Historic diary of Glasgow sailor goes online

Plan of HMS Medusa and images of log book The logbook was written by Andrew Service when he served on HMS Medusa

A personalised account of life on board one of Lord Horatio Nelson's ships during the Napoleonic Wars has been made available online.

The logbook by Andrew Service charts his experiences on the 38-gun frigate Medusa in the early 1800s.

The Royal Navy Sailor, who was born in Port Glasgow in 1871, saw action in the Mediterranean, the East and West Indies and the North and South Americas.

His family donated the logbook to the University of Glasgow in the 1980s.

The account, in ink, which was completed exactly 200 years ago, is believed to have been set down by Service from pencil-written notes he kept on the ship.

The logbook has been stored in the university's archives since it was donated as it was in a fragile condition and could not be read.

Start Quote

It is a fascinating read of far-flung places from the icy waters of Newfoundland to Sri Lanka as well as descriptions of sea battles, the seizing of enemy ships and the deaths of fellow shipmates”

End Quote Emily Graham Student

It was finally published online on Tuesday after conservation work allowed it to be transcribed and fully researched.

The account shows that Service joined the Royal Navy as a landsman with no marine skills but left as a fully-fledged seaman.

He boarded the Medusa in 1801, aged 20, and was present at the battle of Cape Santa Maria, off southern Portugal, in 1804.

He also saw action at the Battle of Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1807 and escorted the Governor General of India back to the sub-continent in 1805.

The Battle of Cape Santa Maria was a British success with the seizing of a cargo of gold and silver valued at £1m and led to Spain joining the war on the side of the French.

However, the Battle of Montevideo was a disaster with more than 2,500 men killed or taken captive.

The transcription and background research on the log book was carried out by history student Emily Graham, 19, from Bristol.

'Missing ports'

She completed the work as part of a university work experience programme.

"The most difficult part of deciphering Andrew Service's handwriting was the names of the places that the ship visited," she said.

"The spelling is erratic and you have to sound out the letters to get the word. Place names were really hard to decipher, so I had to use an atlas to check for possible places on the sea routes.

"There are still a few that we have to crack and I hope that someone reading the logbook online may be able to provide the missing ports of call."

The book is considered to be a rare source of naval history from below decks, as it was officers who kept the official log of voyages.

Ms Graham added: "It is a fascinating read of far-flung places from the icy waters of Newfoundland to Sri Lanka as well as descriptions of sea battles, the seizing of enemy ships and the deaths of fellow shipmates.

"Even Andrew did not escape unscathed, crushing a finger which had to be amputated. But the one image that sticks in my mind is that of a sailor going ashore with bags of clothes and food singing Rule Britannia."

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