Reply To: HMS Victory repainted in grey and salmon pink

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Malcolm Lewis

    Thank you Frank for reminding me of this article.
    Reading ‘The Application and Scheme of Paintworks in British Men-of-War in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries’- Peter G. Goodwin, The Mariner’s Mirror Vol 99:3 August 2013 page 291, Peter refers to “notes made by Colonel Walter Fawkes at the battle of the Nile 1–3 August 1798 where he observed the colour schemes of both fleets in some detail (table1 page 292)”. He continues “That nothing is recorded for L’Orient (The French flagship) indicates that Fawkes made his record in daylight the day after the battle as L’Orient had blown up during the night”.
    Walter Ramsden Fawkes (1769 – 1825) of Farnley Hall in North Yorkshire was a close friend and patron of artist William Turner who was a frequent guest. Fawkes gained his military title as commanding officer of the West Yorks Militia, a local defence unit. He was M.P. for Yorkshire 1805-7.
    In the references in Peter Goodwin’s article is mention of an article by SNR member Louis Paul (marine artist) entitled “An Artists Notes at The Battle of the Nile” (Mariner’s Mirror 4:8 1914). Paul bought them from a London bookseller around 1900 and discovered they contained notes and sketches made by Walter Fawkes at the actual battle – quite a find. Paul was impressed with the detail of the sketches which indicated Fawkes was no mean artist himself. Paul’s researches established that Col.Fawkes was absent with leave from his regiment during July and August 1798.
    Looking at accounts of the battle I can find no other references to Fawkes presence. Nelson had been watching the French fleet since April and prior to eventually discovering their fleet in Aboukir Bay had been constantly at sea searching. The puzzling thing is how did Col. Fawkes come to be at the battle at the beginning of August? Why was he there? How did he travel? How did he find Nelson? Which ship was he in?
    It was such a significant victory applauded by the nation as a whole one would think that Col. Fawkes would have provided greater detail of this amazing experience, not just a detailed account of the colours ships of both sides were painted.
    Have any historians of the period any suggestions please?