Taken from ‘Little Folk; A Magazine for the Young.’ 1890. relating a 17th c tale.
‘A big battle was being fought between the English and Dutch Navy. Sir John Narborough was the English Admiral, and the masts of his ship had been shot away almost directly the fighting began.
In spite of the greatest care and the and the most splendid bravery, Sir John saw that the English sailors must be beaten unless he could get help.
There were a few ships some distance off to the right, but they were to act as reserve, and would not enter into the battle without a message from him. Sir John stood a moment, and wondered how that message could be sent. It was not possible to signal; there was only one way-the message must be carried.
Sir John wrote his order, telling the captain of the reserve to come and help him at once; then he called aloud for anyone willing to be be messenger.
Think of the scene a moment, and then will will understand a little what a brave heart was needed to carry that note.
Below was the sea;above,around,in it there rained a heavy shower of bullets. The long swim would be trying enough, but to swim with the chance of being shot every second was terrible. Yet many sailors came forward at their admiral’s call, ready to risk their lives for their country’s good.
They were all grown-up men, and they must have stared in wonder as one of teh cabin boys, Cloudesley-Shovel by name, stood up among them.
“Why, what can you do , my fearless lad?” said the admiral kindly.
“I cam swim sir; and if I am shot I shall be missed less than anyone else.”
After a moment’s hesitation the paper was handed to the boy, who put it between his teeth and sprang overboard. How the men cheered him and watched him as long as he could be seen! He reached the reserve ships in safety, and as they went into action at once, a victory was gained by the English.
When the sun was setting, Cloudesley-Shovel stood once more on the deck of the admiral’s ship, and received his heartiest thanks.
“I shall live to see you have a flag ship of your own,” he said. And the words came true, for the brave cabin boy became Sir Cloudesley-Shovel, one of the greatest British admirals.’