21 October 2017

Trafalgar Day

It's several years since I marked Trafalgar Day, the celebration of the victory won by the Royal Navy, commanded by Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, over the combined French and Spanish fleets at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805.

Nelson, Britain's greatest naval hero, was a son of the county of Norfolk, so I have a special respect. As well as numerous victories he was known for his handicaps.  He was beset by malaria, scurvy, dysentery, heart-stroke, toothache and - unhelpfully for a naval man - seasickness. His lost arm and eye are legendary well beyond Britain.

There is the story of prisoners, a mix of civilian and military, captured from a ship, the Rangitane, sunk by German raiders during WW2. My father was an Engineer on the Rangitane. The civilians were to be released, the soldiers sent for incarceration in POW camps in Germany. A passenger was suspected by the Germans to be a soldier. Desperately he pointed to his obvious glass eye and said that it proved his civilian status, in response to which a German asked if he had ever heard of Nelson.

The image is of Britannia atop Nelson's Column at Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A few years ago I did family history work for a neighbour of mine who was born in Cardiff, Wales, and came here to Canada as a small boy. His 4 X gr grampie was a Navy man, who was part of the ships's company of the HMS Victory in the Portsmouth Harbour, when the Navy could not bring itself to scuttling the old ship. Here is what I wrote on his record:

1861 included, single, age 25, Yeoman of Signals aboard HMS Victory, Nelson's Flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, moored in Portsmouth Harbour.

The Navy was kind of using it as a floating supply vessel. As we know now, of course, it is a prized item of history, permanently dry-docked in Portsmouth, and well worth a visit. I came across a watercolour of the Victory in 2014 in the UK, and brought it home and gave it to my neighbour, who was delighted to have it! Cheers, BT