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The Battle of Trafalgar

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The statue of Nelson on Nelson's Column, in Trafalgar Square.
When Britain first at Heav'n's command
Arose from out the azure main;
This was the charter of the land,
And guardian angels sang this strain;

Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves:
Britons never will be slaves.

The historical significance of the Battle of Trafalgar is immense as this was the moment that established British domination of the oceans of the world. It would be over a hundred years and a World War before Britain's Royal Navy faced an enemy that was prepared to challenge this dominance. The Battle of Trafalgar was also the scenario that brought Horatio Nelson into the British psyche. 1st Viscount Nelson was born on 29 September, 1758 in Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk. He died a hero on 21 October, 1805 in Cape Trafalgar, Spain.

Setting the Stage

In 1805, the French Empire dominated mainland Europe and Napoleon began a campaign to take control of the English Channel with a view to invading Britain. This was something the French had repeatedly failed to do all the way back in time to 1066. Aware of Napoleon's intentions, the Royal Navy blockaded the French. This tactic was successful for a time; however, after the Third Coalition of Austria, Russia and the United Kingdom declared war upon France, Napoleon made new plans to invade Britain. This would not only require good control of the Channel but would also require the French and Spanish fleets to escape the British blockade and rendezvous with other forces in the West Indies.

France's most senior naval officer of the time was Admiral Villeneuve. Pierre Charles Jean Baptiste Silvestre de Villeneuve French Vice Admiral was born in 1763 in Valensoles, Provence1. He had been blockaded in Toulon but broke out on 30 March, 1805 after Nelson's loose blockade was blown off by storms. Villeneuve met up with the Spanish fleet and then sailed for the West Indies as planned, with Nelson giving chase. Villeneuve then returned to Europe with hopes of breaking the blockade that had trapped Vice-Admiral Ganteaume at Brest, but failed after fighting an indecisive action against Calder2 and his squadron of 15 ships just off Cape Finisterre. The visibility was poor and Calder failed to press home his advantage and Admiral Villeneuve broke free, with the French fleet making for Martinique.

Villeneuve then left Martinique, turned north and sailed for Ferrol in northern Spain. From here, he had orders direct from Napoleon to sail for Brest once more, but due to a paranoia that he was being watched, Villeneuve headed for Cadiz instead. The invasion force waiting for Villeneuve at Brest gave up the futile wait on the 26 August, and ended up taking part in Napoleon's invasion of Russia instead. Meanwhile, Nelson's fleet returned home to rest after their voyage looking for the French. He was forced to wait until mid-September before HMS Victory was ready to sail. During this time, Cornwallis, who had been tightly blocking Brest, had detached 20 ships of the line from his group and sent them south under Calder with the intention of meeting the French in battle. This left the channel slightly exposed, but would later provide Nelson with the ships he needed to fight the French at Trafalgar. Calder reached Cadiz on 15 September, with Nelson joining him and taking command on 29 September.

Preparations for Battle

The scene was set for the Battle of Trafalgar, which was fought on 21 October, 1805 off Cape Trafalgar on the Spanish coast. The battle was fought by the British fleet, and the combined fleets of France and Spain.

Warships of this period were rated according to the number of cannon they carried. This is shown as the bold number following the name of the ship.

  • A ship with more than 90 guns - 1st Rate.
  • A ship with more than 80 guns - 2nd Rate.
  • A ship with more than 54 guns - 3rd Rate.
  • A ship with more than 38 guns - 4th Rate.
  • A ship with more than 18 guns - 5th Rate.
  • A ship with more than six guns - 6th Rate.

The ships of the French fleet:

  1. Formidable 80
  2. Scipion 74
  3. Mont-Blanc 74
  4. Duguay-Trouin 74
  5. Heros 74
  6. Bucentaure 80 The flagship of Admiral Villeneuve
  7. Neptune 80
  8. Redoutable 74
  9. Indomptable 80
  10. Fougueux 74
  11. Aigle 74
  12. Algesiras 74
  13. Swiftsure 74
  14. Pluton 74
  15. Intrépide 74
  16. Argonaute 74
  17. Achille 74
  18. Berwick 74

The Ships of the Spanish fleet:

  1. San Augustin 74
  2. Rayo 100
  3. Santisima Trinidad 140
  4. San Justo 74
  5. San Leandro 64
  6. Montanez 74
  7. Santa Anna 112
  8. Principe de Asturias 112
  9. Neptuno 80
  10. Monarca 74
  11. San Francisco de Asis 74
  12. Argonauta 80
  13. Bahama 74
  14. San Ildefonso 74
  15. San Juan Nepomuceno 74

In addition, there were also five Frigates, Rhin, Themis, Argus, Algecira and Furet as well as two un-named schooners.

