“As a small boy I dreamed of being a Hornblower...”
Rear Admiral Horatio “Crazy Legs” Hornblower (July 4, 1776 to May 21, 1869) was one of the most daring and successful captains of the Napoleonic Wars, leading the French to nickname him "le poop des mers" ("the Sea Shite"). His life and exploits served as inspiration for the naval fiction of twentieth-century novelists Gene Roddenberry and that guy that wrote Sharpe.
The son of a doctor and an immigrant throat-warbler from Hungary, the young Hornblower was born in St Mary Hoo, Kent. His uncle served many times under Admiral Nelson. His upbringing was fairly good for the era, with him receiving a classical education, learning Greek, French and Latin, whilst gaining a rudimentary understanding of Welsh.
Under the influence of his uncle, the young Horatio was encouraged to spend time amongst the swarthy sea-faring folk at the local docks. It was here among these rough and ready men working as a "cabin boy" on vessels in dry dock that he was said to have gained his education in the life of a sailor, indeed his autobiography states that it was during this time that he felt that the love of the sea first entered his blood and several other internal organs.
|“||For seven months, the good ship Shirtlifter stayed out of sight of land. Becalmed finally, her weary crew toiled at the oars in the vain hope of towing her into a wind. They thirsted and hungered and wondered where she was going, what they would do when they got there? I hope this guy knows where he's going.....||”|
His first posting was as midshipman on the HMS Fudgepacker, bound for West Africa and the Indies as part of the native relocation program. Within a year he sat his examination for promotion to lieutenant, which was famously interupted by the French (beginning his lifelong hatred of all things Gallic).
Still an Acting Lieutenant, in 1796 he was given command of the sloop HMS Village People, and whilst on his first mission sailed into the middle of the Spanish Fleet due, in part, to a thick mist that had descended on the channel. His subsequent capture and imprisonment were a dark period in his life, and following a particular viscious probing by his Spanish Guards the young Hornblower took it upon himself to escape.
Upon his return to England he was posted to the HMS Token Gesture under the command of “Mad Bastard“ Captain Sawyer, a man famed for his rough handling of his men. Hornblower managed to prevent a mutiny but was accused by Captain Sawyer of being “a big nancy fairy”. Whilst onland undertaking a dangerous mission a further mutiny attempt took place, which saw Sawyer hoisted by his own petard. Upon his return to the vessel Hornblower assumed control and managed to return the ship to Portsmouth.
In 1804 Hornblower was granted his Captaincy, and command of the twenty-two cannon HMS Shirtlifter. In October of the next year he would take part in the Battle of Trafalgar, sinking twelve ships, including eight of the enemy. One of the ships was the French Flagship, Le Belle End, which was holed and sank taking all but one man to a watery grave. Towards the end of the fighting he famously ran up the message "For Those About to Rock", which has baffled experts in the field to this day. After the battle he was charged with organising the funeral of Admiral Nelson.
On returning to active service he escorted Lady Ophelia "Fanny" Winkle from the West Indies back to her native Buckinghamshire. After saving her from the advances of an amorous French Navy Captain, Lady Winkle offered to show him the "all the delights of her country airs". The two would remain firm friends thereafter.
Taking part in a mission off the coast of France near Brest during the summer of 1821, Hornblower managed to board and take the French Frigate Le Petit Homme, later renamed the Julian Clarey. The attack sparked a minor international incident. His most memorable conquest, however, details him managing to convince Spanish yokels to swap the Isle of Gibraltar for a half drunken bottle of rum and a novelty Scrimshaw engraving of a man's penis. Spain still showcases these items in the Museo del Prado, in Madrid.
Seaman Welfare and Social Impact
|“||The strength and vigour of our Seamen is paramount to the wellbeing of this great nation...||”|
Hornblower cared very deeply for the well-being of his Seamen, and was amongst the first to ask “why are my sailor’s crackers so salty?” In an effort to improve the onboard cuisine Hornblower insisted that his men should partake of meat and two veg at least once a day, and to enjoy the local fruits on a regular basis, in doing so accidentally curing scurvy in the process.
In order to increase the stamina of his sailors Hornblower implimented a Calisthenics Programme, and would regularly take time out to watch his men working up a sweat on the poopdeck, oftime joining in with the vigorous excercise. Hornblower, a keen amateur historian, favoured all exercise to be conducted in the Ancient Greek manner, naked and sporting a plumed helmet. He would often state that his men were "the finest specimens in the whole Empire".
Horatio insisted that his cabin was always decked out with Union Jack curtains and matching bedspread. Such was his love of all things British that he popularised the wearing of Union Jack boxer shorts, a trend that remains all the rage amongst many of the social elite even to this day.
Political Career and Death
Following his retirement from the Royal Navy in 1831 Hornblower, having risen to the rank of Rear Admiral and with a sizeable pension decided to enter into political life, championing parlimentary reform in an effort to reduce the tax on imported whores. Winning in the election for Little Hampton, in Sussex, Hornblower took his seat at Westminster. His Bill to Reduce Taxation on Foreign Fallen Ladies of Ill-Repute was passed in 1832 with support from crazed radical William Wilberforce.
In 1839 he and Lady Winkle married, and Hornblower, now Lord Winkle, would take his seat in the House of Lords. He would spend the next thirty years of his life championing the needy, and could often be seen on the streets of Whitechapel offering assistance to many a young unfortunate girl down on her luck.
Following his death in 1869 from an unnamed venereal disease, the nation announced a day of mourning for a national hero, and plans to erect Hornblower's Shaft, a 258ft granite column topped with a marble statue of the great man, on his beloved embankment in London. Completed in 1875 it has become a custom to rub his monument for good luck.