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Monday, July 18, 2011

Enter the Dragon

I'm delighted to be able to confirm that The History Press has commissioned my latest non-fiction project, Britannia's Dragon: A Naval History of Wales. This will be the first book ever to focus on the long history of connections between Wales and the Royal Navy, as well as on naval warfare in the era of the independent princes. English seapower was one of the most important factors in ending Welsh independence, and during the 16th and 17th centuries the Welsh developed a formidable reputation as pirates and buccaneers. However, the main focus of the book will be the contribution made by Wales and Welshmen to the development of the Royal Navy from the 17th to the 21st centuries, looking at the careers of Welsh sailors and officers, the nature and success of recruitment in the country, the experiences of Welshmen in naval service, and the activities of warships with strong ties to Wales - such as HMS Glamorgan in the Falklands War and HMS Cardiff in the Gulf War. The Battle of the Nile might not have been such a great victory for Nelson without the input of a Welshman; the Battle of Jutland really might have won or lost World War One in an afternoon were it not for the actions of another Welshman. Without Welsh copper, it is doubtful whether 'Nelson's Navy' would have been as successful as it was; without Welsh coal, the Victorian navy probably could not have imposed the 'Pax Britannica'. The book will also look at the history of Wales's only royal dockyard, Pembroke Dock, and at the ships built there (including many royal yachts); and it will also include a study of the naval shipwrecks of the Welsh coast.

I'm really looking forward to working with the team at the History Press on this. I actually began research on Britannia's Dragon some time before its commissioning was confirmed; indeed, in some senses I began work on it when I was eight and saw HMS Seraph, of 'the man who never was' fame, being broken up at Briton Ferry! As part of the research for it, I'll be visiting all of the county record offices in Wales (Carmarthenshire, Flintshire and Denbighshire already 'ticked off') and making use of all the major repositories in London (again, a very large amount of material already examined). But I also want to call on the collective memories of those in or from Wales who served in or otherwise had experience of the Royal Navy, and will be announcing the means of doing this in due course. 

The research and writing for Britannia's Dragon should dovetail neatly with my current writing schedule for the Quinton journals, and also with the entry into service of HMS Dragon, the splendid new Type 45 destroyer which will have strong links with the Principality. Mae'r ddraig yn deffro! 


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