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October 21, 2005

The Battle of Trafalgar: 200th Anniversary.

Yes, here it is at last, the day that all of us from Naval families have been waiting for for years. The 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. As For Battle put it rather neatly:

The day when Horatio Nelson and the English Navy beat the snot out of the combined French and Spanish fleets off Cape Trafalgar.

Although perhaps we should note that it was the Royal Navy, not the English one.

The Monarchist is running a great series of letters from Nelson, Emma Hamilton and, quite wonderfully, the signals sent out during the run up to the battle which appear to be posting in real (although 200 years delayed) time.

Diamond Geezer has a guide and full photo set of Trafalgar Square where we Brits commemorated the event....including that new statue of Alison Lapper which is a great opportunity to remind you of Laban Tall’s comment on it:

Ms Lapper, who was born with shortened legs and no arms because of a congenital disorder, has travelled to London for the ceremony. "I’m very excited about it. This is history in the making," she said.

"Never before has someone with a disability - let alone someone with a disability who is naked and eight months pregnant - been put in such a public place and portrayed in such a positive way."

Tragically Ms Lapper appears to be not only disabled, but blind. Or ignorant. Or both.

It's easy to miss, I know. But Trafalgar Square is dominated by a 180-foot column.

With an 18-foot statue on the top.

Of a man missing an eye and half an arm.

Silent Running starts with this:

200 years ago a small man about the size of an average 11 year old midshipman who had one good eye, one arm and an ego the size of planet commanded a British fleet into battle and they kicked the crap out of a combined French and Spanish fleet off Cape Trafalgar.

And of course there are hundreds more blog entries to be found via Google and Technorati.

From the Wikipedia entry the famous signal, "Ëngland Expects That Every Man Will Do His Duty":

480pxengland_expects_signal

 The Times tells us how the celebrations will go in the UK:

As for Admiral Lord Nelson, he will be saluted in the Great Cabin on board his flagship tonight in the presence of the Queen, 200 years to the day after Trafalgar.

The grand dinner for 24 people, the most that can fit in the cabin will be a strictly naval affair, with no government ministers present. The Queen, who has the title of Lord High Admiral, approved the guest list.

There will be six admirals of the fleet, headed by the Duke of Edinburgh. Others include Sir Henry Leach, the former First Sea Lord who convinced Margaret Thatcher in 1982 that a Royal Navy task force could be dispatched to the Falkland Islands. Admiral Sir Alan West, the present First Sea Lord, will host the dinner.

It is seen as the greatest honour for the Royal Navy: the Queen has never dined in the Great Cabin on Trafalgar night.

There is also the tale of HMS Pickles and the arrival of Admiral Collingwood’s account of the battle:

The day after the battle Collingwood retired to his cabin on his flag ship The Euryalus, to pen the Trafalgar Dispatch. Collingwood’s own ship, The Royal Sovereign, had lost her masts in the engagement, and Collingwood’s heart, he said, was “rent” by the death of his friend, Admiral Nelson. But his dispatch was as fine a piece of journalism as exists: brief and to the point, but poignant and stirring. “The attack on them was irresistible, and it pleased the Almighty Disposer of all events to grant his majesty’s arms a complete and glorious victory.”

A severe storm delayed the news and it was not until Saturday October 26, five days after the battle, that Lieutenant John Lapenotiere, captain of the schooner Pickle, set off with the precious dispatch, as well as another describing the effects of the storm, and two general orders addressed to the fleet. Lapenotiere crowded sail, and reached Falmouth by November 4.

From the sea port, he set off by “post chaise and four” on a non-stop dash to London that can be precisely reconstructed from the lieutenant’s meticulous expenses claims. Thirty-seven hours later, after 21 changes of horse and the expenditure of 46 pounds, 19 shillings, and one penny, Lapenotiere finally arrived in London in the early hours.

The full version of that dispatch is being given away in replica with today’s Times and can be seen here.

There’ll be beacons lit across the country tonight, every man and boy (an, of course, woman in these more enlightened times) who has ever had anything at all to do with the Royal Navy will be puffed up with pride tonight, celebrating and remembering the greatest victory that they or their forbears ever achieved.

But isn’t this all a little over the top? Was it really such a battle? Playing "what if" is a wonderful game and the immediate effects of a French victory would have been a successful invasion of Britain. That would have meant no British Empire in the 19th century, nor the Pax Britannica, and there are plenty who would think that not a bad idea. It would also have meant no 1812 war with the US, nor the Peninsular Wars nor, perhaps, Napoleon’s march on Moscow.

It’s also true that it would have (at the very least) delayed the end of the slave trade, even slavery itself.

