Battle of Shoeburyness
The Battle of Shoeburyness in early March 1808 ended Napoleon's occupation of Britain. It was fought at the mouth of the Thames near the town of Shoeburyness and involved 200,000 men, 300 dragons and 15 ships-of-the-line. As a result of his management this battle, Wellesley was rewarded with a ducal coronet and took the name Wellington.
Throughout February 1808, Admiral Nelson had been busy sweeping the Channel clean of French shipping and beating away at the regular French dragon flights, thus depriving Napoleon of reinforcements in Britain. In order to keep Nelson's return from Copenhagen quiet, his ships concealed their flags, painted over their names and sometimes hid in home ports.
By the beginning of March, Napoleon's connection to the Continent was all but cut off and the British countryside had risen against him. To tempt him into battle, Wellesley brought the British troops, both human and draconic, to the mouth of the Thames and set them with their backs to the sea. They were instructed to hold rather than advance upon the French in front of them, the plan of battle being for the troops to hold the centre until a signal was given, and then to withdraw along either flank.
The morning of the day of the battle was marked by a thick fog rolling in from the sea. By afternoon, after more than six hours of battle, the British were in danger of losing their centre to the French before they could give it up voluntarily, yet the signal flags still flew the signal hold fast.
It was at this point that Perscitia came up with the idea of making firebombs out of the carrying harnesses the dragons had been using to transport the Army. She doused the bundles of harnesses with all of the liquor she could get from the supply wagons (thereby almost causing a riot among the human troops the next day), along with a bit of tar and pepper, then distributed them to the other dragons to drop from on high, where Iskierka set them alight. The fireballs fouled the line of the French dragons, creating weaknesses that the British dragons could exploit.
The fighting continued until, just after Majestatis spotted ships approaching, the order came for the British troops to yield the centre. The ships were Nelson's fleet, held off shore three hours longer than Wellesley had planned by the fog. The great guns of the British ships, firing directly into the front ranks of French dragons and men, destroyed the majority of the French dragons. The remainder of the French troops, attempting to retreat, found themselves trapped in a noose, caught between the gunfire of the British ships and the troops that encircled them on land.
However, Wellesley's goal of capturing Napoleon himself failed. Lien used the divine wind to create a series of large waves and then, with one final roar, to merge them into one monstrous wave that destroyed all of Nelson's fleet except for one ship, the Superb. Nelson and thousands of other sailors were drowned. Temeraire and Laurence, pursuing Lien, would have been caught by the wave themselves if Temeraire had not used the divine wind in turn to break them a hole in the wall of water. In the stunned aftermath of the wave, Napoleon was able to escape to France aboard a Chasseur-Vocifere, while Lien herself also escaped despite her exhaustion, supported by two Petit Chevaliers.
20,000 corpses lay on the field when the battle was over. Among Temeraire's troops, Chalcedony had been killed when he caught a cannonball directly in the chest. He and the other draconic dead were laid to rest in a barrow-mound in the old quarantine grounds near Dover.
A further result of the battle was that the horror and amazement raised by the story of Lien's feat led the government to fear that Temeraire - who had already proven himself to be of a rebellious nature - might do the same. As a result, they agree to commute Laurence's death sentence to transportation and labour in return for his and Temeraire's agreement to leave Britain for Australia.
Exact Date of the Battle
The exact date of the battle is somewhat in doubt. Tharkay, Arkady and three other ferals caught up with Laurence's guerrilla troops in the first week of March. Wellesley himself arrived three days later and told Laurence that they would meet Bonaparte in battle in another three days' time. This appears to the place the date of the battle sometime between March 7 and March 13.
However, as of March 17, "some two weeks had passed since the battle." This would indicate an earlier date, perhaps on or about March 3.
- HMS Victory - 104 gun 1st rate ship of the line (sunk)
- HMS Minotaur - 74 gun 3rd rate ship of the line (sunk)
- HMS Prince of Wales - 98 gun 2nd rate ship of the line (sunk)
- HMS Neptune - 98 gun 2nd rate ship of the line (sunk)
- HMS Superb - 74 gun 3rd rate ship of the line (survived)
- Ten additional unnamed ships of the line (all sunk)
- Two frigates (possibly survived)
Admiral Nelson was returning from battle in Copenhagen, and six of the ships at Shoeburyness were captured from the Danish Navy. It is unknown exactly what the names of all the ships sunken at Shoeburyness, but they would have been the ships that participated in the battle of Copenhagen, with the exception of the "HMS Victory", under Nelson, who had historically died at this point, and the "HMS Neptune", which was undergoing repairs at Portsmouth. Judging by the urgency of the battle, it is quite possible that the two strongest ships captured, the "Christian VII"; 84 guns, and the "Waldemar"; 80 guns, were part of this battle.