Battle of Trafalgar

Battle of Trafalgar

Overview

The Battle of Trafalgar (21 October 1805) was a sea battle
Naval battle
A naval battle is a battle fought using boats, ships or other waterborne vessels. Most naval battles have occurred at sea, but a few have taken place on lakes or rivers. The earliest recorded naval battle took place in 1210 BC near Cyprus...

 fought between the British Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 and the combined fleets of the French Navy
French Navy
The French Navy, officially the Marine nationale and often called La Royale is the maritime arm of the French military. It includes a full range of fighting vessels, from patrol boats to a nuclear powered aircraft carrier and 10 nuclear-powered submarines, four of which are capable of launching...

 and Spanish Navy
Spanish Navy
The Spanish Navy is the maritime branch of the Spanish Armed Forces, one of the oldest active naval forces in the world. The Armada is responsible for notable achievements in world history such as the discovery of Americas, the first world circumnavigation, and the discovery of a maritime path...

, during the War of the Third Coalition (August–December 1805) of the Napoleonic Wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

 (1803–1815).

The battle was the most decisive British naval victory of the war. Twenty-seven British ships of the line
Ship of the line
A ship of the line was a type of naval warship constructed from the 17th through the mid-19th century to take part in the naval tactic known as the line of battle, in which two columns of opposing warships would manoeuvre to bring the greatest weight of broadside guns to bear...

 led by Admiral Lord Nelson
Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson
Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté, KB was a flag officer famous for his service in the Royal Navy, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars. He was noted for his inspirational leadership and superb grasp of strategy and unconventional tactics, which resulted in a number of...

 aboard defeated thirty-three French and Spanish ships of the line under French Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve
Pierre-Charles Villeneuve
Pierre-Charles-Jean-Baptiste-Silvestre de Villeneuve was a French naval officer during the Napoleonic Wars. He was in command of the French and Spanish fleets defeated by Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar....

 off the south-west coast of Spain, just west of Cape Trafalgar
Cape Trafalgar
Cape Trafalgar is a headland in the Province of Cádiz in the south-west of Spain. It lies on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, northwest of the Strait of Gibraltar...

.
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Encyclopedia

The Battle of Trafalgar (21 October 1805) was a sea battle
Naval battle
A naval battle is a battle fought using boats, ships or other waterborne vessels. Most naval battles have occurred at sea, but a few have taken place on lakes or rivers. The earliest recorded naval battle took place in 1210 BC near Cyprus...

 fought between the British Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 and the combined fleets of the French Navy
French Navy
The French Navy, officially the Marine nationale and often called La Royale is the maritime arm of the French military. It includes a full range of fighting vessels, from patrol boats to a nuclear powered aircraft carrier and 10 nuclear-powered submarines, four of which are capable of launching...

 and Spanish Navy
Spanish Navy
The Spanish Navy is the maritime branch of the Spanish Armed Forces, one of the oldest active naval forces in the world. The Armada is responsible for notable achievements in world history such as the discovery of Americas, the first world circumnavigation, and the discovery of a maritime path...

, during the War of the Third Coalition (August–December 1805) of the Napoleonic Wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

 (1803–1815).

The battle was the most decisive British naval victory of the war. Twenty-seven British ships of the line
Ship of the line
A ship of the line was a type of naval warship constructed from the 17th through the mid-19th century to take part in the naval tactic known as the line of battle, in which two columns of opposing warships would manoeuvre to bring the greatest weight of broadside guns to bear...

 led by Admiral Lord Nelson
Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson
Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté, KB was a flag officer famous for his service in the Royal Navy, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars. He was noted for his inspirational leadership and superb grasp of strategy and unconventional tactics, which resulted in a number of...

 aboard defeated thirty-three French and Spanish ships of the line under French Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve
Pierre-Charles Villeneuve
Pierre-Charles-Jean-Baptiste-Silvestre de Villeneuve was a French naval officer during the Napoleonic Wars. He was in command of the French and Spanish fleets defeated by Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar....

 off the south-west coast of Spain, just west of Cape Trafalgar
Cape Trafalgar
Cape Trafalgar is a headland in the Province of Cádiz in the south-west of Spain. It lies on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, northwest of the Strait of Gibraltar...

. The Franco-Spanish fleet lost twenty-two ships, without a single British vessel being lost.

The British victory spectacularly confirmed the naval supremacy that Britain had established during the previous century and was achieved in part through Nelson's departure from the prevailing naval tactical orthodoxy, which involved engaging an enemy fleet in a single line of battle parallel to the enemy to facilitate signalling in battle and disengagement, and to maximise fields of fire and target areas. Nelson instead divided his smaller force into two columns directed perpendicularly against the larger enemy fleet, with decisive results.

