Battle Fleet : Trafalgar — 1805

Written by Paul Dowswell
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley Hal McNulty (age 10)


In this third Sam Witchall adventure, Sam and his friend Richard have to work their passage home from Sydney to London on the merchant ship, Orion. In spite of the attractions of Miss Lizzie Barrow and her maid Bel, who are passengers on board ship, and a friendly cockatoo, all is not plain sailing. The passage though the East Indies is notorious for its fierce tropical storms and equally ferocious pirates and Sam and Richard encounter both – not to mention a hungry tiger who gives Sam and his friends a dangerous hour or so up a tree when they stop at one island to replace a broken mast.

Further dangers await them in London. Napoleon is intent on invading England and the pressgang are looking for suitable recruits for the navy and Sam proves to be a prime target. Fortunately, he re-meets Robert Neville, whose life he saved in an earlier adventure, and Robert’s father, Lord Neville, offers to be Sam’s sponsor. Sam is ambivalent about going back to sea, but Lord Neville’s offer would make him a midshipman – a junior officer – something he could never have achieved on his own and the chance to go right to the top.

Sam and Robert find themselves on board HMS Victory, Nelson’s flagship, sailing towards an historic, and deadly, encounter with the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar…

I enjoyed this. There are plenty of adventures to keep the readers turning over the pages. Dowswell gets across the hardships and brutalities of life on board ship, and in early nineteenth century London, as well as all the excitement of life on board the Victory at a turning point in our national history.

Boys (and some girls) of 10 plus should enjoy this book.


Battle Fleet is a chaos-filled book and is very interesting. It’s interesting because of the way Paul Dowswell describes the emotions of the main characters. The one thing I didn’t like was that he lingered too long on the descriptions of scenes instead of just describing it and then getting on with the next event. I particularly liked the parrot called Sydney who was a very appealing and cheeky character. He’s funny and gives very rude answers to anyone who annoys him.

The book is set in 1805 on a battleship. The story is about two young boys who join the crew and face difficult times. All the crew on the ship gives the two a hard time just because they’re new. Eventually the crew begin to like them because they see that the boys are just like them.

I think it is an excellently gripping story, and Paul Dowswell is a fantastic writer.