Alnwick Probus Club, September meeting

Bob Harrison, of Alnwick, a keen student of the Napoleonic era, gave the September meeting of Alnwick Probus Club an unusual series of anecdotes concentrating on the late 18th century and early 19th century period.

Most talks on the Napoleonic Wars concentrate on the famous names of Bonaparte, Nelson and Collingwood. Bob, speaking entirely without notes, told stories of deckhands, escaped prisoners of war and women masquerading as seamen.

He challenged many of the accepted views, particularly about the battle of Trafalgar, such as the story that Collingwood’s crew were mainly Geordies. Bob has studied the logs of many of the vessels involved and he is convinced that none of the ships had crews recruited from any particular region. Press gangs were not fussed who they grabbed.

The meeting learned of the minute detail available, both from the Trafalgar Museum and the internet, regarding life in the services at that time. Not only does it contain the names of all the crew, but also gives details of births aboard ship. However, there are no details of the women involved since the Royal Navy did not recognise that women were ever on their ships.

Bob owns CDs obtained from museums listing every crew member involved in the Navy’s Napoleonic battles, where they were from and quite often where they went to. They also detail ships’ hour-by-hour involvement of engagement, thus it is possible to spot inaccuracies in many of the accepted learned tomes.

When Bob was speaking the time flew by and he had so many interesting insights he could have gone on well beyond his allocated slot. There followed a lively question and answer session and again the chairman had to draw the meeting’s attention to the clock.

The next meeting of Alnwick Probus Club takes place on Wednesday, October 10, when Alan Miles, of Thropton, will reminisce on his experience as a banker. For more information about the club, contact Bill Bland at or on 01669 620572.