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Ramage And The Drum Beat

BOOK: Ramage And The Drum Beat
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Copyright & Information

Ramage & The Drumbeat


First published in 1968

Copyright: Kay Pope; House of Stratus 1968-2010


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior permission of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.


The right of Dudley Pope to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted.


This edition published in 2010 by House of Stratus, an imprint of

Stratus Books Ltd., Lisandra House, Looe,

Cornwall, PL13 1AD, UK.


Typeset by House of Stratus.


A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library and the Library of Congress.




This is a fictional work and all characters are drawn from the author’s imagination.

Any resemblance or similarities to persons either living or dead are entirely coincidental.


About the Author


Dudley Bernard Egerton Pope
was born in Ashford, Kent on 29 December 1925. When at the tender age of fourteen World War II broke out and Dudley attempted to join the Home Guard by concealing his age. At sixteen, once again using a ruse, he joined the merchant navy a year early, signing papers as a cadet with the Silver Line. They sailed between Liverpool and West Africa, carrying groundnut oil.

Before long, his ship was torpedoed in the Atlantic and a few survivors, including Dudley, spent two weeks in a lifeboat prior to being rescued. His injuries were severe and because of them he was invalided out of the merchant service and refused entry into the Royal Navy when officially called up for active service aged eighteen.

Turning to journalism, he set about ‘getting on with the rest of his life’, as the Naval Review Board had advised him. He graduated to being Naval and Defence correspondent with the London Evening News in 1944. The call of the sea, however, was never far away and by the late 1940’s he had managed to acquire his first boat. In it, he took part in cross-channel races and also sailed off to Denmark, where he created something of a stir, his being one of the first yachts to visit the country since the war.

In 1953 he met Kay, whom he married in 1954, and together they formed a lifelong partnership in pursuit of scholarly adventure on the sea. From 1959 they were based in Porto Santo Stefano in Italy for a few years, wintering on land and living aboard during the summer. They traded up boats wherever possible, so as to provide more living space, and Kay Pope states:


‘In September 1963, we returned to England where we had bought the 53 foot cutter
Golden Dragon
and moved on board where she lay on the east coast. In July 1965, we cruised down the coasts of Spain and Portugal, to Gibraltar, and then to the Canary Islands. Early November of the same year we then sailed across the Atlantic to Barbados and Grenada, where we stayed three years.

Our daughter, Victoria was 4 months old when we left the UK and 10 months when we arrived in Barbados. In April 1968, we moved on board
in St Thomas, US Virgin Islands and lost our mainmast off St Croix, when attempting to return to Grenada.’


The couple spent the next nine years cruising between the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, before going to Antigua in 1977 and finally St.Martin in 1979.

The sea was clearly in Pope’s blood, his family having originated in Padstow, Cornwall and later owning a shipyard in Plymouth. His great-grandfather had actually preceded him to the West Indies when in 1823, after a spell in Canada, he went to St.Vincent as a Methodist missionary, before returning to the family business in Devon.

In later life, Dudley Pope was forced to move ashore because of vertigo and other difficulties caused by injuries sustained during the war. He died in St.Martin in 1997, where Kay now lives. Their daughter, Victoria, has in turn inherited a love of the sea and lives on a sloop, as well as practising her father's initial profession of journalism.

As an experienced seaman, talented journalist and historian, it was a natural progression for Pope to write authoritative accounts of naval battles and his first book,
Flag 4: The Battle of Coastal Forces in the Mediterranean
, was published in 1954. This was followed in 1956 by the
Battle of the River Plate
, which remains the most accurate and meticulously researched account of this first turning point for Britain in World War II. Many more followed, including the biography of Sir Henry Morgan, (
Harry Morgan’s Way
) which has one won wide acclaim as being both scholarly and thoroughly readable. It portrays the history of Britain’s early Caribbean settlement and describes the Buccaneer’s bases and refuges, the way they lived, their ships and the raids they made on the coast of central America and the Spain Main, including the sack of Panama.

