Reply To: Job of a powder boy during the Revolutionary/Napoleonic wars…

Home Forums Nautical Research: 1500 – 1830 Job of a powder boy during the Revolutionary/Napoleonic wars… Reply To: Job of a powder boy during the Revolutionary/Napoleonic wars…

#19288
Malcolm Lewis
Participant

    According to Peter Goodwin, one-time Curator and Keeper of HMS Victory at Portsmouth, the suggestion that filled powder cartridges and shot were passed in battle from the magazines to the gun decks of a ship such as Victory entirely by boys, is a myth. Eighty to one hundred people were needed for this task and there were only thirty-one boys on Victory, many of which were not actually boys as their ages ranged from twelve to nineteen. Anyone with duties of ammunition supply to the guns such as stewards, other non-combatants and women (if carried aboard) was referred to as a powder boy.

    To ensure a continuous supply of powder and shot often over many hours (Trafalgar was fought over five hours) teams of older men and older boys and other non-combatants were organised on each deck to relay supplies of shot and powder to the guns. These were passed to them by men stationed at the hatchways receiving shot hauled up using baskets and whips (hoists) from the hold. Younger boys were used on the gun decks to carry the “cases of wood” holding the powder cartridges passed up from the three magazines. The boys also had to douse down any loose powder around the guns to prevent the risk of explosion.
    Further reading: Nelson’s Victory 101 Questions and Answers about HMS Victory. Peter Goodwin 2000
    HMS Victory Pocket Manual 1805 Peter Goodwin 2017
    Malcolm Lewis