As the ships of the French and Spanish fleet made their way north, the picket line of ships stationed by Nelson caught sight of them. Signals were soon sent to Nelson and the rest of the British fleet:

0430 Frigate Sirius to Line to Prince and Dreadnought: Enemy's ships are coming out of port.

This initial message was repeated down the chain of ships until it reached HMS Achilles.

0500 Achilles to Nelson: Have discovered a strange fleet.

Nelson had written a detailed explanation of his plan on 9 October. Though not entirely followed during the battle, it laid out the tactics to be followed. The battle lines ware drawn up by Nelson and orders were to be given in advance. Nelson asked his captains to come on board the Victory, where he explained his plan of battle. He decided to divide the fleet into three supporting parts, the first part to consist of seven ships positioned to his north to protect his flank. All the other ships of the fleet were to attack in two columns and sail at the centre and rear of the enemy fleet, this would cut off the van (the head) of the enemy fleet and isolate them from the battle.

Nelson was to command one line and Admiral Collingwood the other. The fleet captains had been given orders to form the two columns, and each ship had been allocated its place in line; the disposition of the fleet was as follows:

0610 Nelson to Fleet: Form order of sailing in two columns.

Nelson then divided the remainder of his fleet into two distinct lines to attack the enemy fleet: The Weather Line3 under his own direct command and to the south the Lee Line4 under the command of Admiral Lord Collingwood.

The Ships of Admiral Nelson's Weather Line.

  1. HMS Victory 100 Capt Thomas Masterman Hardy
  2. HMS Temeraire 98 Capt Eliab Harvey
  3. HMS Neptune 98 Capt Thomas Francis Freemantle
  4. HMS Leviathan 74 Capt Henry William Bayntun
  5. HMS Conqueror 74 Capt Israel Pellew
  6. HMS Agamemnon 64 Sir Edward Berry
  7. HMS Britannia 100 Capt Charles Bullen
  8. HMS Ajax 74 Lieut John Pilford
  9. HMS Orion 74 Capt Edward Codrington
  10. HMS Minotaur 74 Capt Charles John Moore Mansfield
  11. HMS Spartiate 74 Capt Sir Francis Laforey
  12. HMS Africa 64 Capt Henry Digby

The Ships of Admiral Collingwood's Lee Line:

  1. HMS Royal Sovereign 100 Capt Edward Rotherham
  2. HMS Bellisle 74 Capt William Hargood
  3. HMS Colossus 74 Capt James Nicoll Morris
  4. HMS Mars 74 Capt George Duff
  5. HMS Tonnant 80 Capt Charles Tyler
  6. HMS Bellerophon 74 Capt John Cooke
  7. HMS Achille 74 Capt Richard King
  8. HMS Polyphemus 64 Capt Robert Redmill
  9. HMS Revenge 74 Capt Robert Moorsom
  10. HMS Swiftsure 74 Capt William Gordon Ruthreford
  11. HMS Defence 74 Capt George Hope
  12. HMS Thunderer 74 Lieut John Stockham
  13. HMS Defiance 74 Capt Philip Charles Durham
  14. HMS Prince 98 Capt Richard Grindall
  15. HMS Dreadnought 98Capt John Conn

In addition to the two groups of capital ships, Nelson also had a number of smaller frigates and schooners under his control, sailing separately from the two lines. These were:

  1. HMS Pickle 10 Lieut John Richards La Pentoiere.
  2. HMS Entreprenante 8 Lieut Robert Benjamin Young
  3. HMS Naiad 38 Capt Thomas Dundas
  4. HMS Phoebe 36 Capt Hon Thomas Bladen Capell
  5. HMS Sirius 36 Capt William Prowse
  6. HMS Euryalus 36 Capt Hon Henry Blackwood

HMS Africa had drifted north during the night and dawn found the ship far to the north among the ships stationed to the north of Nelson's line.

0610 Nelson to Fleet: Form order of sailing in two columns.

The fleet that had lain ready during the night made ready and prepared to move off according to the orders Nelson had issued the day before.

