Captain Joel Chase of the Royal Navy first encounters Sharpe in Calcutta, shortly before Sharpe is due to sail to England to join his new regiment. Both men were on the same mission, though Sharpe approached his attack with stealth, Chase made a frontal assault. Both wanted their money back from an Indian merchant who had cheated them. With Sharpe's unexpected help, Chase was victorious, and spared being brought up on charges, making him Sharpe's boon friend. He is described as tall, fair-haired, and handsome, with a broad Devonshire accent.
The captain informs Sharpe that he is thirty-five (Sharpe's Trafalgar : Chapter 1) and gives his birthday as 21 October (Sharpe's Trafalgar : Chapter 6), which places the year of his birth in 1769. Hailing from the Devon, Chase followed in his father's footsteps by joining the Royal Navy. Given that he is a post captain at the age of thirty-five, it may be surmised that he had a successful career and probably entered the service as a young midshipman, in order to gain experience and the necessary time required for the lieutenant's examination.
Chase's first command was a twenty-eight-gun frigate HMS Spritely, in which he captured a French frigate, Les Bouvines of thirty-two-guns, and missed serving under Lord Nelson at the Battle of the Nile. His commands during the events of Sharpe's Trafalgar is the HMS Pucelle, a seventy-four-gun (third rate) ship of the line.Chase is attached to the East Indian fleet, under the command of Sir Edward Pellew in Trafalgar but, having chased a French ship of the line halfway around the world in order to intercept a dangerous French agent, he finds himself under the command of Lord Nelson at Trafalgar.
In Sharpe's Prey, Captain Chase makes up part of the fleet that sails to Denmark, under Admiral Gambier in 1807. While in Copenhagen he meets Sharpe again, and gives Sharpe men to help him track down the traitor John Lavisser among other things.
Chase seems to represent the very best of the Royal Navy: he is good-natured, enthusiastic, seaman-like, possesses easy authority, and is readily accepting of Sharpe, despite Sharpe's humble origins. He is a devoted husband though he does have a weakness for gambling and has to pay off quite a large debt to Lord William Hale at the beginning of Trafalgar (Sharpe's Trafalgar : Chapter 1). Though he has moments of fractiousness or mild irritation, he seems to get over them quickly and is generally polite and in good humor. Sharpe learns a good deal about what a good leader of men is from watching Chase.
He is clearly loved by his men, as attested to by one of his midshipmen, and his bosun, John Hopper (Sharpe's Trafalgar : Chapter 6). Chase does not indulge in harsh discipline and dislikes flogging, though he does employ it when necessary, and he is apt to reward his men generously, such as giving oarsmen a double tot of rum after a stiff bout of towing in becalmed waters.(Sharpe's Trafalgar : Chapter 7)
- Chase was taught French as a child, though he apparently did not enjoy the lessons overmuch, telling Sharpe that he wished he could "flog it out of his tutor now."(Sharpe's Trafalgar : Chapter 1)
- He deliberately disobeyed an order to stay on his ship given by Admiral Gambier in order to sneak into Copenhagen with Sharpe and his men.
- Chase claims that marriage settled him down and that he had been a "dog" prior to meeting his wife (Sharpe's Trafalgar : Chapter 6). Chase is married to a woman named Florence, and has several children, they own a small farm/estate somewhere in Devonshire.
- Readers of both the Sharpe series and the Aubreyad by Patrick O'Brien have claimed similarities between Captain Chase and O'Brien's hero Jack Aubrey. Cornwell, however, did not write the character to be an intentional tribute to the earlier character