An Incredible story of a Cardigan sea Captain who became a hero of the Chilean war and inspired a classic novel by one of the world’s greatest writers has been revealed. Many readers will know nothing of the Chilean Civil War, but Cardigan skipper David Davies played a crucial role in the 1891 conflict.
Captain Davies began his career on the Ellen of Cardigan. Davies worked his way through the ranks and gained a Captain’s certificate by the age of 25. Although the ships he worked on became larger, and the shipping lines more renowned, a Captaincy continued to elude him and by 1890, he employed as Chief Officer on the Imperial.
In January 1891, dramatic events brought Davies his long-awaited Captaincy, but at great risk to himself and his crew as political tensions between Chilean President and congress came to a head and civil war erupted. The entire navy defected, leaving the president with an army of 40,000 men, but no ships to transport them. In desperation, Balmaceda commandeered the Imperial, along with its experienced crew, and made Davies Captain. The Imperial was refitted as a warship, and the entire Chilean navy prowled the Pacific, intent on sinking her.
During nine months of war, the Imperial continued to evade the enemy, transporting troops and supplies along the coast while surviving terrifying sea chases, deadly torpedo attacks and attempts at sabotage by undercover terrorists.
The Imperial earned herself the nickname the Chilean Alabama after the infamous American Civil War blockade-runner. Although the war was lost, the Times special correspondent Maurice Hervey wrote a book about his time on board the Imperial. Dark Days in Chile inspired Joseph Conrad to write his classic novel, Nostromo.
Davies eventually returned to Cardigan and died in 1914. Great-great niece Rhiannon Lewis has been researching Davies’ life for many years. “It is fair to say that each new discovery has been more incredible than anything I could have imagined,” she said of her adventurous ancestor. “He was an amazing character – to achieve what he did in those days, he would have been a very determined, physically tough and charismatic leader.”
Source: Tivyside Advertiser