This is one of many thousands of similar books economically produced for the school prize market (not cheaply produced-they did not look “cheap”) particularly for boys. Winning one did not necessarily entail academic endeavor. Particularly in the Sunday School market, where they were awarded for just turning up.
This particular copy was awarded to my maternal grandfather Charles Warburton in 1899, when he was in his early 20s for regular attendance at a Young Men’s Bible Class in Liverpool.
W.H.G. Kingston 1814 – 1880 was a prolific author of “ripping yarns” for boys, and therefor enjoyed considerable popularity as a prize gift. So also was G.A. Henty, 1832-1902. However. Henty had served in the Crimea and later travelled extensively as a War Correspondent. He was the better historian of the two, although Kingston’s name only appears on the cover. It is not clear whether he revised Kingston’s text throughout, or merely added new material where Kingston left off. I have been unable to find “Our Sailors” mentioned in published bibliographies of either man’s work, but as both churned out two or even three books per year, this is not too surprising.
What is surprising is the extent of Royal Navy activity during Victoria’s Reign. Apart from the Russian War and the Opium Wars, there was hardly a corner of the globe where shots were not fired in anger, even if pacification was the objective. Also surprising is the extent to which “Bluejackets” were engaged in fighting ashore. Considerable space is given to descriptions of May individual acts of bravery, not necessarily during fighting.
Both writers have been criticized for the casual racism in their work, but that is not much in evidence here, and in any case needs to be considered in the light of contemporary attitudes at the time. I cannot say how accurate this work is, but it at least provides a useful check-list of RN activity during what was usually regarded as a “peaceful period”
One wonders to what extent a rich literary diet of this kind was responsible for the queues outside Recruiting Offices in August 1914…
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