Recognising Pope’s talent and eye for detail, C.S. Forrester (the creator of the
Hornblower Series
) encouraged him to try his hand at fiction. The result, in 1965, was the appearance of the first of the
novels, followed by a further seventeen culminating with
Ramage and the Dido
which was published in 1989. These follow the career and exploits of a young naval officer, Nicholas Ramage, who was clearly named after Pope’s yacht. He also published the ‘
Ned Yorke
’ series of novels, which commences as would be expected in the Caribbean, in the seventeenth century, but culminates in
with a Ned Yorke of the same family many generations on fighting the Battle of the Atlantic.

All of Dudley Pope’s works are renowned for their level of detail and accuracy, as well as managing to bring to the modern reader an authentic feeling of the atmosphere of the times in which they are set.


Some of the many tributes paid by reviewers of Dudley Pope’s work:


‘Expert knowledge of naval history’- Guardian


“An author who really knows Nelson’s navy” - Observer


‘The best of Hornblower’s successors’ - Sunday Times


‘All the verve and expertise of Forrester’ - Observer




For Bill and our baby Jane

who sailed across the Atlantic with us



The heat and humidity of a Mediterranean summer made the watermark in the paper stand out like a fading scar, and traces of mildew left a tarnished gilt outline round the edges. The orders, in a clerk’s careful handwriting that was sufficiently faint to indicate he was short of powder to make the ink, were dated 21st October, 1796, headed ‘By Commodore Horatio Nelson, Commander of His Majesty’s ship Diadem and senior officer of His Majesty’s ships and vessels at Bastia,’ and addressed to ‘Lieutenant Lord Ramage, Commander of His Majesty’s ship Kathleen’. They said, with a directness reflecting the Commodore’s manner:


‘You are hereby required and directed to receive on board His Majesty’s ship under your command the persons of the Marchesa di Volterra and Count Pitti, and to proceed with all possible despatch to Gibraltar, being careful to follow a southerly route to avoid interception by enemy ships of war… On arrival at Gibraltar you will report forthwith to the Admiral commanding to receive orders for your further proceedings.’


And be told, Ramage guessed, that the Marchesa and Pitti would go to England in a much bigger ship. The Kathleen would then almost certainly be ordered to rejoin the Commodore’s squadron, which should have finished evacuating the British troops from Bastia (leaving the whole of Corsica in rebel and French hands) and have sailed back to the island of Elba to salvage what it could as General Bonaparte’s troops swept southward down the Italian mainland like a river in full flood.

Genoa, Pisa, Milan, Florence, Leghorn and by now perhaps even Civitavecchia and Rome… Each city and port that was beautiful and useful to the French would have a Tricolour and a wrought iron Tree of Liberty (with the absurd Red Cap of Liberty perched on top) set up in its main piazza, with a guillotine nearby for those unable to stomach the Tree’s bitter fruit.

Yet, he thought ironically, it’s an ill wind… Thanks to Bonaparte’s invasion, His Majesty’s cutter Kathleen was now the first command of Lieutenant Ramage; and thanks to Bonaparte – an unlikely enough Cupid – one of those who had fled before his troops was on board the Kathleen and the said Lieutenant Ramage had fallen in love with her…

He scratched his face with the feather of his quill pen and thought of another set of orders, the secret orders which had, like a fuse leading to a row of powder kegs, set off a series of explosions which had rocked his career for the past couple of months.

On 1st September, the date those orders were issued to the captain of the Sibella frigate, he had been the junior of three lieutenants on board. The orders, known only to the captain, had been to take the Sibella to a point off the Italian coast and rescue several Italian nobles who had fled from the French and were hiding near the beach.

But a chance evening meeting with a French line of battle- ships had left the Sibella a shattered wreck, with himself the only surviving officer, and as night came down he’d been able to escape in the remaining boats with the unwounded men. And before quitting the Sibella he’d grabbed the dead captain’s secret orders.

Supposing he had thrown them over the side in the special weighted box kept for the purpose? That’s what he should have done, since there was a considerable risk that the French would capture him.

Well he hadn’t; instead he’d read them in the open boat – and found that only a few miles away the Marchesa di Volterra and two cousins, Counts Pitti and Pisano, with several other nobles, were waiting to be rescued. The fact that the Volterras were old friends of his parents hadn’t influenced his decision (no, he was sure it hadn’t) to take one of the boats and carry out the rescue.

BOOK: Ramage And The Drum Beat
3.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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