Sunday, June 28, 2015

Historical Research -- Army and Navy England 1810

During the Reluctant Grooms Series, I had several characters in the Navy, as well as in the Army. I spent hundreds of hours doing research--most of it never used in any of my books. It's the necessary evil to writing good historical fiction. I know more about the Peninsular war fought in Spain and Portugal than I ever really intended.

I've put together a basic list of the different officers from the two branches of service in England in 1810



Navy                                                               Army

Admiral of the Fleet                                          Marshall/Field Marshall
Admiral                                                             General
   White
   Red
   Blue                                                                Brigadier General
Commodore (Ret. Capt.)                                   Brigadier
Captain /                                                             Colonel
Master and Commander                                    Lieutenant Colonel
Lieutenant Commander                                     Major/Commandant
Lieutenant                                                         Captain
Sub-Lieutenant                                                  Lieutenant
Ensign                                                               2nd Lieutenant
Midshipman                                                      Officer Cadet
***                                                                     ***
Warrant Officer                                                 Sergeant Major
Petty Officer  
Yeoman                                                             Sergeant
Leading Seaman                                                Corporal
Seaman                                                               Private


Lieutenant in His Majesty's Royal Navy
You'll notice there are three distinct Admiral's position for the Navy:

Admiral of the Fleet is the Commander in Chief. His command ships always fly the White Flag. They are traditionally first in the line of defense with the Fleet. They are the largest and most heavily powered Ship of the Line. They are called the Admiral of the White.

The Admiral of the Red is the second line of defense on the ocean.
The Admiral of the Blue is the third line.

The Captain of a vessel is not always the Master and Commander, but he should be. A Master and Commander knows everything there is to know about the ocean they travel on. Maps and stars are their best friends. He is the Master of the ship (as it were and knows how to do every job on it) and the Commander of his men. (Very important for dealing with personality disorder. Can you imagine living on a floating city for months at a time? I think not.)

It is striking to read accounts how the Royal British Navy dominated the oceans during that time
period. They had a superior battle plan and superior ships. Ports on every continent, (barring the Poles) and trade with the East.

Foot Soldier
The Army arrived in India (as early as 1682) to protect The East India Company against the sitting Rajahs. Toward the 1750's and into the early 1800's, the Army was an integral part in the trade from the East. A lot of people made a lot of money.

Officers in both the Navy and the Army, usually bought their way into a commission. Second and third sons of noble houses made up most of the officer positions. However, if you were considered a good leader, you would be promoted within the ranks.

Both the Navy and Army had certain "other" occupations that I learned. In no particular order, function, or ranking-- a basic list of gentlemen's jobs within the service.

Navy                                                  Army

Boatswain (Bo'sun)                                Hussar
Coxswain                                            
Yeoman of
  Powder Room                                      Foot Soldier (infantry)                
 Surgeon                                                 Home Guard
Master Gunner                                            Calvary
Master of the Sheets                                     Dragoons
Master of the Sails                                            Royals (King's Own
First Mate                                                           Queen's Own,
(all of the above)                                                 Prince's Own)
Second Mate
(all of the above)


I confess, I do know more about the Navy rather than the Army. In THE CAPTAIN'S COINCIDENCE I wanted Richard Gaines to be an authentic hero. I watched Russell Crowe in Master and Commander Far Side of the Universe a lot while I wrote that book. It's mind-blowing to realize over 400 men lived on boats like that for months at a time.

I took a virtual tour of the U.S.S. Constitution, to get some ideas on how big a Ship of the Line actually was. I also spent a lot of time emailing a sailing aficionado on the other side of the world. I researched gun powder, how to load a canon, different types of canon shot, how to sail. I do know the basics of sailing, however, these are huge vessels sailing in huge waters. It really is a whole other world entirely. I think the research was well worth it.

Doing research should never be boring. I love watching period films and are always eager to see new adaptations of old classics. I get a feel for the clothing, accents, and affectations of the characters especially if the film is a true historical drama. I've been known to take notes.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:
Peninsular_War_Map_
"Peninsular War Map 1808–14" 
by Derivative work: Marcus British Relief Map of Spain.
I think it's important for a writer to understand as much as they can about the period they're writing in, otherwise they look foolish. I like to be able to point at a few of my reviews that say I knew the Regency era. I'm glad they wrote that. I'm very proud of all the research that I do.

I've always loved maps and find them extremely important in every aspect of historical fiction. I don't think you can write historical without some kind of map. If only to give you a point of reference, and a working timeline. Your hero really can't come home from the Battle of Prussia unless you know it's already been fought.






Very soon, I'll begin another phase into the research I need for the Army. Henry Wade is going to be an interesting character.

For those of you who write -- Do you do a lot of research, do you wing-it, or are you somewhere in the middle?

For those of you who read -- Do you appreciate a writer who's done the research, or do you tend to skip over those parts of the book?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2015


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