New

Why did the Battle of Trafalgar occur?

Why did the Battle of Trafalgar occur?


We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

BG1T0J ENGLISH CHANNEL Optimistic engraving showing how Napoleon would reach England via a Channel Tunnel and balloons

In 300 years (1500 – 1800) the nations of western Europe had gone from peripheral players on the world stage to global hegemons, thanks to their mastery of maritime technology.

Rapidly evolving methods of ship building, navigation, gun founding paid for by new financial instruments saw British, Portuguese, Spanish and French traders span the globe. Soldiers and settlers followed, until large swathes of other continents were dominated by European powers.

Squabbles between European neighbours became exacerbated by the vast rewards and resources of these American, Asian, African and Australasian empires.

A series of giant wars in the 18th century were waged with ever greater intensity.

A clash of superpowers

‘The Plumb-pudding in danger – or – State Epicures taking un Petit Souper’, published 26 February 1805. Image Credit: Public Domain

By 1805 Britain and France had emerged as twin superpowers – both locked into a decades long struggle for mastery. In France Napoloen Bonaparte had seized power, revolutionised the state, conquered much of Europe, and now threatened to descend on southern England with a mighty army of veteran troops to destroy his greatest enemy.

But that enemy was fortified behind the Channel, and more importantly, the wooden walls that ploughed its waters: the battleships of the Royal Navy.

On 21 October 1805 the British Royal Navy defeated the combined battle fleets of the French and Spanish empires 20 miles northwest of a promontory of rock and sand in southern Spain. This is the story of the Battle of Trafalgar.

Watch Now

The road to Trafalgar

In the summer of 1805 Napoleon Bonaparte was determined to strike directly as his greatest enemy. His army waited on the channel coast as he tried in vain to get his fleet, combined with that of his brow beaten Spanish ally to join him, they would then protect his invasion barges as they crossed the channel.

But by October the combined fleet was still bottled up in distant Cadiz, while British battleships prowled just out to sea.

Britain’s greatest fighting admiral was Horatio Nelson, in August he returned to Britain after two years at sea. His stay would last just 25 days. As soon as HMS Victory was provisioned and equipped he was sent to Cadiz to deal with the combined fleet. While it was in being, it represented an existential threat to Britain.

Nelson was ordered south to destroy it.

Vice Admiral Lord Nelson by Charles Lucy. Great Britain, 19th century. Image Credit: Public Domain

On 28 September Nelson arrived off Cadiz. Now he had to wait, keep his distance and tempt the combined fleet out.

Quality over quantity

The French admiral Villeneuve was desperate. Cadiz could not supply the thousands of sailors in his fleet. His ships were short of experienced crew and he could not train the novices because they were bottled up in port.

He and his captains knew what awaited them outside the harbour but when an order arrived from the Emperor Napoleon, they had no choice but to put to sea.

Villeneuve’s combined fleet was impressive on paper. They outnumbered Nelson in battleships by 33 to 27. They had some of the biggest and powerful ships in the world, like the Santisima Trinidad with 130 guns aboard. That’s 30 more cannon than HMS Victory.

But they were no match in practice. British sailors had been brought to a perfect pitch by a generation of war at sea. Their ships were better built; their cannon were more advanced.

Nelson knew that his crews had a clear edge in experience. Image Credit: Public Domain

Nelson knew this inherent advantage and his battle plan was ambitious to the point of arrogance. But if it worked it might deliver the crushing victory, that he, and Britain wanted.

An innovative strategy

The orthodox way of fighting a fleet battle was in long lines of battleships. This avoided a chaotic melee. Ships in a long line could be controlled by the admiral, and if one side chose to break away and escape they could do so without losing their cohesion.

This meant that sea battles were often inconclusive. Nelson wanted to annihilate the enemy and came up with a shockingly aggressive battle plan:

He would divide his fleet in two, and send them both like dagger thrusts into the midst of the enemy.

Contemporary map of the Trafalgar battle. Image Credit: Public Domain

Nelson gathered his captains together in his cabin on HMS Victory and laid out his plan.

It was bold to the point of arrogance. As his ships approached the combined fleet they would be exposed to all the cannon arrayed along the broadsides of the enemy while his ships would be unable to bring their own broadsides to bear. The lead ships could expect to take a terrible beating.

Who would lead the British line, and expose himself to suicidal danger? Nelson would, naturally.

Nelson’s plan meant there would be a stunning victory or hopeless defeat. The Battle of Trafalgar would certainly be decisive.

Spanish oil painting, depicting the Battle of Trafalgar. Image Credit: Public Domain


Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square ( / t r ə ˈ f æ l ɡ ər / trə- FAL -gər) is a public square in the City of Westminster, Central London, established in the early 19th century around the area formerly known as Charing Cross. The Square's name commemorates the Battle of Trafalgar, the British naval victory in the Napoleonic Wars over France and Spain that took place on 21 October 1805 off the coast of Cape Trafalgar.

The site around Trafalgar Square had been a significant landmark since the 1200s. For centuries, distances measured from Charing Cross have served as location markers. [1] The site of the present square formerly contained the elaborately designed, enclosed courtyard, King's Mews. After George IV moved the mews to Buckingham Palace, the area was redeveloped by John Nash, but progress was slow after his death, and the square did not open until 1844. The 169-foot (52 m) Nelson's Column at its centre is guarded by four lion statues. A number of commemorative statues and sculptures occupy the square, but the Fourth Plinth, left empty since 1840, has been host to contemporary art since 1999. Prominent buildings facing the square include the National Gallery, St Martin-in-the-Fields, Canada House, and South Africa House.

The square has been used for community gatherings and political demonstrations, including Bloody Sunday in 1887, the culmination of the first Aldermaston March, anti-war protests, and campaigns against climate change. A Christmas tree has been donated to the square by Norway since 1947 and is erected for twelve days before and after Christmas Day. The square is a centre of annual celebrations on New Year's Eve. It was well known for its feral pigeons until their removal in the early 21st century.


Why did the battle of trafalgar happen

Did Britain ‘Rule the Waves’ after Trafalgar? That Britain had got the better of its foes at the battle of Trafalgar is beyond dispute. A further six were being built at Flushing. By entering your details, you are agreeing to HistoryExtra terms and conditions. All this combined to place Britain in a formidable position at sea. Why was the Battle of Trafalgar called that? Napoleon had overestimated his admiral and underestimated the British Royal Navy. Why Nelson’s triumph didn’t turn the tide on Napoleon, Princes in the Tower | Exclusive history podcast series, Nine of the most overrated battles in history, Should I stay or I should go? Villeneuve had been trying to outrun British Royal Navy ships in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean for months before the Battle of Trafalgar. A British Royal Navy fleet blockaded a French and Spanish fleet belonging to Napoleon Bonaparte and defeated them in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape Trafalgar, Spain.

Nelson would have been distinctive as he was wearing his uniform with imitation medals on his breast. Soon, his beloved new kingdom was threatened by the Third Coalition (made up of Britain, Russia and the Holy Roman Empire), and so the French emperor ordered his fleet to the Mediterranean to help in its defence.

The Battle of Trafalgar is one of the most famous battles in British naval history.

Moments before he died, Victory‘s surgeon, William Beatty, heard Nelson murmur: “Thank God I have done my duty.” By the time the guns fell silent, 22 enemy ships had been taken as prizes. He also seized Vienna, the first time the city had fallen in its history. Which Cities Were Bombed by the Nazis in WWII? The armament figures speak for themselves. The engagement took place of Cape Trafalgar (or in Spanish, Cabo Trafalgar) a headland in the province of Cadiz. One of these men took aim with his musket at Nelson, that diminutive, one-armed, half-blind, grey-haired admiral who had unleashed hell on this French marksman’s nation, on his friends’ ships, on the Redoutable, his own home. The effects of the storming of the bastille. Ano ang Imahinasyong guhit na naghahati sa daigdig sa magkaibang araw? The official website for BBC History Magazine, BBC History Revealed and BBC World Histories Magazine. At Toulon in 1793, for example, the British inflicted the worst disaster on the French navy of the entire period when they seized its Mediterranean fleet and its dockyard. Britain mourns the death in battle of Horatio Nelson, The Royal Navy defeats a French fleet at the battle of San Domingo in the Caribbean, The Danish fleet surrenders following Britain’s naval bombardment of Copenhagen, Spain changes sides and throws its lot in with Britain. So too with the Danes: they were beaten in fleet battle by the British at Copenhagen in 1801. Representatives of France, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Batavian Republic signed the Treaty of Amiens on March 25, 1802. Here was proof that Britannia really was destined to ‘Rule the Waves’, as everyone had learned from the patriotic song that had already been well known for more than half a century. When did organ music become associated with baseball? Shelly Barclay began writing in 1990, focusing on fiction. There seems to be a problem, please try again.

Napoleon dredged the Scheldt estuary and constructed docks at Antwerp, at a cost of 66m Francs. The Battle of Trafalgar was a naval battle that took place during the Third Coalition War on October 21, 1805. In that time, he had suffered defeats at the hands of the British Royal Navy, both small and large. Perhaps firing blind onto the Victory‘s quarter deck, perhaps with a brief window as a smoke cloud cleared, the marksman fired and hit Nelson in the left shoulder. Nelson’s funeral was a national show, only comparable to that of Princess Diana in 1997. Please enter your number below. In 1795, the Royal Navy consisted of 123 ships of the line and 160 cruisers manned by 99,608 men. And what of the war at sea? Her rig was occupied with marksmen, sniper-birds perched aloft, their bodies braced between mast and tarred standing rigging, upper bodies hard as iron, legs loose to move with the roll of the ship. But, for all this, British naval dominance wasn’t the reason that Trafalgar became famous. Her work appears on various websites, focusing on topics such as history, cooking, scrapbooking, travel and animals. When combined, the Spanish and French fleets now outnumber the Royal Navy, The Royal Navy defeats a French and Spanish fleet at Trafalgar. On top of that, Napoleon was a mediocre naval strategist. The anticipation on both fleets would have been appalling for veterans of battle and novices alike.

Both ships were rolling in the lumpy swell and both shrouded in smoke that, in its thickest wafts, would have made it difficult to see your hands in front of your face. With an abundance of natural harbours, the Dutch coast was excellently placed to threaten naval bases and ports on the east coast of England and Scotland – and to menace London itself. That prosperity could, in turn, bankroll more men and ships and help Britain subsidise its allies’ campaigns against Napoleon on the continent. Nelson, better seamanship of British sailors, audacious plan of battle Nelson joined the British fleet off Cadiz in late September.

England also formed the Third Coalition with Russia, Austria, Sweden and Prussia. In fact, in the short term, the land war went from bad to worse. He is currently taking his live show, ‘Histories of the Unexpected’, across the UK, and will be appearing at both of our History Weekends: historyextra.com/events. This coup seems to have broken Admiral Villeneuve's resolve. Admiral Villeneuve caused the Battle of Trafalgar by remaining in Cadiz, Spain when he was under orders to meet with another fleet in Brest and sail on to the English Channel. The battle of Trafalgar: what happened and why did Britain win? To put that into perspective, the largest fleets were bigger than most towns in the country. When Nelson and Collingwood broke the Franco-Spanish line, they cut their enemy’s body into three parts: a head, a centre and a tail. A matter of weeks after Trafalgar, Napoleon won the greatest of all of his military victories, at the battle of Austerlitz, where he captured an entire Austrian army led by Holy Roman Emperor Francis II and the tsar of Russia, Alexander I. On the Victory alone, 30 men died and 20 were wounded before they fired a single shot at their enemy. Only Britain now had the capacity to launch significant overseas military campaigns, which it did, with mixed results, at Walcheren in 1809 (a disaster), and the long-running Peninsular War, which ultimately led to Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo. The problem with historical monuments in 2020. This is why Trafalgar rightly stands as one of the greatest naval clashes in history. It also reveals an acute awareness of where public opinion needed to fall. Trafalgar (1873), a Spanish novel about the battle, written by Benito Pérez Galdós. The Battle of Trafalgar was a bittersweet moment for Britain victory and tragedy wrapped up in one memorable day.

