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Ramage and the Freebooters

BOOK: Ramage and the Freebooters
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Ramage & The Freebooters


First published in 1969

Copyright: Kay Pope; House of Stratus 1969-2010


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, Fore Street, 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 compliments paid by reviewers about 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 Barley Alison



As Ramage’s carriage rattled along Whitehall he was surprised to see the long and wide street was almost deserted. A file of red-coated soldiers swaggered past the end of Downing Street with the white plumes of their shakos streaming in the wind, boots gleaming black and cross-belts white from carefully applied pipe-clay. A brewer’s dray drawn by two pairs of horses and heavily laden with hogsheads precariously balanced, pyramid fashion, approached the Admiralty from Charing Cross.

A pieman pushing his handcart, corpulent from tasting his own wares and obviously tipsy from sampling those of a brewer, stopped outside the Banqueting House of Old Whitehall Palace and as he mopped his brow bellowed, ‘Buy my plum pudden!’ A pedlar, sitting astride his spavined horse and trying to persuade the occasional passers-by to look at the remarkable bargains in lace and brocade displayed in his large leather pack, glowered at the pieman and moved on another few yards.

On both sides of the street a few people dodging puddles left by a heavy shower of rain looked from a distance as if they were performing some complicated dance.

Ramage sat back, squashing the upholstery which exhaled a smell of mildew, picked up his cocked hat and jammed it on his head and – as the driver swore at the horses, swinging them over to the middle of the road for the sharp left turn under the narrow archway and into the forecourt of the Admiralty – wished he felt more like the naval officer he was than an errant schoolboy summoned before a wrathful headmaster.

The wheels chattered over the cobblestones before the carriage stopped in front of the four immense columns dominating the main entrance. The carriage door creaked open and a hand pulled the folding steps down. The doorman coming out of the entrance hall as Ramage alighted, stopped when he saw the visitor was a mere lieutenant and went back into the building.

Telling the coachman to wait, Ramage walked up the steps into the spacious entrance hall where a large, six-sided glass lantern hung from the ceiling and his footsteps echoed on the marble floor. On his left the large fireplace was still full of ashes from the night porter’s fire and on each side of it were the curious hooded black armchairs which always reminded him of a widow’s bonnet.

From one of them a liveried attendant rose with calculated languidness and, in a bored and condescending voice, asked: ‘Your business…sir?’

The ‘sir’ was not an afterthought; from constant practice it was carefully timed to indicate lieutenants were the lowliest of commission officers and that this was the Admiralty, of whose doors the speaker was the lawful guardian.

‘To see the First Lord.’

‘I…let me look at my list.’

Ramage tapped the floor with the scabbard of his dress sword.

The man opened the drawer of a small table and, although the list was obviously the only thing in it, he scrabbled about for some time before taking out a sheet of paper. After glancing at it he looked at Ramage insolently before replacing it and closing the drawer. ‘You’ll have to–’

‘I have an appointment,’ Ramage interrupted.

‘Quite…sir. I’ll try to arrange for you to see one of the secretaries. Maybe even this afternoon.’

‘I have an appointment with Lord Spencer at nine o’clock. Please tell him I’m here.’

‘Look,’ sneered the man, all pretence at politeness vanishing, ‘we get lieutenants in ’ere by the gross, captains by the score and admirals by the dozen, all claiming they’ve appointments with ‘is Lordship. There’s only one person on the list to see ‘is Lordship this morning and ’e ain’t you. You can wait in there’ – he pointed at the notorious waiting-room to the left of the main doors – ‘and I’ll see if I can find someone to see you.’

BOOK: Ramage and the Freebooters
5.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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