within hail before I fired

…wrote Captain Berry to Lord Nelson, describing the capture of Le Guillaume Tell.

You have to imagine the British sailing in close, close enough to shout to the French. Not that the French would hear much over the roar of their own cannon. Then, at the last moment the British loose a devastating broadside to start their side of the engagement. Imagine the steady nerves required for that.

I’m reading a biography of Horatio Nelson just now. A fascinating character, capable of inspiring complete devotion in his men (to the extent where there’s at least one management book now on how he did this) yet also capable of appalling errors of judgement in his personal life.

But like the last nautical book I read, this one is full of characters. Some appear in both and it’s interesting to compare the views in each. Sir Sidney Smith, an intriguing character who is next on my list for biographical reading, comes off pretty badly in the Nelson biography but not unfavourably in the first book. Lord St Vincent gets a pasting in the first book but comes off not too badly in the Nelson biography. Same sources, different conclusions.

Endless reading to be done here, I think.

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