“During the Napoleonic Wars, when low crew numbers could prove fatal to both a single ship and its allied flotilla, many captains solved the high death rates by simply doubling their crews. First-rate ships, typically crewed by 700 to 800 men, would leave port with almost double that amount. Of course, the cramped conditions made the scurvy and other conditions spread all the faster, ever hastening the death rate.

The monstrous appetite for men was fed only by ever more brutal and voracious presses, both at home and abroad. It is fair to liken some ships to the Viking raiders of centuries earlier, for as they worked their way down the coastline of Britain (or along the settlements in America and the Caribbean) they would leave whole towns almost entirely depopulated in their wake, apart from the women, the very young or the very infirm. Towns could lose up to 80% of their male population in a single night if a large first-rater was pushing to battle or had a long journey ahead.”

– The Enemy Below: A History of the Atlantean Wars by Winston Churchill

 

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