Book Recommendation – The Billy Ruffian: The Bellerophon and the Downfall of Napoleon

The Billy Ruffian: The Bellerophon and the Downfall of Napoleon by David Cordingly

The Bellerophon was one of the most recognized and battle hardened fighting ships in the English navy. I believe it was the only ship to fight in all four of the major naval battles of the time (Saintes, 1st of June, Nile – where it was almost completely leveled – and Trafalgar). Called fondly the Billy Ruffian by English sailors who couldn’t pronounce Bellerophon, David Cordingly demonstrates in this wonderful book, how the Bellerophon, during the period 1794-1815, was an integral part of this period of time. Before ending her career as a “floating prison” she was in the thick of the action at the Battle of the Saintes, Battle of the Glorious First of June, the Battle of the Nile, and the Battle of Trafalgar in addition to pulling extensive blockade duties, and being a temporary home/prison for Napoleon before it was decided to place him on St. Helena (this is a piece of trivia because The Cumberland is more well known for carrying Napoleon to St. Helena). The book takes you through an amazing period of time in history (pre-Napoleon thru post Napoleon) and gives insight into one of the greatest navies in history and one of the greatest fighting ships in history. It is also amazing with the hundreds of fighting ships England had over this period of time, the Bellerophon always seemed to be there for all the major battles and in the middle of every one of them.

Scene in Plymouth Sound in August 1815, by John James Chalon. Bellerophon is at the centre of the picture, surrounded by crowds of people in small boats who have come to see Napoleon

Written by Bruce