But to get an idea of quite how much this means to some, a small personal tale. My father (who at one point held one of Nelson’s old jobs, Commodore of Naples) has taken me aboard HMS Victory and reminded me that this is still a ship in service, still commissioned, Captains are still piped aboard, well, that’s done in many places, is it not? USS Constitution for example? A much smaller tale. Wandering through Bath (my home town) one day with him he asked if I knew a pub called The Crystal Palace and I assured him that I did (my knowing almost all of the pubs in town). So we went in and I asked why here, why this place?

"Oh, this is where Nelson recuperated after losing his arm. Important to come here and remember."

And so I do remember.

Technorati tag Trafalgar.

Update: And do read this account of the celebrations in Nelson’s home village. Very, very English. Even a reference to Ted Hughes in there.

October 21, 2005 in History, Military, The English | Permalink

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» Happy Red Vs Blue Anniversary! from The Coalition of the Swilling
The Glorious 200th Anniversary of Red beating Blue (or was it Blue beating Red? Politically Correct History, "Years Without Tears", is awfully tough to remember...) has finally arrived! Tim Worstall has a celebratory post up. I think for dinner I'm... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 21, 2005 8:41:44 PM

» Happy Red Vs Blue Anniversary! from The Coalition of the Swilling
The Glorious 200th Anniversary of Red beating Blue (or was it Blue beating Red? Politically Correct History, "Years Without Tears", is awfully tough to remember...) has finally arrived! Tim Worstall has a celebratory post up. I think for dinner I'm... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 21, 2005 8:46:50 PM

» Trafalgar Bicentennial from The LLama Butchers
(Image borrowed from BritishBattles.com) Today is the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, one of the greatest naval engagements in history, in which Admiral Viscount Lord Nelson smashed a combined French and Spanish fleet under Admiral Ville... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 21, 2005 10:01:18 PM

» Huzzah! (As the Brits Say) from it comes in pints?
Today is the 200th anniversary of Admiral Lord Nelson's victory over the combined French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar, and also, of course, of Nelson's death. Such a victory alone is worth celebrating, but Trafalgar was arguably the most pivotal... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 21, 2005 10:44:23 PM

» Huzzah! (As the Brits Say) from it comes in pints?
Today is the 200th anniversary of Admiral Lord Nelson's victory over the combined French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar, and also, of course, of Nelson's death. Such a victory alone is worth celebrating, but Trafalgar was arguably the most pivotal... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 21, 2005 10:44:50 PM

» Huzzah! (As the Brits Say) from it comes in pints?
Today is the 200th anniversary of Admiral Lord Nelson's victory over the combined French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar, and also, of course, of Nelson's death. Such a victory alone is worth celebrating, but Trafalgar was arguably the most pivotal... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 21, 2005 10:46:32 PM

» Huzzah! (As the Brits Say) from it comes in pints?
Today is the 200th anniversary of Admiral Lord Nelson's victory over the combined French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar, and also, of course, of Nelson's death. Such a victory alone is worth celebrating, but Trafalgar was arguably the most pivotal... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 21, 2005 10:48:03 PM

» Huzzah! (As the Brits Say) from it comes in pints?
Today is the 200th anniversary of Admiral Lord Nelson's victory over the combined French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar, and also, of course, of Nelson's death. Such a victory alone is worth celebrating, but Trafalgar was arguably the most pivotal... [Read More]

Tracked on Oct 22, 2005 3:26:15 AM

Comments

A vaguely interesting factoid about Nelson's Navy is that it was motivated not just by patriotism but by the free market. Most sailors where not pressed, but volunteers drawn by the potential for great wealth that came from prize money that was distributed to everybody involved when a ship was captured.

Posted by: chris | Oct 21, 2005 2:01:38 PM

Tim
Have a look at http://arthursseat.blogs.com/arthurs_seat/2005/10/kiss_me_hardy.html
for what might happen were the battle to be contested today.

Posted by: Arthur | Oct 21, 2005 4:07:14 PM

Congratulations Red! Or were you guys Blue?

Posted by: Mr. Bingley | Oct 21, 2005 8:41:43 PM

It seems that Comical Ali was alive and well atthe time, the gfollowing is a repotrt in the French newspaper Le Moniteur, dated 25th October 1805.
"The English fleet is annihilated!
Nelson is no more!
Indignant at being inactive in port, whilst our brave brethren in arms were gaining laurels in Germany, Admirals Villeneuve and Gravina resolved to put to sea, and give the English battle. They were superior in number, forty-five to our thirty-three; but what is superiority in numbers to men determined to conquer? - Admiral Nelson did every thing to avoid a battle; he attempted to get into the Mediterranean, but we pursued, and came up with him off Trafalgar."

Go read the rest it is glorious,
http://www.nmm.ac.uk/server/show/conWebDoc.17886

Posted by: Elaib | Oct 22, 2005 9:27:21 PM

"Rule Britanina,
Britanina Rules the Waves!
Britons Never, Never, Shall be Slaves!"

Tim adds: I think there should be another never in there?

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