Hearts of Oak, Indeed

. . . and arms that could probably twist my neck off in about the time it takes . . . well, to drag, disassemble, shift across about 30 feet of air, re-assemble, and fire three times a field gun (complete with limber) the barrel assembly of which weighs just shy of 900 pounds.

This is cool.  This is way too cool.  The Brits may have starved their navy of money and veneration, but in a country where there’s no place more than roughly 90 miles from the ocean in any direction, there will always be a Royal Navy, and ‘Er Majesty’s tars will always be among the toughest bastards on the water. 

I still remember seeing a Royal Navy frigate operate with our U.S. battle group in 1988.  An American destroyer captain, if he wants his career to flourish at all, will try — with very, very good reason, let it be said — never to get within five miles of an aircraft carrier.  Let’s be honest, exactly how much sea sense can you expect when you put a pilot in command of 100,000+ tons of floating steel?  Lemme tell you, though, that RN frigate plastered herself alongside Forrestal, it looked like less than 1,000 yards distance, and she just hung there.  I ought to add that Forrestal, on that cruise, IO/MED/LANT 2-88, was about the very worst-driven ship it was ever my misfortune to attempt to work with.  I got a very profound respect for the Royal Navy watching that little frigate drive.

Is this a practical exercise in seamanship?  Of course not.  Is Great Britain safer by one jot because there are honking great sailors who can man-handle wood, steel, and lines like this?  Nope.  But as long as she can produce sailors who do stuff like this, for fun, there will always be a hard kernel on which she might yet again build a navy that will, if not rule the waves alone any more, in all events maintain her rightful place in the world and command respect for the White Ensign wherever it flies.  Long may it.

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