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All the Way from France by John Risdon

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Torbay is sheltered from the prevailing South Westerly winds, but open to easterly winds. It was therefore, generally, a safe-haven for the Western Squadron.

Napoleon Bonaparte was a brilliant general with many successful victories, across Europe, to his name.

Britain, however, had a small army in contrast, but a large very successful Royal Navy commanded by Admiral Nelson.

The British navy blockaded the French ports to starve France of trade and to preventthe French navy from building its fleet and developing its skills.

The British navy used Torbay and primarily the small fishing village of Brixham, as a victualing station for water, beef and vegetables. 20-25 ships were often anchored in the bay, with a combined crew of 25,000, but they were not allowed ashore. The officers however, brought their families, to live in Torquay. Torbay benefitted greatly during the Napoleonic wars. Whilst European countries were continually at war and unsafe to visit, Britain’s wealthy classes found Torquay especially, very suitable, and they built their palatial houses, on the cool hillsides, to enjoy their lengthy stays.

Napoleon was defeated at the battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815 and he tried to flee to America, but all the ports were blocked. On the 15 July1815 he surrendered toCaptain Maitland on HMS Bellerophon, known as Billy Ruffian, off La Rochelle.

He arrived in Torbay, in secrecy, on 24 July 1815 intending to ask for asylum. He behaved as the perfect gentleman and was very amical to all he met.

He exclaimed, on arrival,” What a beautiful country”.

Letters were quickly sent to the Admiralty.

The secret was soon broken, when a bottle, containing a message, was thrown from the ship and picked up by schoolboy John Smart. The local boats, gave up fishing, and conveyed sight seers close to the ship, where Napoleon bowed and removed his hat.

People were showing signs of feeling sorry for him and the Admiralty were afraid he would meet and charm the King and achieve his desire - an English gentleman.‘The Tyrant of Europe’ was moved to Plymouth from 26 July until 4 August, where hewas transferred to HMS Northumberland for exile to Saint Helena, a small isolated island, in the Atlantic Ocean off Africa. He arrived on 15 October and later died in 1821.



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Guest Thursday, 13 December 2018