‘The repossession of Buenos Aires has been stained with such deliberate acts of treachery and perfidy as are not to be instanced in the annals of history’. So wrote Commodore Sir Home Riggs Popham from the River Plate on HMS Diadem in 1806.
Betrayal tells the story of the British invasion of South America in the early 19th century. The fleet was anchored off Cape Colony with very little to do. Rumours abounded that the Spanish colonies in South America were restless and keen to free themselves from their Spanish masters while the Spanish fleet was engaged elsewhere, and a vast treasure of silver was reputed to be there for the taking. Commodore Popham took it upon himself to ‘obey’ an old order from London and lead an invasion on the Viceroyalty of Buenos Aires on the River Plate.
This is an incident from the Napoleonic era of which I had never heard before, and therefore I settled down to learn something new. The whole enterprise was full of incident before ending in disaster, and Julian Stockwin tells it well. Vivid descriptions of life on board ship, getting those ships up limited navigable channels to avoid the many bars and mud flats of the River Plate, and the politics of the various factions of those on land all keep the reader glued to the pages. A book to be enjoyed.