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War and weapons

Prize money in the Army

The painting in the background depicts the seige of San Sebastian, Spain, in 1813


A version of this article was originally posted on  The Coffee Pot Book Club website.

In Regency times, prize money was paid to both army and navy personnel. The money came from goods captured in action, and was shared out between the men (it was only men!) according to their rank. The blog post here explains how prize money was calculated and allocated in the Royal Navy. This article looks at the Army in the Peninsular War.

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Prize Money in the Navy

A version of this article was originally posted on  The Coffee Pot Book Club website.

In Persuasion, Jane Austen’s Lieutenant Wentworth was considered an unsuitable match by Anne Elliot’s friend Lady Russell, as he was not rich nor did he have high family connections. Lady Russell persuaded Anne to end the engagement. Years later he returns as Captain Wentworth, considerably richer due to prize money, and that is where the novel starts.

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Life on Sailing Ships

HMS Victory entering Portsmouth harbour in 1812.


None of the novels I have written (or have planned) are set on sailing ships, but those ships have always fascinated me. They look wonderful, but life on them must have been hard. This post is about how the sailors lived on a ship of the line such as HMS Victory, or a frigate such as HMS Trincomalee. Officers shared small cabins, but the facilities for the ratings were much less civilised. The photos here are from my visits to the two ships mentioned.

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Book Review – Britain Against Napoleon

Britain Against Napoleon – The Organization of Victory 1793-1815, by Roger Knight.

In spite of its main title, the book covers the French Revolutionary War (1793-1802) as well as the Napoleonic War.

Britain was at war from 1793 until 1815, with only a couple of intervals. During this time there were changes in the way the army and navy were organised, supplied, and paid for, changes in politics and government, and an increase in production (both manufacturing and agricultural). It was also a period when attempts were made to reduce corruption.

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Engineer Officers

The heroes, and sometimes the villains, in regency romances are often involved in war, whether in the Royal Navy, the army, or as spies. Even if their wartime activities do not appear directly in the story, their military experiences shape their lives and their characters. In the army, the most glamourous were the cavalry or the Guards regiments, and this was reflected in the higher costs of purchasing commissions in those regiments than in regiments of foot.

There were some army units in which commissions could not be bought—the engineers and the artillery. In both cases, cadets underwent the same basic training, including engineering (as you might expect!), chemistry and physics, and languages. On completion of basic training they could choose which branch to enter.

An engineer officer

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Flintlocks and sayings

Flash in the pan  –  Going off half-cocked  –  Lock, stock and barrel

The kind of gun you see in western films, where the gunman can quickly load a set of metal cartridges into his handgun, only came into use in around the 1830s. In Regency times, guns were fired using a flintlock mechanism. Our heros (or heroines) would have used a pistol something like this.

The stock is the handle and other wooden parts, the barrel is the tube the pistol ball travels down when it is fired, and the ‘lock’ is the firing mechanism. Each part was made by a different craftsman, so ‘lock, stock and barrel’ means having the whole thing, complete with all its parts.

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