Nelson was shot and died of his wounds in the closing stages of the battle. And the man who contributed most to that was the impressive and astute Collingwood. By the end of 1808, the Spanish had thrown in their lot with the British they would not launch another warship until 1853. That outnumbered British losses by a factor of ten to one. While fleet seizures inflicted considerable damage on the enemy with no blood being spilled, fleet battle always adversely affected both sides, regardless of who won.

Although they suffered far fewer casualties than the French and Spanish at Trafalgar, the British still lost 1,500–1,700 sailors dead or injured – no navy at the time could simply absorb such losses and retain operational effectiveness. The shot was not easy, however the musket not designed for precise shooting. After six hours of struggle, the British had secured an unprecedented victory. You will shortly receive a receipt for your purchase via email. Keeping ships at sea there ceaselessly was simply impossible, and on 13 December 1805 the battle-scarred blockading British ships and their battle-scarred men headed home and anchored in Torbay. The numbers speak for themselves.

This was enough to deter Napoleon from attempting repeats of his ambitious transoceanic invasions of Egypt (1798) and Hispaniola (1802). The British approach was a tortuously slow process.

place on October 21, 1805. In this one action, 22 ships of the line, eight frigates, numerous smaller craft and the whole Toulon arsenal and shipbuilding stores fell into British hands without a shot being fired. The course of events is well known. Perhaps the biggest dividend of Nelson’s triumph was the removal of Spain as a naval power.

It is a fictional account of a boy aboard the Santa Ana. Nelson bore down in two lines, at right angles to his enemy.

Soon after Nelson engaged the enemy, the French captain of a far smaller ship, the two-decked, 74-gun Redoutable, brought her directly alongside the Victory. British Admiral Sir Robert Calder was able to capture two of the Spanish ships on their way back from the islands. Don’t get me wrong, Trafalgar was a significant victory – it strengthened considerably Britain’s hand in the Napoleonic Wars. The battle took place on October 21, 1805. Before Trafalgar, the Spanish and French fleets could combine to outnumber Britain’s. This evened up the odds for the British, who then fell on the centre and tail, isolating and overwhelming them. You have successfully linked your account! Does Jerry Seinfeld have Parkinson's disease? The sheer scale of the fleet, and the dockyards that supported it around the world, and the money granted it by parliament for its upkeep, were testament to that. The British fleet had 2,148 guns the French and Spanish 2,632. It is a fictional account of a boy aboard the Santa Ana. The British fleet was composed of 27 ships, while Napoleon's fleet was composed of 33. What happened to Nelson? The British Royal Navy was superior to the French Navy when it came to experience and training at the time of the Napoleonic Wars. But the British needed such proof, because they had invested massively in their navy. Much more damaging, however, was the aftermath of the bombardment of Copenhagen in 1807, when 18 ships of the line, 11 frigates, two smaller ships, two ship-sloops, seven brig-sloops, two brigs, one schooner and 26 gunboats were captured, and five ships of the line and two frigates destroyed. The Third Coalition remained inactive for most of the Third Coalition War. The British lost none. When victory was secured off Cape Trafalgar in October 1805, it was hailed as Britain’s greatest naval triumph.

British Admiral Sir Robert Calder was able to capture two of the Spanish ships on their way back from the islands. Sailors on his weather deck also fired a 68-pound carronade – the most destructive short-range gun on the ship – at that same window, loaded with 500 musket balls.

It took place during the Napoleonic War (1803–1815), as Napoleon Bonaparte and his armies tried to conquer Europe.


Napoleonic Wars: Battle of Trafalgar

The first 20 days of October 1805 were indeed fruitful one for Napoleon, newly crowned Emperor of France, whose land army was busily smashing the Third Coalition — Britain, Sweden, Austria, Russia and some German states — after it had so laboriously coalesced in order to smash him. Comprising long-service veterans and brilliantly led by the emperor and his Marshals, Napoleon’s Grande Armée was surely at its grand peak. So successful had he been in 1805, in fact, that Britain’s Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson, hardly an alarmist, wrote, ‘Never was the probability of universal monarchy more nearly being realized than in the person of the Corsican.’

Napoleon was not without a coalition of his own. Following Spain’s lead, Bavaria, Würtemberg and other German states had signed alliances with France. Now, in October, the emperor moved against his most dangerous continental enemies, Austria and Russia. He surrounded the main Austrian army and accepted its capitulation at Ulm on October 20. In the weeks following that success, a large Russian army would withdraw rather than fight and Napoleon would seize Vienna. Next, when a joint Austro-Russian host met him at Austerlitz on December 2, Napoleon would win his most crushing Victory of the epoch.

Before all that, however, even as the quartermasters of the seemingly invincible Grande Armée were tallying the booty gained at Ulm, distant events had been set in motion, both by visions of grand strategy and by more personal concern for threatened ambition. Off the coast of Spain, a fleet under Admiral Nelson was flying cat and mouse with a power-laden Franco-Spanish armada.

At that time, it may be recalled, the wars of the French Revolution had evolved into the global Napoleonic Wars, an evolution marked by the destruction of a European generation, while a stunned Britain reposed behind the oaken walls of her great fleet, her first and her final refuge. For all of Napoleon’s great success on land, the Royal Navy in 1805 was a wonder of the world in itself. Its rigid backbone was the ship of the line, the capital ship of the epoch that came in three ‘rates,’ or classes, depending on the number of cannons carried. Britain could then boast 10 first-rates (100-120 guns), 18 second-rates (90-98) and 147 third-rates (64-84). Their actual firepower was often greater, for most of the warships carried two to 12 monstrous, short-range carronades, never counted in the gun totals. Ironically, perhaps a quarter of the Royal Navy’s first three rates had been taken from the enemy in battle and pressed into its service by the lumber-starved English. Britain could also turn to another 250 ships carrying 20 to 60 guns apiece, as fourth, fifth and sixth-rates, or frigates. Not only was Britain’s navy larger than any other nation’s in 1805, but roughly three-quarters of its warships were operational at any given moment, a radio double that of any other’s.

The French and Spanish navies were similar in most respects to the British, but imposed a discipline so ferocious that volunteer recruits were always scarce. Most vessels sailed short-handed and even then had to rely on involuntary impressments for about half of their crews, compared to perhaps 20 percent of British crews impressed.

The British, through constant drill, had by far the fastest, most accurate gunnery, but the French, and specially the Spanish, tended to build larger, broader, deeper-draft ships of the line. They not only carried more guns, but provided more stable gun platforms and could absorb a fearful amount of enemy fire without structural damage. In fact, except for a fire causing an explosion in their powder magazines, such ships were virtually unsinkable in battle. The hulking Santissima Trinidad, on a run from Manila to Acapulco in 1762, was taken by Commodore George Anson’s squadron in a running fight after 1,080 cannon balls had struck it. The British prize crew, astonished to find the ship still seaworthy after such punishment, managed to sail it half way around the world to England — it arrived with several hundred cannon balls still embedded in its sides. Santissima Trinidad‘s succeeding namesake in 1805 was the world’s largest warship and the only one with four gun decks, mounting 140 cannons and several carronades.

By 1805, the French and their Spanish allies found their combined naval assets still unable to best the Royal Navy, and therefore determined that only their superior land forces would defeat the British. Since the British neither could nor would invade the Continent, Napoleon first prepared to invade England. For him to do so, the allied Franco-Spanish navies would have to protect his proposed Channel crossing with a major fleet drawn from half a dozen ports, from Toulouse to Madrid and beyond. Yet most of those ports were under at least sporadic British blockade. Further, elaborate plans to draw off the British fleet at first looked successful, but then went awry. Finally, Napoleon felt constrained to deal with those powers of the Third Coalition gathering in Central Europe. The British invasion was called off in August 1805 and the emperor marched off to his Victory at Ulm.

Napoleon still had an allied fleet at his disposal, nominally commanded by French Vice Adm. Pierre Charles Jean Baptiste Silvestre de Villeneuve, with Spanish Vice Adm. Frederico Carlos Gravina as his second-in-command. Villeneuve bore the sobriquet ‘Lucky’ for having survived so many encounters with the Royal Navy, which was not to say that his luck applied to their outcomes. For example, he had been one of the few survivors of the French debacle at Nelson’s hands at Aboukir Bay, also known as the Battle of the Nile, in 1798.

As of mid-September 1805, the allied fleet was assembling at Cadiz to sally into the Mediterranean Sea and raid British convoys supplying Malta. In the midst of his preparations, though, Villeneuve heard disquieting news. Through friends rather than official sources, he understood that Napoleon planned to replace him with an old service rival, Admiral Franois Etienne Rosily. Rather than submit to such humiliation, the stung Villeneuve frantically speeded up the work of readying his fleet for sea — he would slip 0out of port before Rosily arrived to relieve him of command. Villeneuve’s goal was not Napoleon’s, but a personal quest that might win him glory in France. He would seek out Nelson’s fleet, which he knew to be nearby, and destroy it, while ignoring Malta and its convoys.

On October 19 and 20, then, 18 French and 15 Spanish ships of the line slipped anchor and left Cadiz, accompanied by four frigates. In the Spanish squadron were four of the world’s most powerful warships: the mighty Santissima Trinidad (140 guns), Principe de Asturias (112), Santa Ana (112) and Rayo (100). The rest of the Allied ships were third-rates carrying 74 to 80 guns, the smallest, San Leandro, armed with 64.

Confined in various ports for many months by British blockading squadron, the allied vessels were hardly in peak condition — Villeneuve’s haste to leave port had led to jury-rigged repairs, cursory maintenance and insufficient provisioning. Further, not one of the allied ships was fully manned — the last-minute impressments of hundreds of Spanish peasants detracted seriously from morale while adding nothing to efficiency. Nor, it turned out, was there to be much opportunity to train the reluctant newcomers, for the allied fleet had been spotted as it left Cadiz and the British fleet that Villeneuve hoped to meet weeks in the future was already alerted and making for him.

Admiral Nelson, Britain’s hero of half a dozen naval victories, was both ready and able to meet Villeneuve. The crews of his 27 ships of the line and five frigates had been at sea for months and were in fighting trim, especially the gunners, who, unique among the navies of the epoch, had spent a great deal of their time live-firing their guns at sea.

Nelson’s goal was to put his fleet between Villeneuve and the Mediterranean, forcing his foe to fight or retreat. While using his fast frigates to shadow the Franco-Spanish men or war, he kept his own capital ships on the far horizon, awaiting Villeneuve’s commitment. The British admiral had made his plans long before and shared them with his captains. Rather than fight the enemy in the traditional manner — pounding away at one another in long parallel lines — Nelson had split his own fleet into two divisions. He would lead one from his 100-gun flagship Victory, while the other was under the command of his old friend, Vice Adm. Cuthbert Collingwood, on the 100-gun Royal Sovereign. Collingwood and Nelson would take their divisions and, in parallel lines to one another, approach the enemy head on, breaking his line in two places and dividing it into three segments. Then, with the wind pushing the enemy’s van away from the fight, the 27 British ships could deal with their 20 or so allied opponents before the isolated van could laboriously tack around and rejoin the battle. By the time the van could arrive on the scene, Nelson calculated, he could capture or destroy the bulk of the Spanish and French ships. His original battle orders, written on October 9, were discovered by this writer in 1985, in the Manuscript Division of the Huntington Library in Pasadena, Calif. They specifically refer to Collingwood’s independence in action: ‘The second in command will have the entire direction of his line.’ Further, Collingwood would attempt to break the enemy’s line (if possible) at the 12th ship from the rear, while Nelson would penetrate eight or nine ships farther forward. Collingwood would thus be given the enemy rear, while ‘the remainder of the Enemy’s fleet….are to be left to the management of the Commander in chief.’

Villeneuve, by now aware of Nelson’s close presence and less than confident of his ships and men, did what the British admiral feared he might. During the night of October 20-21, he reversed course, intending to run for the safety of the massive Cadiz fortifications. Alerted, Nelson put on full sail to intercept, and as HMS Neptune‘s signal officer recorded, ‘At daylight discovered the Enemy’s Fleet on the lee beam keeping their wind on the larboard tack consisting of 33 sail of the line, four frigates and two brigs.’ Thus, the two naval forces would meet off the Cape of Trafalgar on Spain’s southwestern coast.

