Sunday, 4 May 2008

Issue 3, Vol. 1 - 11th May 1894

Note: This blog has not been updated in ages, so i have decided to revive it. However from now on the reviews will be a lot shorter and more to the point, which will hopefully mean more regular updates. I have now decided to go through my collection roughly in order, so i will be doing the first 25 issues to start with then jumping forwards to the next point in my collection (currently a few single issues then another bound volume of several from 1906).
RWB News: My artistic skills are improving slowly but i still can't get my head around perspective, so decided to "cheat" by making maps using high contrast textures in a Doom editor, then printing a screen capture and tracing the outlines. This requires the use of a lightbox though, and i'm buggered if i'm paying Argos prices, so i may try to make my own. how hard can it be (famous last words said in Irish accent). This temporary block is actually why the blog is being worked on XD.
In other RWB news, i have decided to add another serial to the fray, Sarah Millman! she's a detective in Homonia, a country of the future built on the east coast of Siberia. However the future is going to look like an exaggerated version of the 1930's-1950's, with mobile phones. Oh, and it's going to be in colour!

Issue 3, Vol. 1
Published: 11/05/94
Price: ½d
Author(s): S. Clarke Hook
Illustrator(s): Unknown
Main story: 'Neath England's Flag (S. Clarke Hook.)
Off the eastern coast of Africa lays the warship HMS Albatross. Her flag at half mast and her crew solemnly burying thier captain at sea. A fever which has struck the vessel has left her young leiutenant, Horace Eastwood, in command. The following day he addresses the crew, until then ignorant of the ship's mission: to combat the slave trade. He goes on to say a missionary by the name of Henry Stanley has sent a message to England mentioning a ship called the Tempest, beleived to be a slaver, and which has already sunk one British vessel.
A storm blows up that night. battering the Albatross and almost driving her onto the coast, but the crew manage to sail out to sea, where they spot a strange vessel after many hours of sailing. Chasing the ship, they fire thier guns many times as a signal to stop, but without response. Eventually as the storm breaks the mysterious ship hoists up the Egyptain flag and slows. Horace deciding to board her even in the rough seas.
He discovers the ship is named Sea Foam, and is captained by an apparent Russian called Kolaski. The leiutenant asks to see her cargo, a request met with suspicion. But still the two officers descend below decks, finding a cargo of weapons, and a whip with dark stains on. Kolaski attempts to explain all this away, not convincing the Briton who openly accuses him of being a slaver. The Russian relents and promises to remain still until the morning when further checks can be made. Horace returns to his own vessel and a watch is kept on Sea Foam's bow lantern, however later in the night a sailor notices that there is no vessel supporting the lantern! Investigating in a boat the Britishers find the lantern supported on a raft, the slaver has escaped!
few days later, Albatross is anchored in the mouth of a river close to a settlement called Kenda. Horace travels inland alone to find the plantation owned by Henry Stanley. However when he arrives the owner is not there, so he travels back to the ship. Darkness falls as he travels through the jungle and he is set upon by a lion, but is then rescued by another plantation owner, Jack Bruce. The two camp for the night in the jungle, Bruce saying that he employs 200 natives, though not as slaves. He doesn't beleive they are anything but "lazy rascals", though. But such ideas where not regarded as shocking at the time. Horace and he return to the ship in the morning, then set out again for the plantation after eating.
The story shifts to the plantation, which is raided by the slavers. The men working there, along with the visiting daughters of Henry Stanley, Edith and Eveyln. A lengthy passage bears repeating as it sums up Britain's horror of slavery even back in 1894, a view certain historical revisionists would be eager to have us forget:
"Upon the plantation where two hundred negroes, fifty of whom where men. Yet these men where held at bay by half thier number of the Sea Foam's crew. It is true that the sailors where fully armed. Yet what Englishman would stand by helplessley, and watch the scene which followed?
Other countries have deplored slavery, and shut thier eyes while thier subjects carried it on. But England has more than deplored it. She has scattered her millions broadcast; aye, and with her strong right arm she has crushed the awful wrong. Other nations may look upon us as fools for such action - even other nations who have benefited by our charity; but though the world may scoff, such deeds as England has done will bear fruit so surely as wickedness will be punished"
The foreman of the plantation, a black man known as Tom, fights against the slavers at first, killing three armed only with a spade. Kolaski raises his revolver but Tom's wife knocks it aside, and is shot herself in response. Tom is about to kill the captain when he is knocked out by another slaver. After looting the plantation buildings the slavers take thier leave with thier hostages. Shortly afterwards our heroes arrive on the scene, finding Tom still there. After he tells them what has happened, the dead are buried and all three set out to hunt down the slavers.
