This is the first one:
“I HAVE NOT YET BEGUN TO FIGHT!”
When I was in my teens, I lived in the little fishing village of Flamborough on the east coast of Yorkshire. It is located on a headland that juts 6 miles out into the North Sea. Little did I know then that I would end up becoming an American citizen and living in Southern California.
Something else I didn’t know then was that in September of 1779 there was a major naval battle during the American War of Independence fought just 3 miles off our headland known as the Battle of Flamborough Head. The battle was between John Paul Jones on the Bonhomme Richard and the captain of the British frigate, Serapis
The fierce battle lasted many hours, and could be clearly seen by the local population from the cliff tops on that bright moonlight night. John Paul Jones’ ship took debilitating fire and it is said that the captain of the Serapis relayed a message to Jones asking if he was ready to strike his colors and give up. Jones’ feisty reply, with shattered timbers and burning sailcloth falling around him was, “Give up? I have not yet begun to fight!
Eventually it was the Serapis who had to surrender having lost large numbers of men. Jones made an attempt to tow the Serapis over to Holland as his bounty, but his own ship was so devastated by the battle that his men had to board the Serapis and allow the Bonhomme Richard to sink somewhere off Flamborough Head and Filey Bay.
In recent years, there have been a number of attempts to find her, but the sea floor is littered with so many wrecks off the headland, that there has not been any success.
Jones was originally a Scotsman but ended up fighting for the Americans after he had joined his brother who owned a plantation in Virginia. He developed an intense aversion to slavery so with his sharp mind and head for strategy the military made sense for his future. Brought up in Scotland, he had a good education and a strong sense of duty and integrity, although like any hero of yesteryear he has had his share of criticism from the history revisionists.
Even so, having read his records of various naval activities and his account of the Battle of Flamborough Head, I’m inclined to consider him the father of the American Navy as many do today.
So while enjoying the fireworks on July 4th, spare a thought for John Paul Jones and the Battle of Flamborough Head, without whom America would not likely be as she is today.