PREVIEW from part of Chapter 10

Wednesday 3rd August 2011

One of the earliest reviews of Commander of the Karteria described it as being “as exciting as Hornblower – but real !!” So you can see what you think here is part of Chapter 10 as a sample – if you like it order the book!!

Chapter 10

The fine morning of Saturday 29th September started early aboard the ‘Karteria’. With a moderate easterly breeze to hold them on station, the crew of the steamship was called at three in the morning to light the engine fires and by eight were ordered to start the process of heating shells. A near disaster took place when two of the shells exploded in the fire-box, probably caused by water in the shells, but, apart from damaging the bar on the box, little damage was done.

Daybreak had shown that the Turks had prepared for action following the attempts of the previous days by the Greek fleet. They had moved their vessels from the shore to a line across the narrowest point of the north eastern bay. As the ‘Karteria’ moved closer, a formidable line-up was encountered. To the west of the line were three Austrian transports, packed with troops from the shore, close to the northern end of the line, a small gun boat and the main blockade from north to south being a magnificent Algerine schooner carrying twenty long brass guns, an armed transport brig, the Admiral’s brig, two schooners and a gun boat, with the stern of the Admiral’s brig being protected by a further brig. The southernmost vessel was within yards of the shore, and a battery with two guns, and the second single gun battery was two hundred yards further round to the north east.

The Turks clearly thought with their level of fire power, five hundred experienced troops ashore backing them up and the protection from the batteries, that they had the opportunity of destroying the two most successful and powerful ships of the Greek Navy. Rather than risk the attack being called off, they held their fire until Captain Frank Abney Hastings gave the order to anchor. Incredibly the ‘Karteria’ moved to a position only 250 to 300 yards from the nearest Turk and at eleven thirty gave the order to drop anchor to his fleet some 500 yards astern. The ‘Karteria’ hove to, starboard broadside to the brig carrying the Turkish Admiral’s ensign and the crew were ordered to bring two hot shells for the long guns. The signal for battle to commence was given by the roar of one of the ‘Karteria’s’ 68-pounders flying cold shot to obtain the correct range. The amazing coolness of this action by the Captain and John Hane, the Artillery Officer, to preserve the hot shells for more effective use after sighting, showed their absolute faith in the methods of warfare they had developed with such meticulous planning.

At the sound of the ‘Karteria’s’ gun the Turks opened fire from all sides, aiming only at the one target and, whilst they did create some damage, the well trained crew of the ‘Karteria’ were able to fire two hot shells from the long guns and two carcase shells from the carronades. At eleven forty-five the devastation of the vastly superior fleet had started. The Admiral’s brig was hit in the powder magazine by a carcase shell and an explosion soon created panic as she began to sink. The schooner lying adjacent to the south of her was hit in the bow. The brig on the other side received a carcase shell in the bow and hot shell in the stern causing her to disappear beneath the sea.

Captain Thomas of the ‘Sauveur’ was at the same time undertaking the task of silencing the shore batteries with grape shot and successfully drove back the troops from the water’s edge to less vulnerable positions behind rocks. Having completed this action the ‘Sauveur’ and the other vessels pulled into a closer position astern of the ‘Karteria’ and fire was directed by all vessels upon the Algerine schooner. A shell from the ‘Karteria’ exploded between her decks and some of the crew, in panic, jumped over the sides and swam for shore. Captain Frank gave the order for the boats of his fleet to be lowered and to take the abandoned schooner as a prize. Lieutenant Scanlan from the ‘Sauveur’ led the boarding parties but the troops who had been driven behind the rocks re-emerged and opened fire on the decks of the schooner which were well within their vision and range. The fire from the ‘Sauveur’ had been halted to allow the boarding parties access but Hastings ordered Thomas to open up again with grape shot.

While this drove the Turkish soldiers back to cover, they had successfully driven off the first boarding party and Lieutenant Scanlan had been killed in the action. Thomas kept the troops subdued but not totally silent by his sustained firing of grape shot, whilst her Captain took the ‘Karteria’ to within a cable’s length of the Algerine schooner. At the same time several small craft were occupied in taking the Austrian transports, and the first Lieutenant of the ‘Karteria’, Lieutenant Phalanger, was sent to destroy an armed transport brig which was not on fire.

Still under spasmodic fire from the muskets of the troops ashore, the stern cable of the ‘Karteria’ was attached to the schooner and the engines gradually took up the slack. The tide was falling and the schooner lay in about a fathom of water. The attempt to tow her off failed when the heavy rope parted. Perhaps if he had been a few minutes earlier, Frank Abney Hastings may have captured the fine ship. With some sadness he ordered his crew aboard and helped by men from the ‘Sauveur’, the Master-at-Arms and several others were taken prisoner. The heavy guns and several other items were taken aboard the Greek fleet and the task of lighting fire to destroy the ship commenced. It had become clear that after one rope had parted and a second larger rope belonging to the schooner itself had no effect, that she was firmly aground. At five in the afternoon after several struggles the rope between the two was cut. The flames gradually engulfed the vessel as the ‘Karteria’ pulled away from the shore.

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