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The Fighting Temeraire: The Battle of Trafalgar and the Ship that Inspired J. M. W. Turner's Most Beloved Painting (Hearts of Oak Trilogy #1)

4.04  ·  Rating Details ·  129 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
The H.M.S. Temeraire, one of Britain`s most illustrious fighting ships, is known to millions through J.M.W. Turner`s masterpiece, The Fighting Temeraire (1839), which portrays the battle-scarred veteran of Britain`s wars with Napoleonic France. In this evocative new volume, Sam Willis tells the extraordinary story of the vessel behind the painting and the making of the pai ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published November 15th 2010 by Pegasus (first published November 1st 2009)
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Community Reviews

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Oct 21, 2015 Bfisher rated it really liked it
Shelves: military-history
I was first exposed to The Fighting Temeraire as a schoolboy in the 60’s, via Sir Henry Newbolt’s poem, just before the dramatic curriculum revisions of the late 60’s and 70’s.

Now the sunset’s breezes shiver,
And she’s fading down the river,
But in England’s song for ever
She’s the Fighting Temeraire.

Here is a link to a recording of Newbolt reading his poem:

There is a vast amount of excellent historical fiction on the Royal Navy in the Age of Fighting Sail, e
Feb 22, 2011 Mhbright rated it really liked it
Wonderful account of the ship that captured two French ships at Trafalgar and was much later the subject of Turner's painting, voted the favorite of the English public. The painting, in turn, inspired Newbolt's poem: "Now the sunset's breezes shiver, / And she's fading down the river, / But in England's song for ever / She's the Fighting Temeraire.
Hunter Jones
Dec 31, 2016 Hunter Jones rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
One of my favorite reads of 2016.
In a recent poll, J. M. W. Turner's The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up, 1838, depicting an aging warship being towed up the Thames to a breaking yard, was voted the British public's favourite painting. It's easy to see why. The Fighting Temeraire is a remarkable work, created at the peak of Turner's ability, and is a beautiful tribute to the passing of the previous age of tall ships and a time when Britannia - for better or worse - ruled the waves.

Many people may no
David Bird
Sep 03, 2012 David Bird rated it liked it
Willis is clearly more interested in naval history than art history. His take on the former is detailed, and has an interesting focus on the Seven Years War (known in these parts as the French and Indian War), where the original French ship of this name was captured by the British. As with David Cordingly's The Billy Ruffian: The Bellerophon and the Downfall of Napoleon, the story of a single ship provides a frame for naval history of the period through both the well known fleet actions and the ...more
While mostly a biography (in a loosely-termed way) of one of the most famous ships of the Royal Navy, an historical subsection that didn't really exist until a few years ago, this book is even more unique for the element of art history contained in its final chapters. The majority of the book is devoted to the Temeraire's years in service, including her most famous day at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, all the way to her final years as a prison hulk, a depot ship, to finally being broken up in ...more
John Gordon
Aug 04, 2013 John Gordon rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
The HMS Temeraire was a 98 gun ship of the line at Trafalgar and played a crucial part in that battle. This ship has a long and illustrious history in the days of fighting sail. Thanks to the iconic painting "The Fighting Temeraire" by JMW Turner we have a nostalgic connection to the story of this great ship.

This book is well written, it traces the story of the capture of the original Temeraire from the French at Lagos Bay (1759) and its subsequent service. Then after the war and scrapping, a ne
Tim C
Dec 09, 2012 Tim C rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This book is essentially a history of two ships and a painting - all three connected by the single word 'Temeraire', which makes for an interesting and somewhat novel angle for a historical enquiry. Sam Willis is an engaging writer and the book flows nicely, even though the history itself can tend a little toward the military-patriotic bombast of the "what made 'Great' Britain great" kind. That said though, the book is an excellent examination of cultural perception, i.e. - how the ships and the ...more
Feb 18, 2011 Ross rated it liked it
I read a lot of history intended for the lay public as opposed to professional historians, You could call this "big picture" or "macro" history. This book is "micro" history covering in detail the story of two ships and a painting, starting in the year 1759.
For the general reader this micro history would be deadly boring, but for denizens of the gunroom it is fascinating stuff.
The first ship was built by the French and captured by the British navy in the Seven Years War in 1759.
The second ship w
Jesse Decker
Mar 01, 2011 Jesse Decker rated it it was ok
I first noticed The Fighting Temeraire because of the Temeraire fantasy series by Naomi Novik. This book covers the history of the two British ships that shared the name Temeraire (the first was a French prize). Spanning much of the Age of Sail and featuring many of the most famous battles of the era, The Fighting Temeraire was a real effort to wade through. I don’t mind working to get through a book (A Random Walk Down Wall Street, I glance in your direction…), but the learning really has to pa ...more
David Linzee
Aug 13, 2016 David Linzee rated it liked it
A famous ship provides the launch pad for entertaining explorations of British history. Actually, there were two ships. The first Temeraire took part in what we Americans call the French and Indian War, but was actually the first world war. The second won fame at Trafalgar, but also took part in less-known activities in the Baltic and elsewhere. The painting became Britain's all-time favorite, though its meaning is not as simple and nostalgic as it appears to be. The writing is lively and humoro ...more
Kate  K. F.
Dec 11, 2012 Kate K. F. rated it it was amazing
A good non-fiction book can make you feel as if you're reading a narrative with added history, this book does that incredibly well. Willis charts the history of the two ships to carry the Temeraire and how they inspired the British nation and fit into the naval history of the 1700 and 1800s. Each chapter is headed the something Temeraire and takes the reader into different eras of history to explain the power of these great ships. I recommend this book to anyone interested in naval history or ar ...more
Sep 22, 2015 Koit rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I find something inspiring in the way Mr Willis writes these naval stories, they are often uplifting but also provide a window into a time two centuries ago. 'The Fighting Temeraire', as the others in his three-book trilogy, does not disappoint; rather it provides for an interesting story that spans the globe and which illustrates the best of Britain at a time when the country was at near-endless war.
Steve Chambers
Jun 08, 2014 Steve Chambers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good history of the two most famous ships to bear the name.
Considering the lack of good primary source documents and images this is a surprisingly complete account of service 200+ years ago.
I did struggle to stay interested through the final esoteric discussion on art history and how it has impacted on ship preservation though.
Apr 04, 2016 Sally rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book. Tells the story of an iconic battleship, highlighting the lives of those who served - and died - as part of her crew, and as her enemies.