Nelson was mortally wounded during the battle, becoming one of Britain's greatest war heroes. The commander of the joint French and Spanish forces, Admiral Villeneuve, was captured along with his ship Bucentaure. Spanish Admiral Federico Gravina escaped with the remnant of the fleet and succumbed months later to wounds sustained during the battle.

Origins



In 1805, the First French Empire
First French Empire
The First French Empire , also known as the Greater French Empire or Napoleonic Empire, was the empire of Napoleon I of France...

, under Napoleon Bonaparte, was the dominant military land power on the European continent, while the British Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 controlled the seas. During the course of the war, the British imposed a naval blockade
Blockade
A blockade is an effort to cut off food, supplies, war material or communications from a particular area by force, either in part or totally. A blockade should not be confused with an embargo or sanctions, which are legal barriers to trade, and is distinct from a siege in that a blockade is usually...

 on France, which affected trade and kept the French from fully mobilising their own naval resources. Despite several successful evasions of the blockade by the French navy, it failed to inflict a major defeat upon the British. The British were able to attack French interests at home and abroad with relative ease.

When the Third Coalition
Third Coalition
The War of the Third Coalition was a conflict which spanned from 1803 to 1806. It saw the defeat of an alliance of Austria, Portugal, Russia, and others by France and its client states under Napoleon I...

 declared war on France, after the short-lived Peace of Amiens, Napoleon was determined to invade Britain. To do so, he needed to ensure that the Royal Navy would be unable to disrupt the invasion flotilla
Flotilla
A flotilla , or naval flotilla, is a formation of small warships that may be part of a larger fleet. A flotilla is usually composed of a homogeneous group of the same class of warship, such as frigates, destroyers, torpedo boats, submarines, gunboats, or minesweepers...

, which would require control of the English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

.

The main French fleets
Naval fleet
A fleet, or naval fleet, is a large formation of warships, and the largest formation in any navy. A fleet at sea is the direct equivalent of an army on land....

 were at Brest
Brest, France
Brest is a city in the Finistère department in Brittany in northwestern France. Located in a sheltered position not far from the western tip of the Breton peninsula, and the western extremity of metropolitan France, Brest is an important harbour and the second French military port after Toulon...

 in Brittany
Brittany
Brittany is a cultural and administrative region in the north-west of France. Previously a kingdom and then a duchy, Brittany was united to the Kingdom of France in 1532 as a province. Brittany has also been referred to as Less, Lesser or Little Britain...

 and at Toulon
Toulon
Toulon is a town in southern France and a large military harbor on the Mediterranean coast, with a major French naval base. Located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur region, Toulon is the capital of the Var department in the former province of Provence....

 on the Mediterranean
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 coast. Other ports on the French Atlantic coast harboured smaller squadrons
Squadron (naval)
A squadron, or naval squadron, is a unit of 3-4 major warships, transport ships, submarines, or sometimes small craft that may be part of a larger task force or a fleet...

. France and Spain were allied, so the Spanish fleet based in Cadiz
Cádiz
Cadiz is a city and port in southwestern Spain. It is the capital of the homonymous province, one of eight which make up the autonomous community of Andalusia....

 and Ferrol was also available.

The British possessed an experienced and well-trained corps of naval officers. By contrast, most of the best officers in the French navy had been either executed or dismissed from the service during the early part of the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

. As a result, Vice-Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve
Pierre-Charles Villeneuve
Pierre-Charles-Jean-Baptiste-Silvestre de Villeneuve was a French naval officer during the Napoleonic Wars. He was in command of the French and Spanish fleets defeated by Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar....

 was the most competent senior officer available to command Napoleon's Mediterranean fleet. However, Villeneuve had shown a distinct lack of enthusiasm for facing Nelson and the Royal Navy after the defeat at the Battle of the Nile
Battle of the Nile
The Battle of the Nile was a major naval battle fought between British and French fleets at Aboukir Bay on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt from 1–3 August 1798...

 in 1798.

Napoleon's naval plan in 1805 was for the French and Spanish fleets in the Mediterranean and Cadiz to break through the blockade
Blockade
A blockade is an effort to cut off food, supplies, war material or communications from a particular area by force, either in part or totally. A blockade should not be confused with an embargo or sanctions, which are legal barriers to trade, and is distinct from a siege in that a blockade is usually...

 and join forces in the Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

. They would then return, assist the fleet in Brest to emerge from the blockade, and together clear the English Channel of Royal Navy ships, ensuring a safe passage for the invasion barges.

