldiers’ skin, and in some cases helped to protect the bones. One of the key personal armor elements was the helmet that was typically constructed of bronze or iron and had an intervening padded section with the wearer’s head; this system helped to protect the skull from being easily penetrated or shattered. Not unlike the helmet, or the hilt guard on a sword, the ram had a protection role. As noted, a bronze ram on the bow of a warship helped to project the timbers that most often came into direct contact when delivering the weapon’s blow. Without a protective function as consideration, there is little need for the cowl and bottom plate/tailpiece. The important structural keel and stem timbers required protection as did the intricate scarfs at the bow; damage here could easily render the entire warship unserviceable.

Askold

 

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Askold was a protected cruiser built for the Imperial Russian Navy. She was named after the legendary Varangian Askold. Her thin, narrow hull and maximum speed of 23.8 knots (44.1 km/h) were considered impressive for the time. Askold had five thin funnels which gave it a unique silhouette for any vessel in the Imperial Russian Navy. This led British sailors to nickname her Packet of Woodbines after the thin cigarettes popular at the time. However, the five funnels also had a symbolic importance, as it was popularly considered that the number of funnels was indicative of performance, and some navies were known to add extra fake funnels to impress dignitaries in less advanced countries.

Britain’s large cruiser program, and the Two Power Standard in general, were aimed primarily at the threat to trade posed by the French Navy, but it was also increasingly directed at Russia. Between 1889 and 1893, Russian naval expenditures increased 64 percent. On the whole, Russia devoted its resources to the construction of battleships. The Russians persisted in the construction of armored cruisers rather than protected ones, but these ships numbered only three in this period. Two, Rurik and Rossiya, were large and commissioned in 1895 and 1897 respectively. The Rossiya was the larger, displacing 13,675 tons with a hull that measured 480 feet, 6 inches by 68 feet, and mounted four 8-inch guns and 16 6- inch weapons on the broadside below the upper deck. This ship and Rurik were the impetus for the British construction of the Powerful class for fear of the potential damage that the Russian ships might cause to British commerce in time of war. In truth, the British had little to fear from these ships. Neither were very good designs, being poor steamers, and the disposition of the guns was so badly arranged that French officials believed it “had been stuck on as an afterthought.” These rather poor ships were only augmented by one protected cruiser Askold (1900). Russian naval officials simply believed in the superiority of the battleship over all else.

Russia’s fleet in 1904 was still powerful, but this fact was, as always, the product of its strength in battleships rather than cruisers. Only two armored cruisers were launched between 1899 and 1904, and both were rather unremarkable designs. One was simply an improved version of Rossiya. Unlike in most navies of this period, the majority of Russian construction was in protected cruisers, totaling 11 in all. A principle reason was the savings in cost over armored cruisers, as the Russians did not have the money to spare for a large armored cruiser program after all the battleships. These ships and their older counterparts were completely inadequate for a fleet the size of Russia’s. There were few ships in the fleet that could perform the duty of reconnaissance for the battle fleet in time of war. This problem would lead to disaster when tensions with Japan over Asia exploded into war.

 

Samuel Hood

1784 portrait by James Northcote
British admiral. Born 12 December 1724, Samuel Hood entered the navy in 1741 as captain’s servant on the Romney (50 guns). In 1743 he joined the Garland (24), and he became midshipman on the Sheerness (24) that November. After service in other ships, he was promoted to lieutenant on the Winchelsea (20) in 1746. Hood was on half-pay from November 1748 until appointed to the Invincible (74) in 1753. In 1754 Hood took command of the Jamaica (10) in the North American station.
In 1756 Hood was posted captain and appointed to the Grafton (70) and returned to England. He was appointed to the Biddeford (20) in 1757 and Vestal (32) in 1758, serving in the blockade of France. The Vestal took Bellona (32) off Cape Finisterrre in 1759 and served in the Mediterranean during 1760–1763. In 1763 Hood was appointed to the Thunderer (74) at Portsmouth. In 1765 the Thunderer transferred to North America, and two years later Hood was named commodore commanding that station on the Romney (50).
Returning to England, Hood commanded guardships at Portsmouth from 1771 to 1776, then was appointed to the Courageux (74). In 1778 he was named commissioner at Portsmouth and governor of the Naval Academy, and he was created a baronet.
Hood was promoted to rear admiral in 1780 and sent to reinforce Admiral Sir George Brydges Rodney in the West Indies. He participated in the expedition against St. Eustatius, then blockaded Martinique, where he fought a brief engagement with French Admiral François Joseph Paul, Comte de Grasse-Tilly’s superior fleet in April 1781. Sent to reinforce Rear Admiral Thomas Graves in New York, Hood commanded the rear at the 5 September 1781 Second Battle of the Chesapeake, which sealed the fate of British troops at Yorktown.
Returning to the West Indies, Hood briefly occupied Basseterre at Nevis and then joined Rodney for the 12 April 1782 Battle of the Saints against de Grasse; he took the French flagship Ville de Paris (110 guns).

