Was Hornblower based on a real naval officer?

Sandra Lawrence explores the origins of Hornblower, the Napoleonic Wars-era Royal Navy officer who features as the protagonist in a series of novels by CS Forester.

Was Hornblower based on a real naval officer? © Alamy

Cecil Louis Troughton Smith – better known as CS Forester – used to spend hours engrossed in the early 19th-century Naval Chronicle. It inspired him to create Admiral Viscount Horatio Hornblower of Smallbridge.

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Hornblower’s life was not based on one man, but the amalgamated adventures of many officers, whose tales of derring-do were recounted in reports and letters of the time.

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Their exploits filled twelve novels, taking a young, seasick rookie to battle-scarred Admiral of the Fleet. Forester had no need to embellish the stories – he recounts in The Hornblower Companion that, if anything, they were toned down.

This article was first published in the June 2015 issue of History Revealed and answered by one of our Q&A experts, Sandra Lawrence.