At 6:30 a.m., as crews of all ships frantically prepared their ships for battle — jettisoning empty casks and other combustible material, arranging powder charges and balls near the guns, hanging up thick nets to discourage boarders and spreading sand on the decks to provide traction amid the expected blood — Nelson ran up the signal ‘bear for the Enemy,’ then some five miles away.

While Nelson and Collingwood led their parallel divisions into a contrary and slowing breeze, they studied the allied line, an impressive, even a beautiful sight, stretching from their left to right some seven miles. Clearly visible through Nelson’s glass was the mammoth Santissima Trinidad near the center, as well as the French Bucentaure, flying Villeneuve’s command flag, the giant Santa Ana and the bright yellow Rayo, leading the van under the command of Commodore Enrique Macdonnel — Henry MacDonald, an English-hating Irishman.

As the early morning minutes turned to hours, the tension became palpable. Nelson was going to permit the enemy to ‘cross his T,’ bringing the broadside batteries of many allied ships to bear against only the few guns on his leading vessels’ forecastles. He realized that such a maneuver was as risky as it was unconventional. While he knew that the sloping prows of an oncoming warship would deflect most, if not all, incoming rounds, Nelson was concerned that enemy fire, if accurate, might rake his ships at deck level from stem to stern, decimating his crewmen, or carry away so much rigging as to leave his ships unable to maneuver. Effective range for such disabling fire was from about 2,000 yards down to 300 — closer than that would require the allied guns to be laboriously elevated. British vulnerability, then, would be limited to a distance of about a mile and to a time frame of some 15 to 20 minutes. If he could maneuver most of his ships into the allied line, Nelson knew that in the wild general melee to follow he would outnumber the enemy — and he could rely on his superb gunners to fire at least two rounds to the allies’ one. If!

As the antagonists closed, beer and rum rations were issued, and prayers were said on the quarterdecks. In the words of one British officer, ‘Finding we should not be in action for an hour or more, we piped to dinner, thinking that Englishmen would fight all the better for having a comfortable meal.’

Due to the wind pattern, Collingwood, at the lead of his division, would be the first to hit the allied line. According to a midshipman on nearby HMS Belleisle, ‘the silence on board was almost dreadful.’

At 11:40 a.m., cheers erupted from all British ships as the men saw Nelson’s signal flags hauled up Victory‘s mast to spell out their famous message: ‘England expects that every man will do his duty.’ Then, at 11:55, the terse message: ‘Engage the Enemy quite close.’

One minute later, the allied Santa Ana, Fougueux, Indomitable and perhaps Pluton and Neptuno, loosed their first broadsides at Collingwood’s Royal Sovereign, the balls and rough chunks of anti-sail iron skipping harmlessly into the ocean. That first salvo had fallen short, but as the range decreased, the irregular pieces of iron shot began to sheer away rigging, gouge huge holds in the tails and ran down on the exposed deck. Collingwood, supremely at his ease, strolled the upper gun deck, munching apples, refusing to seek shelter or return fire. Each of his heavy 32 and 24-pounders were double-shotted, his carronades were filled with ball and sacks or baskets of nails and musket balls. His first broadsides would be devastating, but only at close range.

With the allied ships obscured by dense banks of smoke from their own broadsides, Royal Sovereign came ponderously on, followed by Belleisle, Tonnant, Mars and the rear of the British division. As Collingwood closed on the allied line, aiming for a spot between Santa Ana‘s stern and Fougueux‘s bow, his ship began to take punishment — spars, rigging and sails crashed to the deck. Master William Chalmers fell dying, two lieutenants went down on the open deck and lethal splinters killed a lieutenant and several privates of the ship’s Royal Marine contingent.

Finally, Royal Sovereign was in the allied line, some 200 yards from Santa Ana‘s almost gunless stern and only slightly farther from Fougueux‘s gunless bow. At precisely that moment, Collingwood’s gunner unleashed a double broadside. It was 12:05 p.m.

The results were frightful, especially to Santa Ana. The balls from 50 British cannons and two carronades sheared through the Spaniard’s thin-skinned stern and wrought havoc on the gun deck and beyond. Splinters and glass, ball and shot, whined into the cannons and their crews, dismembering, maiming and killing more than 100 men and knocking 14 guns out of action. After the one broadside, Santa Ana‘s decks ran red with blood.

Collingwood, however, was in a vulnerable position, for Fougueux was soon upon him, swinging its own batteries into play with Indomitable, San Leandro, San Justo and other allied vessels close behind. An officer on HMS Neptune in Nelson’s division noted at 12:08 that ‘on the smoke clearing away saw the Royal Sovereign closely engaged with the Santa Ana and several of the Enemy’s ships firing into her.’ The British Tonnant, swinging past Belleisle, was also in action by then.

‘Closely engaged’ was no figure of peach, for Royal Sovereign‘s yardarms had become entangled with Santa Ana‘s, and the two ships were immobilized, locked in a sinister embrace, all but invisible in the thick, greasy smoke of their cannon fire.

Firing methodical, rapid, double-shotted broadsides into Santa Ana at a range of 20 yards or so, the British ship had all but gutted its opponent, blowing massive chinks out of its died, slaughtering the gun crews on its lower decks. At ranges so close that ‘blow back’ of splinters form the Spaniard decimated some of his own gun crews, Collingwood continued to hammer his reeling foe, which was soon replying with a mere handful of guns.

Royal Sovereign was itself hardly immune. Blue-collared, red-coated Spanish marines, high in what was left of Santa Ana‘s rigging, poured musket fire and hand grenades onto Collingwood’s gunners, while at least five passing allied ships threw broadsiides into his ship before they became otherwise engaged. The admiral, himself wounded by a shell splinter, saw that most of his marines were down, as well as a high percentage of his deck officers. Had not the friendly Tonnant, Belleisle and Mars come up rapidly, Royal Sovereign would have been a charnel house.

Tonnant, which would soon batter Algesiras and San Iledonso into surrender, broke the allied line between the former and Monarca, ‘under whose stern we passed in breaking the line and poured in a most dreadful broadside which silenced her for a long time,’ one of Tonnant‘s officers said. Most of Monarca‘s 360 casualties were casued by that one broadside — after that, the Spaniard did little more than survive.

The first ship to surrender in what had become Collingwood’s melee was the unlucky Santa Ana, which had been described earlier by an admiring Briton as ‘a superb warship’ painted a ‘magnificent black.’ It was thoroughly wrecked, most of its guns were dismounted, hundreds of its crew was dead or wounded. Vice Admiral Don Ignacio d’Alava ordered his captain to strike the colors just before 1:30. Royal Sovereign was in hardly better shape. It was dismasted, though structurally sound, and counted 47 of its crew dead and anther 94 wounded. Unable to maneuver and hence out of the fight, the game Collingwood was forced to signal for a frigate to take his ship in tow.

Victory, leading Nelson’s division, underwent even rougher treatment. This was hardly surprising, for he took his flagship through the allied line between the immense Santissima Trinidad — whose top gun deck toward above Victory — and Villeneuve’s flagship Bucentaure, a splendidly handled vessel. Victory was thoroughly raked on its approach and had taken scores of casualties before 12:10, when it belted out its own broadside into Bucentaure‘s bow and Santissima Trinidad‘s mountainous stern. Victory‘s carronades were shotted with large kegs, holding 500 musket rounds each, atop a 68-pound ball, impelled by 20 pounds of powder. Their effect on the Spanish was hellish.

As its gunner worked like automatons Victory, dismasted and largely out of control, ran its bowsprit into the rigging of the oncoming 74-gun French warship Redoubtable. Clasped together, the two ships pounded away at one another from a scant few yards’ distance. Superior British firepower — a 26-gun advantage — and rate of fire gave Victory a decided edge and soon Redoubtable‘s gun decks were awash in blood, a virtual abattoir. As per their doctrine, however, French marines swarmed into the rigging and poured musket fire and at least 200 hand grenades down on Victory‘s exposed decks. The ship’s surgery facilities were soon overflowing with anguished sailors, totaling 57 killed and 102 wounded.

Redoubtable‘s Captain Jean-Jacques Lucas, his ship splintering around him, could also see the slaughter on Victory‘s deck, some caused by his own guns, some by Santissima Trinidad‘s. A single solid shot had smashed into the Royal Marine contingent on the poop deck, killing eight and wounding a dozen. Mr. Scott, Nelson’s personal secretary, standing by the admiral’s elbow, was literally whipped away by a cannon ball in the chest. According to a French officer, Victory‘s ‘decks were strewn with dead and wounded.’ Valiantly, Lucas twice rallied his men and tried to board, all too aware that his own ship, seams sprung by repeated hits from heavy British guns, was settling in the water. The Royal Marines aboard Victory decimated the would-be boarders and boarding nets impeded their movements. Lucas, seriously wounded, called off both suicidal attempts.

Victory, mauled, dismasted and being steered by hand below decks, was suffering, but Redoubtable was being utterly eviscerated, for the British Temeraire had come up on its other side, close enough to almost touch the French ship. So dismembered was Redoubtable that many British cannon balls were passing right through it, to impact on the friendly vessel beyond. Lucas, gaining the respect of his foes, fought on, even after his lower gun deck flooded and most of his upper guns were out of action. When he finally struck his colors at about 1:40 p.m., his vessel was more a shattered hulk than a warship, with 522 of his 670 men dead or wounded.

Shortly before Lucas’ surrender, though, a French marine in the remnants of Redoubtable‘s rigging fired his musket and shattered Nelson’s spine as the admiral paces the deck. He fell, twisted an in agony — both Nelson and those around him knew the wound was fatal. He was rushed below to the surgeon’s overflowing work area, his face covered with a lace handkerchief to hide his identity and prevent demoralizing rumors. There, in the gloomy bowels of his flagship, Nelson was perfectly lucid despite his agonizing wound. He demanded and received frequent reports on the battle’s progress.

The British Neptune, following close behind Victory, passed between it and Villeneuve’s Bucentaure, soon coming up on Santissima Trinidad, whose stern was entirely exposed to Neptune‘s fire without its being able to return a single effective shot. While Neptune turned its aft quarters into a slaughter pen of lethal splinters, Africa, Leviathan and the first rate Britannia came up and mercilessly hammered the hapless Spaniard from the sides.

As the Spanish Leviathan shuddered under a storm of British shot, its huge figurehead of the Holy Trinity symbolically fell into the sea. By 1:50, Santissima Trinidad was totally dismasted and barely a quarter of its guns were slowly returning British fire. At 2:05, with more than 400 of its crew dead or wounded, the white flag fluttered above the world’s largest warship. The prize crew that took charge was appalled. As one British officer recalled: ‘the scene aboard was simply infernal….Blood ran in streams about the deck, and, in spite of the sand, the rolling of the ship carried it hither and thither until it made strange patterns on the planks.’ The Spaniard could probably have stood off any ship of any navy, but not four British foes mounting a total of 336well-served guns.

Things went no better elsewhere for the allies. Rear Admiral Pierre R.M.E. Dumanoir de Pelley, commanding the cut-off van of 12 ships, was still out of the fight, struggling to reverse course in a contrary breeze, and had to plod perhaps five miles to aid his compatriots.

Bucentaure, briefly hammered by half a dozen British ships as they passed, suffered considerable losses before HMS Conqueror approached to do serious battle. From 100 feet or so, the two ships traded broadsides, their gunners screaming, noses gushing blood form the repeated concussive blasts, their ears deafened — many permanently — from the crashing salvoes. According to one of Conqueror‘s officers, not only was the British gunnery twice as rapid as that of the French, but ‘every shot flew winged with death.’ Sailors, almost maddened by the grisly cacophony and coated with sweat and black powder dust, sprinted through wreaths of smoke like demons, swabbing red-hot gun barrels to avoid ‘cooking off,’ or exploding when the next powder charge was inserted, toting powder and ball, dragging away the wounded and throwing the dead overboard. The scene was truly hellish. Within 15 minutes Villeneuve’s flagship was both dismasted and gutted, with 209 men — one-third of its crew — down. With tears in his eyes, the admiral permitted the ship’s captain to strike the colors at about the same time as Santissima Trinidad‘s surrender. A tribute to Conqueror‘s gunners can be seen in that ship’s casualty list: three killed, nine wounded.