0613 Nelson to Fleet: Bear up and sail on course ENE. The winds were light and the fleet began to take position in line. The ships HMS Victory and HMS Royal Sovereign being the first to move off.

0622 Nelson to Fleet: Prepare for battle.

The preparation of a ship of the line for action at sea, or battle stations, only took a few minutes as the ships were fully positioned already.

The moveable bulkheads were folded and the officers' effects were stowed in the hold. The lower decks were cleared of all unnecessary kit. The crew secured all sails, then secured safety nets below the masts as set up the rigging to catch potentially lethal debris that would otherwise fall on the men below.

As fire was a constant risk, the sails, masts and spas were soaked with sea water, as were the upper works and ships' boats. The crew's hammocks were placed in nets on the top of the bulwarks (the top of the ship's rail), these were also soaked, and served a function similar to sandbags preventing splinters. The ship’s fire pump was prepared up on the main deck, and hoses were set out. The fire buckets were filled, and wet sand was spread on the upper decks to provide grip (blood is slippery) and retard the spread of fire from errant sparks.

The gun crews prepared the recoil rigging on cannon, and opened the gun ports. Round shot was set out on all decks and rope quoits prevented the round shot from rolling around as the ship healed over. The powder monkeys (boys who carried gun powder) went to the magazines to collect the powder cases. The cannon were fired by a flintlock that was fixed to the touch hole. These were removed when the cannon was laid up. The gun-captains went down to the store to be issued these together with priming powder flasks.

It was the duty of the ship's cook to douse the fire and set the candles in the magazine light boxes. Pikes were placed at the foot of the masts, and small arms were issued. these were for use if the ship was boarded by the enemy. On the orlop deck5 the ship's surgeon and the surgeon's mates prepared for the casualties, and prepares the wound dressings. The floor of this deck was traditionally painted red to hide the blood.

The marines shut and stood guard over the hatches to prevent any unauthorised access during action. Then a report was made to the captain 'ship cleared for action' and the men stood ready awaiting orders.

0646 Nelson to Fleet: Bear up and sail large on course E.

The prevailing wind was blowing in an east-south-easterly direction and was in favour of the British fleet (in as much as it made steering easier). 'Bear up' meant to sail close to the wind6. To sail large, or use the main mast as the centre point of a circle on a compass, the ship's hull is aligned on the east west line with the bow pointing east. Now imagine a line from north to south, any wind blowing from the 180° on the western half of this line is blowing from the stern. Any ship sailing with this prevailing wind blowing from the stern (back) of the ship would find keeping a course was easier with few changes to the set of the ship's sails.

0705 Nelson to Britannia: Take station as convenient without regard to the order of sailing.

Britannia, the 100-gun first-rate ship under the command of Captain Charles Bullen, was delayed in setting sail. This signal was an attempt to maintain the discipline of his line, by Nelson.

0720 Nelson to Prince and Dreadnought: Take station as convenient without regard to the order of sailing.

Prince and Dreadnought, these two 98-gun first-rate ships in Collingwood's line were also delayed and they were to eventually take station as the last two ships in the line. Nelson sent this signal to the ships' captains, Richard Grindall and John Conn.

0735 Nelson to Euryalus, Naiad, Phoebe and Sirius: Captain to come on board flagship.

Nelson sent the signal to the captains of the frigates stationed on his northern flank, that they could receive final orders for their part in the coming battle. Thomas Dundas of the Naiad, Thomas Bladen Capell of the Phoebe, William Prowse of the Sirius and the Hon Henry Blackwood of the Euryalus were to attend the Admiral as he wished them to receive their orders directly from him. These ships were to take station to the north of Nelson's line. The positioning was vital as the head of the enemy fleet could turn south to harry the flank of Nelson's line.

0840 Nelson to Prince: Bear up and sail large on course steered by Admiral.

The prevailing wind was still blowing in an east-south-easterly direction. Prince was to adjust her course to sail more closely to the wind. The ship was evidently not sailing in quite the direction Nelson wished.

0845 Collingwood to Lee Column: Keep on the larboard line of bearing though on the starboard tack.

The line under the command of Collingwood was heading to the starboard (its right) at this point. Collingwood required the line to take formation to the larboard (port or left) of the ship that preceded it. This was because the line was to head ENE to take its place in the battle.

