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Horatio Hornblower: The Fire Ship (1998)

Hornblower: The Examination for Lieutenant (original title)
While Lt. Hornblower studies for his promotion examination, he is distracted by the serious supply problems that face his crew.


Andrew Grieve


Mike Cullen (screenplay), C.S. Forester (novels)
Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 1 win & 9 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Ioan Gruffudd ... Acting Lieutenant Horatio Hornblower
Robert Lindsay ... Captain Sir Edward Pellew
Denis Lawson ... Captain 'Dreadnought' Foster
Ian McNeice ... Tapling
Andrew Tiernan ... Bunting
Jonathan Coy ... Lieutenant Bracegirdle
Ian McElhinney ... Captain Hammond
Paul Copley ... Matthews
Chris Barnes Chris Barnes ... Finch
Sean Gilder ... Styles
Simon Sherlock Simon Sherlock ... Oldroyd
Colin MacLachlan Colin MacLachlan ... Master Bowles
Rupert Holliday-Evans ... Steward
Frank Boyce Frank Boyce ... Midshipman Cleveland
Peter Corey Peter Corey ... HM Consul Duras


Still serving aboard the HMS Indefatigable, Horatio Hornblower has been promoted to acting Lieutenant. Neutral Spain has concluded a peace treaty with France and the British now have another enemy to face. They soon come across a sunken British supply ship and rescue its Captain, 'Dreadnought' Foster, a man with a reputation for bravery that some consider borders on foolishness. Hornblower is also pleased to learn that Captain Pellew has scheduled him for the next round of Lieutenants exams. Tempers are short with the crew after they are put on half rations due to the lack of supplies. After acquiring more supplies, Hornblower finds himself in charge of a supply ship when it is feared that plague may also be aboard. He soon makes it to Gibraltar, but when the enemy send a fire ship into the harbor, he must act quickly to avert disaster. Written by garykmcd

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Adventure | Drama | War


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Did You Know?


The question given at Hornblower's Lieutenant examination, that of what to do in response to a "full a-back", relates to the sails of a ship suddenly flattening against the mast due to a change in wind. The correct answer (which Hornblower clearly does not know) is to put the helm over, haul up the mainstay and spanker sails, and then shift the helm in the opposite direction in order to fill the after-sails with wind in order to regain headway. Once the wind has been recovered, the ship should then brace up the sails and bring the ship's course directly in front of the wind. The maneuver to regain wind after a fall a-back is known as "chapelling", or "Chapel Ship", and would have been something which Hornblower absolutely should have known. See more »


When Hornblower arrives for the examination, his hat is normal shape, when the officer notices him and smiles, the hat is crumbled as it was on the ship, in the previous scene. See more »


[on the quarantine voyage]
Acting Lt. Horatio Hornblower: And slaughter a bullock for the men.
Matthews: A bullock, sir?
Acting Lt. Horatio Hornblower: Every meal may be our last. Let's make sure it's a feast.
Matthews: [laughs] Aye, aye, sir!
See more »


Followed by Horatio Hornblower: The Wrong War (1999) See more »


The British Man-of-War
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User Reviews

Adventure on the high seas
7 June 1999 | by salty-9See all my reviews

Quite an interesting story from the makers of 'Sharpe'. The plot, based on the novels of C.S. Forester, is well acted, especially from young Ioan (Titanic) Gruffudd. The cast, including Derby actor Robert Lindsay, is well suited. The story runs at quite a good pace and the plot keeps you on the edge till the end. Hopefully I.T.V. will make another series of this good sea faring adventure.

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English | French

Release Date:

11 April 1999 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Horatio Hornblower: The Fire Ship See more »

Filming Locations:

Yalta, Crimea, Ukraine

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Technical Specs



Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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