Union Jack

1. A new begining

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"Ship Ahoy!"
"Where away".
"Beaver", came the reply.
"Side guard ready Sir." The Officer of the watch spoke nervously.
"Well done Mr Ellington, well done". Came the first officers reply.
As the boat hook locked onto the chains the bosun's mate began the shrill call as the new captain was piped aboard.
Captain and commander, newly promoted, Jack Union stood for the first time on the deck of his first command and doffed his hat to the flag.
"Welcome aboard, sir".
"Yes, now lead on Mr Linden. muster the crew and I'll read myself in".
Jack proceeded to the rail separating poop, such as it was, from main. By the time he had taken place the crew, who were awaiting the call were mustered facing him. Jack read himself in then simply stated that he was going below and would the 1st Officer join him.

Jack was smiling to himself but corrected his outward smile as he approached the marine sentry at his door. Snapping to attention the marine quickly opened the door for his new captain and 1st officer. He sat behind the small sea going desk and at the mountain of books and papers that came with the responsibility of command.
"Will you share a glass with me Mr Linden?"
"Glad to sir, glad to".
Jack poured each a measure of Madeira into some fine tumblers then sat as he addressed his 1st officer.
"I'd like an inspection of the ship and are we fully provisioned, water, shot, powder, spare sail etc?"
"Yes sir, except spare sail and yards. The dock master says they are in short supply."
"Um, a small problem but I'm sure we can manage. I'd like to take her out when the tide turns then be back for dusk. We should receive our orders by then, although I have a hint of what our first task will entail in no short measure".
Before the 1st officer could inquire more, Jack was on his feet and heading for the door. The 1st officer gulped down the last of his drink and quickly followed. He was surprised during the next 2 hours as Jack probed every space of the Beaver, even the bilges. Asked numerous questions of carpenter, gunner and ships master. Seemingly satisfied he ordered the sails set and the Beaver gathered way and proceeded out of Mahon.

Jack took note of his ships company. Reading through the punishment book, ships company and accounts gave him at least a basic idea of his predecessor. The ship was 15 hands short of its full compliment of 130 Officers, men and the marine compliment. Better than he could have thought for as the last captain had managed to take 5 men with him to his next command. Something he hoped in time would be remedied.

A good run out to sea and back in port before the 2nd bell of the first dog watch sounded, the Beaver glided into port. No sooner had she rounded the headland than the masthead lookout cried "Signal from the flag".

Jack brought his telescope to bare and observed the fall of flags indicating 'Captain repair on board immediately'. No sooner had they dropped anchor but the captains gig had been swung out and shortly after they were pulling for the flagship. Jack wondered what his orders might be?

"You're late". Was the terse reply from the Captain of the Blyth, an old 80 gun 3rd rate. Doffing his hat Jack followed the rapidly disappearing Captain towards the stern cabin. The marine sentry snapped to attention and the steward, who must have been waiting inside, smartly opened the door as the Captain proceeded in without hesitation followed by Jack.
"Captain Union, Sir, of the Beaver".
"I know which ship he's from damn it. I'm not an addled drunkard Williams, apologies; Captain Williams. Now come here Union, I'm not going to bite. What I'm about to give you is vital to our keeping command in the Mediterranean. Yours is the fastest ship we have available so it falls to you. This package contains letters for the Admiral in Gibraltar. On no account must they fall into the hands of the enemy. You must leave at once. When do you expect to site the Rock, um? Come on now speak up". Captain Williams stood behind the Commodore smirking.
Jack had already done the arithmetic in his head. "Allowing for a favourable wind I expect to site the Rock in 4 days, sir".
"Outstanding Williams, simply outstanding. You said he wouldn't do it in 5!" The commodore said without looking behind otherwise he would have seen Captain Williams smirk change to one of anger.
"Right, here's the package", the Commodore handed over a small sealskin pouch, "Now keep it close. It's weighted. Any chance of capture throw it into the sea. Take 1 other into you're confidence, if you're incapacitated then they must carry out my orders." With that the Commodore indicated for Jack to leave with a simple wave of his hand.

