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Successors to acorns and oaks

11 September, 2020

• JAMES Canton wrote about the oak trees required to build Nelson’s flagship, HMS Victory, (Rooting for the oak tree, August 27).

Author Dudley Pope writes in his Life in Nelson’s Navy: “Captain Cuthbert Collingwood, later to become an admiral and Nelson’s second in command at Trafalgar, had his home at Morpeth, in Northumberland, and when he was there on half pay or on leave he loved to walk over the hills with his dog Bounce.

“He always started off with a handful of acorns in his pockets, and as he walked he would press an acorn into the soil whenever he saw a good place for an oak tree to grow… because Collingwood’s purpose was to make sure that the Navy would never want for oaks to build the fighting ships upon which the country’s safety depended.”

Collingwood, in the late 18th century, could not see the future of course. What changes there have been in ship propulsion in just over a century and a half.

The “Age of Sail” would end by about 1860, coal and steam powering the fleet until oil became king in the early decades of the 20th century and, since the 1960s, gas turbines and nuclear propulsion are successors to acorns and oak.

Lieutenant Commander, Royal Navy
Reachview Close, NW1


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