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Defiant John Paul Jones off Flamborough Head

John Paul Jones is a name very well known to all Americans. The impetuous Brit founded and led the fledgling American Navy. Fighting a British ship in 1779, and as his own blazing ship was beginning to sink, he responded to the suggestion of surrender with defiance.

His ship, the Bonhomme Richard, sank into the North Sea with "a hole the size of a coach and six" punched through her side by cannon fire. It may be raised by one of two American teams or a British team, each competing to bring her up to the surface.

As the Independent reports, Yorkshire people watched the sea battle under a full moon at Flamborough Head.

. . . they were not disappointed by the spectacle of a 50-gun British frigate, Serapis, inflicting terrible damage on Bonhomme Richard, a rebel US vessel intent on distracting Britain from the War of Independence.

But no one had reckoned on the commodore at the helm of the US vessel that night; nor on his rallying cry, which is inscribed indelibly in US naval history and remembered to this day in schoolrooms across America.

Doubtless the onlookers were not surprised by his British accent, either, since many of them viewed the struggle in America as the understandable response of fellow Brits fed-up with the government in London.

After he lost his main battery in the sea battle, Jones ran the Bonhomme Richard's bow into the stern of the Serapis in an effort to board her. His ship was being destroyed by cannon fire when the Captain of the Serapis asked him if he was ready to surrender. "I have not yet begun to fight," Jones retorted, and proceeded “to trounce Serapis and record one of the US Navy's most improbable victories.” When the Bonhomme Richard sank, Jones sailed to the Netherlands in the Serapis.

Brits living in America who rebelled against the British government were displaying the desire for self-government and independence which for a thousand years or more has been a hallmark of British character and life.

The best of the Brits have always had to fight for their freedom against the worst, and so it is today.

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