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The career of Guernsey-born Admiral James Saumarez reads like an early history of the Royal Navy. His first battle was against the American revolutionaries in 1775, but thereafter his main opponents were the French and the Spanish, and the first fighting ship he commanded, the eight-gun galley Spitfire, was involved in forty-seven engagements before being run aground.
Rising through the ranks, Saumarez fought on land and at sea, and was involved in actions in the English Channel, being given command of a squadron of ships based at Guernsey. He served on HMS Victory, took part in the Battle of Cape St Vincent, the Blockade of Cadiz, and was with Nelson at the Battle of the Nile.
Promoted to Rear Admiral, he led his ships at the battles of Algeciras and the Gut of Gibraltar. Saumarez was then despatched into the Baltic, where he helped thwart Napoleon’s attempt at conquering Russia.
So prominent was Saumarez during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, he was featured in the Hornblower novels and other fictional books, including Master and Commander. Tony Sullivan, however, tells the true story of one of the most remarkable individuals of the great days of sail, in the first biography of Saumarez for more than 170 years.
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