Captain Pat O’Connor, Lieutenant Duncan Macleod and Doctor Simon Ferguson return from half-pay with their crew of Falmouth veterans to command the frigate HMS SURPRISE, returned to service in Devonport after long years ‘in ordinary’ to serve the cause of Greek independence as a letter-of-marque but still secretly controlled by the Admiralty.
This is a story of the desperate struggle of the Greek people, of their hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned navy, a tale of brave Philhellenes fighting for the Greek cause. One such was the celebrated Lord Byron who comes aboard the barky for this story.
Against a backcloth of actual historical events, this is a tale of men engaged in brutal war, of their thoughts and fears; it is a story of the best of human traits: courage, compassion, benevolence, generosity and decency.
Inspired by Patrick O’Brian’s sublime series of wonderful novels, this book draws the reader vividly into the savage nature of those bloody times.
This book is dedicated to all those who have served in the Royal Navy, past and present: to whom; lest we forget, our debt is immeasurable.
“I was awakened with a start… to find myself reliving the Patrick O’Brian experience” David Taylor, Cheshire
The afternoon passed pleasantly, the sun staying to warm and cheer them as Surprise tacked through Whitsand Bay, passed Dodman Point and left Gull Rock in her wake, coming up to the approach to Falmouth. Seven bells struck as Pendennis Point came into sight directly off the bow. The master was back in his home port and carefully brought Surprise past the Black Rock to larboard and into the Carrick Roads, the wind now south-westerly, abeam, her double-reefed topsails alone driving her on a north-westerly tack, her courses long since furled before her approach to the inner harbour. Pat had decided to bring her as close as the master thought fit to the town, and the topmen, skilled as they were and needing no bidding, gradually checked her braces to deaden her topsails, so slowing her momentum to a snail’s pace; her course shifting closer to westerly, she could not get closer to the wind. Simon stood alongside a silent but plainly pleased Pat on his quarterdeck, Barton at the wheel, as Surprise crept closer towards her intended anchorage, passing Killigrew’s original Town Quay, the Custom House Quay to larboard, the master ordering her course changed again, to north-westerly once more, the town now abeam and her bow pointing in the direction of Flushing village.
‘It is a great while since I saw you so happy, brother,’ Simon remarked conversationally. ‘In such moments I could wish our voyage would go on for ever, all together in our contentment.’
‘Fiddler’s Green ain’t in it,’ whispered Pat, a little overwhelmed himself by the emotions engendered within him during the day.
There was barely a breath of wind, and the sound of her hull through the water – only the smallest ripple at her bow – was plainly audible even on the quarterdeck. Inch by inch, Surprise approached the master’s intended anchorage, the King’s Road, the ship near silent, sliding along, tops’ls all backed, until the Fish Strand Quay lay two cables off her beam, the master declaring further beyond which he would not wish her to lie at low water. Surprise slowed as her way began to fall off, the current acting upon her, making a little leeway, slowing… stopped, no longer any forward movement at all upon her.
‘Let go!’ shouted the master, and the best bower was dropped with the distinctive sound of its splash heard all about the ship and the harbour. Pat looked all about him, then gazed over towards the town; he saw, to his astonishment, lining the Market and Fish Strands, hundreds and hundreds of Falmouth people, recognisable and familiar faces prominent amongst them through his glass even in the distance; many of them former Tenedos crew: old hands from prior voyages and new Surprise crew members too; for the most part standing together with their wives, sweethearts and numerous excited children. Suddenly the throng were roused as one and broke into wild shouts of greeting, then cheering; all waving exuberantly, clapping and shouting to greet Surprise, their ship as they now considered her to be, their menfolk now her crew, come home.
Pat was standing near the wheel, very moved by the spectacle, a deep sense of gratitude for such a welcome swiftly arising within him and a heartwarming feeling of well-being quite overcoming him. ‘Welcome home, Barton,’ Pat turned to his cox’n, grasped and shook his hand with enthusiastic vigour, ‘welcome home.’