From the Personal Log of John Sinclair Tuesday 10 August 1779 “...So we put a last broadside into her and broke off to answer Vanessa’s request for my surgeon’s assistance. Arronbourge disappeared back into the gun smoke then later in the afternoon another fogbank rolled in. When it lifted yesterday morning she was gone. Escaped or on the bottom I’ve no way of knowing, although there was plenty of wreckage floating nearby we couldn’t tell whether it came from Arronbourge or Queen of France. We re-formed into convoy with the Mason ships and proceeded here.” I sat in the Admiral’s day cabin aboard the 98-gun HMS St. George as the great second rate swung at her anchor cable off the Naval Yard where the workers were already swarming over Vanessa, putting to rights the damage she had suffered. We had only dropped anchor two hours ago but the dockyard here at Halifax seemed to have different ideas about what constituted ‘a timely manner’ than they did back in England. Of course being right in the forefront of the action probably gave them a more accurate perception of the need for urgency. Sitting back in his chair the Vice-Admiral regarded me through steepled fingers. It was the first time that we’d ever met although in a service the size of the Royal Navy that was hardly unusual. Victor Ernest Eisenbeck, Vice-Admiral of the White, was a man of moderate height tending toward the softness in the middle that claims most senior officers. His hair was completely hidden by the powdered wig that he wore and the eyes that looked back at me were a deep blue. I knew that his family had come to Britain during the reign of George I drawn here by a sense of fierce loyalty to the former German Prince who had then sat on the English throne. Now it was his great-grandson that sat on that throne and the Eisenbecks were still here and likely here they would remain. At least until the next civil war that ousted the current Royal family. “And what is your personal belief regarding Arronbourge, Commodore?” He asked. I frowned and stared at the deck for a moment; calling up images of the shattered fifth-rate, running over in my head the damages that she’d sustained. Was there anything there that was likely to prove immediately fatal to her? “I think that assuming that she has sunk is unwarranted at this time, sir.” I answered. “Although her damage was quite severe and I don’t even want to think about what her casualties must have been like, the lack of sufficient wreckage and more importantly, sufficient dead in the water lead me to believe that she escaped.” “Are you of the opinion that she poses an immediate threat?” I shook my head at this one. “Although I’m reluctant to rule anything out yet I think it unlikely. Her mizzen was gone at the level of the main deck she’d also lost her foretop and much of her running and standing rigging. We had put at least a dozen of her guns out of action, perhaps even a score. She was severely holed including several shots near the waterline and I believe that her steering had carried away. No, in her current condition I’d say that even a sloop with a half-way competent captain would stand a better than even chance of taking her.” Eisenbeck nodded sagely as he stroked his chin absent-mindedly. “From your description of the damage I would guess that even a major dockyard, such as we have here in Halifax, would be three months or more setting her to rights again. To my knowledge the Yankees have no such facilities. Of course the French do but...” “...But not on this side of the Atlantic.” I finished for him. “Quite so.” He said with a smile. “The facilities that the enemy do have available will take far longer to do the job. At least six months I would imagine possibly as many as ten.” “That’s assuming that they don’t decide to hulk her, sir.” Eisenbeck shook his head at this. “Unlikely, a 40-gun frigate like Arronbourge is worth its weight in gold out here. Even if it takes a year to put her back into service it will be worthwhile to the enemy. Still there are very few places that can even attempt such a job so this time we shan’t have any problem finding her. Once we do I can send a team of agents in and put her to the torch. I’ve a colourful team of rogues to take care of that sort of work. Probably get the gaol in peacetime but quite useful in war.” “Then my mission is finished, sir.” “Oh quite so. You did a fine job, Commodore, damned fine job. But my rogues can handle what clean up is left. We’ll have your damages set to rights and then send you back to England. It’s possible that you’ll lose your broad pendant but I don’t think so, this flying squadron idea seems to have worked out very well indeed. One of Sir Malcolm Parker’s ideas you know. We shan’t be able to employ many of them, not with our chronic shortages of frigates, so there’ll most likely only be two or three. If that’s the case St. John will want the best frigate men he can find to serve in them and to lead them and well ... let us be honest Commodore, your reputation precedes you.” “You flatter me, sir.” “Not a bit. Do you consider it flattery to tell a subordinate who’s done a good job that he’s done a good job? Hmm… well neither do I.” There was nothing that I could say about that so I opted to remain silent. The Admiral smiled over at my discomfort but let the matter drop and turned his attention to another matter. “Now about these prizes that you took I understand that you wish to take Magicien into your squadron to replace Predator so I’ll have the Prize Court go aboard and make their examination as soon as she arrives so that we can get her into the dockyard as quickly as possible. Of course Captain Franklin will have to undergo court martial over the loss of Predator, but as she was scuttled at your orders that’s just a formality. We have more than sufficient Captains here to make up the Board so we’ll get it out of the way as quickly as possible and Franklin can be about his repairs and recruiting.” “I’m sure that Captain Franklin will appreciate that Admiral.” I responded. “Doubtless,” he said. “Now you said that you had something special in mind for Lexington as well?” “Yes, sir. I’d like the Prize Court to examine her but only to determine her value for the crew’s prize money. I intend to buy her myself.” “You what?” He said startled. “I intend to buy her.” I repeated. “You see, sir, that ship was stolen from Mason Shipping three years ago when her captain sided with the rebels. They’ve been looking for her ever since and as it was Captain Mason that captured her I wish to return her to his family. As I understand it Richard Mason the younger has been thinking of outfitting several privateers to aid our cause. Brave Star, as she once was, would be a good start.” “If anyone else had come to me with that scheme…” His voice tailed off for a moment then he looked at me with sudden determination. “Is it true that you don’t take any of the prize money from your captures?” “Not exactly, sir.” I answered. “I take one of the three eighths that I’m entitled to, for ... well pride I suppose or what the Chinese call face. I do earn it after all. But I give the rest back to the hands, they get little enough as it is.” “Well I suppose a man who owns six privateers can afford to.” Now it was my turn to look incredulous. As far as I knew no one was aware of my privateering interests. I was more than a bit surprised to find that the Admiral knew about them. Not that there was anything wrong with it, it just wasn’t something I had told anyone about. “Surprised you did I?” Eisenbeck said with a grin. “Your friend Sir David isn’t the only one with ties to Intelligence. Well I’ll send the Prize Court over to Lexington in the morning. But I’m sure you want to visit your good lady so I’ll keep you no longer.” Shortly thereafter I was down St. George’s side and on my way to the Mason Pier and Tara.