After a spell on dry land, Lord Ramage and HMS Calypso are ordered by Admiral Lord Nelson to join his fleet at Cadiz in Spain. Ramage joins the fleet after a speedy journey from England (however, Nelson’s journey was even faster). His first mission there is to communicate with a spy onshore. He carries out his mission and reports his findings.
Then it is back to fleet duty – watching the Franco-Spanish fleet and relaying signals to Nelson’s fleet. That is the role of frigates in a major ship of the line action. But the routine is suddenly broken when a large Spanish 74 gun ship of the line comes steaming after the Calypso in hot pursuit. The Calypso cannot outsail the Spaniard, and things look very bad. But, as usual, Captain Ramage has a card up in his sleeve. Just a small one, but even so one that gives Calypso a chance.
Finally, the whole Franco-Spanish combined fleet breaks out of the harbor with the English fleet following them and watch their every move. Admiral Nelson is severely outnumbered but thinks he has a good chance to beat them even so. He has devised a new naval tactic for the occasion that he has strong faith in. Overall, the reasons why Nelson is Britain’s greatest hero are made very clear in this book.
From the point where the action starts, this book is a nautical thriller. The battle is very tough, as we know from history, and it is excellently described by Dudley Pope. And even though Ramage’s role – with a frigate in a major naval battle – is minor, he still manages to distinguish himself. This book, especially the last half of it, is a treat. The climax is grand, and – as well – Ramage at Trafalgar has a wonderfully sad ending as Ramage appears headed for another court-martial due to yet another of his valiant actions in breach of his orders. An excellent nautical fiction book in an interesting and entertaining series!
Takes over the helm from Hornblower. — Daily Mirror