Dennis Seddon was born
Deciding to give up the
quiet village life, they immigrated to
After semi retiring in 1997,
they settled in Rockingham, W.A.
Dennis developed an interest in writing four years ago and has written two short stories. Twelve months ago he tried his hand at fantasy fiction and wrote his first full novel, Daughters of the Sea. At present he is writing the sequel to this novel, which he intends to call, Secrets of the Mariana Trench.
Somewhere in the
Captain José De Brueys stood at the portside gunwale staring across the water at the two distant ships. He snapped the telescope shut with enough force to make his second-in-command, Jacques Linois, think he may have broken it. Jacques said nothing but waited calmly for his captain’s decision.
‘They could be heading for the new colony?’ Jacques finally said, breaking the silence.
‘You may be right, my friend, but don’t you find it just a little strange that two British frigates that have been dogging us for two days have never tried to catch up?’ José replied. ‘If it will ease your mind, tell the helmsman to hold this course. If they are heading for the new colony, they should swing onto a westerly course within the hour. If not, I guess their intentions are quite clear.’
‘And may I ask what your intentions will be?’
‘My orders still stand. We are going home. However, if the British have other plans, we shall be ready for them. In the meantime, clear the decks for action and beat to quarters,’ De Brueys said irritably, disappointed that his friend should see need to question him.
Reluctantly, Jacques shouted the order that brought all the men up on deck. Anything that had a use or could be used again later was taken below decks and stored away. If it was no longer wanted, it was tossed over the side so as not to hamper the crew during battle. The galley embers were extinguished as a precautionary measure against fire and the risk of an explosion due to gunpowder that may have accidentally been spilled on the decks. Bulkheads and partitions were dismantled to allow the crew to move about freely and to lessen the chance of being struck by flying splinters. It was no different below decks as gun crews ran to their stations and quickly set about loading and running the huge cannons out in readiness while other crew members ran up and down the narrow corridor issuing gunpowder to each gun station from cylindrical cartridge boxes. A job normally carried out by boys as young as ten, known as powder monkeys, De Brueys had seen fit to replace the youngsters with older crew members, finding the boys more of a hindrance during the heat of battle. Also it had saddened him to look upon their dead young faces as they lay in a row waiting their turn to be sewn inside a jute bag for burial.
In the bowels of the ship just below the water line, the carpenters and a few men were armed with conical wooden plugs, sheets of lead and balls of oakum and nails. Their job was to plug up any holes that might appear in the hull caused by the enemy. The entire ship was mayhem, but it was controlled mayhem, and twenty minutes after beating to quarters, the captain, his first lieutenant, the master and a few appointed midshipmen were gathered on the quarterdeck. The ship was now a formidable, fortified battery.
José turned to his first lieutenant. ‘Lower the mizzen foretopgallant and foretopsail for rigging. Whatever the British decide to do, I will not be caught napping.’
The topgallant sails were quickly furled and the very moment they were tied, below decks at the main mast’s foundation, four members of the crew began removing three metal pins that went through a solid iron sleeve that was attached to the main mast. The bottom of the iron sleeve was six feet above the hull and encased the mast as far as the mainsail yardarm. Before the final pin was removed, a crew member signalled to another crewman until an officer on deck received the message that they were ready. The officer, in turn, relayed the message to six crew members on the main deck who were holding onto a rope as though waiting for a signal to participate in a tug of war. The thick rope ran through a complicated system of pulleys that was secured to the top of the main mast by an iron ring.
Nodding to his first lieutenant, the captain gave the order to begin letting the rope out the moment they felt the strain. Soon a dull thud echoed throughout the ship as the iron sleeve suddenly dropped the six feet until it came to rest on a coil of rope purposely placed at the bottom of the mast to cushion the sleeves descent. De Brueys watched with a keen eye as the men slowly let the rope out and the mast began to bend sternwards. Inch by inch the mast was lowered until it finally came to rest at a forty-degree angle in a carefully hidden cradle fitted on the mizzen yardarm. A crew member quickly lashed it into place while other men, who had been patiently waiting on the yardarms, began casting out ropes to hang loosely over the stern of the ship and when caught by the breeze, wildly flapped around making it look as though her stays had broken and were fouling the rigging.
Only one more thing had to be done to make the ship appear completely helpless. Three crew members, upon a signal, gathered ropes from a locker on the poop deck and set about lowering them over the stern’s taffrail after first securing one end. The other end was weighted with a thirty-two-pound cannonball which was enclosed in a thick net. Each rope was left hanging three feet below the water line and viewed from a distance, looked liked some of the ship’s stays had come loose and were fouling the rudder, leaving the ship without steerage.
word reached the captain that everything was in order, he said calmly, ‘Now we
wait. I want three men only to each gun, every other man must be on deck and
clearly seen. If all goes well, there may be no need to run the guns again.’