Aboard the Sea Foam, the daughters of Henry Stanley are held in the cabin, whilst the plantation workers are herded below decks. However they break out and almost succeed in capturing the ship before being driven back by rifle fire. One remains above decks ready to fight, but is eventually caught and tortured to death. Meanwhile Albatross sets off in pursuit, and the following morning comes within sight of two ships near an island. The larger of the two is the dread slaver-warship Tempest.
There follows a fierce battle, in which Albatross becomes stuck on a sandbank and is seemingly at the mercy of Tempest, but Horace decides on a brave plan, and piles his bluejackets into boats, and makes an attempt to capture the larger vessel! Boarding her with miraculosly small losses, a terrific struggle breaks out, it is inconclusive until a lucky shot from Albatross holes her below the waterline and her crew take fright and can't escape fast enough. The Sea Foam sails up and fires on Albatross, but then retreats after picking up the crew of Tempest.
A large slave plantation is on the island, and it is there the captives have been landed. The owner of the plantation expects an attack from the bluejackets, and prepares an ambush. The sailors make thier attack despite the volleys poured into them, and soon have the slavers on the run. Horace and the plantation owner meet in battle, the owner running into the jungle after being wounded in the arm. Horace finds Edith and Evelyn in a small house, and returns them to the ship.
Meanwhile Tom has come ashore and is rushing into the jungle after Kolaski, armed with an axe. He comes upon the slave plantation and leads a rebellion against the owners, who return from the jungle. With tom at thier head the slaves massacre thier better-armed enemies, before travelling to the shore and Albatross. The vessel is repaired and floated off the sand bank, returning to mainland Africa to set the former slaves free again. Horace also finds himself captivated by Evelyn, though thinking her engaged to Jack Bruce he avoids her, concentrating on the hunt for Kolaski.
In some days time the Sea Foam is sighted again, chased and sunk. Her crew escaping in boats and making thier way to shore. Horace is lightly wounded but refuses to see the surgeon, so Evelyn binds the wound instead. Then the Bluejackets follow the slavers ashore, camping near a river that night.
Tom scouts ahead then returns to the camp, warning of an impending attack. When the attack comes Horace is ready and volley after volley is poured into the enemy ranks, before the brutal fighting becomes hand-to-hand. The slavers retreat until dawn, when the attack again. The Bluejackets have formed square, but are almost broken by the furious onslaught. However rallied by thier gallant Lieutenant they break the slaver's charge and run them into the forest. Tom chasing down Kolaski and fighting a final battle with him. Tom is wounded but the slaver is killed, Tom staggering back through the forest and finding his way to Jack Bruce's plantation, where he is met by the elderly missionary Henry Stanley, who binds his wounds.
Some days later, Jack Bruce invites Horace to his wedding, however thinking he is to be married to Evelyn, the girl he loves, Horace finds an excuse to leave. However as the two men talk it turns out Jack is to be wed to Edith! and Horace decides to stay, now 'suddenly' realising his ship needs some more repairs. And a double wedding takes place upon the plantation.
Other Stories:
The use of the British navy, then the most powerful in the world, to actively battle against the slave trade is a fact sadly forgotten today, teaching and writing on the subject concentrating entirely on the details of this evil practice and the efforts of the abolitionists in Britain. Indeed listening to some views you'd be mistaken for thinking Britain was the primary culprit in Slavery!
The editorial is a short one in this issue, and concentrates mainly on the life of "Jack Tar" (a nickname for British sailors, like "Tommy Atkins" for soldiers) at sea. Though in this issue's story the ships are powered by sail and battles fought with cutlasses, the editor mentions that "engines and boilers do all the work" (though in these steam-powered days a stoker may have disagreed!) and that "The next naval war will be fought with machine-guns, torpedoes and rams" (in the days of the Ironclads, between the wooden sailing ships and all-metal steam warships, ramming became the tactic of choice, though was rendered obsolete again rather quickly). Mention is also made of the various pets kept aboard ships, in particular one was mentioned as carrying a lion cub and baby alligator! The editor acknowledging that "Neither of these animals will form desirable shipmates when they grow up"!
Mention is made of the story in issue 4, The Phantom Dwarf. Which is described as an "Imaginitve story". Having read it i can say that description certianly fits! The story is also mentioned as being "Of the Rider Haggard type". A name which i have personally only just Wikipedia'd seconds ago. Apparently he created Allan Quartermain, an inspiration of Indiana Jones, though. Not a connection i would immediatley have made with The Phantom Dwarf, but i can kind of see it now. Judge for yourself when i get the review up!