Spanish Admiral Gravina’s flagship, Principe de Asturias, traded half a dozen broadsides with the almost equally powerful HMS Dreadnaught, the admiral himself dying early in the clash. Rear Admiral Antonio Escano took over Principe de Asturias, which fought back with unusual efficiency — Dreadnaught, starting to take significant damage while not seeming to inflict any, abandoned the fight to tackle the weaker, already damaged San Juan Nepomuceno, whose Captain Come Churruca was soon directing the fight with a gloomy calm in spite of one leg being all but severed by a cannon ball. When Churucca finally surrendered his battered command at about 2:30, almost half his men and most of his guns were out of action. He did not live to greet the British prize crew.

As the melee continued, some ships, such as Neptune or Principe de Asturias, avoided protracted shootouts in favor of roaming about and sending a few broadsides at targets of opportunity. By 3 p.m. Dumanoir was approaching the fight with his as yet unbloodied van, which included his flagship Formidable and Macdonnel’s powerful Rayo. By then, however, the issue had largely been decided, with the majority of the other allied ships disabled or captured.

Mars, skitterring around the edges of the melee and firing whenever the smoke parted to reveal an enemy, eventually fetched up on Fougueux, which put several broadsides precisely on target before it surrendered. Among Mars‘ 98 casualties was its captain, George Duff, decapitated by a French cannon ball.

Bahama, an ably served Spanish ship, absorbed punishment from a number of passing British vessels, after which it gamely tackled HMS Bellerophon in a close-range shootout. It should not have in a mere 20 minutes the British ship virtually shredded Bahama, killing or wounded in more than 400 of the crew and forcing its surrender. The hitherto-nearly untouched Bellerophon took 152 casualties in those minutes, its Captain John Cooke being among the 27 dead.

While Bahama was disintegrating, Dumanoir’s first ships entered the fray. Since much of the allied fleet was out of action by that time, there were many lightly damaged British ships unemployed and Dumanoir ran into the buzzsaw. In short order he lost Neptuno and San Agustin took massed British fire and soon after that, Intrepide was battered, settling and raising the white flag.

Still the battle alternately flickered and raged. The British Colossus traded fire with Formidable and several other allied vessels, suffering some 200 casualties but taking no prizes. The French Achille settled down to slug it out with Revenge at close rang. As the battle wound down, those two ships were locked within the smoke of their own batteries. Achille, taking the worst of it, soon had a fire blazing on its sail-littered decks. The fire spread along the deck and into the rigging, feeding upon the fallen sails and igniting the powder sacks laid by each gun. As the blaze spread, scattering the gun crews, HMS Defiance also came up to batter Achille. Burning splinters took the flames below, ever closer to the main powder magazine. Long after the battle was over Achille, drifting and burning brightly, literally blew apart in a majestic explosion. The only ship actually sunk at Trafalgar, it took with it all but a dazed handful of its 650-man crew.

By 4:15 or so, only sporadic firing — most of it directed at Achille — was to be heard. Dumanoir had broken off the action to save his remaining ships. Rayo, probably the only ship at Trafalgar that failed to fire a single gun, slipped away from the fight with only a few casualties caused by stray British shot. San Justo followed with even fewer losses. Almost as unscathed were San Francisco de Asis, Scipion, which suffered no casualties, Formidable, with 65 men down, Mont Blanc, Héros and Duguay Trouin. Of the rest of the allied fleet, only stout Principe de Asturias, Montanez, San Leandro, Neptuno, Indomitable, Pluton and Argonaute, some badly mauled, got away under their own flags.

Victory‘s logbook recorded: ‘Partial firing continued until 4:40, when a Victory having been reported to the Right Honourable Lord Viscount Nelson, [Knight of the Bath] and Commander-in-Chief, he then died of his wound.’

The fleeing French and Spanish left behind them some 6,000 seamen killed and captured, the detritus of sad Achille and 17 of their damaged ships as prizes. That Britannia would now rule the waves was clear to all — she was to do so for more than a century. Nelson, who had innovated so daringly and successfully before at the Battle of the Nile, at Copenhagen, had done so again. And in winning so spectacular a Victory at Trafalgar, he had changed naval tactics forever. The days of parallel lines trading broadsides in rarely decisive slugfests were over.

With no rivals left upon the seas, Britain could and did act accordingly. In 1806, it invaded and took South Africa’s Cape Colony from the Dutch. Britain briefly held Buenos Aires and Montevideo in Spanish South America. Two years later, with confidence born of overwhelming sea power, Britain landed an army in Portugal under General Arthur Wellesley — the future Duke of Wellington — and began the famous Peninsular Campaign that, with Portuguese and later Spanish help, would bleed Napoleon’s army white.

This article was written by John Hoyt Williams and originally published in the June 1986 issue of Military History magazine.

For more great articles be sure to subscribe to Military History magazine today!


Battle of Trafalgar

Part of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-15), the Battle of Trafalgar featured a clash of Franco-Spanish and British fleets off the western mouth of the Straits of Gibraltar. Commanded by Vice Admiral Nelson, the onslaught broke the allied line and exposed its center and rear to overwhelming force, resulting in the capture of 19 of the 33 Franco-Spanish ships. Although Lord Nelson was killed in the battle, he was largely credited for thwarting Napoleon’s plans to concentrate a fleet in the Channel for the invasion of Britain.

This battle was fought off the western mouth of the Straits of Gibraltar between a Franco-Spanish fleet of thirty-three ships of the line commanded by Vice Admiral Pierre-Charles de Villeneuve and Admiral Don Federico Gravina, and a British squadron of twenty-seven ships under Vice Admiral Horatio,Lord Nelson. The allied fleet, steering north in a very irregular line, was attacked by the British in two columns, running before the wind from the westward. This was a dangerous tactic, exposing the leading ships to the risk of heavy damage, but Nelson correctly counted on superior British training and discipline, and on the initiative of captains whom he had thoroughly imbued with his ideas. He also placed his biggest ships at the head of the columns (rather than in the center, as usual), himself leading one in the Victory, while Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood led the other in the Royal Sovereign. The result was to break up the allied line and expose its center and rear to overwhelming force, bringing a crushing victory in which nineteen ships were captured (though all but four of the prizes were wrecked, sunk, or retaken in a subsequent gale). The British lost no ships, but Nelson was killed.


Why did the battle of trafalgar happen

Nelson’s defeat of a Franco-Spanish fleet in October 1805 has long been hailed as the Royal Navy’s greatest triumph. Although the British may have known where their French and Spanish foes were at any given moment, the weather alone was enough to ensure that those foes could slip through their fingers. When Nelson and Collingwood broke the Franco-Spanish line, they cut their enemy’s body into three parts: a head, a centre and a tail. Her rig was occupied with marksmen, sniper-birds perched aloft, their bodies braced between mast and tarred standing rigging, upper bodies hard as iron, legs loose to move with the roll of the ship. This is why Trafalgar rightly stands as one of the greatest naval clashes in history. “He was a youth of not more than 12 or 13 years of age… Killed on the quarter-deck by a grape-shot, his body greatly mutilated, his entrails being driven and scattered against the larboard side.”. Why Nelson’s triumph didn’t turn the tide on Napoleon, Princes in the Tower | Exclusive history podcast series, Nine of the most overrated battles in history, Should I stay or I should go? They became active in 1805, the year that the Battle of Trafalgar took place. The Third Coalition remained inactive for most of the Third Coalition War. When victory was secured off Cape Trafalgar in October 1805, it was hailed as Britain’s greatest naval triumph. In May 1805, Britain’s nemesis, Napoleon, was crowned king of Italy in Milan. By 1809, 10 new 74-gun ships had been built at Antwerp and four more were under construction. There seems to be a problem, please try again. Why was the Battle of Trafalgar called that? Napoleon's plan to get Villeneuve and his fleet to Brest was to send them to the West Indies. The British, however, had arrived in time to cut them off, just off the coast of Cadiz. Rebellious royals, a history of monarchs that didn't fit the mould→, Why Did the Captain of the Titanic Ignore the Warnings?→. When combined, the Spanish and French fleets now outnumber the Royal Navy, The Royal Navy defeats a French and Spanish fleet at Trafalgar. Nelson was shot and died of his wounds in the closing stages of the battle. A small combined French and Spanish force remained in Cadiz. Which Cities Were Bombed by the Nazis in WWII? He believed that he would be defeated if he went north to Brest, so he sailed to Cadiz. Sam Willis’s new book, The Battle of Trafalgar: A Ladybird Expert Book, was published by Penguin in June. You can unsubscribe at any time. These included blockades, cruising and amphibious operations and, most interesting of all, fleet seizures. Britain’s 10 most significant naval battles, The year when fear of Napoleon stalked the land. Much more damaging, however, was the aftermath of the bombardment of Copenhagen in 1807, when 18 ships of the line, 11 frigates, two smaller ships, two ship-sloops, seven brig-sloops, two brigs, one schooner and 26 gunboats were captured, and five ships of the line and two frigates destroyed.
Perhaps the biggest dividend of Nelson’s triumph was the removal of Spain as a naval power. By entering your details, you are agreeing to HistoryExtra terms and conditions. He knew he was a dead man. What remains more complicated, however, is what the battle actually meant at the time, and means to us now. While fleet seizures inflicted considerable damage on the enemy with no blood being spilled, fleet battle always adversely affected both sides, regardless of who won. In fact, in the short term, the land war went from bad to worse. When the British vice admiral Horatio Nelson broke through the French and Spanish line of battle off Cape Trafalgar on 21 October 1805, he unleashed a full broadside from the four gun decks of HMS Victory through the stern window of the French flagship Bucentaure. To maintain that force, parliament granted the navy the enormous sum of £15,864,341. The Battle of Trafalgar was a naval battle that took place during the Third Coalition War on October 21, 1805. In fact, if you’re searching for the British action that inflicted the greatest damage on Napoleon’s navy, you may have to look beyond not just Trafalgar but fleet battles altogether, and consider other types of naval operations. In this light, the impact of the battle of Trafalgar becomes rather uncertain.

A British Royal Navy fleet blockaded a French and Spanish fleet belonging to Napoleon Bonaparte and defeated them in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape Trafalgar, Spain.

In that time, he had suffered defeats at the hands of the British Royal Navy, both small and large. Nelson would have been distinctive as he was wearing his uniform with imitation medals on his breast. The battle was fought between the British Royal Navy and the combined fleets of France and Spain. A British Royal Navy fleet blockaded a French and Spanish fleet belonging to Napoleon Bonaparte and defeated them in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape Trafalgar, Spain. The armament figures speak for themselves. When did organ music become associated with baseball? Perhaps firing blind onto the Victory‘s quarter deck, perhaps with a brief window as a smoke cloud cleared, the marksman fired and hit Nelson in the left shoulder. And what of the war at sea? From there, they were to join the Spanish fleet and then return to France. A year later it exceeded 100,000 men for the first time, and shortly after Trafalgar reached 122,860. This evened up the odds for the British, who then fell on the centre and tail, isolating and overwhelming them. The British Royal Navy was superior to the French Navy when it came to experience and training at the time of the Napoleonic Wars. Seizing the opportunity, a powerful French fleet of 11 ships of the line, four frigates, a corvette and two dispatch vessels, split into two separate squadrons, broke out from Brest and headed west and south – towards vulnerable British colonies and trade routes in both the Caribbean and East Indies. It is a fictional account of a boy aboard the Santa Ana. Our best wishes for a productive day. It was a great victory for the Royal Navy, but they lost the man who had led the attack. Representatives of France, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Batavian Republic signed the Treaty of Amiens on March 25, 1802. Instead, he began with a lyrical line that grabbed everyone’s attention at the time, and has done so ever since. At that stage, 14 French and Spanish ships had surrendered. We know from the ships’ logbooks that they made that journey at 1.5 miles per hour – roughly half of the average walking pace of an adult. Keeping ships at sea there ceaselessly was simply impossible, and on 13 December 1805 the battle-scarred blockading British ships and their battle-scarred men headed home and anchored in Torbay. The musket balls were not perfectly spherical, they did not always come out of the centre of the musket’s barrel. Trafalgar (1873), a Spanish novel about the battle, written by Benito Pérez Galdós. On the poop deck of Victory, eight marines were killed by a single double-headed shot and on the Revenge a child was brutally cut down.
But the Dutch navy actually suffered far more severely at Saldanha Bay (in modern-day South Africa) in 1796 when it lost a complete fleet of nine ships of the line without a shot being fired, and at the Texel in 1799, when they surrendered eight ships of the line, four frigates and a brig. There were 33 in the allied French and Spanish fleet. He is currently taking his live show, ‘Histories of the Unexpected’, across the UK, and will be appearing at both of our History Weekends: historyextra.com/events. Collingwood had survived and won the greatest naval battle of the age and yet his headline was this: “The ever to be lamented death of Vice Admiral Lord Nelson who in the late conflict with the enemy, fell in the hour of victory…”. With an abundance of natural harbours, the Dutch coast was excellently placed to threaten naval bases and ports on the east coast of England and Scotland – and to menace London itself.

