Ramage's Mutiny

Ramage's Mutiny by Dudley Pope

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Authors: Dudley Pope
Aitken would be needed, too. He had not thought of that, but apparently the machinery of a trial needed someone to start it off.
    â€œWhereas Lieutenant James Aitken, for the time being commanding His Majesty’s ship
has represented to me that he did take four men from the American schooner
Sarasota Pride
on suspicion that they were formerly of His Majesty’s frigate
” said Admiral Davis’s letter, he was ordering a court martial to try the four men for mutiny.
    The letter, addressed to “The Captains of His Majesty’s vessels, &c, at English Harbour, Antigua,” had to cite at length all the various acts of Parliament and amendments relating to courts martial, and finally concluded, after giving the men’s alleged names and aliases: “I do hereby assemble a court martial composed of the captains and commanders of the squadron under my command, for the trial of the said four men for the offences of which they stand charged, and to try them for the same accordingly.”
    With that came a memorandum which said, in language which Ramage was thankful to see had not been mangled by lawyers: “You are to attend a court martial which is to be assembled by Captain Herbert Edwards, on board His Majesty’s ship
in English Harbour, Antigua, on Monday next, the fourteenth instant, at eight o’clock in the morning in order to sit as member of the same.” That was also signed by Admiral Davis, but the third, from Captain Edwards, said that Ramage was “desired to attend a court martial,” giving the place and time, and adding the time-honoured injunction: “It is expected you will attend in your uniform frock.” Sword, clean stock and stockings, polished boots, white breeches and frock coat—no one brought before a naval court martial could complain that his judges were not well dressed.
    Ramage pictured the four prisoners. It was unlikely all of them could read or write. They would be receiving copies of the charge and formal requests from whoever had been appointed the deputy judge advocate (probably the
’s purser, at eight shillings a day) for lists of witnesses they wished to call in their defence. Ramage felt sorry for them—until he remembered that Captain Wallis, four lieutenants, master, midshipman, surgeon and a lieutenant of Marines had been murdered and one of the King’s ships handed over to the enemy …
    The new Fourth Lieutenant seemed a lively youngster, he thought, in a deliberate attempt to cast off thoughts of the mutiny and the trial. Peter Kenton was twenty-one years old and the son of a half-pay captain. He was only four or five inches over five feet tall and had flaming red hair. His face was heavily freckled and peeling—his skin was obviously sensitive to the sun. More important than his appearance was Southwick’s first report on him.
    The Master had decided the foretopsail had too many patches to withstand the brisk winds they would find off the coast of the Main, and Kenton was given a few men and orders to get the new one up from the sailroom and stow the old. The young Lieutenant had started off well by saying he could make do with fewer men and, with the new sail on deck, went ahead preparing everything to hoist it up to the yard.
    So even though the lad had not been on board three hours, Kenton’s stock stood high with Southwick, and Ramage knew it was no passing whim, because over the years the old Master had seen dozens of lieutenants come and go—old ones and young, experienced and inexperienced, quiet and noisy. Lieutenants had commissions, so even the most junior in the ship were senior to Southwick: masters were warrant, not commission officers. For all that, it was a rash lieutenant that ran foul of a master, who was usually a fine seaman and often worth any brace of lieutenants that chance or influence brought on board a ship of war.
    On the deck below, James

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