The Caribbean


Early in 1805, Admiral Lord Nelson commanded the British fleet blockading Toulon. Unlike William Cornwallis
William Cornwallis
Admiral the Honourable Sir William Cornwallis GCB was a Royal Navy officer who fought in the Napoleonic Wars. He was the brother of Charles Cornwallis, the 1st Marquess Cornwallis, governor-general of India...

, who maintained a tight blockade of Brest with the Channel Fleet, Nelson adopted a loose blockade in hopes of luring the French out for a major battle. However, Villeneuve's fleet successfully evaded Nelson's when the British were blown off station by storms. While Nelson was searching the Mediterranean for him, erroneously supposing that Villeneuve intended to make for Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, Villeneuve passed through the Strait of Gibraltar
Strait of Gibraltar
The Strait of Gibraltar is a narrow strait that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and separates Spain in Europe from Morocco in Africa. The name comes from Gibraltar, which in turn originates from the Arabic Jebel Tariq , albeit the Arab name for the Strait is Bab el-Zakat or...

, rendezvoused with the Spanish fleet, and sailed as planned to the Caribbean. Once Nelson realised that the French had crossed the Atlantic Ocean, he set off in pursuit.

Cádiz


Villeneuve returned from the Caribbean to Europe, intending to break the blockade at Brest, but after two of his Spanish ships were captured during the Battle of Cape Finisterre
Battle of Cape Finisterre (1805)
In the Battle of Cape Finisterre off Galicia, Spain, the British fleet under Admiral Robert Calder fought an indecisive naval battle against the Combined Franco-Spanish fleet which was returning from the West Indies...

 by a squadron under Vice-Admiral Sir Robert Calder
Robert Calder
Admiral Sir Robert Calder, 1st Baronet, KCB was a British naval officer who served in the Seven Years' War, the American Revolutionary War, the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars.-Early life:...

, Villeneuve abandoned this plan and sailed back to Ferrol. There he received orders from Napoleon to resume to Brest according to the main plan.

Napoleon's invasion plans for England depended entirely on having a sufficiently large number of ships of the line before Boulogne
Boulogne-sur-Mer
-Road:* Metropolitan bus services are operated by the TCRB* Coach services to Calais and Dunkerque* A16 motorway-Rail:* The main railway station is Gare de Boulogne-Ville and located in the south of the city....

, France. This would require Villeneuve's force of 33 ships to join Vice-Admiral Ganteaume
Honoré Joseph Antoine Ganteaume
Count Honoré Joseph Antoine Ganteaume was a French admiral.Ganteaume was born to a family of merchant sailors, and sailed on a dozen commercial cruises in his youth...

's force of 21 ships at Brest, along with a squadron of 5 ships under Captain Allemand, which would have given him a combined force of 59 ships of the line.

When Villeneuve set sail from Ferrol on 10 August, he was under orders from Napoleon to sail northward toward Brest. Instead, he worried that the British were observing his manoeuvres, so on 11 August he sailed southward towards Cadiz on the southwestern coast of Spain. With no sign of Villeneuve's fleet by 26 August, the three French army corps' invasion force near Boulogne
Boulogne-sur-Mer
-Road:* Metropolitan bus services are operated by the TCRB* Coach services to Calais and Dunkerque* A16 motorway-Rail:* The main railway station is Gare de Boulogne-Ville and located in the south of the city....

 broke camp and marched to Germany, where it was later engaged.

The same month, Nelson returned home to England after two years of duty at sea, for some rest. He remained ashore for 25 days, and was warmly received by his countrymen, who were nervous about a possible French invasion. Word reached England on 2 September about the combined French and Spanish fleet in the harbour of Cadiz. Nelson had to wait until 15 September before his ship HMS Victory
HMS Victory
HMS Victory is a 104-gun first-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, laid down in 1759 and launched in 1765. She is most famous as Lord Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805....

 was ready to sail.

On 15 August, Cornwallis decided to detach 20 ships of the line from the fleet guarding the Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

 and to have them sail southward to engage the enemy forces in Spain. This left the Channel denuded of ships, with only 11 ships of the line present. However, this detached force formed the nucleus of the British fleet that would fight at Trafalgar. This fleet, under the command of Vice-Admiral Calder, reached Cadiz on 15 September. Nelson joined the fleet on 29 September to take command.

The British fleet used frigate
Frigate
A frigate is any of several types of warship, the term having been used for ships of various sizes and roles over the last few centuries.In the 17th century, the term was used for any warship built for speed and maneuverability, the description often used being "frigate-built"...

s to keep a constant watch on the harbour, while the main force remained out of sight 50 miles (80 km) west of the shore. Nelson's hope was to lure the combined Franco-Spanish force out and engage them in a "pell-mell battle". The force watching the harbour was led by Captain Blackwood, commanding HMS Euryalus
HMS Euryalus (1803)
HMS Euryalus was a Royal Navy Apollo Class frigate of 36 guns, which saw service in the Battle of Trafalgar and the War of 1812. During her career she was commanded by three prominent naval personalities of the Napoleonic and post-Napoleonic period, Henry Blackwood, George Heneage Dundas and...

