In March 1784, at a time when most of the fleet was laid up, His Majesty's frigate Undine weighed anchor at Spithead to begin a voyage to India and far beyond. As her new captain, Richard Bolitho was glad to go, despite the nature of his orders and the immensity of the voyage - for he was leaving an England still suffering from the aftermath of war. But he was to learn that signatures on proud documents did not necessarily make a lasting peace, and found himself involved in a conflict as ruthless as the one which had given him his first command during the war with France.
In an uneasy peace the expansion of trade and colonial development in little-known areas of the East Indies soon pushed aside the pretence and brought the guns' fury into the open. There was no set line of battle or declared cause to rally Undine's small company. But the dangers and the endless demands had to be faced by the man who commanded the only King's ship available.
As 1794 draws to a close Richard Bolitho, commanding the old seventy-four-gun ship of the line Hyperion, leaves Plymouth to join a squadron blockading the rising power of Revolutionary France. After six months of repairs his ship is ready to fight again, but her company is mostly raw and untrained.
Unfortunately, Bolitho finds himself under a commodore who is no match for the French admiral, Lequiller, whose powerful squadron uses guile and ruthless determination to elude him and vanish into the Atlantic. Hyperion, as part of a small British force, gives chase, the desperate voyage taking them from the Bay of Biscay's squall to the heat of the Caribbean - and for each mile sailed and every battle fought Bolitho finds himself being forced into the ever more demanding role of strategist and squadron commander.
Antigua 1817 Every harbour and estuary is filled with ghostly ships, the famous and the legendary now redundant in the aftermath of the war. In this uneasy peace, Adam Bolitho is fortunate to be offered the seventyfour gun Athena, and as flag captain to ViceAdmiral Sir Graham Bethune once more follows his destiny to the Caribbean.
But in these haunted waters where Richard Bolitho and his 'band of brothers' once fought a familiar enemy, the quarry is now a renegade foe who flies no colours and offers no quarter, and whose traffic in human life is sanctioned by flawed treaties and men of influence. And here, and when Athena's guns speak, a day of terrible retribution will dawn for the innocent and the damned.
March, 1811 After two and a half months of precious peace in Cornwall with his beloved mistress Catherine, Admiral Richard Bolitho is once again summoned to London. In defence of an Empire, the Admiralty must quell the unrest in America - or face the war with those who were once friends. For when diplomacy fails, the cannon will speak.
For his daring mission, Bolitho must call on the loyalty of his most trusted officers - and the trust of those he loves the most. Distance too is their enemy, as the Indomitable leads the fleet from Plymouth towards the rich merchant grounds of the Americas.
In the troubled seas from Antigua north to Halifax, Admiral Bolitho's revolutionary 'flying squadron' will face their first and harshest test. For a country's freedom. For a hero's right to turn his back on the sea ...
The three midshipman Bolitho novellas in one omnibus volume, from Alexander Kent, also known as Douglas Reeman.
This story is set in the winter of 1773, in and around the West Country of England. Midshipman Bolitho's ship, the Gorgon, is laid up for refit, and he with some other 'young gentlemen' is allowed home for Christmas.
Bolitho, now seventeen, returns to his family in Falmouth, taking with him his best friend and fellow midshipman, Martyn Dancer. Bolitho soon discovers that all is not well in Cornwall. There are rumours of an increase in smuggling, even witchcraft, and when a murdered man is found near the Bolitho house, ugly rumour becomes reality. Wrecking, the most savage of all crimes, is a further cause for alarm.
Only a small and agile man-of-war can be of use against such restless enemies. To Falmouth comes one such vessel, the Avenger, and thoughts of a carefree leave are quickly forgotten by Richard Bolitho, especially when he learns the name of the Avenger's commander.
Alexander Kent's second novel to cover Richard Bolitho's early career follows the events described in Richard Bolitho - Midshipman, which was so warmly received by readers, young and old, of the Bolitho series.
The time is January 1782, and British Captain Richard Bolitho is ordered to take the frigate Phalarope to the Caribbean, where the hard-pressed royal squadrons are fighting for their lives against the combined fleets of France and Spain and the upstart American privateers. It should have been a proud moment for so young and junior a captain - but the Phalarope has already been driven to near mutiny and she is regarded with shame and suspicion. But Bolitho is no ordinary man. His determination is blended with humanity, and his efforts to give the ship back her pride mark him apart from his contemporaries. As the little frigate sails under the blazing sun and fights her inner battles as well as faces the bloody broadsides of the enemy, Bolitho spares neither himself nor his men - and in the final great battle of the Saintes the chance comes to prove what both he and the Phalarope can achieve.
The Inshore Squadron is the twelfth Richard Bolitho story and chronologically it follows the events covered by Signal - Close Action! In September 1800 Richard Bolitho, a freshly appointed rear-admiral, assumes command of his own squadron - but, as the cruel demands of war spread from Europe to the Baltic, he soon realizes that his experience, gained in the line of battle, has ill-prepared him for the intricate manoeuvring of power politics. Under his flag the Inshore Squadron has to ride out the bitter hardship of blockade duty and the swift, deadly encounters with the enemy. An old hatred steps from the past to pose a personal threat to him, but at the gates of Copenhagen, where his flag flies admidst the fury of battle, Bolitho must put all private hopes and fears behind him.
