The Letters of Robert Blake

Vol 76 (1937), Rev. J.R. Powell

This volume covers the period of Blake’s land and sea commands from 1644 to 1657. From his letters is can be seen Blake was a man of action taking Taunton then Duster Castle. He was a strong and determined man who withstood three sieges at Taunton. On taking Dunster Castle he revealed a dislike for throwing away men’s lives in ‘costly storms’ when its surrender had been possible.

In February 1649 Blake, to his surprise, was appointed one of the ‘Generals at Sea’. Determination was demonstrated against Prince Rupert off Lisbon, when risking collision ‘rather than pass to leeward’. By the end of 1650 a chase through the Mediterranean caught Prince Rupert’s fleet, which was driven ashore and wrecked. In 1651 first the Scillies were taken then Jersey. With English territory having been secured, came the period of fighting against foreign enemies, which leads to the First Dutch War.

Introductions to each section, and letters, refer to administration matters rather than the actions at Dover, in the North Sea and the Gabbard. The Battle of Portland is described in Robert Blake’s letter four days after the battle in his usual brief impersonal style.

In the ‘Second Visit to the Mediterranean’ the introduction gives a background account of the political turmoil in Europe and the advantages of sending a fleet there. After repeatedly missing the French fleet (they eventually retired to Toulon) Blake sailed for Tunis. At Porto Farino the fleet silenced the sixty guns of a castle enabling nine Tunis ships to be fired and destroyed by boat action.

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About J.R. Powell

J Roland Powell was born in London in 1889, the son of a clergyman. Educated at Sherborne School he graduated with a degree in History from Queen’s College, Cambridge, in 1911. He served as a chaplain with the Yeomanry in the Middle East during World War One, and believed himself to be ‘the only man to have organised a whist drive on the Mount of Olives’. He then held a number of curacies, principally in London, where he spent several years working in Limehouse, before becoming Vicar of Kingsbury, greater London, in 1931. He served on the Council of the Navy Records Society for many years, subsequently serving as a vice-president, and died in Bedford in 1980.

Publications include:

• The Letters of Robert Blake (Navy Records Society, 1937)
• The Navy in the English Civil War (1962)
• Documents Relating to the Civil War (Navy Records Society, 1963)
• The Rupert and Monck Letterbook (Navy Records Society, 1969)
• Robert Blake: General at Sea (1972)