The Colville Papers Part III: Cartagena 1741

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This is the second and last excerpt from a notebook of 24-year-old Lieutenant Alexander Colvill, written during the unsuccessful attempt to capture Cartagena in 1741. It is presented as an exclusive preview of papers now being catalogued by archivists at the Caird Library of the National Maritime Museum. Members of the Navy Records Society who visited the library in February 2019 were shown some of the many documents donated by the Colville family. In this part, Colvill’s ship, the bomb ketch Alderney, is again in the forefront of the action as the large British amphibious force attempts to bombard and storm the fort of San Lazaro (now known as the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas). Capture of the fort would have opened the way to take the nearby centre of Cartagena. The failure of the attack in 1741 hastened the fall of the government of Robert Walpole the following year and has been debated among historians ever since.[i]

[i] Accounts of the Cartagena expedition can be found in B. McL. Ranft, The Vernon Papers, (London, Navy Records Society, Vol. 99, 1958), including Ranft’s introduction and a selection of Vernon’s correspondence; Richard Harding, Amphibious Warfare in the Eighteenth Century: The British Expedition to the West Indies 1740-1742, (Woodbridge, A Royal Historical Society Publication published by the Boydell Press, 1991), pp. 83-121; Julián de Zulueta, ‘Health and Military Factors in Vernon’s Failure at Cartagena’, Mariner’s Mirror, Vol. 78, Issue 2, 1992, pp. 127-141


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