Date Posted: 08/03/2011
Under the rather good title: ‘A NAVAL HERO WORTH HIS SALT’
Benbow was reviewed in last week’s Mail on Sunday. It is not available online so here is an excerpt:
‘If the name Admiral Benbow rings a bell, chances are you remember it from the opening of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island: it is the inn where Jim Hawkins lives, and Stevenson didn’t light upon the name by chance.
John Benbow was celebrated in verse and song throughout the 18th Century and remembered by the Victorians as the Nelson of his time. Why, then, is he all but forgotten today?
Part of the reason, as Sam Willis implies in this fascinating biography, is that his exploits began to acquire a mythical dimension almost from the moment of his death. By the time Stevenson wrote Treasure Island, Benbow was almost as fanciful a figure as Long John Silver. Willis’s aim is to untangle truth from legend and restore Benbow to his rightful place as one of the foremost architects of British seapower in the age of sail.… of the many things that makes the author such a superb chronicler of naval warfare is his ability to explain technicalities … Willis has done a tremendous job of reassessing this neglected period in our rich naval history’