. He was brought up to a strength of seven ships (five frigates and two schooners) on 8 October.

Supply situation


At this point, Nelson's fleet badly needed provisioning. On 2 October, five ships of the line, HMS Queen
HMS Queen (1769)
HMS Queen was a three-deck 90-gun second-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 18 September 1769 at Woolwich Dockyard. She was designed by William Bateley, and was the only ship built to her draught...

, HMS Canopus
HMS Canopus (1798)
HMS Canopus was an 80-gun third rate ship of the line of the British Royal Navy. She had previously served with the French Navy as the Tonnant-class Franklin, but was captured after less than a year in service by the British fleet under Rear Admiral Horatio Nelson at the Battle of the Nile in 1798...

, HMS Spencer
HMS Spencer (1800)
HMS Spencer was a 74-gun third-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 10 May 1800 at Bucklers Hard. Her designer was the French émigré shipwright Jean-Louis Barrallier.-Battle of Algeciras Bay:...

, HMS Zealous
HMS Zealous (1785)
HMS Zealous was a 74-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, built by Barnard of Deptford and launched on 25 June 1785.She served in a number of battles of the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars, notably the Battle of the Nile, where she engaged the French ship Guerrier,...

, HMS Tigre
French ship Tigre (1793)
Tigre was a 74-gun ship of the line of the French Navy.Her first captain was Pierre Jean Van Stabel. When Van Stabel was promoted, she became the flagship of his 6-ship squadron. She notably fought in 1793 to rescue the Sémillante, along with the Jean Bart.Under Jacques Bedout, she took part in...

, and the frigate HMS Endymion
HMS Endymion (1797)
HMS Endymion was a 40-gun fifth rate that served in the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars, the War of 1812 and during the First Opium War. She was built to the lines of the French prize captured in 1794...

 were dispatched to Gibraltar
Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

 under Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Louis
Thomas Louis
Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Louis, 1st Baronet was an officer of the British Royal Navy who served in three wars and saw numerous actions, notably as one of Horatio Nelson's "Band of Brothers" in the Mediterranean in 1798 who commanded ships at the Battle of the Nile...

 for supplies. These ships were later diverted for convoy duty in the Mediterranean, though Nelson had expected them to return. Other British ships continued to arrive, and by 15 October the fleet was up to full strength for the battle. Nelson also lost Calder's flagship
Flagship
A flagship is a vessel used by the commanding officer of a group of naval ships, reflecting the custom of its commander, characteristically a flag officer, flying a distinguishing flag...

, the 98-gun Prince of Wales
HMS Prince of Wales (1794)
HMS Prince of Wales was a 98-gun second rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 28 June 1794 at Portsmouth.She was present at the Battle of Groix in 1795, and served as the flagship of Admiral Robert Calder at the Battle of Cape Finisterre in 1805. Prince of Wales was not present at...

, which he sent home as Calder had been recalled by the Admiralty to face a court martial for his apparent lack of aggression during the engagement off Cape Finisterre on 22 July.

Meanwhile, Villeneuve's fleet in Cadiz was also suffering from a serious supply shortage that could not be readily rectified by the cash-strapped French. The blockades maintained by the British fleet had made it difficult for the allies to obtain stores and their ships were ill fitted. Villeneuve's ships were also more than two thousand men short of the force needed to sail. These were not the only problems faced by the Franco-Spanish fleet. The main French ships of the line had been kept in harbour for years by the British blockades with only brief sorties. The French crews contained few experienced sailors, and, as most of the crew had to be taught the elements of seamanship on the few occasions when they got to sea, gunnery was neglected. The hasty voyage across the Atlantic and back used up vital supplies. Villeneuve's supply situation began to improve in October, but news of Nelson's arrival made Villeneuve reluctant to leave port. Indeed, his captains had held a vote on the matter and decided to stay in the harbour.

On 16 September, Napoleon gave orders for the French and Spanish ships at Cadiz to put to sea at the first favourable opportunity, join with seven Spanish ships of the line then at Cartagena
Cartagena, Spain
Cartagena is a Spanish city and a major naval station located in the Region of Murcia, by the Mediterranean coast, south-eastern Spain. As of January 2011, it has a population of 218,210 inhabitants being the Region’s second largest municipality and the country’s 6th non-Province capital...

