Sea Battle That Could Have Been
David van Lennep with Alan Acres
Poseidon Books Limited, 1994
ISBN 1-899054-00-6

Review by Peter N. Woolley

The author, an ex-naval officer and a voluntary lecturer on behalf of the Warrior Preservation Trust, has written this novel in an attempt to bring to life the raison d'etre for the ironclad HMS Warrior which has been wonderfully restored and is now moored for all to visit in Portsmouth Harbour.

The time is 1862, a year after she was first commissioned, and British relations with the French, never very good in spite of having been reluctant allies against the Russians only a few years earlier, have deteriorated to such an extent that a French squadron is steaming to the Thames to emulate Admiral de Ruyter's feat of two centuries previously. The Royal Navy is alerted and gives chase and the French are brought to action amongst the shoals and shifting sands of the Thames estuary. In this particular story the French do not prevail and are forced to climb down.

The technical aspects of Warrior's innovativeness are woven in as the drama unfolds. Lead filling the rifling of the bowchaser, and a special tool being made by the gunner to combat this problem, is a an example of the detail.

Although, unlike most of its genre written a century or more previously, the author had the benefit of hindsight, I first thought the writing a bit lacklustre and the characters wooden, but upon reflection think the story admirably achieves its aim. Having said that, sales locally must have been sufficient, for the author has since written another novel about a merchant ship.

Copyright © 1997 by Peter N. Woolley
Commercial reproduction prohibited without written consent of the author.

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