This is the story of the Bellerophon, a ship of the line known to her crew as the Billy Rufflan. And like any good biography it runs from birth (in a small shipyard on the river Medway near Rochester in 1782), to death (in a breaker's yard a mile or so upstream at the age of fifty-four). In the intervening years, under fourteen captains, she played a conspicuous part in three of the most famous of all sea battles: the battle of the Glorious First of June (1794), the opening action against Revolutionary France; the battle of the Nile (1798), which halted Napoleon's eastern expansion from Cairo; and the battle of Trafalgar (1805), which established British naval supremacy for 100 years and during which her captain was shot dead with a musket ball an hour before Nelson was mortally wounded. But her crowning glory came six weeks after the Battle of Waterloo, when the Napoleon, trapped in La Rochelle, surrendered to the captain of the ship that had dogged his steps for more than twenty years.
'A thrilling narrative which brings engaging the enemy so alive that you smell the cordite of the guns and hear the splintering of mighty masts and spars' Independent 'A masterly account and, like all good biographies, says as much, if not more, about the historical context as about the subject itself' Sunday Times 'Richly entertaining and informative ... These resurrected log books, captains' letters and court martial reports give us a thrillingly up-close feeling for what it was like to live and fight through those tumultuous best of times and worst of times' Independent on Sunday 'Cordingly has unearthed a revealing study ... The account of Napoleon's brief incarceration on the ship in July 1815 is fascinating ... original and well-researched' Daily Telegraph