0850 Collingwood to Lee Column: Form the larboard line of bearing.

The line was to form up, and as the ships took position in line behind Royal Sovereign, one by one they would head ENE to take their places in the battle.

0850 Collingwood to Lee Column: Make more sail, leading ship first.

The command to make more sail is simply to increase the area or number of sail in order to increase the speed of the ship. The command went out first to the leading ship Royal Sovereign , then Tonnant and so on to avoid the ships behind overtaking the lead ships.

0900 Nelson to Collingwood: Report if Tonnant cannot close: order other ships between.

HMS Tonnant under the command of Captain Charles Tyler, was one of the larger ships and was slow to gain speed. This had been noted by Nelson who made signal.

0915 Collingwood to Belleisle and Tonnant: Interchange places in the line.

HMS Belleisle and HMS Tonnant were instructed to change places in line as Tonnant was still trying to gain speed. The change was made as it was vital to keep the sailing order.

0915 Collingwood to Dreadnought: Make more sail.

HMS Dreadnought was taking time to pick up speed and so she was signalled to make more sail simply to increase the speed of the ship.

0920 Collingwood to Belleisle: Make more sail.

HMS Belleisle was also taking time to pick up speed, the larger and slower ships being at the head of the line did not help. So she was signalled to make more sail to increase her speed.

0930 Collingwood to Belleisle: Take station bearing SW from Admiral.

The Belleisle was out of line to far north and was instructed to alter course to rectify this.

0936 Nelson to Leviathan: Take station astern of Temeraire.

The Leviathan under the command of Captain Henry William Bayntun, was instructed to take a new position in Nelson's line astern of the Temeraire.

0930 Collingwood to Revenge: Take station bearing from Admiral as pointed out by compass signal.

The Revenge was now out of line to far north and was instructed to alter course to rectify this.

0940 Collingwood to Revenge: Make more sail.

HMS Revenge was taking time to pick up speed, so she was signalled to make more sail to increase her speed.

0941 Nelson to Mars: Take station of Royal Sovereign.

HMS Mars, the 74-gun ship commanded by Capt George Duff was ordered up the line to take position on the lee side of the Royal Sovereign.

0945 Collingwood to Lee Column: Take station bearing from the Admiral as pointed out and make more sail.

Collingwood signalled all ships in the lee column to make more sail to increase their speed.

1010 Nelson to Mars: Lead the Lee Column.

HMS Mars was ordered up the line to take the lead position of the lee column.

1045 Nelson to Mars: Head the Column.

HMS Mars was ordered up the line to take the head of the lee column and lead them into battle.

1100 Nelson to Fleet: Prepare to anchor after the close of day.

Nelson wanted to prevent the ships being driven onto the lee shore. As the wind could blow the British fleet on to shore after the battle, Nelson ordered that the fleet was to prepare for the anchorage position, and to make sure the fleet knew exactly where it would be positioned.

1102 Nelson to Defence: Make all sail possible with safety to the masts.

HMS Defence had fallen back and needed to join ranks so she was signalled to make more sail without damaging her masts and rigging, and increase her speed.

1140 Nelson to Africa: Make all sail possible with safety to the masts.

Africa was out of the main line of battle and sailing down from the NW. HMS Africa was ordered to close up so she was signalled to join the line as soon as possible.

1140 Nelson to Collingwood: I intend to go through the enemy's line to prevent them getting into Cadiz.

This change of tactic was required, Nelson had now seen the disposition of the enemy fleet and had decided to alter his attack. Collingwood needed to be informed of this.

1145 Nelson to Mars: Make all sail possible with safety to the masts.

HMS Mars needed to close up so she was signalled to make more sail without damaging her masts and rigging, and increase her speed.

1145 Collingwood to Lee Column: Make more sail.

This signalled that it was time for the last push into the enemy line and all ships in Collingwood's line needed to close with the enemy as fast as possible.

1148 Nelson to Fleet: England expects that every man will do his duty.

Nelson's signal officer Lieutenant Pasco was ordered to signal to the fleet:

'Mr Pasco, I wish to say to the Fleet 'England confides that every man will do his duty.'

Lieutenant Pasco requested Nelson's permission to change the word 'expects' for 'confides'. The simple reason was that 'confides' would need to be signalled letter by letter. The change was agreed and the signal was run up the signal halyards. The signal caused some comment and some said that they would always do their duty for Nelson and need not be asked.

