An Interview with Sam Willis

Historic Naval Fiction is pleased to have obtained an Interview with Sam Willis on the release of his new book in the Hearts of Oak Trilogy, The Glorious First of June.

What can you tell us about your new book The Glorious First of June?

It is the story of one of Britain’s most significant but overlooked naval battles. It is unique for numerous reasons, each important in its own right:

  • It was the first naval battle of the French Revolutionary War.
  • It was the only fleet battle during the Reign of Terror.
  • It was the first fleet battle in British or French history that was fought for political ideology rather than for territory, religion or trade or at the whim of monarchs.
  • It was the longest fleet battle for 128 years.
  • The British won an impressive tactical victory though their fleet was undermanned and out of practice.
  • It was the largest British naval victory for 102 years but was celebrated as a victory by the French and the British navy as well as by the Americans.
  • It was the first naval battle witnessed and then depicted by a professional artist for 128 years – the book includes an Appendix of images made on the spot.
  • It was witnessed by Matthew Flinders, then a Midshipman on Bellerophon, who made numerous detailed battle plans − all reproduced in the book.
  • It was the first naval battle in the eighteenth century in which an Admiral deliberately tried to break the enemy line.
  • It was the first battle made famous by a ‘panorama’, an artistic technique which became standard for celebrating naval battles.
  • It was the first battle for which British officers received a medal.
  • It was the first battle to be celebrated by an immediate Royal review of the fleet.

But of all of these claims to distinction, the most important and the most interesting is this:  The Glorious First of June was, without question, the hardest-fought battle of the Age of Sail.

Read More An Interview with Sam Willis.