The book also provides a view of why these old vessels, such as Temeraire and Victory are still of great value to us, culturally and as part of our long naval history.
Allan Harle
An interesting book. I was more interested in the historical side of the book. So the artistic part was a destraction, although not a bad one. I probably will look at paintings more closely in future. I have the other two books of the series to read, but not straight away.
Oct 12, 2012 John rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: napleonic-wars
An interesting but ordinary read about one of Nelson's ships of the line. The story really started to drag after the Battle of Trafalgar, and the final chapter about the symbolism of Turner's painting was really dry. It seemed as if the author was just trying to bring the book to an end.
Bob Keeney
Oct 07, 2012 Bob Keeney rated it really liked it
I've always been fascinated by the Brits' fascination with Turner's painting of the Temeraire being towed by a steam tug to be broken up. This book explains it - the highs and lows of the ship's history, the battle of Trafagar, and the pathos of watching an ancient warrior towed to the boneyard.
Riff Denbow
Nov 07, 2014 Riff Denbow rated it it was amazing
A ripping good history of bravery, one of the most famous ships, and one of the greatest paintings in history.
pete saussy
Jan 10, 2015 pete saussy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Saucy Temeraire

The art of war in the art of war, the ship, her crew, the painting and what it means. Good
Rik Chandler
Rik Chandler rated it really liked it
May 06, 2016
Mr Christopher Jones
Mr Christopher Jones rated it it was amazing
Jan 23, 2016
Damian and Catherine Borchok
Damian and Catherine Borchok rated it really liked it
Dec 26, 2016
Shirley rated it it was amazing
Jun 11, 2016
Dave West
Dave West rated it it was amazing
Mar 12, 2012
Will Angel
Will Angel rated it really liked it
Dec 19, 2013
Joe rated it liked it
Aug 26, 2015
Dave pike
Dave pike rated it it was amazing
May 27, 2016
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Marko Werth rated it really liked it
May 29, 2013
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Apr 05, 2015
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Dr Sam Willis is a maritime historian and archaeologist and is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

He is the author of the best-selling Hearts of Oak Trilogy and the Fighting Ships Series. He has consulted on maritime history for many clients including the BBC, Channel 4, NBC America and Christie's.

Sam's work is coloured by his knowledge and experience of seamanship. Sam's unique approach t
More about Sam Willis...

Other Books in the Series

Hearts of Oak Trilogy (3 books)
  • The Admiral Benbow: The Life And Times Of A Naval Legend
  • The Glorious First of June (Hearts of Oak Trilogy, #3)

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“the political and symbolic significance of retaining a captured ship’s name were powerful, as was the sailors’ belief that to change the name of a ship was unlucky. British sailors were unable or unwilling to pronounce Téméraire properly, and so she became to them Timmera.” 1 likes
“the Harveys’ most famous son. An experimental physician famous for his discovery of the circulation of the blood, he had been the personal physician to Charles I and had been present with him at the Battle of Edgehill in 1642. Research in the Harvey family papers has also revealed that he was responsible for the only known scientific examination of a witch’s familiar. Personally ordered by Charles I to examine a lady suspected of witchcraft who lived on the outskirts of Newmarket, the dubious Harvey visited her in the guise of a wizard. He succeeded in capturing and dissecting her pet toad. The animal, Harvey concluded dryly, was a toad.” 0 likes
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