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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
Reiver 2 Folklore: Brave Benbow (29) RE: Folklore: Brave Benbow 21 Mar 08

There is a LONG entry in Wikipedia on John Benbow - worth reading for anyone who is interested in learning about the real man. He had an up and down career in the British Navy, leaving it in 1861, with the rank of Master, for the merchant service after a court martial found him guilty of repeating another crew member's complaint against a ship's Captain over a question of the allocation of prize money.

He returned to the Navy in 1688 as a Third Lieutenant, and rose rapidly in rank reaching the rank of admiral by 1695. He has not been entirely forgotton by historians. Arthur Herman, in his fine book "To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World" describes Benbow, as a Vice-Admiral, leading a squadron of British ships to the West Indies in 1701, referring to him as one of the last of the "tarpaulin admirals" in the British Navy at that time. (These were men who, not being born into the aristocracy, had worked their way up through the ranks.)

Herman says (p.245) the "Benbow was one of the last tarpaulin captains of the old school, an 'honest, rough, seaman' who served under Admiral Herbert in scouring out corsair's nests along the Algerian coast.... He seemed the perfect man to deal with the French marauders along the Spanish Main." On 19, Aug. his flagship, Breda (70 guns) and five other ships of his squadron caught up with a flotilla of 9 French ships and Herman continues, "What followed would make Benbow the first popular hero of the 18th-century navy."

He pursued the French ships for three days, virtually single-handed as most of the other ships in his squadron hung back.Benbow engaged the French flagship and during the battle a chain shot shattered his left leg. He was ready to go on fighting but the captains of the other ships pleaded with him to break off the battle, even signing a letter to this effect. With his leg gone (it was amputated on board ship) and his ship "a shambles" he had no choice to break off.

When they returned to port Benbow brought charges of cowardice against the other ships captains. A court martial found two of them guilty and they were shot, and three others had their careers ruined. Shortly afterwards Benbow died of his wound. Herman quotes a popular song of the day that made Benbow "immortal."

Brave Benbow he set sail
For to fight, for to fight
Brave Benbow he set sail for to fight
Brave Benbow he set sail
with a fine and pleasant gale
But his captains they turn'd tail
In a fright, in a fright.

I wonder if that song is in the DT? I'm not sure what it was called -"Brave Benbow" would be a likely place to start. The Admiral Benbow Inn of Treasure Island fame was fictitious.

Reiver 2

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