Mention the British Navy and everyone's heard of Francis Drake and Horatio Nelson but Robert Blake? Yet in his lifetime Blake was a national hero, first as a soldier in the Civil War and then as a naval commander. When he died he was given a prestigious state funeral.
He was one of the first English naval commanders to keep a fleet at sea through the winter. He was amongst the first to develop the technique of naval blockade and amphibious landing. Twice he destroyed fleets in harbour under the guns of shore forts. It was Blake's destruction of the Spanish fleet at Santa Cruz de Tenerife that prompted Nelson to say, "I shall never be the equal of Blake."
Robert Blake was above all a leader of men. All commentators are agreed that he was the one English naval commander of his age that could get his captains to obey him. He achieved the love and respect of his men without recourse to the brutal sanctions that were to become the stock in trade of the eighteenth century Navy. In everything Blake maintained humility, humanity and a total dedication to duty. He is the unsung midwife of the British Navy.
The year 2007 represents the 350th anniversary of Robert Blake's death at sea and there will be many events to commemorate Bridgwater's most famous son, as part of the "Blake 350" festival. Read on for further details...