These documents were selected by Rear-Admiral Thursfield for the light they throw on life afloat in the Navy of the Napoleonic era rather than for their contribution to the history of the operations in which their authors took part. They comprise four ‘Journals’, based mainly on dairies kept at the time and written up at a later date for enjoyment by the author’s friends and family. The fifth document is not a journal at all, but the Order Book of a frigate captain. In addition, eleven letters are included written by men from the lower deck. Each journal is headed by an Introduction which puts it in its historical context.
The journal of the Rev Edward Mangin is a lively record of life aboard a 74-gun battleship in 1812 written by a clergyman who was deeply shocked by the events and deaths he witnessed. Four of the paintings he made on the Gloucester are reproduced. Peter Cullen’s journal covers the period 1789-1802, starting from the time he joined the Navy as an assistant surgeon. He gives a long account of the mutiny at the Nore and was present at Nelson’s battle at Copenhagen.
Robert Wilson was a pressed man, an able seaman promoted to be signalman on the smart frigate Unité from 1805 to 1809. His journal is packed with details of the many varied duties she undertook in the Mediterranean in the post-Trafalgar period and how these affected her officers and crew. Charles Abbot was a midshipman on the Alceste when she carried Lord Amherst to China as ambassador in 1816, and sank off Borneo on her return voyage.
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Henry Thursfield was born in 1882, the son of Sir James Thursfield (1840-1923), naval historian and
journalist for The Times, and first editor of The Times Literary Supplement. He entered the Royal
navy and left it in 1932. He wrote extensively on naval matters, was editor of Brassey͛s Annual
between 1936 and 1963, and was a naval correspondent of The Times, like his father before him
between 1936 and 1952. He died in 1963.
His publications include
Epic Deeds of the Navy (Hutchinson, 1941).
The Navies of the United States and Japan (Rolls Royce, 1941).
Action Stations. The Royal Navy at War (Black, 1942).
Five Naval Journals (Navy Records Society, 1951).