Relatives, and why we need them

Today I was talking to my aunt, aged 91, on the telephone when the line went dead. I tried to call her again, but all I got was the ringing tone.

I tried to ‘phone my three cousins who live nearby (within 20 miles), with no result. I was able to leave a message for one of them.

So I tried the NHS 101 hotline, from which I was diverted to 999 Devon Ambulance. They passed the call to another, sub-contracted, service, where I was invited to leave my aunt’s details (name, date of birth and address). They were not able to give any feedback about the outcome.

I later received a call later from my cousin, who had spoken to my aunt’s neighbour. Apparently her telephone battery had expired. There was no way I could now advise the emergency services that they were no longer needed because the reference number for Devon and Cornwall Ambulance Service was not valid for the sub-contracted service they had delegated.

What sort of convoluted “emergency” service has our government created, where the simple “999” number is now replaced by “101”, “111” and “112”, depending on the user’s perception of the scale and nature of the problem? We see on TV: “Emergency – is the patient breathing?”, but at no point today did I experience that level of need for speed of action. Care was evident from all, but all sense of activity was missing.

Finding my relatives

Unexpectedly, while looking for something else, I stumbled upon details of the uncle I never had.

Leslie Cornall, my uncle, died in 1943 aged 15 as a Royal Navy apprentice, when my mother was 14.

I never new much about Uncle Leslie, because he died 11 years before I was born.

But I found that my uncle had died of leukaemia, only three weeks after he joined the Royal Navy as an apprentice in 1943. His brother Alec, who was 4 years old when Leslie died, also died of leukaemia in later life.

While sorting out the interment of my mother’s ashes (1928-2021) I discovered more of my family’s graves. My great-grandfather, who lived until I was 7 months old, and two of my great aunts, one of whom lived in her father’s former house without electricity until she died aged 103. A two-bedroom end terrace where 6 daughters and a son were raised. Most of the girls went “into service” with rich families, while my grandfather was granted a new brick house across the road, with a market garden and orchard.

I have photographs of my great-grandfather and my grandfather making cider from their own apples in the “pound house”, which still exists as a store room for the local school.

The orchard and part of the garden were later bought by the council for a swimming pool and sports field for the adjacent primary school, but the extended house and remaining garden are still owned by my surviving uncle and my cousin.

I was born in my grandfather’s house and, visiting recently for the interment of my Mother’s ashes, was amazed to see how little had changed to the house since I used to spend my summer holidays there 60 years ago.

1342 – Action in the English Channel

Taking advantage of the north-westerly wind, a small flotilla of English ships set off to raid the coast of France.  The French spotted them arriving and hastily sent a group of local ships to intercept them.

Ships were activated from windward to leeward in each turn.

The English flotilla moved with the wind in line abreast.  The French, with the wind against them, had no choice but to turn to the west and hope for a more favourable wind.  Game note.  A revision of the wind table was made to make some movement possible.

The English fleet turned to larboard.  The French turned starboard to face them. The wind veered one point to blow due east.  The two fleets continued to move towards each other.  The French now had the advantage of the wind.

The wind dropped to strength 2.  Both sides continued to approach the enemy in line.

The west-most French ship turned to starboard to close the line.  The two lines were now within two hexagons of each other. The wind veered again to the north-west, to the French advantage.  The English tacked to starboard to engage while the French sailed ahead with the wind behind them. 

Engagements. (east to west). Minimal damage was inflicted.

The French still held the wind.  As the English ships on the east end of the line circled around the rear of the French, the French closed to engage.  Three English and one French ships were captured.  No shooting was possible as all target ships were engaged in close-quarter fighting.

The wind dropped to strength 2 and veered another 60 degrees, now blowing from the south-west.  Engaged ships had to disengage.  All took advantage of the wind where they could. Shooting.  One French ship lost two strength points and one English lost one point.

  Ships all moved to reengage by shooting.  No damage was inflicted by shooting.

One French ship was grappled and captured.  In shooting one French ship lost two points and one was lost

The ships of the two fleets circled each other individually and ineffectually shot at each other, the crews of all being diminished.  Another French ship was lost to shooting.  By now all ships’ crews were becoming exhausted with diminishing returns.

The wind dropped to strength 1.  All ships without the wind from aft or quarter were becalmed.  They could still turn.   Most of the English ships turned towards home with the wind in their sails.  The French manoeuvred as well as they could.  In all the shooting only one English ship was damaged.

Jostling continued to get the wind and the two fleets began to separate, the English heading north-east and the French eastwards.  Shooting was ineffective.

The weaker ships tried to flee while some of the stronger gave chase.  One French ship was hit.

The wind veered to the east.  Most ships also turned east.  Shooting was ineffective.

The wind veered again to the south-west.  It was now in favour of the French heading for home.  The fleets began to scatter, but one more French boat was lost.

The wind veered yet again.  Those ships able to take advantage turned, further scattering the two fleets. 

The light wind veered yet again!  It was now blowing from the east.  Most ships swung around to head south-west, the English giving chase.

Wind strength increased to 2, still from the east.  This enabled ships with the wind on the beam to manoeuvre.  Some confusion occurred.  On the west flank a French ship fled south-west, ineffectually pursued by an English ship.  A new ship to ship melee ensued in the centre, in which one English ship was damaged.

The melee continued, with no effect.

The French tried to break away, still harassed by the English ships, but with no further damage.

The wind dropped and veered once more, to the advantage of the French.  English ships were forced to turn away from the pursuit.  No shooting was possible.

With the wind from the south-west the English turned for home.  French ships turned westward simply to attain some force from the wind.  Combat was ineffective.

Secure in their victory the English turned north-west to sail home.  The French headed east, hoping the wind would change.  One French ship, surrounded by English boats, was damaged.

The wind veered once more, now blowing from south-west and assuring the English a fair passage home.  The fleets separated and with one parting shot, to no effect, battle was terminated.


Result:  An English victory, with 30 points to 10 remaining.


A disappointing game, partly because of my combat resolution rules and partly because of my wind rules.  Mediaeval cogs were more dependent on wind direction than later ships were, but nevertheless I need to revise my wind change table.  Rather than the 1/6 chance of an increase in wind direction and speed, I will henceforth roll 2 dice and increase/veer on a score of 11 or 12 and decrease/back on a score of 2 or 3.  1/12 chance instead of 1/6.

My combat resolution is also flawed.  I have used the idea that one die is rolled, with a maximum hit possibility of:  Strength 6. 1/3 fore or aft.  Strength 5. 1/3 aft, 1/6 fore.  Strength 4. 1/6 for or aft. Strength 3. 1/6 aft.  Otherwise the only possibility is a boarding attack, but it is too easy to recapture a boarded and captured ship.

Thus a complete revision of the rules, more in line with my “Age of Sail” version, is called for.  This will wait until next month, after a 3-player (rather than solo) playtest of those rules.