FELIX Wild is a remarkable boy. He’s lived on his wits and Gosport’s streets all his young life.
He’s mudlarked at The Hard, Portsmouth, eaten tallow when there was nothing else and picked oakum in Forton prison.
He has no family, no idea how old he is, and has never heard of Christmas. But he has one remarkable talent: he can make a perfect drawing, from memory, of anything he has seen.
Saved from a further spell in prison by wealthy William Kettle, Felix joins the household in east London and is employed to draw the building of a magnificent new iron-clad, HMS Warrior.
Felix Wild – A Foundling on Board HMS Warrior is a novel by Peter Broadbent which has the affectionate humour and vivid sense of place that made his naval memoirs popular.
Set in 1860, the novel follows Felix as he is introduced to London society. His eagerness to learn knows no bounds: from learning to use a knife and fork and reading a dictionary, to being given the ‘tipsy key’ for the chronometers on his first voyage in Warrior.
The men he meets are in awe of his drawing skills; the young women are absorbed in less cerebral matters – the fit of his fashionably tight ‘gas-pipe’ trousers and his eyes – one blue, one green.
A former Gosport resident, Mr Broadbent joined the navy as a 15-year-old junior seaman. After a successful naval career, he worked in marine facilities around the world and in 2001 moved to a mountain village in Spain where, with wife Margaret, he started a community magazine.
His books include four acclaimed naval memoirs – HMS Ganges Days, HMS Bermuda Days, A Singapore Fling, and Up Spirits – and a novel, My Wight Little Isle.
•Felix Wild, published by Chaplin at £18, is launched with a signing at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in Boathouse Five on Saturday from 2pm to 4pm.
There are also signings on June 13 at Gosport Discovery Centre from 11.30am to 2pm and on June 17 at The Book Shop, Lee-on-the-Solent, 11am to 1pm.