In the spring of 1797 Richard Bolitho brings the 100-gun Euryalus home to Falmouth to be flagship of the hastily formed squadron which has been chosen to make the first British re-entry to the Mediterranean for nearly a year. As flag captain, Bolitho is made to contend with the unyielding attitudes of his new admiral, as well as the devious requirements of the squadron's civilian advisor.
England is still stunned by the naval mutiny at Spithead, in which Bolitho's admiral was personally involved, and as the squadron sets sail the air is already alive with rumour of an even greater uprising in the ships at the Nore. Only when the squadron is drawn to a bloody embrace with the enemy does the admiral see the strength in Bolitho's trust and care for his men - but by then it is almost too late for any of them.
Returning safely to England after the dramatic capture of Martinque, Vice-Admiral Sir Richard Bolitho finds an all too brief respite from war and politics in the arms of his mistress Catherine Somervell. But the shadow of a new conflict already darkens the horizon. The old enemy, France, forges an uneasy alliance with America - threatening the safety of British trade routes. Although ordered immediately to the Indian Ocean, for the first time Bolitho's thoughts are not of glory but his own - and the Navy's - past. Both Nelson and Collingwood died in their country's service. For the navy's newest Admiral, is there life beyond the sea itself?
March 1814 Admiral Sir Richard Bolitho returns to England from several months' rigorous patrolling off the North American coast. War with the United States has not yet ended, but news of Napoleon's defeat and abdication has stunned a navy and a nation bled by years of European conflict. Victory has been the impossible dream and now, for Bolitho, a vision of the future and a personal peace seems attainable. However an unsympathetic Admiralty dispatches him to Malta. In this appointment a compliment or a malicious ploy to keep Bolitho from the woman he loves and the freedom he craves? He cannot know, but the voice of duty speaks more insistently even than the voice of the heart, and in this familiar sea where both glory and tragedy have touched his life, Bolitho must confront the future, the renaissance of a hated tyrant, and the fulfilment of destiny.
The year is 1774 and Bolitho is now a newly appointed third lieutenant joining the 28-gun frigate Destiny at Plymouth. It is a far step from midshipman's berth to wardroom - and at a time when most of the fleet is laid up Bolitho is considered fortunate. Bolitho's promotion is tinged by personal sadness, but his new captain soon points out that Bolitho's loyalty is to him, the ship and His Britannic Majesty - in that order. Despatched on a secret mission far south to Rio and then to the Caribbean, Destiny and her company face the hazards of conspiracy, treason and piracy - and, as the little ship sails on, Bolitho has to learn amid broadside battles at sea and the clash of swords in hand-to-hand actions how to accept his new responsibilities as a King's officer.
When in 1798 Richard Bolitho hoists his broad pendant as commodore of a small squadron and prepares to re-enter the Mediterranean he is soon made aware of his responsibility. There are rumours of a massive French armada and of the latest type of artillery - and Bolitho's orders are to seek out the enemy and to discover the intentions of his growing force. Without any British bases in the Mediterranean, and unable to show favour to old friends, Bolitho is well aware that there are others within his ships who are no less dangerous than the enemy - and during the weeks and months in which the squadron faces the hazards of the weather and French broadsides alike, Bolitho knows that far more than his own future is at stake. A fleet, even a nation, could depend on his decisions and, when he places his squadron between the Nile and the power of France, he must accept the price of the challenge.
June 1815 On the eve of Waterloo, a sense of finality and cautious hope pervade a nation wearied by decades of war. But peace will present its own challenge to Adam Bolitho, captain of His Majesty's Ship Unrivalled, as many of his contemporaries face the prospect of discharge.
The life of a frigate captain is always lonely, but for Adam, mourning the death of his uncle Admiral Sir Richard Bolitho, that solitude acquires a deeper poignancy. He is, more than ever, alone, at the dawning of a new age for the Royal Navy, where the only constants are the sea and those enemies, often masked in the guise of friendship, who conspire to destroy him.
The tenth Richard Bolitho novel in Alexander Kent's spectacularly successful series deals with Bolitho's life as a young lieutenant aboard the Trojan, an eighty-gun ship of the line.
The year is 1777 when the revolution in America has erupted into a full-scale war. The navy's main task is to prevent military supplies from reaching Washington's armies and to destroy the fast-growing fleet of French and American privateers. As a junior officer Bolitho is often bewildered by swiftly changing events, but in a ship of the line, under a hard and determined captain, he has little opportunity for uncertainty. At a time of shortages and sudden death even a lieutenant can find himself faced with tasks and decisions more suitably given to officers of greater experience - and as the Trojan goes about her affairs the threat to Bolitho and his companions makes itself felt from New York to the Caribbean.
In March 1808, as Napoleon holds Portugal and threatens his old ally Spain, Vice-Admiral Sir Richard Bolitho is dispatched once more to the Cape of Good Hope to establish a permanent naval force there.
