Secret Dalmatia Blog - Travel Experiences in Croatia

Vis is one of my favorite islands! Not only that my wife’s parents are both from Vis island, but it is one magical place that captivates nearly all that have set foot on it’s shores. The history of Vis starts with Greek settlers, Roman conquest and long fights with Venetians and nobility of Hvar.
But it was in the 1800’s that Vis became known even outside the local borders. It was in the time of Napoleonic wars that Vis became an important and heavily fortified “fortress island” that controlled the Adriatic.

Island of Host at the entrance to Vis harbor
Island of Host at the entrance to Vis harbor

The island of Host carries the memory on one of Vis’ most famous visitors – Captain William Hoste.
He was a young captain that served under Nelson who was very fond of him. Hoste became famous after the heroic battle in the Vis Channel with powerful Franco-Venetian forces:

His most brilliant feat was performed on the 13th of March 1811. A Franco-Venetian squadron of six frigates and five small vessels, under the command of a French officer named Dubourdieu, assailed Hoste’s small force of four frigates near the island of Lissa. The French officer imitated Nelson’s attack at Trafalgar by sailing down on the English line from windward with his ships in two lines. But the rapid maneuvering and gunnery of Hoste’s squadron proved how little virtue there is in any formation in itself. Dubourdieu was killed, one of the French frigates was driven on shore, and two of the Venetians were taken. After the action, which attracted a great deal of attention, Hoste returned to England, but in 1812 he was back on his station, where he remained until the end of the war.

Sir William Hoste, 1780-1828
Sir William Hoste, 1780-1828

It is quite interesting to know that life of Sir William Hoste was the model for popular character Jack Aubrey, the principal character in Patrick O’Brian’s 20 novels of the Aubrey–Maturin series – pictured recently in “Master and Commander” movie. Unfortunately, the author placed all the adventures of Jack Aubrey far away from the waters of the Adriatic even though he had plenty of materials starting with Vis and ending with the surrenders of French garrisons of Dubrovnik and Kotor.

Sir William Hoste died of tuberculosis in London on December 6th, 1828. He was buried in St John’s Chapel, London.

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