Monday, 20 July 2009

Brits have a blast in Spanish holiday resort

The rocket shot off with a hiss leaving a red tail followed by a brilliant blue scattering light. Shouting and cheering the group of men from the rowing boat by the rocks near Moriara Marina charged the Tourist Office. In the darkness they hacked down the nearest defenders they found inside. The attackers with blackened faces, wearing bandanas and in bare feet swarmed over the interior as the remaining personnel ran off to save their lives. A tall man with long yellow hair marshalled the attackers, now sending them to join in the capture of a small supply ship in the harbour which had been protected by the guns of the fort at Moraira until this moment. He himself remained in the fort with one man and together they spiked the cannons, set a fuse to ignite the powder room, and ran off to
add their efforts to the capture of the supply ship in the harbour. As they left the fort a huge explosion sent the two men flying off their feet on to the rocks. The building they had just left had exploded prematurely throwing debris outward and upward with a gigantic roar.

They get up and stagger off bruised and bleeding to join their men in the harbour.

The above scene is not the annual 'Moors and Christians' re-enactment. Nor is it a group of Northern European drunken tourist revellers having a Saturday night out.
What used to be a fort in Moraira is now the Tourist Office, just to make that point clear.
But exactly w
hat is going on? Well, it is just before dawn one morning in the year A.D. 1801 ......

During the night a Royal Navy sloop arrived off Cabo de la Nao to the north of Moraira. Its yellow-haired Master and Commander, Jack Aubrey, had been given orders to capture any supply ships with cargoes useful to the Royal Navy and sail them to English Harbour, Mahon, Menorca. (A cheeky British  Mayonniase sauce?)
Two of the sloop's boats filled with men set off to row in the dark before dawn towards the shore while the parent ship with a skeleton crew rounded Cape Moraira and opened fire on the fort before them on the shore of the bay. One boat headed to the harbour, the other towards the fort. When the men reached the shore a rocket was ignited to signal to the sloop to hold fire. Then having taken the fort, Jack Aubrey and his helper blew it up with its own gunpowder and narrowly escaping serious injury they joined the other British sailors in capturing a supply ship in the harbour as dawn broke.

The story above is my version of an incident in Patrick O'Brian's novel 'Master and Commander' , Chap 7, (see a review of the book in which the incident occurs at 'Non-new Book Review'
). O'Brian often put his fictional characters in real incidents taken from Admiralty records. Something like this description could well have occurred in the opening years of the 19th century as the Royal Navy was blockading Toulon, the French Mediterranean port.
The period ended with the battle of Trafalgar in 1805 when the Royal Navy defeated a joint French-Spanish fleet.

Incidentally, the fort at 'Almoraira' (nowadays 'Moraira') was described as "square". The restored version as you can see in the photo is not square at all!

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