Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Lifes A bitch, and It Boils Down to Money Mostly.

Ever think life is rather unfair, believe me consider the fate of Sir Cloudesley Shovell and you will think again. Sir Cloudesley had a distinguished naval career, and lived a life of unblemished rectitude. He served in the Nine Years War, and was appointed Commander in Chief of the British Fleets, he was also a Member of Parliament. So far very good. But the navy were cheeseparing skinflints, and were not prepared to finance the work into developing a way of calculating longitude.

Our hero was, it seems infallible. But on November 8th 1707, Sir Cloudesley was returning from yet another triumph against the French when he took his entire fleet , the pride of the British navy onto the rocks off The Isles Of Scilly. Two thousand sailors were lost, and it was perhaps the greatest disaster in Naval history , and all for the want of Longitude. There is a suggestion that he jumped ship whilst the going was good, in any event he managed to struggle ashore, but was murdered by a local woman who took a fancy to a valuable emerald ring he was wearing. You see what I mean about life … but then one could say, the shame of all this would have been hard for him to live with. But why I am interested in the story, is that thirty years later, another great naval voyage was to set off, without the greatest invention in naval history, the Harrison clock which would have prevented a repetition of this disaster. And all because the admiralty had not changed, they knew Harrison had the clock, indeed it had been tried a few years earlier on the Flag ship of the new venture the Centurion. The Commodore George Anson, pleaded with the naval board, but they would not advance the money for the final development. One theory is that the naval board did not want the clock to fall, into the hands of the enemy, and they did not want to give Harrison the promised reward for his invention. Whatever the reasons, there was of course another great loss of life almost as large as Sir Cloudesely’s doomed voyage, and all for the want of Longitude. You will be able to read about this in nine months when I have finished Summers Grace …… now of course our great navy could fit onto the Serpentine. Makes one think.

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