The British Frigate HAWK 1827
The Hawk, a
thirty-two-gun British frigate captained by James Hall, had been ordered by the
British Admiralty to seek out and destroy the infamous ship
Vengeance with the help of the
Because of his thick, jet-black, curly hair, coal-black, beady eyes and hooked
nose, Hall had been nicknamed The Crow by certain members of the Admiralty. In
fact, unbeknown to him, he had been given two nicknames, the other being King
Henry the Ninth, because the same certain members of the Admiralty knew of no
other captain that had sunk his ship before it had left the
As he stood on the bridge looking through his telescope, he was interrupted by his first officer, Lieutenant Grimes. ‘Captain, she is signalling her intentions to surrender. The French do not wish to engage.’
‘Thank you, Lieutenant,’ Hall replied sourly, then, ‘Stand the gun crews down and have them muster on deck in readiness for boarding. Signal Hornsby to do the same and to come alongside on her starboard.’ He gazed through his telescope at the stricken ship again. His lieutenant had spoken the truth. Hall’s thin lips moved to form the closest thing to a smile they were capable of as he saw that the French captain had little choice but to surrender. The distance between the ships was closing rapidly and he could clearly see the French crew frenetically working at the stern of the stricken ship in a futile attempt to free the rudder of a web of ropes.
Lowering the telescope, he turned to his first officer. ‘Inform the helmsman to pass on her port side and have the men ready to lower the main topgallant, fore topgallant and mizzen topgallant. Inform the helmsman also to match her speed and have the men ready to drop anchor the moment the warship heaves to.’
Lieutenant Grimes at any other time would have relayed his captain’s orders without question, but he had a gut feeling that something was not right. ‘I must protest, Captain. You will be putting both our ships at risk if you continue on this course of action. Our orders were very specific: find and destroy the ship.’
‘Do you question my orders, sir?’ Hall roared. ‘The ship is helpless and all its crew on deck. What possible danger are we in?’
Grimes took an involuntary step backwards at the ferocity of his captain’s response. Knowing that Hall’s mind was set on taking the ship as his prize and that further talk would be useless, he reluctantly relayed the orders to the crew.
As the prow of the Hawk slowly slid past the Vengeance’s stern, Hall could not help but admire the size of the French man-o-war. It was by far the biggest three-decker he had ever seen and when the three warships sailed in unison on a placid ocean with no more than thirty yards of water separating them, Hall mentally began his appraisal of the ship. The Vengeance was at least thirty feet longer than any other front-of-the-line ship he had ever seen being at the least two hundred and twenty feet in length on the lower gun deck. He estimated her breadth close to sixty feet and her draught twenty to thirty. When rigged, armed and stored, her displacement, including the weight of the crew, must exceed over three thousand five hundred tons.
As these facts and figures raced through his mind, out of the corner of his eye, he suddenly noticed a movement on the ship’s quarter deck. Gazing up, he noticed two men standing at the rail. Guessing one to be the captain and the other his second-in-command, he casually gave them a salute. There was an unusual delay before he was acknowledged and when the return salute came, Hall was puzzled by the Frenchman’s reactions. The one whom he guessed to be the second-in-command began shouting and though he took no particular notice of what he was saying, Hall could not help but notice a look of sadness on his face. At the same time as the officer began shouting, Hall suddenly saw a flicker of movement behind the cannons. That was the precise moment he knew he had been tricked and was going to die. Even so, when the explosion came and the deck of the British frigate erupted beneath his feet hurtling him twenty feet into the air, he smiled grimly at the huge piece of iron grating that came spinning towards him. He neither felt or realised that it had taken both his legs off two inches above the knees as easily as a knife slices through melted butter.
Hitting the water and plunging three metres below its surface, he desperately kicked out in a weak effort to propel himself upwards. As the first waves of panic began to take control of his senses, he could not understand why the surface appeared to be getting further away from him. For what seemed a lifetime but in reality was only seconds, he finally broke the surface sucking in huge amounts of air until his lungs could hold no more. He felt no pain; in fact, he felt at peace as he bobbed up and down staring at the sea of flotsam that was once his ship. Seeing his lieutenant floating face down, he wondered why his legs didn’t respond when he tried to go to his aid. His last thought was that somebody had come to his aid and taking hold of him around his waist, forcibly pushed him through the water towards his prized possession. As the sixteen-foot shark pulled him under the stern of the Vengeance and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean slipped over his open eyes, the last thing Captain James Hall saw was the immaculately dressed man standing on the poop deck staring down at him with that same sad expression.
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