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Book: Log of the Centurion by Leo Heaps

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Book: Log of the Centurion by Leo Heaps

(Circa 1973)


Last week I turned the half century, and I was in a very grumpy mood. Even more so than the Old Salty Pirate with that Southern drawl we all love. My spirits were lifted from a package arriving from the Mother in-law of all people. The Outlaws had kindly bought/stole for me a first edition of the book above.

Based on the original papers of Capt. Philip Saumarez on-board HMS Centurion, Lord Anson’s flagship during his circumnavigation 1740-44.

Brief Outline

From 1740-1744 Admiral Anson (1697-1762) commanded the naval Squadron attacking the Spanish Colonies and shipping in South America. On completion of his duties he returned home in HMS Centurion by circumnavigating the world with over £500,000 of Spanish Treasure on board his ship (the equivalent of over 50 Million pounds at today's rates). That journey was one of the great voyages of discovery and exploration of its age and was fully sanctioned by Queen Elizabeth I as formal naval expedition.

All the Ship's officers involved were assured of success with four going on to achieve Flag rank (i.e. promotion to Admiral) and further glory. The one exception, however, was Captain Philip Saumarez who was killed by a stray cannon ball in 1747. Nevertheless, his four books which detailed the voyage of the Centurion (though long thought to be lost) were discovered in the early 1970's in his family home in the Channel Islands.

This book is an account of the journey of the Centurion and is taken from those original papers.

The Book

I found it a fascinating and enjoyable read. Its packed full of pictures, maps, illustrations, letters and drawings from the day. However, I doubt it’s for everybody’s tastes as it does go into some extreme details. The hardship the men suffered was extraordinary, and haven’t read this type of detail in either fact or fictional accounts elsewhere.

One detail regarding the loss of life was very old and unhealthy sailors on the ships to start with. The circumnavigation around the globe to survive and with the gold was remarkable. The Navigation I truly found fascinating how these men did it, page by page.

To Close

I would recommend this book, but its not a fast read. It does cover ALL aspects of Naval Action from fighting to management of the crew though the journey with no guarantee of survival. Seeing his own written words was just fascinating, they come alive off the page.

Not sure, but Google Books might give a free copy.   

Thanks for reading and let me know what you think,


Norfolk nChance [ELITE]



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Big thanks for the reply, much appreciated. You probably can guess my current area of study is realistic navigation with the Mutiny on the Bounty post as well.

This book shows the extreme hardship a sailor faced at the time. Although nothing new, but the chance of reward was vastly higher than as a land surf or in the British army. The problem was the old and infirm that made up such a large portion of the working crew. This resulting in the high-end death rate. Why and how did the senior management allow for this...?

The Bounty had no pressed sailors all volunteers, with many sailings with Cook & Bligh on previous voyages. Both voyages should extreme acts of courage and skill in navigation and crew management. This using the standard model laid down by the Admiralty of the time.

The Book was a dark read as I’ve implied above. In hindsight in both cases, how much thought went into the men, the crew as a whole? Not much, yet Nelson took able seaman from Agamemnon with him to other ships.



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