Dead Admirals Society’s Only Way is Essex

Attending a party in Chelmsford at the weekend had an unexpected bonus – my first visit to Chelmsford Cathedral, which revealed a couple of interesting naval memorials. Here’s the poignant epitaph for John Pocock Tindal, killed at the age of seventeen as signal midshipman aboard HMS Monarch, Vice-Admiral Onslow’s flagship. I’ve had an interest in the battle ever since I wrote an essay on Adam Duncan for the book British Admirals of the Napoleonic Wars: the Contemporaries of Nelson, the research for which was probably the most enjoyable task of that sort I’ve ever experienced – scrabbling around on the floor of Dundee City Archives ferreting through an old tin trunk which contained piles of unsorted papers of the Duncan family, working in the library of the National War Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh Castle (best view from the gents’ loo of any repository in Britain, i.e. out over the ‘new town’ to the Firth of Forth and the Fife hills), and drinking coffee from silver service in the dining room of the home of a Duncan descendant, contemplating the Titian hanging over the fireplace. As you do.

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Moreover, Camperdown was, of course, the principal battle in what some historians describe as the ‘fifth Anglo-Dutch war’, and having spent rather a lot of time working on the first three, I have a natural interest in the later ones too!

Unfortunately I got the other picture even more out of focus, possibly because I’m of the generation that still considers phones to be something you use to ring the speaking clock, not to take photos with. Captain George Tindal, grandfather of John, didn’t have a particularly distinguished naval career, but was a son of Nicholas Tindal, the translator of Rapin’s History of England and chaplain of Greenwich Hospital.

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Finally, could I just mention that guest contributions for the occasional series of ‘Dead Admirals Society’ would be very welcome? And remember, they don’t have to be admirals – any interesting but little known naval memorial qualifies for inclusion!

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