Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies

Dyer Dhow

Without warning he would hang out a signal putting the most junior lieutenants in command of their respective ships, and then he would plunge into intricate manoeuvres calculated to turn the anxious substantive captains, looking helplessly on, grey with anxiety -- but those junior lieutenants might some day be commanding ships of the line in a battle on which the destiny of England might depend, and it was necessary to steel their nerves and accustom them to handle ships in dangerous situations. In the middle of sail drill he would signal "Flagship on fire. All boats away." He called for landing parties to storm non-existent batteries on some harmless uninhabited cay, and he inspected those landing parties once they were on shore, to the last flint in the last pistol, and treated excuses with a disregard that made men grind their teeth in exasperation. He set his captains to plan and execute cutting-out expeditions, and he commented mordantly on the arrangements for defence and the methods of attack. He paired off his ships to fight single-ship duels, sighting each other on the horizon and approaching ready to fire the vital opening broadside; he took advantage of calms to set his men to work towing and sweeping in desperate attempts to overtake the ship ahead. He worked his crews until they were ready to drop, and then he devised further tasks for them to prove to them that they had one effort left in them, so that it was doubtful whether "Old Horny" was mentioned more often with curses or with admiration.

-- C.S. Forester, Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies (Boston: Little, Brown, 1958), 157.