The British approach was a tortuously slow process. 2. Before she began writing, Barclay was a line cook for 10 years.

The nation won the battle, but lost her hero. Here was proof that Britannia really was destined to ‘Rule the Waves’, as everyone had learned from the patriotic song that had already been well known for more than half a century. In this one action, 22 ships of the line, eight frigates, numerous smaller craft and the whole Toulon arsenal and shipbuilding stores fell into British hands without a shot being fired. When the Battle of Trafalgar happened in 1805, France was the strongest military power on the continent of Europe. The entire French Brest fleet took no part at all in the battle, and there was another unscathed squadron in Rochefort. It is a fictional account of a boy aboard the Santa Ana. Copyright 2020 Leaf Group Ltd. / Leaf Group Media, All Rights Reserved. Why don't libraries smell like bookstores? A further six were being built at Flushing. Admiral Villeneuve caused the Battle of Trafalgar by remaining in Cadiz, Spain when he was under orders to meet with another fleet in Brest and sail on to the English Channel. Nelson’s Victory had 821 people on board the British fleet approximately 17,000 and the French and Spanish 30,000. By the end of 1808, the Spanish had thrown in their lot with the British they would not launch another warship until 1853. The battle raged on as more British ships arrived at the enemy line with fresh broadsides. The carnage that followed in both fleets was so appalling that few chose to write about it in detail, but the fragments that have survived the 214 years since are telling. Only Britain now had the capacity to launch significant overseas military campaigns, which it did, with mixed results, at Walcheren in 1809 (a disaster), and the long-running Peninsular War, which ultimately led to Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo. The Battle of Trafalgar was not part of Napoleon's plan. It also reveals an acute awareness of where public opinion needed to fall. What happened to Nelson? In one of the most decisive naval battles in history, a British fleet under Admiral Lord Nelson defeats a combined French and Spanish fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar… Nelson’s funeral was a national show, only comparable to that of Princess Diana in 1997. England also formed the Third Coalition with Russia, Austria, Sweden and Prussia. Napoleon had overestimated his admiral and underestimated the British Royal Navy. Before the battle, Nelson sent the famous signal: ‘England expects every man to do his duty’ On 21 October 1805 the British Royal Navy defeated the combined battle fleets of the French and Spanish empires 20 miles northwest of a promontory of rock and sand in southern Spain.


Great Events in British History: The Battle of Trafalgar – Britannia Rules the Waves as Nelson Defeat the French

Missing proper British Food? Then order from the British Corner Shop – Thousands of Quality British Products – including Waitrose, Shipping Worldwide. Click to Shop now.

The Battle of Trafalgar was a bittersweet moment for Britain victory and tragedy wrapped up in one memorable day. The nation won the battle, but lost her hero. Although Horatio Nelson did not live to see what he had achieved, it was more than the defeat of the enemy’s ships. After Trafalgar, Britain had no effective rival on the high seas. Although Napoleon did not acknowledge it, his plans for European domination had been dealt a decisive blow. Britain, on the other hand, could continue her empire building without effective opposition, allowing her to take her place as one of Europe’s leading nations.

Key Facts

Commanders (with their flagships)

British Fleet

  • Horatio Nelson Vice Admiral, HMS Victory
  • Cuthbert Collingwood Vice Admiral, HMS Royal Sovereign
  • In command of 33 ships

French and Spanish Allied Fleet

  • Pierre-Charles Villeneuve French Vice Admiral, Bucentaure
  • Federico Carlos Gravina Spanish Vice Admiral, Principe de Asturias
  • In command of a fleet of 41 ships (26 French and 15 Spanish)

Victory at Sea

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Napoleon Bonaparte’s campaign to recast France in the image of the Roman Empire was in full swing. Already a proven general with a string of victories across Europe, he had seized power and crowned himself emperor. He thirsted for more territory and was preparing to break the peace that had existed across Europe since the Treaty of Amiens of 1802. There was one obstacle to his plans: Britain’s Royal Navy.

Napoleon had established France as the dominant military power on land, but Britain had built up a navy that could not be rivalled. He knew that if he started hostilities on the continent, the Royal Navy would blockade French ports, choking France’s overseas trade and preventing the French navy from putting out to sea. His solution was to draw up plans for an invasion of Britain.

The first stage of the plan was to build a flotilla of invasion barges. These were assembled around Calais and the French army were moved up ready to board them. Ordinarily, there would be no possibility of the boats successfully crossing the English Channel since it was patrolled by the Royal Navy. In view of this, the second stage of the plan required the French navy to gain control of the Channel.

Napoleon sent orders to his commanders to break out of their blockaded ports. There were French fleets at Toulon and Brest, and two fleets belonging to their Spanish allies at Cadiz and Ferrol. Once the ships were through the blockade, Napoleon’s plan called for them to rendezvous in the Caribbean, then make for the English Channel to assist ferrying the invasion force past the Royal Navy’s ships.

The commander of the French fleet at Toulon, on the French Mediterranean coast, was Admiral Villeneuve. Blockading him was a British fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Nelson. Nelson had already built a reputation as a superb yet unconventional commander following his resounding victory against the French fleet at the Battle of the Nile. Villeneuve had been present at the battle, commanding the rear, and his was one of only two French ships that had survived the encounter. Captured but later released, the rumour was that the French admiral had little appetite for meeting Nelson again. However, once he had received his emperor’s orders in December 1804, he had little option but to steel himself to push through Nelson’s blockade.

In the event, Villeneuve effected a clean escape on 30 March 1805 since Nelson had adopted a rather casual approach to the blockade of Toulon. His hope was to lull the French in to a false sense of security and lure them out to sea where he could engage them in an open battle. On the day that Villeneuve left port, Nelson’s fleet was blown out of position and the Frenchman was able to make an unopposed break for the Straits of Gibraltar. By the time Nelson realised that the French had left port, he had lost sight of them. He assumed they would make for Egypt and set off in the opposite direction.

Nelson gave up the chase after a couple of weeks when he had no sightings of Villeneuve. He ordered his fleet to turn around, but was unable to get through the Straits of Gibraltar due to poor weather. It wasn’t until 14 May that he was able to resume his pursuit of Villeneuve, who he was now convinced was en route for the West Indies.

Villeneuve was indeed making for Martinique, with Admiral Gravina’s Spanish fleet. The French and Spanish had a month’s head start on the British, but Nelson was not deterred. Although he did not catch his quarry, he did make his presence known and Villeneuve decided to return to Europe, hoping to break the blockade at Brest and then proceed to support Napoleon’s invasion.

On his return, Villeneuve ran into a British fleet off Finisterre, under the command of Admiral Robert Calder. Calder failed to inflict any serious damage, but he did enough to convince Villeneuve to abandon his journey to Brest. Instead, he headed south, arriving in Cadiz in mid-August. His plan was to refit his ships. On hearing the news of the delay, the Emperor was incandescent.

Meanwhile, Nelson had returned to England, having assumed that the danger from Villeneuve was passed. He was welcomed by enthusiastic crowds and was able to enjoy a short rest at his home, Merton Place, before news of a large French and Spanish fleet gathering in Cadiz reached London on 2 September. Admiral Calder was sent ahead with a small fleet, whilst Nelson waited for HMS Victory to be readied for battle. By 15 September the preparations were complete and Nelson boarded his ship and left England for the last time.

Nelson joined the British fleet on 29 September and took up position some 50 miles off the Spanish coast. In order to receive news of any movement of the fleet in Cadiz, Nelson set up a relay system consisting of five fast moving frigates and a couple of schooners stationed inshore plus three 74-gun ships between the frigates and the main British fleet. This allowed signals to be passed quickly. While he awaited news aboard his flagship Victory, Nelson briefed his officers on his planned tactics.

In Cadiz, Villeneuve had received news of the presence of the British fleet. Neither he nor his captains had any appetite for facing Nelson and voted to stay in harbour. They knew that their men were inexperienced, having rarely been to sea due to the British blockade, whereas the British ships were manned by experienced sailors led by veteran officers who had drilled their gun crews to battle-readiness. Their emperor, on the other hand, saw only that his navy had more ships than the British and demanded action. A letter reached Villeneuve informing him that Napoleon was sending another admiral to take his command, so rather than be humiliated he put his doubts aside and gave the order to sail. The combined fleet of French and Spanish ships put out from Cadiz on 19 October, news of which was instantly relayed to Nelson.

As dawn broke on 21 October, 1805, the joint French and Spanish fleet was ranged in a line about 9 miles long, 12 miles out from Cadiz. By late morning, the two fleets were almost within firing range. Traditionally, naval battles were conducted in two parallel lines, with the ships firing at broadsides. The rational for this was that it was easier to signal during the battle in this formation. Villeneuve suspected that Nelson would try something unorthodox in their upcoming engagement he was right.

British = Red, French = Blue

Nelson’s plan was to divide his fleet into two squadrons, one led by himself, the other by Admiral Collingwood. Rather than drawing up parallel to the enemy, Nelson and Collingwood led their two columns directly towards them at a right angle. Nelson aimed to drive the two British squadrons through the joint fleet’s line, cutting it into three sections. This would disrupt signalling, allow the British to engage in rapid firing on the rear of the line while the front section tried to slowly manoeuvre back to support the rear. The British were able to fire three rounds of cannon for every two of the joint fleet, had higher morale and were better seamen, so Nelson was confident that he would prevail given a fast and furious series of individual ship battles, rather than the ponderous massed pounding of a traditional sea battle.

At 11.45, Nelson was ready to launch his assault. He had a signal run up, which was greeted by cheering amongst the British fleet: England expects that every man will do his duty. At noon, Villeneuve sent his own simple signal: Engage the enemy.

The British ships inevitably took heavy fire as they sailed toward the joint fleet’s lines and were unable to fire back, since their guns were not facing the enemy. Nevertheless, they pressed on and engaged once at close quarters. Victory was in close action with the French ship Redoubtable, with the gun crews raking fire at each other. Eventually, their yardarms locked and there was hand to hand fighting. In the French rigging, marines hurled grenades and fired muskets at the Victory’s decks. At 1.15, Nelson, conspicuous in his dress uniform and decorations, was on deck with Captain Hardy when a musket ball tore through his shoulder and lodged in his spine. He was carried down to the surgeon, his face covered with a handkerchief.

Nelson had not expected to survive the battle. Back in England he had wished farewell to several friends, telling at least one colleague that he would not see him again, and had put into place arrangements for the future care of his mistress, Lady Hamilton, and their daughter. The hero of Trafalgar died at 4.30 in the afternoon, whispering “Thank God I have done my duty”. He had indeed his fleet had overwhelmed the enemy and won a decisive victory with no ships lost.

After the battle, Nelson’s body was returned to England aboard Victory in a barrel of brandy. On 9 January 1806 he was buried at St Paul’s Cathedral in the presence of the Prince of Wales. Sadly, the nation ignored his wishes regarding the care of Lady Hamilton and Horatia, and his two dependants sank into poverty.

Legacy

The Battle of Trafalgar effectively marked the end of Napoleon’s ambitions in Europe, though he carried on for another 10 years. With his navy stuck in port and his supply lines compromised, his army had no realistic chance of achieving the victories he craved. With the Royal Navy ruling the waves, Britain was able to pursue her own expansion of her empire with relatively little hindrance and Britain’s power came to be associated with her navy.

In Britain, Nelson’s victory heralded a new spirit of confidence and pride. His signal, “England expects” became a well-known patriotic phrase and continues to be used as a rallying cry in sporting events today.

