Skip to comments.Conditions in Nelson's navy uncovered by scientists
Posted on 09/03/2011 7:14:51 PM PDT by SunkenCiv
Sailors in Admiral Nelson's navy were plagued by scurvy, ridden with syphilis and often mutilated by amputations but only a minority were from lowest social class, Oxford University archaeologists have found.
An examination of 340 skeletons from three 18th and 19th century Royal Navy graveyards found that a "surprisingly high" proportion suffered from scurvy and infected wounds.
The bones, excavated from sites in Greenwich, Gosport and Plymouth, also found that more than six per cent of sailors in Nelson's navy, were amputees, many of whom died as a result of operations that went wrong.
But despite uncovering evidence of syphilis, ulcers, serious tooth infections and possible malaria among the remains of the seamen, researchers said evidence indicated that only a minority came from the lowest rung of the social ladder.
The unprecedented scientific investigation into life below decks for Nelson's men, by researchers from Oxford and Cranfield Universities, will be broadcast tomorrow evening (SUN) in a Channel Four documentary, Nelson's Navy: Back From the Dead.
Individuals examined by the scientists included an 11-year-old boy who may have been a "powder monkey" transporting ammunition to gunners and a "top man" who worked at the top of the masts and most likely died by falling from the rigging during a battle.
(Excerpt) Read more at telegraph.co.uk ...
More than six per cent of sailors in Nelson's navy, were amputees, many of whom died as a result of operations that went wrongÂ Photo: ALAMY
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To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.
Nelson was an amputee.
bump ya scurvy cag!
The ship was unheated save for one cook stove so it is no surprise that respiratory diseases were rampant among the crew and I would think that it was a far more debilitating cause of casualties than battle with the French or battle against the French disease (syphilis). Once impregnated with salt, the crew's clothes simply never got dry.
As one descends the decks he sees that the headroom shrinks at each level and probably explains why young boys were used as "powder monkeys", described in the article, because they could run at full speed without ducking to retrieve shot and powder from below during battle.
I recommend a visit To HMS Victory to anyone who has the opportunity.
Rum, sodomy and the lash.
I’ll be the first man to admit I could have NEVER made it as a sailor back in those days. Tough bastards all.
I haven’t toured HMS Victory, but seeing Old Ironsides made much the same impression. Can’t imagine living like that, especially sending kids to sea. Sailors must have been short.
Maybe the lower class sailors that were pressed into service were buried at sea?
To the weevil!
didn’t they also use women as “power monkeys” and who knows what else?
Just doesn’t seem proper to disturb “Royal Navy Graveyards” for such..... Sort of like digging up veterans at Arlington two hundred years from now isn’t it ?
“Firstly you must always implicitly obey orders, without attempting to form any opinion of your own regarding their propriety. Secondly, you must consider every man your enemy who speaks ill of your king; and thirdly you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil.”
Vice Admiral of the White The Right Honourable Horatio, Viscount Nelson, Knight of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Baron Nelson, of the Nile and of Burnham Thorpe in the County of Norfolk, Baron Nelson, of the Nile and of Hillborough in the County of Norfolk, Duke of Bronte in the nobility of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Knight of the Grand Cross of the Order of St Ferdinand and of Merit and a Knight of the Ottoman Empire’s Order of the Crescent,Knight Grand Commander of the Order of St Joachim, Colonel of the Marines, Freeman of Norwich, Bath, Yarmouth, London, Salisbury and Exeter.
Send me a post card. (but I'm glad some of mine did)
In fact to go further, I would not have gone WEST, lol. That mode of transportation (wagons),is not for me. (but again glad they did)
Always choose the lesser of two weevils.
of course they weren’t from the lower classes. The press gangs took men from all walks of life and tough sh** if they didn’t like it. Probably took from the middle classes because they were better educated and on the average made better sailors than the lower classes would have.
Geeze. They needed to paw through bones to learn that? A casual search through a good research library would have revealed that.
Seafaring in the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries was a dangerous trade. So dangerous that serving in the navy was probably safer than serving on a merchant vessel. With larger crews they were more likely to survive the hazards of the sea.
John Paul Jones got his first command (of a merchantman) when every officer aboard the ship he was sailing back to Britain on died of disease. No one else in the crew could navigate. Jones was a passenger, and he knew how to navigate, so the crew had him sail the ship back to Britain, and the owners made him captain when he arrived.
Thanks for sharing that. I love trivia like that. J P Jones was an interesting character.
Who said something about Sodomy, rum and the lash being the three great traditions of the Royal Navy again???
Was totally amazed the first time I crossed the continental divide...with roads some signs would still say Use 1st gear only......you could look down the side of the mountains and alway see some car hundreds of feet below that didn’t make the curve....and to do it in a covered wagon.....they don’t make people like that anymore....soft times make for soft people....coming down the mountain was worse than going up....and we were pulling a camper...yikes, the young are nuts....:O) That was back in the 80’s.....don’t know about the interstates now in that area....