1150 Nelson to Fleet: Make all sail possible with safety to the masts.

This signalled that it was time for the last push into the enemy line and all ships needed to close as fast as possible. All ships in the fleet were signalled to make more sail without damaging their masts and rigging, and to increase their speed.

Battle Commences

The first shots were fired at the combined fleet by the 100-gun HMS Royal Sovereign as she came within range of the 74-gun Fougueux. Captain Edward Rotherham of the Royal Sovereign ordered 'open fire' at noon.

1215 Nelson to Temeraire: Take station astern of Victory.

HMS Temeraire7 was the 98-gun ship commanded by Captain Eliab Harvey. She was to take position to the lee side of Victory to provide support.

1215 Nelson to Fleet: Engage the enemy more closely.

Nelson ordered Lieutenant Pasco to make this final signal. The Victory had now come within range of the enemy fleet and was being fired upon.

1230 Nelson to Africa: Make all sail possible with safety to the masts.

Nelson ordered his signal officer, Lieutenant Pasco to make this final signal of the day. On the night of the 20th October, HMS Africa, the smallest capital ship in the fleet, under the command of Capt Henry Digby, had drifted away from the rest of Nelson's fleet. As dawn broke on the morning of the battle, she found herself unsupported to the north of the Franco-Spanish fleet. Nelson signalled the Africa to increase speed and rejoin the fleet so she was signalled to make more sail with care for her masts and rigging and rejoin the rest of the fleet. Digby apparently decided to ignore the signal, and take on the whole enemy fleet single-handedly.

Fighting Tactics

In order to understand the way that these battles were fought, a brief explanation of the tactics used is necessary. The British Navy's tactics at the time were, in the main, to fire solid shot broadside (lengthways) into the hull of the enemy ship, thus trying to sink it outright.

They used to do this by timing the firing of the guns so that the ship fired its broadside 'on the downroll', or when the roll of the ship was such that the guns were aiming lower. This, incidentally, caused enormous casualties on the other side, not from cannonballs piercing the hulls of the enemy ship, but from the splinters of wood shooting across the inside of the enemy gundecks whenever the outside of the hull was hit by a cannonball.

The French, on the other hand, used much more grapeshot and fired 'on the uproll', aiming for the masts and rigging of their enemies, with the final aim of simply disabling the enemy ship before closing to board and capture it.

This is one of the reasons for the disproportionate casualty figures8 of battles like The Battles of the Nile and Trafalgar.

While Nelson and Collingwood sailed their two columns of vessels in from the East towards the northward-sailing enemy line of battle, Africa attacked alone from the North, sailing straight along the enemy's line of battle, swapping broadsides with one vessel after another (all of which had much heavier armament). Africa passed abeam of around a dozen enemy vessels before attempting to grapple with, and board, the Santissima Trinidad, a Spanish 130-gun ship, thought to be the largest warship in the world at the time.

This boarding manoeuvre was unsuccessful, with the Spanish captain politely refusing to surrender and ordering the British sailors off his ship, and the Africa continued southwards. She was eventually so heavily damaged that nine days later she was towed into Gibraltar for a minimum of repairs before sailing back to England, not getting home until early December.

The Africa went on to serve for a further ten years. Seeing action in the Baltic and off the coast of North America, she was finally paid off and broken up in 1814.

Close Action

The first ship to reach the line of allied ships was the Royal Sovereign which, having recently had its bottom scraped and having started at the head of the lee line, quickly broke in to the stern of the Santa Ana and fired a raking broadside while neatly avoiding being fired upon herself.

HMS Belleisle, the next in the lee line, was quickly mobbed by a group of four French ships, with the attack de-masting the ship. This had the effect of shrouding many of the cannons by the drifting sails. Despite this, the ship continued to fly her flag until rescued three quarters of an hour later.

What then followed played a great part in ensuring that Captain Thomas Masterman Hardy9 would later become Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy, 1st Baronet.

