From participating in the Battle of Trafalgar as an 11 year old trainee Midshipman to his untimely death as Commander of the very first steamship used in naval warfare, Frank Abney Hastings' life is portrayed vividly throughout this book. Born into a privileged aristocratic family Frank Abney Hastings had a potentially brilliant career mapped out in the British Royal Navy, but partly due to his own sense of honour and political atmosphere at this time, it was cut short. His passionate interest in artillery and early 19th Century naval warfare, combined with his desire to participate in the Greek fight for independence from Ottoman rule, lead him to become one of the most revered Phillhellenes in Greece today. Set against the historical background of early 19th Century history the influence of the Turkish regime and of other Phillhellenes including Byron, Hastings contributed to the Greek cause by designing, building and commanding the first steamship ever used in naval war. The Karteria was not perfect but had many revolutionary aspects to her design. She became a great threat to the Turkish fleets and successfully sank and captured many ships. She and the legendary Hellas became the first ships of the new Hellenic Navy. Hastings' fatal wounding off Mesalonghi at the age of 34 was a sad blow for the Greek cause, but the Karteria remained to continue his fight. In Greece Frank Abney Hastings is remembered as a hero. If he had lived he may have become England's next Nelson. The book describes his life, his tribulations and his successes not only in the author's words but also through Hastings' own correspondence and writings. Also visit www.captainfrank.co.uk
From Chapter 10; 1000 words exactly The fine morning of Saturday 29th September started early aboard the ‘Karteria'. With a moderate easterly breeze to hold them on station, the crew of the steamship was called at three in the morning to light the engine fires and by eight were ordered to start the process of heating shells. A near disaster took place when two of the shells exploded in the fire-box, probably caused by water in the shells, but, apart from damaging the bar on the box, little damage was done. Daybreak had shown that the Turks had prepared for action following the attempts of the previous days by the Greek fleet. They had moved their vessels from the shore to a line across the narrowest point of the north eastern bay. As the ‘Karteria' moved closer, a formidable line-up was encountered. To the west of the line were three Austrian transports, packed with troops from the shore; close to the northern end of the line, a small gun boat and the main blockade from north to south being a magnificent Algerine schooner carrying twenty long brass guns, an armed transport brig, the Admiral's brig, two schooners and a gun boat, with the stern of the Admiral's brig being protected by a further brig. The southernmost vessel was within yards of the shore, and a battery with two guns, and the second single gun battery was two hundred yards further round to the north east. The Turks clearly thought with their level of fire power, five hundred experienced troops ashore backing them up and the protection from the batteries, that they had the opportunity of destroying the two most successful and powerful ships of the Greek Navy. Rather than risk the attack being called off, they held their fire until Hastings gave the order to anchor. Incredibly the ‘Karteria' moved to a position only 250 to 300 yards from the nearest Turk and at eleven thirty gave the order to drop anchor to his fleet some 500 yards astern. The ‘Karteria' hove to, starboard broadside to the brig carrying the Turkish Admiral's ensign and the crew were ordered to bring two hot shells for the long guns. The signal for battle to commence was given by the roar of one of the ‘Karteria's' 68-pounders flying cold shot to obtain the correct range. The amazing coolness of this action by the Captain and John Hane, the Artillery Officer, to preserve the hot shells for more effective use after sighting, showed their absolute faith in the methods of warfare they had developed with such meticulous planning. At the sound of the ‘Karteria's' gun the Turks opened fire from all sides, aiming only at the one target and, whilst they did create some damage, the well trained crew of the ‘Karteria' were able to fire two hot shells from the long guns and two carcase shells from the carronades. At eleven forty-five the devastation of the vastly superior fleet had started. The Admiral's brig was hit in the powder magazine by a carcase shell and an explosion soon created panic as she began to sink. The schooner lying adjacent to the south of her was hit in the bow. The brig on the other side received a carcase shell in the bow and hot shell in the stern causing her to disappear beneath the sea. Captain Thomas of the ‘Sauveur' was at the same time undertaking the task of silencing the shore batteries with grape shot and successfully drove back the troops from the water's edge to less vulnerable positions behind rocks. Having completed this action the ‘Sauveur' and the other vessels pulled into a closer position astern of the ‘Karteria' and fire was directed by all vessels upon the Algerine schooner. A shell from the ‘Karteria' exploded between her decks and some of the crew, in panic, jumped over the sides and swam for shore. Hastings gave the order for the boats of his fleet to be lowered and to take the abandoned schooner as a prize. Lieutenant Scanlan from the ‘Sauveur' led the boarding parties but the troops who had been driven behind the rocks re-emerged and opened fire on the decks of the schooner which were well within their vision and range. The fire from the ‘Sauveur' had been halted to allow the boarding parties access but Hastings ordered Thomas to open up again with grape shot. While this drove the Turkish soldiers back to cover, they had successfully driven off the first boarding party and Lieutenant Scanlan had been killed in the action. Thomas kept the troops subdued but not totally silent by his sustained firing of grape shot, whilst Hastings took the ‘Karteria' to within a cable's length of the Algerine schooner. At the same time several small craft were occupied in taking the Austrian transports, and the first Lieutenant of the ‘Karteria', Lieutenant Phalanger, was sent to destroy an armed transport brig which was not on fire. Still under spasmodic fire from the muskets of the troops ashore, the stern cable of the ‘Karteria' was attached to the schooner and the engines gradually took up the slack. The tide was falling and the schooner lay in about a fathom of water. The attempt to tow her off failed when the heavy rope parted. Perhaps if he had been a few minutes earlier, Hastings may have captured the fine ship. With some sadness he ordered his crew aboard and helped by men from the ‘Sauveur', the Master-at-Arms and several others were taken prisoner. The heavy guns and several other items were taken aboard the Greek fleet and the task of lighting fire to destroy the ship commenced. It had become clear that after one rope had parted and a second larger rope belonging to the schooner itself had no effect, that she was firmly aground. At five in the afternoon after several struggles the rope between the two was cut. The flames gradually engulfed the vessel as the ‘Karteria' pulled away from the shore.
Maurice Abney-Hastings was brought up in Leicestershire, the home of the main character in this book and now lives in rural Warwickshire near Stratford upon Avon. Maurice is the author of Big Days in Ashthorpe Magna, the Pernod Book of Pétanque and many marine magazine articles. He has also written and presented TV programmes. Educated at Becket School, Nottingham, Southampton University, School of Navigation, and later a student of the late Professor Joan Hussey at the British School at Athens, he spent time as a Navigation Officer and subsequently in the marine industry. Maurice was a Research Fellow at Warwick University and is now involved in European research projects. In 2010, he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. He was inspired to write this biography by the family, by his love of marine matters and by his own desire for Captain Frank and the Karteria to become more well-known outside Greece.