“The press gangs took men from all walks of life and tough sh** if they didnt like it. Probably took from the middle classes because they were better educated and on the average made better sailors than the lower classes would have.”
Ah. . . no. Not regularly at any rate. That is a myth. Bad novels and bad movies (and even a few bad history books)not withstanding, only “seamen, seafaring men, and persons whose occupations or callings are to work in vessels and boats upon rivers” were subject to impressment. And the press was only used during national emergencies, not during times of peace.
Officers did not want unskilled men on their ships. They could get enough of those. So a press gang that came back with nothing but landsmen — especially middle-class landsmen — were liable to get their grog stopped.
Pressing someone who was in the middle classes — whether a skilled tradesman or a member of the gentry — was also liable to prove expensive to the officer foolish enough to try it. If the victim could prove that he was not liable to the press, he could sue the officer for damages and generally win. A jury of that victim’s peers were not likely to encourage behavior that could get *them* serving involuntarily on a King’s Ship.
Yes, men other than mariners served involuntarily in the Royal Navy. But even that was “voluntary” — they were given a choice between volunteering for patriotic duty in the Royal Navy and being hung for a crime of which they had been convicted.
(And if you are wondering why — if only those liable for the impressment were ‘pressed — the US got into a war with Britain over the British impressing American citizens, it is that those Americans that got ‘pressed were mariners, therefore fair game in British eyes.)
I love the Age of Sail!
“We’ll render passing honors, Mr. Bush!”
“Don't talk to me about naval tradition. It's nothing but rum, sodomy and the lash.”
News flash! Skeletons reveal people living in 18th and 19th century suffer from 18th and 9th century conditions!
HOT, oh my, no a/c. Windows all down, water bottle thingy in front of the radiator. Stopping for oil, flat tires, water and to let the car cool down. Bagged Lunch in a rest stop, sleeping outdoors or in the car. If we had enough money (later trips), we would get to stay in a REAL MOTEL, & eat in a real CAFE, rofl.
Up and down those mountains on 2 lane roads,in those cars, yikes. Hold your breath and don't say a word. (Desi and Lucy comes to mind in that trailer).
BUT NO, not in those Wagons, and it was very dangerous in the wild west in those times. Mine made it, as I can atest, wink. Strong women for sure. I do love to think of them often, as I do genealogy and know how they came to America and traveled West.
Very strong men as well, but I said stong women as it was much harder on them.
If anybody here hasn’t read the Maturin/Aubrey series by Patrick O’Brian, you are missing out. It is a great set of books.
That was my first thought . Are they digging up graves to do tests ? If so , disgusting .
Thanks! I had little idea that there would be any kind of response at all, I surprised and pleased. :’)
“You don’t think we’d eat an admiral like that all at once, do ya?”
Thanks all; I’ve never seen HMS Victory, but have been on the USS Constitution, and the low headers would take some getting used to. I love wooden ships, but had I been in the navy, the advent of all-steel vessels would have been very welcome. Y’know, until all navies were built that way, and shooting started again. :’)
then you really might not want to see this, about John Paul Jones:
The worst part of being in Nelson's navy would have had to be the weekly octopus or squid attack.
I remember hating basketball because my weekly game was the same night ‘Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’ aired.
God bless you...you saved us from being less than we are
The days of iron men and wooden ships
There is a not so subtle difference. John Paul Jones was dug out from under some shop that was built over a cemetery in Paris. His remains were moved to a new crypt in the chapel at Annapolis, where his body lies in a blue grey marble sarcophagus riding on the back of 4 marble dolphins. It is pretty awesome.
Only proves that people rise to the needs of their day. Just as our people braved the seas to come to a wilderness, fought in terrible wars, and served in wooden coffins at sea. They were made of strong stuff. If pushed, such men and women still walk the streets of England and The United States. I see in the English speaking world great strength. We are —as a group—idealists, and right thinkers who never give up. I recall what a Japanese POW on Tarawa said: “I knew we had lost when the Marine kept coming at us with there guts hanging out.” (or words to that effect). We should be proud of our shared past. We can give more than we think, endure more, and fight harder than most peoples on this fair planet.
“then you really might not want to see this, about John Paul Jones:”
I just write about him. I am not emotionally invested in the man. Besides, he looks than I am likely to when my body has been around that long.
You’ve heard the song Naval Academy midshipmen wrote about Jones?
Everybody works but John Paul Jones!
He lies around all day,
Body pickled in alcohol
On a permanent jag, they say
I've meant to get around to O’Brian’s stuff, but I have not. Mainly because I have the complete Hornblower saga in audio format and that, so far, has satisfied my desire for romanticism of the era from the comfort of my desk.
I hate to say it, but it is better than Hornblower. I think O’Brian does a better job with the details and his written dialog is extremely good. I do love both, but I enjoyed O’Brian’s work more.