, go to Naples
Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

 and land the soldiers they carried to reinforce his troops there, and fight with decisive action if they met a British fleet of inferior numbers.

The fleets


British Franco-Spanish
First Rates 3 4
Second Rates 4  
Third Rates 20 29
Total Ships-of-the-Line 27 33
Other Ships 6 7

British


On 21 October, Admiral Nelson had 27 ships-of-the-line. His flagship
Flagship
A flagship is a vessel used by the commanding officer of a group of naval ships, reflecting the custom of its commander, characteristically a flag officer, flying a distinguishing flag...

, , was one of three 100-gun first rates
First-rate
First rate was the designation used by the Royal Navy for its largest ships of the line. While the size and establishment of guns and men changed over the 250 years that the rating system held sway, from the early years of the eighteenth century the first rates comprised those ships mounting 100...

 in his fleet. He also had four 98-gun second rates
Second-rate
In the British Royal Navy, a second rate was a ship of the line which by the start of the 18th century mounted 90 to 98 guns on three gun decks; earlier 17th century second rates had fewer guns and were originally two-deckers or had only partially armed third gun decks. The term in no way implied...

 and twenty third rates
Third-rate
In the British Royal Navy, a third rate was a ship of the line which from the 1720s mounted between 64 and 80 guns, typically built with two gun decks . Years of experience proved that the third rate ships embodied the best compromise between sailing ability , firepower, and cost...

. One of the third rates was an 80-gun vessel and sixteen were 74-gun vessels. The remaining three were 64-gun ships, which were being phased out of the Royal Navy at the time of the battle. Nelson also had four frigate
Frigate
A frigate is any of several types of warship, the term having been used for ships of various sizes and roles over the last few centuries.In the 17th century, the term was used for any warship built for speed and maneuverability, the description often used being "frigate-built"...

s of 38 or 36 guns, a 12-gun schooner
Schooner
A schooner is a type of sailing vessel characterized by the use of fore-and-aft sails on two or more masts with the forward mast being no taller than the rear masts....

 and a 10-gun cutter.

Franco-Spanish


Against Nelson, Vice-Admiral Villeneuve fielded 33 ships-of-the-line, including some of the largest in the world at the time. The Spanish contributed four first-rates to the fleet. Three of these ships, one at 136 guns(Santisima Trinidad)and two at 112 guns(Principe de Asturias, Santa Anna), were much larger than anything under Nelson's command. The fourth first-rate carried 100 guns. The fleet had six 80-gun third-rates, (four French and two Spanish), and one French 64-gun third-rate. The remaining 22 third-rates were 74-gun vessels, of which fourteen were French and eight Spanish. In total the Spanish contributed 15 ships of the line and the French 18. The fleet also included five 40-gun frigates and two 18-gun brig
Brig
A brig is a sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts. During the Age of Sail, brigs were seen as fast and manoeuvrable and were used as both naval warships and merchant vessels. They were especially popular in the 18th and early 19th centuries...

s, all French.

Nelson's plan


The prevailing tactical orthodoxy
Naval tactics in the Age of Sail
Naval tactics in the Age of Sail were used from the early 17th century onward when sailing ships replaced oared galleys. These were used until the 1860s when steam-powered ironclad warships rendered sailing line of battle ships obsolete.-Early history:...

 at the time involved manoeuvring to approach the enemy fleet in a single line of battle
Line of battle
In naval warfare, the line of battle is a tactic in which the ships of the fleet form a line end to end. A primitive form had been used by the Portuguese under Vasco Da Gama in 1502 near Malabar against a Muslim fleet.,Maarten Tromp used it in the Action of 18 September 1639 while its first use in...

 and then engaging in parallel lines. Before this time the fleets had usually been involved in a mêlée with the fleets becoming mixed together. One of the reasons for the development of the line of battle was to help the admiral control the fleet. If all the ships were in line, signalling in battle became possible. The line also had defensive properties, allowing either side to disengage by breaking away in formation. If the attacker chose to continue combat their line would be broken as well. Often this latter tactic led to inconclusive battles or allowed the losing side to reduce its losses. Nelson wished to see a conclusive battle.

His solution to the problem was to deliberately cut the opposing line in two. Approaching in two columns sailing perpendicular to the enemy's line, one towards the centre of the opposing line and one towards the trailing end, his ships would break the enemy formation in half, surround one half, and force them to fight to the end. Nelson hoped specifically to cut the line just in front of the flagship
Flagship
A flagship is a vessel used by the commanding officer of a group of naval ships, reflecting the custom of its commander, characteristically a flag officer, flying a distinguishing flag...

