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…

Tagged: 

Viewing 3 posts - 1 through 3 (of 3 total)
  • Author
    Posts
  • #19248
    Ide Crawford
    Participant

      I’d love more detail on the duties of a powder monkey during the Napoleonic Wars. Are there any accounts of the time describing their job during action?

      #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

        #19289
        Malcolm Lewis
        Participant

          I would also add to my last post that those members of the crew providing supplies of powder and shot to the guns were called “powder monkeys” as well as “powder boys” regardless of their age or sex.
          Most of the younger boys were recruited from the Marine Society, a charity that cared for and educated poor and destitute boys found on the streets of London.
          Reference; Nelson’s Navy -Brian Lavery 1989
          Malcolm Lewis

        Viewing 3 posts - 1 through 3 (of 3 total)
        • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.