Places to Visit

HMS Victory is the Royal Navy’s oldest commissioned ship and remains the flagship of the Royal Navy’s First Sea Lord. She is preserved in dry dock at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard – home to the National Museum of the Royal Navy. in Portsmouth. Aboard Nelson’s ship you can visit, amongst other things, the gun deck, the spot where the Admiral fell and the orlop deck where he died. The Royal Navy Museum also houses the Nelson Gallery, which includes a children’s activity centre.

The Royal Maritime Museum at Greenwich is home to Nelson, Navy, Nation, an exhibition tracing the story of how the Navy became central to Britain’s identity.

In Central London, you can find Nelson’s Column, a popular landmark completed in 1843. The tall column, on top of which is a statue of Admiral Lord Nelson, sits at the centre of Trafalgar Square, named, of course, after the battle.

Trafalgar on Film and TV

Produced for the 200 th Anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, the BBC’s Nelson’s Trafalgar is available on DVD.

Channel 4’s excellent dramatized documentary, The Untold Battle of Trafalgar (2010) can be watched at CosmoLearning (http://www.cosmolearning.com/documentaries/bloody-foreigners-the-untold-battle-of-trafalgar-1493/)

A romanticised life of Nelson and his mistress, Emma Hamilton, was filmed in 1941 starring real life newlyweds Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. That Hamilton Woman is available on DVD.

Further Research

The National Archives website www.nationalarchives.gov.uk has a section dedicated to the Battle of Trafalgar. There is a searchable database listing the names of Royal Navy personnel who fought at Trafalgar.

The Trafalgar Companion: The Complete Guide to History’s Most Famous Sea Battle and the Life of Admiral Lord Nelson (2005) by Mark Adkin is a highly regarded and definitive account of the battle and Nelson’s career.

The Battle of Trafalgar features in a number of novels. Bernard Cornwell found a place aboard a fictitious ship at the battle for his popular hero Richard Sharpe in Sharpe’s Trafalgar (2009).

Julian Stockwin’s hero, Tom Kydd, takes his place at Trafalgar in Victory (2010).


- The Plan -

Nelson decided on a dangerous new plan. The idea was for the English ships to sail straight at the enemy lines, and to attempt to sail between the enemy ships, while firing both broadsides. By doing this, they would rake the enemy ships, hopefully with devastating effects. The plan was extremely dangerous, because, as the English ships approached the enemy line, the French and Spanish ships would be able to use their broadside to fire at the approaching ships. The English, on the other hand, would not be able to return fire until they were alongside the enemy ships.


Battle of Trafalgar

Place of the Battle of Trafalgar: At Cape Trafalgar off the South-Western coast of Spain, south of Cadiz.

Combatants at the Battle of Trafalgar: The British Royal Navy against the Fleets of France and Spain.

Commanders at the Battle of Trafalgar: Admiral Viscount Lord Nelson and Vice Admiral Collingwood against Admiral Villeneuve of France and Admirals d’Aliva and Cisternas of Spain.

Admiral Villeneuve French commander at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars

Size of the fleets at the Battle of Trafalgar: 32 British ships (25 ships of the line, 4 Frigates and smaller craft), 23 French ships and 15 Spanish ships (33 ships of the line, 7 Frigates and smaller craft). 4,000 troops, including riflemen from the Tyrol, were posted in small detachments through the French and Spanish Fleets.

Winner of the Battle of Trafalgar: Resoundingly, the Royal Navy.

British Ships at the Battle of Trafalgar (name of captain and number of guns):

Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood commander of the British Leeward Squadron at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars: picture by Henry Howard

Admiral Lord Nelson’s Division: HMS Victory (Flagship of Admiral Lord Nelson: Captain Thomas Hardy, 104), Temeraire (Captain Eliab Harvey, 98), Neptune (Captain Thomas Fremantle, 98), Conqueror (Captain Israel Pellew, 74), Leviathan (Captain Henry Bayntun, 74), Ajax (Lieutenant John Pilford, 74), Orion (Captain Edward Codrington, 74), Agamemnon (Captain Sir Edward Bury, 64), Minotaur (Captain Charles Mansfield, 74), Spartiate (Captain Sir Francis Laforey, 74), Euryalus (Captain Henry Blackwood, 36), Britannia (Flagship of Rear Admiral Lord Northesk: Captain Charles Bullen, 100), Africa (Captain Henry Digby, 64), Naiad (Captain Thomas Dundas, 38), Phoebe (Captain Thomas Capel, 36), Entreprenante (Lieutenant Robert Young, 10), Sirius (Captain William Prowse, 36) and Pickle (Lieutenant John La Penotière, 6).

Vice Admiral Collingwood’s Division: HMS Royal Sovereign (Flagship of Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood: Captain Edward Rotheram, 100), Belleisle (Captain William Hargood, 74), Mars (Captain George Duff, 74), Tonnant (Captain Charles Tyler, 80), Bellerophon (Captain John Cooke, 74), Colossus (Captain James Morris, 74), Achilles (Captain Richard King, 74), Polyphemus (Captain Robert Redmill, 64), Revenge (Captain Robert Moorsom, 74), Swiftsure (Captain William Rutherford, 74), Defiance (Captain Philip Durham, 74), Thunderer (Lieutenant John Stockham, 74), Prince of Wales (Captain Richard Grindall, 98), Dreadnought (Captain John Conn, 98) and Defence (Captain George Hope, 74).

Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars: picture by Montague Dawson

French Ships at the Battle of Trafalgar (name of captain and number of guns): Bucentaure (Flagship of Vice Admiral Villeneuve: Captain Magendie, 80), Formidable (Flagship of Rear Admiral Le Pelley: Captain Letellier, 80), Scipion (Captain Berrenger, 74), Intrépide (Captain Infernet, 74), Cornélie (Captain Martineng, 40), Duguay Truin (Captain Touffet, 74), Mont Blanc (Captain Lavillegris, 74), Heros (Commander Poulain, 74), Hortense (Captain Lamellerie, 40), Neptune (Commodore Maistral, 80), Redoutable (Captain Lucas, 74), Indomptable (Captain Hubert, 80), Fougueux (Captain Baudoin, 74), Pluton (Captain Cosmao-Kerjulien, 74), Aigle (Captain Gourrège, 74), Swiftsure (Captain L’Hospitalier, 74), Argonaute (Captain Épron-Desjardins, 74), Berwick (Captain de Camas, 74), Hermione (Captain Mahé, 40), Thémis (Captain Jugan, 40), Achille (Captain Deniéport, 74) Rhin (Captain Chesneau, 40), Furet (Lieutenant Dumay, 18) and Argus (Lieutenant Taillard, 16).

HMS Victory at sea: Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars: picture by Monamy Swaine

Spanish Ships at the Battle of Trafalgar (name of captain and number of guns): Santa Anna (Flagship of Vice Admiral de Alava: Captain de Gardoqui, 112), Santissima Trinidad (Flagship of Rear Admiral de Cisneros: Captain de Uriarte, 136), Neptuno (Captain Flores, 80), Rayo (Captain MacDonnell, 100), San Augustin (Captain Cagigal, 74), San Francisco d’Assisi (Captain Flores, 74), San Leandro (Captain Quevedo, 64), San Justo (Captain Gaston, 74), Monarca (Captain Argumosa, 74), San Ildefenso (Captain Vargas, 74), Algeciras (Flagship of Rear Admiral Magon: Commander Tourneur, 74), Bahama (Commodore Galiano, 74), Montanes (Captain Bustamente, 74), San Juan Nepomucano (Commodore Elorza, 74), Argonauta (Captain Pareja, 80) and Prince de Asturias (Flagship of Admiral Gravina: Commodore Hore, 112).

HMS Britannia entering Portsmouth Harbour: Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars: picture by Robert Strickland Thomas

Ships and Armaments at the Battle of Trafalgar: Sailing warships of the 18th and 19th Century carried their main armaments in broadside batteries along the sides. Ships were classified according to the number of guns carried or the number of decks carrying batteries.

At the Battle of Trafalgar, Nelson’s main force comprised 8 three decker battleships carrying more than 90 guns each. The enormous Spanish ship Santissima Trinidad carried 120 guns and the Santa Anna 112 guns.

Gun on a Royal Navy ship in action: Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars

The size of gun on the line of battle ships was up to 24 pounder, firing heavy iron balls, or chain and link shot designed to wreck rigging. Trafalgar was a close fleet action. Ships manoeuvred up to the enemy and delivered broadsides at a range of a few yards. To take full advantage of the close range, guns were ‘double shotted’ with grape shot on top of ball. It is said that the crews in some French ships were unable to face this appalling ordeal, closing their gun ports and attempting to escape the fire.

Collingwood’s Royal Sovereign fired its first broadside at the Battle of Trafalgar into the stern of the Spanish ship Santa Anna causing her massive damage.

Captain in the Royal Navy: Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars

The discharge of guns at close range easily set fire to an opposing vessel. Fires were difficult to control in battle and several ships were destroyed in this way, notably the French ship Achille.

Ships carried a variety of smaller weapons on the top deck and in the rigging, from swivel guns firing grape shot or canister (bags of musket balls) to hand held muskets and pistols, each crew seeking to annihilate the enemy officers and sailors on deck.

Royal Marine: Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars

British captains expected their ships to clear for action in 10 minutes. Cabin walls were dismantled gun crews formed up the gunner and his mates opened the magazine and distributed ammunition to the guns decks were wetted and sprinkled with sand the surgeon laid out his implements in the cockpit the marines assembled to take post on the decks or in the rigging. The final act of preparation was for the gun ports to be opened and the guns run out, the truck wheels rumbling through the ship.

The discharge of guns at close range easily set fire to an opposing vessel. Fires were difficult to control in battle and several ships were destroyed in this way, notably the French ship Achille.

Death of Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars: picture by Henri Dupray

The aim in battle was to lock ships together and capture the enemy by boarding. Savage hand to hand fighting took place at Trafalgar on several ships. The crew of the French Redoutable, living up to the name of their ship, boarded Victory but were annihilated in the brutal struggle on Victory’s top deck.

Crew of the French ship Redoutable boarding Victory during the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars: picture by E.S. Hodgson

Wounds in Eighteenth Century naval fighting were terrible. Cannon balls ripped off limbs or, striking wooden decks and bulwarks, drove splinter fragments across the ship causing horrific wounds. Falling masts and rigging inflicted crush injuries. Sailors stationed aloft fell into the sea from collapsing masts and rigging to be drowned. Heavy losses were caused when a ship finally succumbed.

Unexpected member of a French crew rescued at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars

Ships’ crews of all nations were tough. The British, with continual blockade service against the French and Spanish, were well drilled. British gun crews could fire three broadsides or more to every two fired by the French and Spanish.

The British officers were hard bitten and experienced. A young officer joining the Royal Navy in 1789, when the French Wars began, would have served for 16 years of warfare by the time of the Battle of Trafalgar, much of it continuously at sea.

View from HMS Victory’s Mizzen Starboard Shrouds at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars: picture by Joseph Mallord William Turner

British captains were responsible for recruiting their ship’s crew. Men were taken wherever they could be found, largely by means of the press gang. All nationalities served on British ships including French and Spanish. Loyalty for a crew lay primarily with their ship. Once the heat of battle subsided there was little animosity against the enemy. Great efforts were made by British crews to rescue the sailors of foundering French and Spanish ships at the end of the battle.

HMS Victory flanked by Euryalus and Temeraire heading for the French and Spanish line at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars: picture by Thomas Whitcombe

Life on a warship, particularly the large ships of the line, was crowded and hard. Discipline was enforced with extreme violence, small infractions punished with public lashings. The food, far from good, deteriorated as ships spent time at sea. Drinking water was in constant short supply and usually brackish. Shortage of citrus fruit and fresh vegetables meant that scurvy easily and quickly set in. The great weight of guns and equipment and the necessity to climb rigging in adverse weather conditions frequently caused serious injury.

Above all, a life spent carrying out blockade duty was monotonous in the extreme. The prospect of a decisive battle against the French and Spanish put the British Fleet in a state of high excitement.

Map of the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars: map by John Fawkes

Account of the Battle of Trafalgar:
In July 1805, the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte secretly left Milan and hurried to Boulogne in France, where his Grande Armée waited in camp to cross the English Channel and invade England.