The Victory closed in on the enemy fleet at the head of the weather line, taking fire for forty minutes before Hardy finally succeeded in his aim of passing between Villeneuve's flagship Bucentaure and the French ship Redoutable. Having already incurred many casualties (including Nelson's secretary, John Scott, and the marines stationed on the upper deck), the Victory passed close to the Bucentaure and unleashed a devastating raking broadside which included a keg's worth of musket balls fired from one of the ship's 68-pounder cannons. This wiped out many of the crew above deck, leading Villeneuve to assume that Nelson would soon attempt to board his ship. Instead, Hardy ordered the Victory to turn northwest to pull alongside the Redoutable and, having exchanged broadsides as the cannons came to bear, the ships crashed together and locked masts.

The Redoutable quickly shut its gunports to prevent boarding and its large crew, which included an infantry corp, was positioned ready to board the Victory. The Victory also ceased fire to allow its gunners to man the decks and fight the French, but they were forced back down by a barrage of grenades and musket fire, and thus the Victory's guns continued to fire into the French ship. Having dispersed his marines about the boat to protect them from the earlier barrage of cannonballs, Nelson had left his ship open to attack by French sharpshooters, and at 13.15 he was shot through the left shoulder with a musket ball while walking on the quarterdeck with Hardy. Nelson knew the wound would be fatal and was carried below decks - we will resume his story later on.

As fighting continued on the decks, the British ship Temeraire came up on the Redoutable's starboard side, and the French infantry above decks were hit with rounds from the Temeraire's carronades while the ships on either side hit the French ship with continuous cannonfire. At 13.55, around an hour after close action had begun, the Redoutable was forced to surrender, with most of its crew having become casualties.

Meanwhile, the Royal Sovereign had been taking hits for 30 minutes without support before the rest of Admiral Collingwood's lee line arrived, with the head of the line breaking through the allied fleet's first line while the rest of the lee line fanned out to engage the southern part of the allied line. The head of the lee line then turned south between the two allied lines to help engage the southern half of the enemy fleet, the second line of which had now arrived at the battle. Meanwhile, the weather line was almost completely engaged with the allied fleet except for the rear two ships, which had turned north to engage the vanguard of the French fleet. While approaching the allied line, Nelson had feinted northwards to head for the vanguard before heading back to his original course, thus preventing the French vanguard from turning to protect the main body of the allied line. The vanguard had thus been cut off from the main body by the front of the weather line, but had now started to turn and was pounding the two British ships that had sailed to face it. Having gained the upper hand and disabled the surrounding allied ships, Victory and the head of the weather line turned north to help out the pair of ships, cutting off the vanguard from the rest of the battle.

By this point, the superior gunnery of the Royal Navy was beginning to show, with many of the allied ships having surrendered. As the wind began to drop, ships with their masts and sails broken or shot away slowly drifted about, and ships caught up in the melée were forced to take whatever opportunity they had to attack other ships. Standing on the deck of the Mars, Captain Duff lost his head to a cannonball while trying to spot the enemy ships which then went on to rake his boat. Meanwhile, Admiral Dumanoir finally arrived with the van of the combined fleet and passed windward of the British fleet, firing as he went, following which the four ships turned to leave the battle. Three headed for Cadiz, with only the aptly-named Intrépide turning and heading to Admiral Villeneuve's aid. For its trouble, the Intrépide was then attacked by several British ships, later being commended for bravery by the captains of the ships which pummelled it.

The Death of Nelson

Several rumours and unsubstantiated comments have come to light over the years on the subject of Nelson's death. Among these are the reports by a number of his officers, that they asked him to remove his highly embroidered10 uniform coat before battle commenced. This, said various officers, would greatly simplify the task of the snipers in the enemies' masts, to identify and gun down British officers during the battle.

Who it was who actually suggested he should remove his coat is not recorded, and what Nelson's response was to the suggestion is still a point of conjecture. Legend has it that he deliberately wore the coat to ensure he would be visible to his own sailors, thus improving their morale during the battle.

Another comment, reported by the captain of the frigate HMS Penelope, Henry Blackwood, who was onboard the Victory during the hours leading up to the battle, was that as the first shots were fired, and Capt Blackwood was preparing to leave the Victory to return to his own ship, Nelson turned to him and said, 'God bless you Blackwood, I shall never speak to you again'.

Regardless of rumour or comments, it is clear from a prayer Nelson wrote in the hours leading up to the battle that he was ready to die for his country, if that was to be his fate.