; the isolated ships in front of the break would not be able to see the flagship's signals, hopefully taking them out of combat while they reformed. The intention of going straight at the enemy echoed the tactics
Naval tactics in the Age of Sail
Naval tactics in the Age of Sail were used from the early 17th century onward when sailing ships replaced oared galleys. These were used until the 1860s when steam-powered ironclad warships rendered sailing line of battle ships obsolete.-Early history:...

 used by Admiral Duncan at the Battle of Camperdown
Battle of Camperdown
The Battle of Camperdown was a major naval action fought on 11 October 1797 between a Royal Navy fleet under Admiral Adam Duncan and a Dutch Navy fleet under Vice-Admiral Jan de Winter...

 and Admiral Jervis
John Jervis, 1st Earl of St Vincent
Admiral of the Fleet John Jervis, 1st Earl of St Vincent GCB, PC was an admiral in the Royal Navy and Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom...

 at the Battle of Cape St Vincent, both in 1797.

The plan had three principal advantages. First, it would allow the British fleet to close with the Franco-Spanish fleet as quickly as possible, reducing the chance that it would be able to escape without fighting. Second, it would quickly bring on a mêlée and frantic battle by breaking the Franco-Spanish line and inducing a series of individual ship-to-ship fights, in which the British were likely to prevail. Nelson knew that the better seamanship, faster gunnery, and higher morale of his crews were great advantages. Third, it would bring a decisive concentration on the rear of the Franco-Spanish fleet. The ships in the van of the enemy fleet would have to turn back to support the rear, and this would take a long time. Additionally, once the Franco-Spanish line had been broken, their ships would be relatively defenceless to powerful broadsides from the British fleet, and would take a long time to reposition to return fire.

The main drawback of attacking head on was that as the leading British ships approached, the Franco-Spanish ships would be able to direct at their bows a raking
Raking fire
In naval warfare, raking fire is fire directed parallel to the long axis of an enemy ship. Although each shot is directed against a smaller target profile than by shooting broadside and thus more likely to miss the target ship to one side or the other, an individual cannon shot that hits will pass...

 broadside
Broadside
A broadside is the side of a ship; the battery of cannon on one side of a warship; or their simultaneous fire in naval warfare.-Age of Sail:...

 fire to which they would be unable to reply. In order to lessen the time the fleet was exposed to this danger, Nelson had his ships make all available sail (including stuns'ls). This was yet another departure from the norm. Nelson was also well aware that French and Spanish gunners were ill-trained, would probably be supplemented with soldiers, and would have difficulty firing accurately from a moving gun platform. The Combined Fleet was sailing across a heavy swell, causing the ships to roll heavily and exacerbating these problems. Nelson's plan was indeed a gamble, but a carefully calculated one.

During the period of blockade
Blockade
A blockade is an effort to cut off food, supplies, war material or communications from a particular area by force, either in part or totally. A blockade should not be confused with an embargo or sanctions, which are legal barriers to trade, and is distinct from a siege in that a blockade is usually...

 off the coast of Spain in October, Nelson instructed his captains, over two dinners aboard Victory, on his plan for the approaching battle. The order of sailing, in which the fleet was arranged when the enemy was first sighted, was to be the order of ensuing battle, so that no time would be wasted in forming a precise line. The attack was to be made in two bodies; one led by his second in command, Collingwood
Cuthbert Collingwood, 1st Baron Collingwood
Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, 1st Baron Collingwood was an admiral of the Royal Navy, notable as a partner with Lord Nelson in several of the British victories of the Napoleonic Wars, and frequently as Nelson's successor in commands.-Early years:Collingwood was born in Newcastle upon Tyne...

, was to throw itself on the rear of the enemy, while the other, led by Nelson, was to take care of the centre and vanguard. In preparation for the battle, Nelson ordered the ships of his fleet painted in a distinctive yellow and black pattern (later known as the Nelson Chequer
Nelson Chequer
The Nelson Chequer was a specific colour-scheme adopted by vessels of the Royal Navy, modelled on that used by Admiral Horatio Nelson. It consisted of bands of black and yellow paint along the sides broken up by black gunports. Nelson, apparently, used the same style for all vessels under his...

) that would make them easy to distinguish from their opponents.

Nelson was careful to point out that something had to be left to chance. Nothing is sure in a sea fight, and he left his captains free from all hampering rules by telling them that "No captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of the enemy." In short, circumstances would dictate the execution, subject to the guiding rule that the enemy's rear was to be cut off and superior force concentrated on that part of the enemy's line.