Setting aside his bitter memories and the anguish of a friendship betrayed, Bolitho takes passage in the ill-fated Golden Plover. With him sail others commanded by duty and lured by danger - and those who wish only to escape.
But when shipwreck and disaster overtake the Golden Plover off the desolate coast of Africa, neither the innocent nor the damned are spared. Beyond the tortured hell of the reef, Bolitho's battle begins - to summon the survivors' last reserves of courage and of hope.
February 1813 With convoys from Canada and the Caribbean falling victim to American privateers, Sir Richard Bolitho returns to Halifax to pursue a war he knows will not be won, but which neither Britain nor the United States can afford to lose.
England's youngest admiral desires only peace. But peace will not be found in the icy Canadian waters, where a young, angry nation asserts its identity and men who share a common heritage die in close and bloody action. Nor will there be a peace for those who follow the Cross of St George: for the embittered Adam, mourning his lover and his ship, nor for RearAdmiral Valentine Keen, who must confront both grief and responsibility. Nor will there be peace from those enemies who use this struggle between nations as an instrument of personal revenge.
June 1793, Gibraltar - The gathering might of revolutionary France prepares to engulf Europe in another bloody war. As in the past, Britain will stand or fall by the fighting power of her fleet. For Richard Bolitho, the renewal of hostilities means a fresh command and the chance of action after long months of inactivity.
However, his mission to support Lord Hood in the monarchist-inspired occupation of Toulon has gone awry. Bolitho and the crew of the Hyperion are trapped by the French near a dry Mediterranean island. The great ship-of-the-line's battered hull begins to groan as her sails snap in the hot wind.
OCTOBER 1789, NEW SOUTH WALES Into Sydney, capital of Britain's infant colony, sails the frigate Tempest. She is one of His Majesty's ships employed in policing the new southern trade routes. Her captain is Richard Bolitho, who hopes to be ordered home to England.
Instead he is despatched on a mission to the islands of the Great South Sea, where he must face hazards of fickle winds, pirates and savage islanders. But he is menaced by deeper fears; the men of the Bounty have mutinied in these same waters; and from distant Europe comes news of a revolution in France...
December 1815 Adam Bolitho's orders are unequivocal. As captain of His Majesty's frigate Unrivalled of forty-six guns, he is required to 'repair in the first instance to Freetown, Sierra Leone, and reasonably assist the senior officer of the patrolling squadron. But all efforts of the British anti-slavery patrols to curb a flourishing trade in human life are hampered by unsuitable ships, by the indifference of a government more concerned with old enemies made distrustful allies, and by the continuing belligerence of the Dey of Algiers, which threatens to ignite a full-scale war.
For Adam, also, there is no peace. Lost in grief and loneliness, his uncle's death still unavenged, he is uncertain of all but his identity as a man of war. The sea is his element, the ship his only home, and a reckless, perhaps doomed attack on an impregnable stronghold his only hope of settling the bitterest of debts.
For the young Richard Bolitho the spring of 1778 marked a complete transformation for himself and his future. It was the year in which the American War of Independence changed to an all-out struggle for freedom from British rule - and the year when Bolitho took command of the Sparrow, a small, fast and well-armed sloop of war.
As the pace of war increased, the Sparrow was called from one crisis to another - and when the great fleets of Britain and France convened on the Chesapeake, Bolitho had to throw aside the early dreams of his first command to find maturity in a sea battle that might decide the fate of a whole continent.
More navel action from Douglas Reeman writing as Alexander Kent, the master storyteller of the sea.
A troubled peace with France means that in the harbours and estuaries around England, the royal fleet has been left to rot. Even a frigate captain as famous as Richard Bolitho is forced to swallow his pride and visit the Admiralty daily to plead for a ship. As the clouds of war begin to rise once more over the Channel, he has no choice but to accept an appointment to the Nore.
With his small flotilla of three topsail cutters Bolitho sets out to search the coast for seamen who have fled the harsh discipline of His Majesty's Navy for the more tempting rewards of smuggling. But the 'Brotherhood' he comes up against are brutal and dangerous with a secret, sinister trade in human misery. Treason is never far distant and murder commonplace. So when a King's ransom is in peril and Bolitho is ordered to proceed 'with all despatch' to recover it he will need all the loyalty and courage of his three gallant cutters if he is to fulfil his mission.
Colours Aloft!, the sixteenth Richard Bolitho novel, bears all the hallmarks of its best-selling predecessors from Alexander Kent (also known as Douglas Reeman).
September 1803 Vice-Admiral Sir Richard Bolitho finds himself the new master of the Argonaute, a French flagship taken in battle. With the Peace of Armiens in ruins, he must leave the safety of Falmouth.
What lies ahead is the grim reality of war at close quarters - where Bolitho who will be called upon to anticipate the overall intention of the French fleet. But the battle has also become a personal vendetta between himself and the French admiral who formerly sailed the Argonaute.
Bolitho and his men are driven to a final rendezvous where no quarter is asked or given.