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Walsall, John Wild, Trafalgar,1805.


John Wild, is listed as having been born in Walsall, between 1782, and 1784. He may have been one of those souls, who crave a bit of excitement, or he simply wanted something better than a life digging Coal, hammering Iron, or stitching Leather. Whatever it was, around 1798, when England faced a threat from the new French Republic, he packed his threadbare and meagre possessions, and went off to join the Royal Navy. Unlike many before him, who had of course done the same thing, not liked it and deserted, he rather enjoyed the life. By 1802, he had aquired the title " Ordinary Seaman ", as opposed to the title he was given when he joined, " Landsman ".  Now some sailors preferred, and still do, the smaller ships, but John really liked the big " Ships of the Line ".  In 1802, he was posted to a very big one, HMS Royal Sovereign, which, although she had aquired the nickname of " The West Country Waggon ", ( because of its poor showing under sail ) it was under the command of Admiral Collingwood, second only to Admiral Lord Nelson.  In Late 1804, the ship was dry docked, and fitted with one of the new fangled  " Copper Bottoms ". John Wild, rejoined his ship on 1st March 1805, and it became apparent, that with the fitted copper, she was a much faster sailor, an improvement, that later on, most of her crew wished she had never attained.


After dashing up and down the channel, blockading ports, and searching for the enemy, finally, 0n the 21st October, 1805, came the moment. Royal Sovereign, under Collingwood, with her 100 guns, was to lead the second column of ships. Being now faster than the others, she was the first to get amongst the combined French and Spanish fleets, and suffered accordingly. Her masts were blasted away, and halfway through the battle, she lost her starboard batteries, and became unsteerable. Collingwood, never a man to give up, ordered a Frigate to take her in tow, and bring her around, so that the the portside battery could be used. When the battle finished, and with news that Nelson was dead, Collingwood, now in charge of the British fleet, was forced to abandon Royal Sovereign and transfer to a Frigate. Royal Sovereign was again taken in tow, and headed home. Over 69 of her seaman, and 30 of her marines lay dead, 85 others were wounded. By some miracle, John Wild escaped without a scratch. A week later, some British reserve ships caught up with the enemies reserve, and after a fierce fight, they captured the french 80 gun ship, Formidable. I mention this, because just two months later, after a quick refit, John Wild, on 21st December, found himself a member of her crew. He was to remain in this position for the next 5 years, as this excellently built vessel cruised thousands of miles under it's new owners colours. John Wild deserved some leave, and it's recorded, that he was given from 13th February,1810, untill the 3rd March, before rejoining his ship. It wasn't  to be though, as it was planned to scrap it in 1811, and so he joined HMS Plantagenent, on the 4th March, and stayed there untill the 7th April, 1811. There are no more Naval records of John Wild beyond this date, although the ship was scrapped in 1816. If he's in your family tree, do let me know, for he led an adventurous life, and is worthy of a bit of respect and acknowlegement.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

July 19, 2012 at 4:07 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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