For amateur historians and trivia collectors everywhere

Location: Masterton, New Zealand

I survived school history despite the best efforts of the education system to bore me to death. Many years later, I discovered Treaties, dates, the movement of nations, are mere context. The fascination is in the details.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

After the Battle of Trafalgar, Sir Henry Blackwood was given command of H.M.S. Ajax, a 74 gun Third Rate ship of the line. In 1807, Ajax joined a British naval expedition under Duckworth and Smith to the Dardanelles.

"On the night of February 14, while the squadron lay at anchor off the Dardanelles waiting for a fair wind for the straits, the Ajax took fire. .....
'She was burnt,' wrote Blackwood to his wife, 'in the most extraordinary rapid way that I believe was ever witnessed. From the moment of alarm, exactly at nine o'clock, when all (except sentinels and those on watch) were in bed, till she was in flames from the main to the mizzen rigging, sails and all, did not exceed twenty minutes. ....
Before I could reach the quarterdeck the flames burst out of the hatchway; I therefore found all attempts to get boats hoisted out useless, and I desired all about me - whom I could only feel in the smoke and not see - to save themselves as well as they could....'."
Nelson and His Captains, W.H. Fitchett, 1902.

The Ajax drifted ashore on the island of Tenedos and blew up. 250 from her compliment of 630 were lost.
The British Woodlands Trust has a novel way of commemorating this ship, and others, with a newly planted forest in County Durham


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