Admiral Villeneuve himself expressed his belief that Nelson would use some sort of unorthodox attack, stating specifically that he believed he would drive right at his lines. But his long game of cat and mouse
Cat and mouse
Cat and mouse, often expressed as cat-and-mouse game, is an English-language idiom dating back to 1675 that means "a contrived action involving constant pursuit, near captures, and repeated escapes." The "cat" is unable to secure a definitive victory over the "mouse", who despite not being able to...

with Nelson had worn him down, and he was suffering from a loss of nerve. Arguing that the inexperience of his officers meant he would not be able to maintain formation in more than one group, he chose not to act on his accurate assessment of Nelson's intentions.

Departure


The Combined Fleet of French and Spanish warships anchored in Cadiz and under the leadership of Admiral Villeneuve was in disarray. On 16 September 1805 Villeneuve received orders from Napoleon
Napoleon I of France
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

 to sail the Combined Fleet from Cadiz to Naples
Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

. At first Villeneuve was optimistic about returning to the Mediterranean
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 but soon had second thoughts. A war council was held aboard his flagship, Bucentaure, on 8 October. While some of the French captains wished to obey Napoleon's orders, the Spanish captains and other French officers, including Villeneuve, thought it best to remain in Cadiz. Villeneuve changed his mind yet again on 18 October 1805, ordering the Combined Fleet to sail immediately even though there were only very light winds.

The sudden change was prompted by a letter Villeneuve had received on 18 October, informing him that Vice-Admiral François Rosily had arrived in Madrid
Madrid
Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million and the entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area is calculated to be 6.271 million. It is the third largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan...

 with orders to take command of the Combined Fleet. Stung by the prospect of being disgraced before the fleet, Villeneuve resolved to go to sea before his successor could reach Cadiz. At the same time, he received intelligence that a detachment of six British ships (Admiral Louis
Thomas Louis
Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Louis, 1st Baronet was an officer of the British Royal Navy who served in three wars and saw numerous actions, notably as one of Horatio Nelson's "Band of Brothers" in the Mediterranean in 1798 who commanded ships at the Battle of the Nile...

' squadron) had docked at Gibraltar
Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

, thus weakening the British fleet. This was used as the pretext for sudden change.

The weather, however, suddenly turned calm following a week of gales. This slowed the progress of the fleet leaving the harbour, giving the British plenty of warning. Villeneuve had drawn up plans to form a force of four squadrons, each containing both French and Spanish ships. Following their earlier vote on 8 October to stay put, some captains were reluctant to leave Cadiz and as a result they failed to follow Villeneuve's orders closely. As a result, the fleet straggled out of the harbour in no particular formation.

It took most of 20 October for Villeneuve to get his fleet organised, and it set sail in three columns for the Straits of Gibraltar to the southeast. That same evening, Achille
French ship Achille (1803)
The Achille was a 74-gun French ship of the line built at Rochefort in 1803 after plans by Jacques-Noël Sané.Under the command of Captain Louis Gabriel Deniéport, she sailed at the vanguard of the French Fleet on 20 October 1805, just before the Battle of Trafalgar, and she was the first...

spotted a force of 18 British ships of the line in pursuit. The fleet began to prepare for battle and during the night, they were ordered into a single line. The following day, Nelson's fleet of 27 ships of the line and four frigates was spotted in pursuit from the northwest with the wind behind it. Villeneuve again ordered his fleet into three columns, but soon changed his mind and ordered a single line. The result was a sprawling, uneven formation.


The British fleet was sailing, as they would fight, under signal 72 hoisted on Nelson's flagship. At 5:40 a.m., the British were about 21 miles (34 km) to the northwest of Cape Trafalgar, with the Franco-Spanish fleet between the British and the Cape. At 6 a.m. that morning, Nelson gave the order to prepare for battle.

At 8 a.m., Villeneuve ordered the fleet to wear together and turn back for Cadiz. This reversed the order of the Allied line, placing the rear division under Rear-Admiral Pierre Dumanoir le Pelley
Pierre Dumanoir le Pelley
Vice-Admiral Count Pierre-Etienne-René-Marie Dumanoir Le Pelley was a French Navy officer, best known for commanding the vanguard of the French fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar.- Early career :...

 in the vanguard. The wind became contrary at this point, often shifting direction. The very light wind rendered manoeuvering virtually impossible for all but the most expert crews. The inexperienced crews had difficulty with the changing conditions, and it took nearly an hour and a half for Villeneuve's order to be completed. The French and Spanish fleet now formed an uneven, angular crescent, with the slower ships generally leeward and closer to the shore.

By 11 a.m. Nelson's entire fleet was visible to Villeneuve, drawn up in two parallel columns. The two fleets would be within range of each other within an hour. Villeneuve was concerned at this point about forming up a line, as his ships were unevenly spaced and in an irregular formation. The Franco-Spanish fleet was drawn out nearly five miles (8 km) long as Nelson's fleet approached.

