By Dean King
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Extra info for A Sea of Words, Third Edition: A Lexicon and Companion to the Complete Seafaring Tales of Patrick O'Brian
There were some other significant national differences in naval gunnery. Most prominent among them, perhaps, was the fact that in general the French fired at the masts, rigging, and sails of British ships, aiming to disable the enemy’s motive power, while the British usually fired on the French warships’ hulls. It was far more difficult to hit the hull of an enemy ship, but piercing the hull often created the heaviest damage, possibly sinking the ship. Most battles took place at relatively close range.
The last function was delegated to subsidiary boards, also located at Somerset House: The Sick and Wounded Board, or the Commissioners for taking care of Sick and Wounded Seamen and for the Exchanging of Prisoners of War. The Commissioners of the Victualling, who were responsible for acquiring, storing, and delivering food supplies to the fleet. The Transport Board, which hired merchant vessels to carry troops and supplies, took over from the Sick and Wounded Board the responsibility for prisoners of war in 1796.
Third, O’Brian uses a variety of spellings and hyphenations for many words, so it pays to be a little flexible when searching for a term in A Sea of Words. Also, a word that appears in many forms in the books probably does not appear in all of those forms here. For instance, we define “spanker” and “boom” but leave it to the reader to resolve “spanker-boom” (the boom of the spanker). Also, when O’Brian himself provides an explanation for a term in the text, we usually do not redefine it, simply to save precious space for the many other terms.