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Monday, 9 October 2017

HORNBLOWER: THE EVEN CHANCE AND THE EXAMINATION FOR LIEUTENANT



Every time I thought of the command word “FIRE!”, the fictional Royal Navy officer named Horatio Hornblower (Ioan Gruffudd) consistently slipped into my mind. The main protagonist midshipman and his screeching command word always made me laugh gleefully as well as reminded me of his stature competence on the gun deck of the Royal Navy warship. Brazenly, I had a flame of infatuation towards him!

The Royal Navy officer, Horatio Hornblower, was from a middle class family and in particular, the son of a doctor. A young man who had a fairly good upbringing and received classical education to which he was well-versed in Greek, French and Latin languages. Despite his family background and educational achievements, Hornblower was still a man of emptiness who occupied himself with woes and fears in life rather than showing off his extraordinary skills and intelligence. That is why, he was encouraged by his uncle to overcome his self-doubts by spending time amongst the swarthy sea-faring folk at the local docks. Succeedingly, the influence of his uncle yielded the love for the sea in him to which at the age of seventeen he joined the Royal Navy as a midshipman. 

He was lifted up by a man-powered mount swing pulley before he finally boarded the HMS Renown... 

Horatio's love for the sea and the camaraderie he had with the greasy sea-faring folk didn't neutralise him from motion seasickness. Most of us will feel the same as he did when boarding a shaky running ship. However, this familiar nauseating weakness he experienced on the first day taunted him throughout his career. What an embarrassment that both his fellow Royal Navy officers and the sailors used it as a secret pastime topic in belittling his personality. On the other hand, his sense of duty and commitments as a young professional officer weighed more than any discomfiting impressions. Which is why, he began winning back the obedience of the sailors by adapting some of their challenging responsibilities on board. In particular, by climbing-up the quivering foremaft in order to reach and manipulate the clewlines and buntlines for sailing. He also gained their evasive trust when he philosophically opposed his Captain's sentence of painful flogging for his personal steward, Bunting. Aside from the naval enlistee, he also befriended most of the experienced and senior officers who appreciated his courage, decisiveness and rational mind.
(Video Courtesy of huberk21 YouTube's Account)

His journey on the HMS Renown in the immeasurable sea was strengthened... 

Throughout the days and nights of hardship and perseverance, he won the trust of many especially the heart and mind of his resolute Captain, Sir Edward Pellew. Subsequently, Horatio was then given command to take over the prize frigate, Le Rêve with her French prisoners and manoeuvre her into Gibraltar. However, as she had a cannonball hole below the waterline she was eventually stuck. He hastily patched the hole in and out of the ship but it was already breaking apart. As a result, he commanded all hands to abandon the rice cargo ship and sailed in an open boat. Did they find their way or was there a twist of navigation? 

Their manual navigation in an open boat conspicuously reached the attention of officers and sailors of the HMS Renown. Alas, they were saved from dehydration and starvation. It was such a relief for his sailors and the French prisoners but a failed duty for Hornblower. However, the feeling of distress and abashment in him as an acting Lieutenant of Le Rêve was assuaged with sailors and officers' welcoming applause. He didn't waste a minute while back on HMS Renown and stately reported in detail to the Captain the main cause of the evacuation. Inevitably, the Captain was indignant towards him as it was the only source of relief goods that would feed sufficiently all of them on board.  

The food rationing was cut in half and most of the sailors were very disgruntled about it. Some of them planned to break into the food supply quarters despite the rational explanation of scarcity on board and the need to share. Days after, a plan was hatched to replenish the shortage of food. Hornblower and his sailors headed ashore to the seaport city, Oran, and bought sacks of rice grains & cattle in exchange for a trunk of gold coins. Have they successfully fed the fleet or was there an impediment first?

The deprivation of food supply was resolved by Horatio's clever actions and the help of his supportive sailors. His cunningness in taking good care of the food relief and his sense of duty as an elevated officer were acknowledged notably by the Captain himself. As a reward, his application for the rank of Lieutenant was forwarded with high endorsement to Santa Barbara. It's the location of his oral examination headed by Captain Foster of HMS Dreadnaught along with Captain Hammond of HMS Calypso and Captain Harvey of the Gibraltar dockyard.

 (Video Courtesy of funnyflyingdutchgirl YouTube's Account)

The Royal Navy Midshipman Horatio Hornblower was the last interviewed applicant and to acquire a “pass” mark for the position of Lieutenant was very tough. Given his gained challenges in the sea and experiences throughout the encountered battles, was he given a “PASS” evaluation?

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