May the Great God, whom I worship, grant to my Country, and for the benefit of Europe in general, a great and glorious Victory; and may no misconduct in anyone tarnish it; and may humanity after Victory be the predominant feature in the British Fleet. For myself, individually, I commit my life to Him who made me, and may His blessing light upon my endeavours for serving my country faithfully. To him I resign myself and the just cause which is entrusted to me to defend.
Amen. Amen. Amen.

The chain of events leading to Nelson's death that day came to a head at approximately 2pm on 21 October, 1805. The Victory was engaging the French Redoutable when a sniper, perched in the mizzen mast of the French man-o-war, fired down onto the Victory's quarterdeck, hitting Nelson in the left shoulder.

Nelson remained conscious, and was lifted to his feet by two seamen. When approached by Hardy, Nelson is reported to have said, 'They've done for me at last, Hardy, my backbone is shot through.'.

He was then carried below to the ship's surgeon, but it was clear to both the surgeon and Nelson himself, that the Admiral could not survive the wound. Nelson described his symptoms as 'a gush of blood every minute within his breast' and that he could feel nothing of his lower body apart from an acute pain from his spine, where he thought the ball had lodged.

Nelson repeatedly asked to see Hardy but, because of the battle, it was over an hour before his flag captain could free himself from command for long enough to visit the admiral. When Hardy did appear, one of Nelson's first questions was 'How goes the battle?', to which Hardy responded that they had captured between 12 and 14 of the enemy's ships. He then went on to ask whether any of his own ships had struck their colours and had to be reassured that none of them had surrendered to the enemy.

During this period, Nelson repeatedly told those around him that he was sure that his back was broken and that nothing could be done for him. He even sent the surgeon away from him at one stage, telling the man to treat the other wounded, as he said 'You can do nothing for me'.

Fifty minutes later, Hardy returned to see Nelson a second time with news that the battle was over. Giving his final order, Nelson insisted that Hardy ordered the signal to the fleet to anchor, but then added that he didn't want to be buried at sea. Next came the famous words 'Take care of poor Lady Hamilton. Kiss me, Hardy', to which Hardy responded by kissing Nelson's forehead, evoking the words 'Now I am satisfied. Thank God I have done my duty.' It was those last seven words that Nelson is said to have uttered repeatedly while in his death throes, albeit intermixed with the words 'Drink, drink. Fan, fan. Rub, rub.'

In order to transport it back to England, Nelson's body was placed in a large cask that was then filled with brandy to preserve the remains. The cask had to be topped up with 'spirit of wine'11, at Gibraltar on 28 October. The reason for this supposedly being that the body had absorbed a large quantity of the brandy that it had been placed in. Finally, the Victory arrived at Portsmouth on 4 December, with Nelson's body sailed up to Greenwich Hospital before being taken up the Thames to Whitehall to be conferred upon the Admiralty. Nelson was given a state funeral, a rare honour only ever given to four other non-royals, and then buried at St Paul's Cathedral on 9 January.

Nelson's fortune went to his brother William, who was made Earl Nelson, leaving Nelson's mistress Lady Hamilton and their illegitimate daughter Horatia in poverty despite accounts of Nelson asking that their safety be ensured before his death. His legacy of 'The Nelson Touch' - his ability to both forge inspirational strategies and to bring out the best in all of his men - and of course his famous message of 'England Expects' continue to endure, however. Several statues and monuments stand to his memory, most notably Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, London. In 2005, the Battle of Trafalgar's 200-year anniversary was remembered with extensive celebrations and a battle between the Red Team and the Blue Team in the Solent near Portsmouth. It wasn't until Winston Churchill came along over a hundred years later that another man made such a name for himself by protecting the United Kingdom from harm, and so Admiral Horatio Nelson remains a national hero even today.

1He eventually died in 1806 in Paris, France.2Admiral Sir Robert Calder, Bt KCB was born 13 July, 1745 in Elgin, Scotland and died on 1 September, 1818 in Holt, Bishop's Waltham, Hampshire.3The line of ships furthest upwind.4The line of ships downwind.5The deck at the waterline of the ship, the safest in the ship during battle.6Keeping the wind on the stern of the ship as much as possible.7To be known after the battle as 'The Fighting Temeraire'.8The British averaged one killed to three wounded. The French were averaging one killed and five wounded.9Born 5 April, 1769 in Long Bredy Dorset and died in retirement on 20 September, 1839 in Greenwich, Kent.10In silver, with the four Orders of Knighthood he had been granted.11A type of practically pure ethanol.

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