Hood was made a baron in 1782, returned to Parliament in 1784, was promoted vice admiral in 1787, and commanded at Portsmouth from 1787 to 1788. In 1788, he was named to the Board of Admiralty and served until his appointment to command the Mediterranean Fleet in 1793. There he oversaw the occupation of Toulon and the capture of Corsica. Hood was promoted to admiral in 1794 and returned to England. In 1796 he was created Viscount Hood of Catherington and named governor of Greenwich Hospital, where he served until his death on 27 January 1816.

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Samuel Hood, 1st Viscount Hood (Butleigh, 12 December 1724 – London, 27 January 1816) was a British Admiral known particularly for his service in the American War of Independence and French Revolutionary Wars. He acted as a mentor to Horatio Nelson.
While serving in the Caribbean Hood became acquainted with, and later became a mentor to Horatio Nelson who was a young frigate commander. Hood had been a friend of Nelson’s uncle Maurice Suckling. In 1782 Hood introduced Nelson to the future King William, Duke of Clarence who was then a serving naval officer in New York.
Defence of Toulon
On the outbreak of the French Revolutionary War in 1793, he became Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet. His period of command, which lasted from May 1793 to October 1794, was very busy.
In August 1793 French royalists and other opponents of the revolution took over the town and invited Hood, whose fleet was blockading the city, to occupy the town. Hood, without time to request for instructions from the Admiralty in London, moved swiftly to take command of the port.
There were two main reasons for the British move. It was hoped that Toulon could be a centre of French resistance to Paris, and also to take possession of the French Mediterranean fleet of fifty eight warships, which lay in the harbour. It was hoped that depriving the French revolutionaries of their maritime resources would cripple the revolution.
He occupied Toulon on the invitation of the French royalists, in co-operation with the Spaniards and Sardinians. In December of the same year, the allies, who did not work harmoniously together, were driven out, mainly by the generalship of Napoleon. Hood ordered the French fleet burned to prevent them falling back into the hands of the revolutionaries, a task carried out by Captain Sidney Smith. Afterwards, Hood and his British force withdrew to maintain their blockade of the coast, while the French republicans reoccupied the city.
Corsica
Hood then turned to the occupation of Corsica, which he had been invited to take in the name of the King of Britain by Pasquale Paoli, who had been leader of the Corsican Republic before it was subjugated by the French in 1769. The island was for a short time added to the dominions of George III, chiefly by the exertions of the fleet and the co-operation of Paoli.
While the occupation of Corsica was being effected, the French at Toulon had so far recovered that they were able to send a fleet to sea. In June, Hood sailed in the hope of bringing it to action. The plan, which he laid to attack the French fleet near Golfe-Juan in June, may possibly have served to some extent as an inspiration, if not as a model, to Nelson (who has been recorded as saying that Hood was “the greatest sea officer I ever knew”) for the Battle of the Nile, but the wind was unfavourable, and the attack could not be carried out.
In October, he was recalled to England in consequence of some misunderstanding with the admiralty or the ministry, which has never been explained. Richard Freeman, in his book, The Great Edwardian Naval Feud, explains his relief from command in a quote from Lord Esher’s journal. According to this journal, “… [Hood] wrote ‘a very temperate letter’ to the Admiralty in which he complained that he did not have enough ships to defend the Mediterranean.” As a result Hood was then recalled from the Mediterranean. [Freeman, p. 145].
Later career
Samuel Hood was created Baron Hood of Catherington in 1778 by King George III, an Irish Baron in 1782 and Viscount Hood of Whitley, Warwickshire in 1796 with a pension of £2000 per year for life (about £300,000 a year in present (2010) terms). He became Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth again in June 1792. In February 1793 he became Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean Fleet. In 1796, he was named Governor of the Royal Naval Hospital at Greenwich in London, a position which he held until his death in 1816. He was elected as Tory Member of Parliament for Westminster from 1784 to 1788 and from 1790 to 1796, and was Member for Reigate between 1789 and 1790, serving with his younger brother Alexander under Pitt the Younger.
He lived long enough to see Britain triumph in the Napoleonic Wars and was chief mourner at Nelson’s funeral.
References
Clowes, William Laird. The Royal Navy: A History from the Earliest Times to the Present. Vols. 3–6. London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1898–1901.
Laughton, J. K. “Hood, Samuel, Viscount Hood.” In Dictionary of National Biography, ed. Sidney Lee, 27: 263–270. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1891.
Le Fevre, Peter. Precursors of Nelson: British Admirals of the Eighteenth Century. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2000.
Lyon, David. Sea Battles in Close-Up: The Age of Nelson. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1996.