The only word to describe this work is monumental. It is a record of the services of more than 2200 naval officers across a span of nearly 140 years, drawn from the most authentic sources (according to the title page) and disposed in a chronological arrangement. Sometimes only one or two lines constitute the entry, in other cases there are several pages (Earl St Vincent takes ten pages). They are set out on a year by year basis, and within each year the names are arranged alphabetically. Charnock intended this to be a four-volume work but that wasn't enough, two more were needed (V and VI) and these were subtitled The First and Second Volumes of the Continuation. Each of the six volumes has its own index.

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