Horatio Nelson: A Case Study in Naval Excellence (Part 1)
Patrick Harris -Being that Nelson was one of the greatest military minds of all times, I have decided to break his story down into a few parts. This part (part 1) will cover Nelson up until his Lieutenants examination( 9 April 1777). Horatio Nelson was born on September 29th 1758 in Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk County, England. The Nelson's weren't rich, his father was a rector; however, they were related to a very rich and influential family called the Walpoles (you know who they are!). As such, the Nelson's were always sucking up to them, Horatio himself was named after Lord Walpole's father. Though it turned out he didn't like the name Horatio so he changed his name (unofficialy) to Horace. Nelson also had an uncle, Maurice Suckling, a Captain in the Royal Navy, Suckling was a distinguished naval commander and his exploits first sparked Horatio's interest in the naval service. Horatio's mother died when he was nine years old, with his father left to take care of the eight children. His father sent Horatio to a school with a headmaster that liked to flog. After some time there, Horatio learned that his Uncle Maurice had been placed in command of HMS Raisonnable. He saw his chance and managed to get himself put on the books as a Midshipman, however, his Uncle wondered how long this sickly boy, much too small for his age, would survive; but without this chance, it is highly likely that Horatio would end up as a country vicar. At this point, "Horace" decided that he wanted his old name of Horatio back, just so he could sound more heroic. He boarded the Raisonnable a was just getting ready to set sail when the war ended. His uncle decided he needed some at sea training, so he was made a junior officer aboard a merchantman. After about a year he went back to the navy a much better sailor and was given a job (courtesy of Uncle Maurice) of ferrying messages up the Thames. On one of these voyages he spotted some ships being prepared for a voyage to the Artic and he just had to go with them. He set sail aboard HMS Carcass on June 4th 1773, searching for the Northwest Passage. On this voyage he had an encounter with a polar bear. This encounter involved Nelson, another Midshipman, a rusty musket, damp gunpowder, a mad polar bear and a Captain with the quick thinking to fire a blank charge out of a cannon to scare said polar bear away. After no luck finding the passage and a near death experience in the polar ice, the expedition returned home. He was promptly sent on a two year voyage aboard HMS Seahorse, during which he fought his first battle and caught malaria. He was transferred to HMS Dolphin for a voyage home to England for some R&R. The voyage was not very restful at all, the ship was very near capsizing in heavy seas for much of the voyage. After he got back on his feet, he sat his Lieutenants examination, which was chaired by none other than Captain Maurice Suckling. In an integrity move uncommon to the Royal Navy back then, Captain Suckling did not reveal Horatio as his nephew until after he and the rest of the board had agreed that Horatio had passed.
Sources: Horatio Nelson and His Victory by Philip Reeve
Battle At Sea by R.G Grant