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During the Napoleonic Wars, Captain Crawford of H. M. S. Defiant is warned that his second in command, Lieutenant Scott-Padget, is a brutal sadist who has connections with the Admiralty. What the captain does not know is that a fleet-wide mutiny is underway and that his crew is planning to take over the Defiant before it reaches Corsica. The conflict of wills between Crawford and Scott-Padget is intensified when the latter heaps unjust punishment upon the captain's son, who is a midshipman aboard the vessel. En route to Corsica, the Defiant encounters and captures a French frigate, but not before Captain Crawford has lost an arm in the battle. An officer from the enemy ship reveals that the French are planning to invade England while the British fleet is immobilized by the mutiny. The crew takes over the Defiant , but Captain Crawford persuades Vizard, the head mutineer, to take the ship back to England and give warning of the invasion plan. Word then arrives that the mutiny has taken place and that the king has agreed to meet the demands of the men. The restored harmony is disturbed, however, when a crewman fatally knifes Scott-Padget. As Vizard heads the ship for open sea, they meet a French fireship. Rallying the men, Vizard redeems himself in action; and the crew responds to the challenge.