Maggie Chase discovers an injured stranger hiding between two rocks as he flees for his life on the beach. Rapidly, she is forced to make a choice: reveal his whereabouts to the fast approaching press gang, or hide him from their sight.
The Impress Service was set up to make sure that the Royal Navy had the needed number of sailors to man its ships. It was harsh and unfair as the press gangs were notorious for their raids, often ignoring the set age-limits of between 18-55, in an era when it was difficult to prove your age when plucked off the street.
The coastal towns were rife with smuggling. Robin Hood’s Bay, for example, had a network of tunnels and passages linking the houses built on its steep banks. Although these were designed to move and hide contraband, they also proved useful when the press gang arrived. The womenfolk fought off the gang with anything they had to hand whilst their menfolk hid. They were a tough and hardy people, which is why the service wanted good seafaring men at a time when paid volunteers were not enough in number to fight Napoleon’s threat. Criminals who had chosen to serve a different type of sentence in the Royal Navy were often weakened by illness because of their previous incarceration. Therefore, the press gang swooped on the unsuspecting and gained a ruthless reputation as a result.