About Sam

Dr Sam Willis is one of the world’s leading authorities on maritime and naval history. His writing is infused with his own experience and knowledge of seafaring.


Sam is the author of numerous books on maritime and naval history including the bestselling Hearts of Oak Trilogy and the Fighting Ships Series.

Sam has also published a number of articles on a wide variety of subjects in maritime history. He has written for The Sunday Times, The Mail on Sunday, The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph, BBC History Magazine, War in History, The Journal of Military History, The Journal of Maritime Archaeology, The International History Review, The Journal for Maritime Research and The Mariner’s Mirror.

TV and Historic Seafaring

Sam is an experienced square-rig sailor and seaman. He has worked on the Hornblower TV series and on Channel 4’s award winning film Shackleton. The Shackleton project involved building a replica of Shackleton’s ship the Endurance and sailing her into an arctic ice pack.

In 2012 Sam was part of a team that portaged a replica eighteenth-century batteau from Lake Champlain to Lake George, the first time that this has been done for two hundred years.

In the summer of 2013 Sam was part of a team that recreated the 1869 John Wesley Powell expedition – the first time that anyone rowed the length of the Grand Canyon. ‘Operation Grand Canyon’ was broadcast on BBC2 in January 2014.

Sam presented a 2012 film for BBC4 about Antigua in the Age of Sail ‘Nelson’s Caribbean Hell Hole’ and a three-part 2013 series on Shipwrecks, also for BBC4. He has presented three BBC iWonder guides – on the destruction of the German Fleet at Scapa Flow,  the crazy dazzle-camouflage that so characterised WW1 at sea, and the death of Lord Kitchener. He has also presented two BBC ‘WW1 Uncut’ films – on U-Boats and Explosives.

Sam is currently filming a three-part series for BBC4 on Castles.


Sam has worked as a maritime history consultant for Christie’s, the BBC, Channel 4, The History Channel, The Discovery Channel, National Geographic Channel and National Public Radio in Boston.

Sam is a Visiting Fellow in Maritime and Naval History at the University of Plymouth, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

Sailing Ship by Jamie Whyte

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