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"Discipline, heroism and survival: HMS Alceste, 1817" Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP17 Jan 2018 8:59 p.m. PST

"The aftermath of the wreck of the French frigate Medusa in 1816 is widely regarded as one of the most horrible events in maritime history. Abandoned on an overloaded raft by officers and crew who took to the boats when the vessel grounded off the coast of modern Mauritania, only fifteen persons survived out of a total of 147. In the thirteen days the raft drifted, 132 died through thirst and starvation, fighting and suicide. Cannibalism sustained the survivors. Though the ship's boats had reached safety no systematic search was made for the raft and it was only discovered, accidentally, by the British ship Argus. A major scandal at the time, the raft became the subject of an unforgettable painting by Théodore Géricault (1791-1824).

The breakdown in responsibility and discipline that led to this appalling disaster can be contrasted with the happy outcome of what could have been a similar tragedy when a Royal Navy frigate, HMS Alceste, was wrecked the following year. The value of professionalism and discipline has seldom been so dramatically illustrated.

HMS Alceste was built in 1804, as the Minerve, for the French Navy – generally similar in fact to the Medusa. Two years later she was captured by the Royal Navy and taken into service as HMS Alceste, under command of Captain (afterwards Sir) Murray Maxwell, (1775 –1831). He was to be her captain for much of her Royal Navy career until her final loss. In 1811, in company with HMS Active, Maxwell and the Alceste captured the French frigate Pomome. Maxwell was to be congratulated on this in strange and unforeseeable circumstances six years later. The Alceste provided sterling service through the remainder of the Napoleonic Wars and in the War of 1812…."
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP19 Jan 2018 9:43 a.m. PST


JARROVIAN Supporting Member of TMP20 Jan 2018 3:41 a.m. PST

Splendid reading. Jolly Jack Tars triumph again. 'Sans Culottes' not so much.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP20 Jan 2018 11:01 a.m. PST

Glad you enjoyed it my friend!. (smile)


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