Favourite of Fortune: Captain John Quilliam, Trafalgar Hero
Naval Institute Press (August 15, 2021)
Hardcover: 256 pages
Born on the Isle of Man two hundred fifty years ago, Captain John Quilliam has, until now, evaded detailed study of his extraordinary life. While celebrated as a Manx hero, in the wider world beyond the Island one of the most important men on the quarter deck of HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar remains largely unrecognized.
Trafalgar, however, was not even the high point of Quilliam's professional journey. From the lowest rung of the ladder in the dockyard at Portsmouth he climbed to become Victory's First Lieutenant, having already survived two of the bloodiest sea-battles of the era at Camperdown and Copenhagen. In the process he won a share in undreamed of wealth through the seizure of one of the largest hauls of Spanish gold ever taken by the Georgian navy.
Promoted post-Captain, Quilliam reached the apogee of his profession, commanding frigates in the Baltic and on the Newfoundland station in the War of 1812. There, in a bizarre twist worthy of a novel by O'Brian or Forester, he defeated an accusation of shirking an engagement with the American super-frigate President in a court-martial brought by his own First Lieutenant.
Andrew Lambert is Laughton Professor of Naval History in the Department of War Studies at King's College, London. He provided the political and strategic context to the detailed biographical research by Andrew Bond, a retired engineering journalist, while Frank Cowin, a prominent Manx antiquarian, dealt with Quilliam's background and reputation on the Island.