Dudley Pope,
The Devil Himself: The Mutiny of 1800
(Alison Press, 1987; McBooks, 2003)

Captain William Proby sounds like a likable enough man. As described here by Dudley Pope, he seems a fair and competent leader who did good service for his ship and her crew, as well as Britain's ongoing war with France.

Why, then, was Proby labeled "the devil himself" by the men who mutinied against him? We may never know the full story behind the insurrection onboard the former French corvette, now serving in the British fleet as HMS Danae. A careful read of The Devil Himself: The Mutinty of 1800 makes it plain that there were several bad seeds among the crew -- men who would always be unhappy at sea, men who had mutinied before.

This case is special, because on this occasion in 1800 the men of the Danae not only overthrow their captain and officers, they also sailed the ship into a French port and turned her over to their nation's foe.

Pope, who has often demonstrated his excellent grasp of naval history and tactics in his fictional adventures of Nicholas Ramage, here goes into thorough detail as he explores the background of the ship, her men and the political climate surrounding them. With facts culled from British and French naval archives, he paints a clear picture of the situation and follows it through Proby and his men's captivity, parole and eventual court martial. His narrative style of writing makes the history a pleasure to read.

This is an excellent book for anyone who enjoys British naval history.

book review by
Tom Knapp

22 March 2014

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