A Warm Welcome to my Blog

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Memories of an old French Sea Dog - Heart of Oak were our Ships

Well Baptiste, if you would care to throw a couple of logs on the fire maybe I could tell you about Capitaine Roubert and the Genereux, one of the finest ships in the French Navy and the most devastating broadside I had ever seen.

Yes another Brandy would be nice but could you make it the vintage of 98, I’m very partial to that year. Yes, yes my young friend, I know it’s expensive but the story I have to tell will make it seem well worth the expense, besides the rest of these fine fellows here will know you are a man of substance and good taste and that is a reputation to cultivate. Much like my own reputation as a brave French sea dog has been gained in sweat, blood and bravery over many hard years at sea and that can never be taken away.

Ahh the 98 vintage is truly a great one, it warms these old bones, just another sip and I will start my tale.

I was an Aspirant then, I think the English call the post a Midshipman which is a strange term, but then the English are a strange race. I had just been transferred to the Genereux, my father had some influence with the Navy, I was never sure what it was, as he was the Doorkeeper at Madam Fifi’s the finest Brothel in Paris but it was enough to get me onto the Genereux and that’s where I started my life at sea.

We had instructions to blockade the English in a small port, or open anchorage, it’s a long time ago and I don’t remember small details so well anymore.

We didn’t know what we would find there but Capitaine Roubert was a bold and brave fellow, Vagabond he said to me, he knew my name and I was so proud, Vagabond my lad we will beard the Englishman in his bed. How do you think we should go about this business he asked me. Me - just an Aspirant, but he valued my opinion back then did Capitaine Roubert, and this was before I won renown and favour with my famous exploits. Well Capitaine I started to say when he shouted orders to the helmsman to alter course to 270’ and gave a string of orders to the Premier Lieutenant. 

Well he said to me, we will approach the harbour, keeping the island between us and them, it will be dark soon and they will not see us. I shall land a storming party on the island and take their forts and turn the guns onto the English if they try and escape. But Sir, I started to say before he interrupted by issuing more orders to the Premier Lieutenant. Capitaine Roubert strolled off before I could explain how he should deal with any English ships we found there.

I saw land as we approached and eventually made out the island against the darkness of the backcloth of the mainland, this is harder than it might appear to you landsmen but believe me it is a thing a sailor learns fast or drowns soon.

We hove too, that is we turned the ship into the wind and it gently pushed us backwards, but by cunning use of the rudder and the sails we held our position off the island. I approached the Capitaine and asked if I could lead the landing party, he smiled gently and shook his head, no my lad, you are far more valuable on board the ship and he let the Sous Lieutenant lead the men ashore. He did a good job, maybe not as swift and gallant as I would have been but before too long they had taken both of the small forts and imprisoned the garrisons, almost without a shot being fired.

We found out from the garrison that there was only one British ship there, but the bad news was that she was the Royal George a 100 gun ship I believe and we only carried 74 guns, it was going to be a real test of courage and seamanship but our Capitaine was not in the least dismayed, we have the wind with us and that is worth 50 guns he said to me as he passed.

We knew the Royal George would beat out of the anchorage but we didn’t know which side of the Island she would pass. When daylight broke we could see she was beating out of the south west channel, it was very narrow and I don’t suppose their Captain would have tried that manoeuvre if it hadn’t been absolutely necessary.

Capitaine Roubert spoke to the Premier Lieutenant and Genereux turned to starboard and picked up speed.

This happened just as the British ship turned to larboard to avoid the headland and came straight towards us.

Tirer shouted our Capitaine and all the starboard guns fired, our ship staggered from the explosive roar of the broadside and the Royal George disappeared from view in a cloud of smoke.

As luck would have it, the western most fortification fired their guns at the same time, both of us raking the enemy ship to devastating effect.

It was a tremendous strike.

The Royal George was holed below the water line, the Main mast was shot through and toppled into the water, the crew were decimated but much worse than all of that was the fire. We must have hit a powder magazine or maybe the galley stove, whatever it was a huge gout of flame gushed up into the air and I could see men running around, some jumped overboard and started to try and get to the island, but most could not even swim. They were my enemy but it was heartbreaking to see such devastation inflicted on fellow seamen.

The damage after one broadside was frightening but the fire would cause 3 damage points each turn and would rage until it was put out, the problem was that the crew numbers had been halved, there were not enough of them to extinguish the fire before the ship burned to the water line. All was lost.

We continued to turn to starboard as we reloaded our guns, but every one of us could see the Royal George was doomed, would Capitaine Roubert order another broadside into to our stricken enemy?

The Royal George meanwhile had tried to turn to starboard and away from the island before she ran aground, a brave and maybe foolish move under the circumstances.

Her Captain must have realized that his ship could not survive and so he turned again and ran her aground, the crew leaping off into the shallows as she quickly burned to the water line.

The Royal George was killed by fire, I’ve never seen such devastation in such a short time in all my years at sea. What do you mean Baptiste, no I did not deceive you into thinking the story would last any longer than the brandy, they were both gone in a very short time.

This was the Genereux’s card, no damage and the 2 missing crew were the ones sent ashore to take and then man the forts guns.

A famous and dreadful victory, Captain Roubert was promoted and I remained behind on the Genereux to make a name for myself, but Baptiste that story will have to be told another day, it’s time I took these weary bones to my bed, storytelling and 98 Brandy always makes me weary and happy at the same time.

Adieu my friend.

I am playing through some old scenarios from the Sails of Glory site and this is the second one I've done. It was a short game as you can see if you got this far, I'm still a novice with the rules but I'm enjoying playing with the ships, they look better in the bathtub than my rubber ducks.

Bon voyage mon amies.