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4.7 out of 5 stars
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 12 April 2013
Like many other books covering naval history during the French Revolutionary & Napoleonic wars, this volume concentrates on the major battles; The Glorious First of June, Cape St. Vincent, Camperdown, the Nile, Copenhagen, San Domingo and Trafalgar, of course. What this book provides is a view of these battles in terms of the first hand reports and dispatches. In so doing, it highlights that in many cases the eye-witness is an unreliable narrator. Not always deliberately so but there are obvious examples of where diplomacy, face-saving or personal trumpet-blowing (in Nelson's case) take precedence over objectivity.

I own several of Sam Willis' books. I find his style both informative and very readable. In this book he adds a overview of each event (although, I suspect, few of the book's potential readers will be entirely unfamiliar with them) and puts the documents in context, so you know when and why they were written as they were.
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First rate read if one is interested in the Royal Navy. Basically the book contains some of the dispatches (original wording with pink background) from 7 seminal sea battles that the RN had between 1794 and 1806 and a considerable amount of background detail, both about the battles and the commanders involved.

As someone who is interested in the RN, but not particularly knowledgeable about the period, I mean I know about Trafalgar and the Nile but the others were a bit hazy. This has really enhanced my limited knowledge in a most enjoyable way. Reading the actual dispatches really brought the scenes to life, helped in a major way by the scene setting of Sam Willis who does an excellent job in this area.

I have three of four books by Mr Willis which I haven't yet got round to reading and after watching his recent television series, which I found very boring and 40 winks inducing to say the least, I picked this book up with some trepidation, no worries it's excellent and for my money Mr Willis comes across far better via the written word than he does on television.

Size wise the book is getting on for A4, some 355 pages or so, very readable text size, some reproduction diagrams and quite a few colour photographs of very good quality. Really please I got this book.
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on 31 December 2013
Sam Willis is a very talented writer. I just finished his latest work "In The Hour Of Victory - The Royal Navy at War in the Age of Nelson". It's been a while since I've come across such a fluid and vivid style of storytelling. I found myself slowing things down towards the end of the book - re-reading pages and cross-checking facts with earlier passages in the book - the way you save the best stuff on your plate as 'dessert' for later on... It's a terrific book worth reading if you're at all interested in the age of sail. Well done Sam.
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on 9 February 2014
I bought this book for my granddaughter's husband who is a Lt/Commander in the Royal Navy and he thought it was an excellent book as it brought the past into the present and how the Royal Navy was, and is, so important to the British Isles.
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on 22 June 2015
Somewhere in the foreword of one of his Aubrey-Maturin novels, Patrick O'Brian talks about taking the infelicitous phrasing of the official reports of Nelson's captains and turning them the kind of English that a modern reader would enjoy.

He did. But the editor of this collection gives us some of those official reports and shows what PO'B had to contend with. He also fills in the background to the Royal Navy and its battles from the Glorious First of June in 1797 to Trafalgar and the pretty much forgotten San Domingo in 1806. I'm a history fan and I'm pretty sure I've never heard of the last of these.

I am afraid the illustrations don't come out well on the Kindle that I have. But it doesn't matter a great deal as the editor talks about them in his narrative, which is an excellent bit of historical fact and analysis.
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on 19 May 2014
I chose this book after comments about it in warship world magazine. it is a very well written and explains what like life was like in nelsons navy. with many comments, letters and maps. a most interesting book which I would recommend to all nelson era fans.
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on 29 August 2014
Brilliant idea for a book and gives a very interesting slant on well known naval battles. Sam Willis's writing is so good though, it is occasionally hard to switch from his writing to the somewhat less literary gifted admirals.

In addition to the main text, the appendix detailing the prizes is interesting and a great list of further reading.

Not a criticism of the book, but there are lots of tables of facts and figures - particularly relating to numbers dead and injured - so if you plan to read on a small screen device these are a little hard to read
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on 17 February 2015
A good book for those already interested in and well informed on the period and battles in question. Focuses heavily on the new sources discovered by the author rather than general overviews, and the battles themselves rather than the Napoleonic Wars as a whole.
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on 27 June 2015
I recommend this book which adds much new detail to histories of the period - it’s good to get into the minds of the naval commanders. However, it contains some obvious errors which makes one wonder whether there are other less obvious errors as well. In his summary of Trafalgar he shows the commanders as Rear Admiral Nelson & Vice Admiral Collingwood whereas, as we know, Nelson was a vice admiral of the white which outranked Collingwood as vice admiral of the blue (which is why Nelson was C-in-C rather than Collingwood). Later in that chapter he describes Collingwood as a rear admiral.
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on 11 February 2015
Another fascinating and well written book by Sam Willis. It was an incredible find of his to discover the original dispatches and letters written by those who took part in the battles dipicted in the book. Sam Willis uses the information skilfully to bring each battle to life in a way which focuses on the personality's involved. It brings forcefully to mind that the great well known sea battles were fought on a very human level. The people were real. Their fears, hopes, and concerns echo down the years from their writings which they had the foresight to leave to us. As Sam so rightly says, sadly until now we didn't have the foresight to look back.
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