‘HMS Brunswick breaking the line at the battle of the First of June, 1794’, N. Pocock

‘HMS Brunswick breaking the line at the battle of the First of June, 1794’ by Nicholas Pocock.

I was acquainted with Nicholas Pocock and his works when I read Sam Willis’ ‘The Glorious First of June’. I really enjoyed that book not only for the historical knowledge it gave me on that specific fleet action, but also for bringing in a lot of information on naval paintings.

For example, this painting here looks amazing. I would have said that before, and I would say that now. What I did not know to appreciate beforehand would have been that the ships here are moving with the roll of the sea. Mind you, I might have noticed this, but imagine the complexity of this action: the HMS Brunswick about to roll upwards with her French enemies in the opposite period about to move downwards with the crew hopefully ready to fire cannons at the specific moment when they can cause the most damage.

It is this complexity and level of detail that Nicholas Pocock brought into naval painting, and I think that he made the world a better place for it. Sure, maybe the roll of these ships can be rightly appreciated only by the officers onboard who won their lives by those waves, but I would think that a quest for such detail does not hurt in any of us.

As an interesting fact, I’ll add that I remember from Mr Willis’ book that the HMS Brunswick’s figurehead’s hat was blown away in this action and the Captain had to replace it with his own by demand of the crew!

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