French ship Redoutable dismasted and sinking at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars: picture by Auguste Mayer

Napoleon only needed Admiral Villeneuve to bring the joint French and Spanish Fleet from South Western Spain into the Channel, for the invasion of England to take place.

The First Sea Lord in London appointed Admiral Lord Nelson Commander in Chief of the British Fleet, assembling to attack the French and Spanish ships.

Nelson on the deck of HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars: picture by William Heysham Overend

Admiral Nelson selected His Majesty’s Ship Victory as his flagship and sailed south towards Gibraltar. As the British ships intended for his Fleet were made ready, they sailed south to join Nelson.

In October 1805, the French Admiral Villeneuve, the commander of the joint French/Spanish Fleet was still in harbour at Cadiz. Villeneuve received a stinging rebuke from Napoleon, accusing him of cowardice, and Villeneuve steeled himself to leave harbour and make for the Channel.

Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars: picture by William Clarkson Stanfield

Villeneuve was encouraged in his resolve to sail north, by the belief that there was no strong British Fleet nearby and that Nelson was still in England. Leaving picket frigates to watch Cadiz harbour, Nelson kept his main fleet well out to sea.

Death of the Spanish Admiral Gravina aboard Prince de Asturias at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars

On 19 th October 1805 at 9am, HMS Mars relayed the signal received from the British frigates that the Franco-Spanish Fleet was emerging from Cadiz.

At dawn on 21 st October 1805, with a light wind from the west, Nelson signalled his fleet to begin the attack.

The British captains understood fully what was required of them. Nelson had explained his tactics repeatedly over the previous weeks, until every ship’s captain knew his role.

At 6.40am on 21 st October 1805, the British Fleet beat to quarters and the ships cleared for action: cooking fires were thrown overboard, the movable bulwarks stored, the decks sanded and ammunition carried to each gun. The gun crews took their positions. The Royal Marines lined the decks and rigging.

The French and Spanish Fleets were sailing in line ahead in an arc like formation. The British Fleet attacked in two squadrons in line ahead the Windward Squadron, led by Nelson in Victory, and the Leeward (southern or right squadron), headed by Collingwood in Royal Sovereign the ships of the Fleet were divided between the two squadrons.

Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars: picture by John Thomas Serres

Nelson aimed to cut the Franco-Spanish Fleet at a point one third along the line, with Collingwood attacking the rear section. In the light wind, the van of the Franco-Spanish Fleet would be unable to turn back and take part in the battle, until too late to help their comrades, leaving the section of the Franco-Spanish Fleet under attack heavily outnumbered.

Nelson seems to have been entirely confident of success. He told his Flag Captain, Hardy, he expected to take twenty of the enemy’s ships. He was also convinced of his impending death in the battle. Nelson told his friend Blackwood, the captain of the Euryalus, when he came on board Victory before the battle, ‘God bless you, Blackwood. I shall never see you again.’ Nelson wore dress uniform with his decorations, a conspicuous figure on the deck of the Victory.

HMS Bellerophon (ship in centre) at the moment of the death of Captain Cook at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars

In his long and eventful naval career, Nelson had lost his right arm and his right eye. Perhaps, like Wolfe at Quebec, Nelson preferred to die at the moment of supreme victory, rather than live on in a disabled state.

The two British squadrons, led by the Flagships, sailed towards the Franco-Spanish line, Collingwood’s Royal Sovereign significantly ahead of Victory. Anxious that the admiral should not be excessively exposed to enemy fire, the captain of Temeraire attempted to overtake Victory, but was ordered back into line by Nelson.

Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars: picture by William Lionel Wyllie

The first broadside was fired by the French ship Fougueux into Royal Sovereign, as Collingwood burst through the Franco-Spanish line. Royal Sovereign held her fire until she sailed past the stern of the Spanish Flagship, Santa Anna. Royal Sovereign raked Santa Anna with double-shotted fire, a broadside that is said to have disabled 400 of her crew and 14 guns.

Royal Sovereign swung round onto Santa Anna’s beam and the two ships exchanged broadsides. The ships following in the Franco-Spanish line joined in, attacking Collingwood Fougueux, San Leandro, San Justo and Indomptable, until driven off by the rest of the Leeward Squadron as they came up. Royal Sovereign forced Santa Anna to surrender, when both ships were little more than wrecks.

Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars: picture by William Clarkson Stanfield

Victory led the Windward Squadron towards a point in the line between Redoutable and Bucentaure. The Franco-Spanish Fleet at this point was too crowded for there to be a way through, and the Victory simply rammed the Redoutable, firing one broadside into her and others into the French Flagship, Bucentaure, and the Spanish Flagship, Santissima Trinidad. The British ship Temeraire flanked Redoutable on the far side and a further French ship linked to Temeraire, all firing broadsides at point blank range.

The following ships of Nelson’s squadron, as they came up, engaged the other ships in the centre of the Franco-Spanish line. The leading Franco-Spanish squadron continued on its course away from the battle, until peremptorily ordered to return by Villeneuve.

HMS Victory in action at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars: picture by Joseph Mallord William Turner

During the fight with Redoutable, the soldiers and sailors in the French rigging fired at men exposed on the Victory’s decks. A musket shot hit Nelson, knocking him to the deck and breaking his back. The admiral was carried below to the midshipmen’s berth, where he constantly asked after the progress of the battle. Eventually Hardy, Victory’s captain, was able to tell Nelson, before he died, that the Fleet had captured fifteen of the enemy’s ships. Nelson knew he had won a substantial victory.

‘Fall of Nelson’ at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars: picture by Denis Dighton

The battle reached its climax in the hour after Nelson’s injury. Neptune, Leviathan and Conqueror, as they came up, battered Villeneuve’s Flagship Bucentaure into submission, and took the surrender of the French admiral. Temeraire, while fighting with the Redoutable, fired a crippling broadside into the Fougueux. Leviathan engaged the San Augustino, bringing down her masts and boarding her.

In the Leeward Squadron, Belleisle was stricken into a wreck by Achille and the French Neptune, until relieved by the British Swiftsure. Achille was then battered by broadsides, until fires reached her magazine and she blew up.

Ships in action (Bucentaure and Temeraire) at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars: picture by Auguste Mayer

All the French and Spanish ships of that part of the line were destroyed, captured or fled: of the 19 French and Spanish ships, 11 were captured or burnt, while 8 fled to leeward. Many of these ships fought hard. Argonauta and Bahama lost 400 of their crews each. San Juan Nepomuceno lost 350. When she blew up, Achille had lost all her officers, other than a single midshipman. The resistance of the French ship Redoutable was in keeping with her name.

The Franco-Spanish van, commanded by Admiral Dumanoir, passed the battle, firing broadsides indiscriminately into comrade and enemy, and returned to Cadiz.

Taking of the French ship Duguay Trouin at the end of the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars: picture by Charles Edward Dixon

Casualties at the Battle of Trafalgar: British casualties were 1,587 men killed and wounded. The French and Spanish casualties were never revealed, but are thought to have been around 16,000 men killed, wounded or captured.

Destruction of the French ship Achille at the end of the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars: picture by Richard Brydges Beechey

Follow-up to the Battle of Trafalgar: Following the battle, a storm blew up, wrecking many of the ships damaged in the action. Of those captured, only four survived to be brought into Gibraltar.

The consequences of the battle were far reaching. Napoleon’s plan to invade Britain was thwarted. He broke up the camp at Boulogne and marched to Austria, where he won the great victory of Austerlitz against the Austrians and Russians.

French ships scattered in the storm that followed the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars

George Perceval: Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars

The victory at the Battle of Trafalgar ensured that Britain’s dominance at sea remained largely unchallenged for the rest of the ten years of war against France, and continued worldwide for a further one hundred and twenty years.

Admiral Villeneuve was taken a prisoner to England. On his release, Villeneuve travelled back to France, but died violently on the journey to Paris.

Lord Nelson’s body was brought to England and the admiral given a state funeral. Nelson’s body is entombed in St Paul’s cathedral in London.

George Perceval’s Naval General Service Medal 1847 with clasp for the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars

Medals for the Battle of Trafalgar:

The Naval General Service Medal 1848 was issued to all those serving in the Royal Navy in specified actions during the period 1793 to 1840 and applied for the medal. The medal was only issued to those entitled to one of the 231 clasps.

The Battle of Trafalgar was such a clasp for the medal.

One of those awarded the Naval General Service Medal 1848 was George Perceval, who left Harrow School to serve in the Royal Navy as a powder monkey on HMS Orion.

Medals were also struck privately to commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar.

The Birmingham industrialist Matthew Boulton caused a white metal medal to be produced and awarded to those who served at the Battle of Trafalgar on British ships.

Nelson’s signal at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars

Anecdotes and traditions from the Battle of Trafalgar:

    As the British Fleet bore down on the Franco-Spanish line, Nelson directed Lieutenant Pascoe, the signals officer of Victory, to send the signal to the Fleet ‘Nelson confides every man will do his duty.’ Captain Hardy and Pascoe suggested this be changed to ‘England expects every man will do his duty’. Nelson agreed. As the signal ran up Victory’s halyard, the Fleet burst into cheers. Nelson followed this with his standard battle signal ‘Engage the enemy more closely’.

Emma, Lady Hamilton painted by George Romney

HMS Neptune (centre) engages Santissima Trinidad (left) at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars

Matthew Boulton’s Medal: Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars

HMS Belleisle after the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars: picture by William Lionel Wyllie

References for the Battle of Trafalgar:

The Royal Navy, a History by Sir W. Laird Clowes

Life of Nelson by Robert Southey

Nelson’s death on HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars: picture by Arthur William Devis

British Battles on Land and Sea edited by Sir Evelyn Wood

Cartoon of the battle of Battle of Trafalgar on 21st October 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars

The previous battle of the Napoleonic Wars is the Battle of Copenhagen

The next battle of the Napoleonic Wars is the Battle of Maida

Search BritishBattles.com

Follow / Like Us

Other Pages

The BritishBattles Podcast

If you are too busy to read the site, why not download a podcast of an individual battle and listen on the move! Visit our dedicated Podcast page or visit Podbean below.


Trafalgar, a futile victory? Why Nelson’s triumph didn’t turn the tide on Napoleon

Nelson’s defeat of a Franco-Spanish fleet in October 1805 has long been hailed as the Royal Navy’s greatest triumph. But, asks Sam Willis, does that claim stand up to scrutiny?

This competition is now closed

Published: July 11, 2019 at 7:00 am

When the British vice admiral Horatio Nelson broke through the French and Spanish line of battle off Cape Trafalgar on 21 October 1805, he unleashed a full broadside from the four gun decks of HMS Victory through the stern window of the French flagship Bucentaure. Sailors on his weather deck also fired a 68-pound carronade – the most destructive short-range gun on the ship – at that same window, loaded with 500 musket balls. The carnage that followed in both fleets was so appalling that few chose to write about it in detail, but the fragments that have survived the 214 years since are telling. On the poop deck of Victory, eight marines were killed by a single double-headed shot and on the Revenge a child was brutally cut down. “He was a youth of not more than 12 or 13 years of age… Killed on the quarter-deck by a grape-shot, his body greatly mutilated, his entrails being driven and scattered against the larboard side.”

The armament figures speak for themselves. Consider this: the total firepower of both armies at the battle of Waterloo, fought 10 years later, amounted to just 7.3 per cent of the firepower at Trafalgar. Nelson’s flagship, the Victory, which alone carried more than 100 guns, was just one of 27 ships of the line (vessels considered large enough to stand in the line of battle) in the British fleet. There were 33 in the allied French and Spanish fleet. The British fleet had 2,148 guns the French and Spanish 2,632. Nelson’s Victory had 821 people on board the British fleet approximately 17,000 and the French and Spanish 30,000. This is why Trafalgar rightly stands as one of the greatest naval clashes in history.

Light winds, heavy swell

The course of events is well known. In May 1805, Britain’s nemesis, Napoleon, was crowned king of Italy in Milan. Soon, his beloved new kingdom was threatened by the Third Coalition (made up of Britain, Russia and the Holy Roman Empire), and so the French emperor ordered his fleet to the Mediterranean to help in its defence. The British, however, had arrived in time to cut them off, just off the coast of Cadiz. Now, in light winds and a heavy swell, the French and Spanish fleet waited patiently for their attackers, in a crescent formation.