It wasn't long before Jack was back on his own ship and issuing orders to make sail. Luckily he had had the water replenished and although low on powder he reckoned he had enough as he didn't intend to get into any fights on the way to Gibraltar. With little wind in the harbour he ordered the first lieutenant to warp the Beaver out of harbour to catch the light breeze he knew from experience they would encounter just outside the sheltered mouth of the harbour entrance.

A day into the journey and near to dusk the masthead lookout had given the cry 'strange sail to the north'. Although it worried Jack, there wasn't much he could do. Some of the sailors on deck watching their new Captains reaction to the call nudged each other in anticipation of a possible prize. When the call never came to change tack they wondered what their new captain was about, coward or cautious; only time would tell.

Dawn of the 3rd day broke and another cry from the masthead lookout. 'strange sail on the starboard beam'. Damn Jack thought. The strange sail had closed during the night. He didn't hurry as he approached the rail and sighted the smudge in the distance. Lining up his telescope he observed a lateen masted ship bearing down on them from the nor'west. The ship looked bigger and was certainly faster, it could also sail closer to the wind than the Beaver. Jack decided to try and out run the newcomer and make Gibraltar as fast as he could.

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Jack knew they would have to fight the newcomer was a Spanish 6th rate he judged to carry 20+ guns to his 18. The larger ship had closed the distance in the last 4 hours. He ordered the ship to beat to quarters. Jack had to put his trust in his crew a crew he had never been in action with before.

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Jack let the ship close and timing the distance right tacked to windward and ordered the starboard guns to fire as they bare. The guns rippled down the length of the Beaver shrouding the side in white smoke as the wind blew it back tino their faces. Jack observed most of his shots had hit home but it hadn't stopped the Spaniard.

Jack turned to starboard as the Spaniard tacked to port and fired off a full broadside. The rear of The Beaver took the brunt. His sailing master informed him that there was some damage to the rudder and a small fire had started in his cabin but he had sent men to deal with it. Jack thanked him and concentrated on what to do next.

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Healing over the Beaver turned easily with the wind now behind her and the port battery opened up it's score with a barrage of shot that blasted the port side of the Spaniard into smithereens. One of the Spaniards shot had landed below the water line and he dispatched his first officer to find out the damage. It was bad but not too bad. They were holed below the water line but the pumps could manage for now.

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Another barrage and hail of ball left the Beaver almost un-seaworthy. Jack ordered the wheel hard over and told his crew that they had to board and take the Spaniard or surrender. Closing with the Spaniard there was no way to avoid the collision.

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The marines fired a volley into the Spaniards before Jack ordered borders away and the crew of the Beaver stormed over the bowsprit rail and poured onto the Spaniards deck. The collision had knocked most of the Spaniards off their feet and Jack's men reveled in their advantage. The Spaniards began to fall back as the ferocity of the English crew took them by surprise.

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Jack was leading his men fighting towards the rear of the Spanish ship. They had taken remakrably few casualties and his men sensed victory was near at hand.

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A cry from the rear and Jack knew had had walked into a trap. From the fore grating, now thrown to one side, Spaniards, hidden from view burst forth and assailed his men from the rear. Caught between two forces jack's men fought on with desperation. The Spaniards now attacked with renewed vigour as soon as they knew their trap had worked.

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Jack found himself fighting the Spanish Captain and good as he was he went down to a lightning thrust from Jack. Their Captain dead the fight went out of the Spanish and they threw down their weapons. Jack made haste and got his crew to lock the survivors below deck after first separating the officers from the men. The officers were taken over to the Beaver. The crew lashed the Beaver to the side of the Spanish ship called Goma and jury rigged a patch over the hole in the side.

Jack made Gibraltar on the eve of the fourth day with a handsome prize.

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Updated 11-01-2015 at 16:08 by Union Jack

Captain Jack Union