Saturday, June 12, 2010
Waiting for Bonaparte: Citizen Mutineers at The Nore
Why is the hand of Ruffian sway ‘Gainst Seamen thus Directed
Is this your proof of British rites
Is this rewarding bravery
Oh shame to boast Your Tars Exploits
then doom those Tars to Slavery.
It was around this date in 1797 that the naval mutiny at The Nore finally ran aground. Unlike its predecessor at Spithead the same year, the Nore mutiny was a resounding failure which resulted in the executions of 29 men.
There's a fascinating eyewitness account of the mutiny written by a Mr Bastard of Sheerness. You can find it here. A somewhat more partisan, naval version of events by Charles Cunningham is on Google Books.
It's been suggested that the mutineers might have been influenced or at least exploited by the United Irishmen in the hope that part of the North Sea fleet might defect to France and end up as part of the fleet that would eventually free Ireland from the yoke of the British Empire. James Connolly certainly thought they were central to the mutiny.
Accounts of why the Nore mutiny failed vary but the most compelling one suggests that the Admiralty had learned its lesson after Spithead and used its own PR machine to depict the striking sailors as a kind of 'enemy within'. Presenting them as agents of revolutionary France cut them off from the popular support enjoyed by the Spithead mutineers and enabled the Government to repress the mutiny far more savagely.
Anyway, lest you're wondering, I haven't changed trades and become a naval historian. I just now live in this part of the world and there are reminders of British naval history everywhere I look. On a clear day I can see the Nore from my staff room window. But more importantly, I just wanted the chance to put this video on me blog:
The picture at the head of this post is entitled 'Mutiny' by Geoff Hunt. If you like that kind of stuff you can find it for sale here