Nelson bore down in two lines, at right angles to his enemy. At the head of one, the windward division, was Nelson himself at the head of the other, the leeward division, was Cuthbert Collingwood, who had joined the navy at the age of 11 and was now a 57-year-old vice admiral.

The British approach was a tortuously slow process. We know from the ships’ logbooks that they made that journey at 1.5 miles per hour – roughly half of the average walking pace of an adult.

The anticipation on both fleets would have been appalling for veterans of battle and novices alike. On the British ships, the sailors were ordered to lie down as their vessels came within range and shot fell from the sky like giant iron hailstones sending up spray in erupting geysers. On the Victory alone, 30 men died and 20 were wounded before they fired a single shot at their enemy.

When Nelson and Collingwood broke the Franco-Spanish line, they cut their enemy’s body into three parts: a head, a centre and a tail. This evened up the odds for the British, who then fell on the centre and tail, isolating and overwhelming them.

Soon after Nelson engaged the enemy, the French captain of a far smaller ship, the two-decked, 74-gun Redoutable, brought her directly alongside the Victory. The Redoutable‘s decks were crowded with soldiers preparing to board. Her rig was occupied with marksmen, sniper-birds perched aloft, their bodies braced between mast and tarred standing rigging, upper bodies hard as iron, legs loose to move with the roll of the ship. One of these men took aim with his musket at Nelson, that diminutive, one-armed, half-blind, grey-haired admiral who had unleashed hell on this French marksman’s nation, on his friends’ ships, on the Redoutable, his own home.

Nelson would have been distinctive as he was wearing his uniform with imitation medals on his breast. The shot was not easy, however the musket not designed for precise shooting. The musket balls were not perfectly spherical, they did not always come out of the centre of the musket’s barrel. Nelson was 16 metres from the base of the mizzen mast of the French ship in which this particular sniper was lurking, and we know that he was 15 metres up the mast – leaving a shot of nearly 22 metres. Both ships were rolling in the lumpy swell and both shrouded in smoke that, in its thickest wafts, would have made it difficult to see your hands in front of your face.

Perhaps firing blind onto the Victory‘s quarter deck, perhaps with a brief window as a smoke cloud cleared, the marksman fired and hit Nelson in the left shoulder. The musket ball broke his shoulder, broke some ribs, burst a lung, broke his back and severed his bronchial artery. Nelson later said that he felt the ball break his spine and that he felt arterial blood pulsing into his lungs. He knew he was a dead man. He was taken down to the surgeon with a handkerchief covering his face so as not to discourage the men.

Death on the gun decks

The battle raged on as more British ships arrived at the enemy line with fresh broadsides. The head of the French fleet, severed from its body by the British strike, did not turn to help until it was too late. The British sailors worked their guns and repaired their ships relentlessly so many corpses filled the French and Spanish gun decks that they began to encumber men still attempting to work the ships and operate the guns.

After six hours of struggle, the British had secured an unprecedented victory. Nelson lingered for three hours, until he learned of the scale of the triumph. At that stage, 14 French and Spanish ships had surrendered. Moments before he died, Victory‘s surgeon, William Beatty, heard Nelson murmur: “Thank God I have done my duty.” By the time the guns fell silent, 22 enemy ships had been taken as prizes. The British lost none. An unknown number of French and Spanish soldiers and sailors died but a rough estimate is that 4,400 were killed. That outnumbered British losses by a factor of ten to one.

That Britain had got the better of its foes at the battle of Trafalgar is beyond dispute. What remains more complicated, however, is what the battle actually meant at the time, and means to us now. And if you pick away at its edges, all sorts of interesting narratives and arguments appear.

Consider first the date. When victory was secured off Cape Trafalgar in October 1805, it was hailed as Britain’s greatest naval triumph. Here was proof that Britannia really was destined to ‘Rule the Waves’, as everyone had learned from the patriotic song that had already been well known for more than half a century. But the British needed such proof, because they had invested massively in their navy. The sheer scale of the fleet, and the dockyards that supported it around the world, and the money granted it by parliament for its upkeep, were testament to that. The numbers speak for themselves. In 1795, the Royal Navy consisted of 123 ships of the line and 160 cruisers manned by 99,608 men. A year later it exceeded 100,000 men for the first time, and shortly after Trafalgar reached 122,860. To maintain that force, parliament granted the navy the enormous sum of £15,864,341. To put that into perspective, the largest fleets were bigger than most towns in the country.

But here’s the rub: regardless of this investment, and regardless of the victory it served up at Trafalgar, it would be another decade before Britain and her allies would defeat Napoleon – that’s a period of conflict two and a half times longer than the First World War. The ‘greatest victory’ didn’t deliver a decisive blow.

In fact, in the short term, the land war went from bad to worse. A matter of weeks after Trafalgar, Napoleon won the greatest of all of his military victories, at the battle of Austerlitz, where he captured an entire Austrian army led by Holy Roman Emperor Francis II and the tsar of Russia, Alexander I. He also seized Vienna, the first time the city had fallen in its history. As a result, the Holy Roman Empire, founded by Charlemagne a millennium earlier, ceased to exist.

The impossible blockade

And what of the war at sea? Did Britain ‘Rule the Waves’ after Trafalgar? Not really. The entire French Brest fleet took no part at all in the battle, and there was another unscathed squadron in Rochefort. A small combined French and Spanish force remained in Cadiz.

What’s more, blockading the enemy was a near impossible task. Although the British may have known where their French and Spanish foes were at any given moment, the weather alone was enough to ensure that those foes could slip through their fingers. Which they did.

The task was made even tougher by the geography of the western coastline of France. Brittany’s coast is plagued by fog, and its waters run with fierce currents over hidden rocks. The Bay of Biscay is plagued by formidable swells capable of rearing up and tossing the biggest ships like bath toys. Keeping ships at sea there ceaselessly was simply impossible, and on 13 December 1805 the battle-scarred blockading British ships and their battle-scarred men headed home and anchored in Torbay.

Seizing the opportunity, a powerful French fleet of 11 ships of the line, four frigates, a corvette and two dispatch vessels, split into two separate squadrons, broke out from Brest and headed west and south – towards vulnerable British colonies and trade routes in both the Caribbean and East Indies.

Just as concerning was Napoleon’s decision to embark on an enormous new shipbuilding programme focused on Antwerp. With an abundance of natural harbours, the Dutch coast was excellently placed to threaten naval bases and ports on the east coast of England and Scotland – and to menace London itself. Napoleon dredged the Scheldt estuary and constructed docks at Antwerp, at a cost of 66m Francs. By 1809, 10 new 74-gun ships had been built at Antwerp and four more were under construction. A further six were being built at Flushing. In this light, the impact of the battle of Trafalgar becomes rather uncertain.

In fact, if you’re searching for the British action that inflicted the greatest damage on Napoleon’s navy, you may have to look beyond not just Trafalgar but fleet battles altogether, and consider other types of naval operations. These included blockades, cruising and amphibious operations and, most interesting of all, fleet seizures. At Toulon in 1793, for example, the British inflicted the worst disaster on the French navy of the entire period when they seized its Mediterranean fleet and its dockyard. In this one action, 22 ships of the line, eight frigates, numerous smaller craft and the whole Toulon arsenal and shipbuilding stores fell into British hands without a shot being fired.

Four years later, the Royal Navy defeated the Dutch at the battle of Camperdown in the North Sea. But the Dutch navy actually suffered far more severely at Saldanha Bay (in modern-day South Africa) in 1796 when it lost a complete fleet of nine ships of the line without a shot being fired, and at the Texel in 1799, when they surrendered eight ships of the line, four frigates and a brig.

So too with the Danes: they were beaten in fleet battle by the British at Copenhagen in 1801. Much more damaging, however, was the aftermath of the bombardment of Copenhagen in 1807, when 18 ships of the line, 11 frigates, two smaller ships, two ship-sloops, seven brig-sloops, two brigs, one schooner and 26 gunboats were captured, and five ships of the line and two frigates destroyed.

While fleet seizures inflicted considerable damage on the enemy with no blood being spilled, fleet battle always adversely affected both sides, regardless of who won. Although they suffered far fewer casualties than the French and Spanish at Trafalgar, the British still lost 1,500–1,700 sailors dead or injured – no navy at the time could simply absorb such losses and retain operational effectiveness. The casualty rate in British officers in particular was unusually high for naval battles of the period: of the 30 British flag officers and captains present, a third were either killed or wounded.

Spain neutered

Don’t get me wrong, Trafalgar was a significant victory – it strengthened considerably Britain’s hand in the Napoleonic Wars. Perhaps the biggest dividend of Nelson’s triumph was the removal of Spain as a naval power. Before Trafalgar, the Spanish and French fleets could combine to outnumber Britain’s. By the end of 1808, the Spanish had thrown in their lot with the British they would not launch another warship until 1853.

All this combined to place Britain in a formidable position at sea. This was enough to deter Napoleon from attempting repeats of his ambitious transoceanic invasions of Egypt (1798) and Hispaniola (1802). Only Britain now had the capacity to launch significant overseas military campaigns, which it did, with mixed results, at Walcheren in 1809 (a disaster), and the long-running Peninsular War, which ultimately led to Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo.

British sea power was now strong enough to defend and expand the maritime empire, so protecting Britain’s economic prosperity. That prosperity could, in turn, bankroll more men and ships and help Britain subsidise its allies’ campaigns against Napoleon on the continent.

But, for all this, British naval dominance wasn’t the reason that Trafalgar became famous. No, the events of October 1805 were celebrated both for the sheer scale of the battle and for the fact that it was all wrapped up in the story of the death of Britain’s greatest naval hero. Nelson’s funeral was a national show, only comparable to that of Princess Diana in 1997. And the man who contributed most to that was the impressive and astute Collingwood. His dispatch written to the Admiralty after the battle, a letter that he knew would be published and read by hundreds of thousands of people in his lifetime and beyond, is a masterpiece of penmanship. It also reveals an acute awareness of where public opinion needed to fall.

Collingwood did not start with a dramatic account of the battle, or even a dry one dealing only in numbers. Instead, he began with a lyrical line that grabbed everyone’s attention at the time, and has done so ever since. Collingwood had survived and won the greatest naval battle of the age and yet his headline was this: “The ever to be lamented death of Vice Admiral Lord Nelson who in the late conflict with the enemy, fell in the hour of victory…”

For Collingwood and his contemporaries, Trafalgar’s identity was uncertain, for it was both a victory and a loss. Historians would do well to remember this, and embrace the fascinating battle’s enigmatic legacy.

Sam Willis’s new book, The Battle of Trafalgar: A Ladybird Expert Book, was published by Penguin in June. He is currently taking his live show, ‘Histories of the Unexpected’, across the UK, and will be appearing at both of our History Weekends: historyextra.com/events.

Timeline: Britain’s battle for the oceans

The struggle for naval supremacy in the Napoleonic Wars

August 1799

A fleet belonging to the Dutch, France’s ally, surrenders to the British in the Texel on the Netherlands’ North Sea coast

November 1799

Following a bloodless coup, the 30-year-old Corsica-born general Napoleon Bonaparte seizes power in France

The Royal Navy defeats a Danish fleet at the battle of Copenhagen, in what is one of the most dangerous attacks ever mounted at sea

Napoleon’s invasion army, the Armée d’Angleterre, is established at Boulogne and a fleet of invasion boats is built

December 1804

Spain declares war on Britain. When combined, the Spanish and French fleets now outnumber the Royal Navy

October 1805

The Royal Navy defeats a French and Spanish fleet at Trafalgar. Britain mourns the death in battle of Horatio Nelson

The Royal Navy defeats a French fleet at the battle of San Domingo in the Caribbean

The Danish fleet surrenders following Britain’s naval bombardment of Copenhagen

Spain changes sides and throws its lot in with Britain. It’s now France’s turn to be outnumbered at sea

Napoleon surrenders to the Royal Navy and is transported to exile on St Helena. He dies there six years later at the age of 51


Video, Sitemap-Video, Sitemap-Videos