As the British drew closer, they could see that the enemy was not sailing in a tight order, but rather in irregular groups. Nelson could not immediately make out the French flagship as the French and Spanish were not flying command pennants.

Nelson was outnumbered and outgunned, the enemy totalling nearly 30,000 men and 2,568 guns to his 17,000 men and 2,148 guns. The Franco-Spanish fleet also had six more ships of the line, and so could more readily combine their fire. There was no way for some of Nelson's ships to avoid being "doubled on" or even "trebled on".

As the two fleets drew closer, anxiety began to build among officers and sailors, one British sailor described the time before thus: “During this momentous preparation, the human mind had ample time for meditation, for it was evident that the fate of England rested on this battle.”

Battle






The battle progressed largely according to Nelson's plan. At 11:45, Nelson sent the famous flag signal, "England expects that every man will do his duty
England expects that every man will do his duty
"England expects that every man will do his duty" was a signal sent by Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson from his flagship HMS Victory as the Battle of Trafalgar was about to commence on 21 October 1805. Trafalgar was the decisive naval engagement of the Napoleonic Wars...

".
The term England was widely used at the time to refer to the United Kingdom, though the British fleet included significant contingents from Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Unlike the photographic depiction, this signal would have been shown on the mizzen mast only and would have required 12 'lifts'.

As the battle opened, the French and Spanish were in a ragged curved line headed north. As planned, the British fleet was approaching the Franco-Spanish line in two columns. Leading the northern, windward column in Victory was Nelson, while Collingwood in the 100-gun Royal Sovereign
HMS Royal Sovereign (1786)
HMS Royal Sovereign was a 100-gun first rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, which served as the flagship of Admiral Collingwood at the Battle of Trafalgar. She was the third of seven Royal Navy ships to bear the name. Designed by Sir Edward Hunt, she was launched at Plymouth Dockyard on 11...

 led the second, leeward, column. The two British columns approached from the west at nearly a right angle to the enemy line. Nelson led his column into a feint toward the van of the Franco-Spanish fleet and then abruptly turned toward the actual point of attack. Collingwood altered the course of his column slightly so that the two lines converged at this line of attack.

Just before his column engaged the allied forces, Collingwood said to his officers, "Now, gentlemen, let us do something today which the world may talk of hereafter." Because the winds were very light during the battle, all the ships were moving extremely slowly, and the foremost British ships were under heavy fire from several of the enemy ships for almost an hour before their own guns could bear.

At noon, Villeneuve sent the signal "engage the enemy", and Fougueux fired her first trial shot at Royal Sovereign. Royal Sovereign had all sails out and, having recently had her bottom cleaned, outran the rest of the British fleet. As she approached the allied line, she came under fire from Fougueux, Indomptable
French ship Indomptable (1789)
Indomptable was an 80-gun ship of the line in the French Navy.She took part in the Glorious First of June on 29 May 1794, engaging the English Barfleur and Orion simultaneously, after which the Indomptable, having lost her masts, was towed to Brest by the Brutus .In 1795, she served in the...

, San Justo and San Leandro, before breaking the line just astern of Admiral Alava's flagship Santa Ana, into which she fired a devastating double-shotted raking
Raking fire
In naval warfare, raking fire is fire directed parallel to the long axis of an enemy ship. Although each shot is directed against a smaller target profile than by shooting broadside and thus more likely to miss the target ship to one side or the other, an individual cannon shot that hits will pass...

 broadside
Broadside
A broadside is the side of a ship; the battery of cannon on one side of a warship; or their simultaneous fire in naval warfare.-Age of Sail:...

.

The second ship in the British lee column, Belleisle
HMS Belleisle (1795)
Lion was a 74-gun third rate ship of the line of the French Navy, which later served in the Royal Navy. She was built at Rochefort. She was later renamed Marat and then Formidable, with the changing fortunes of the French Revolution....

, was engaged by L'Aigle, Achille
French ship Achille (1803)
The Achille was a 74-gun French ship of the line built at Rochefort in 1803 after plans by Jacques-Noël Sané.Under the command of Captain Louis Gabriel Deniéport, she sailed at the vanguard of the French Fleet on 20 October 1805, just before the Battle of Trafalgar, and she was the first...

, Neptune and Fougueux; she was soon completely dismasted, unable to manoeuvre and largely unable to fight, as her sails blinded her batteries, but kept flying her flag for 45 minutes until the following British ships came to her rescue.

For 40 minutes, Victory was under fire from Héros
French ship Héros (1795)
The Héros was a 74-gun French ship of the line built at Rochefort from 1795 to 1801 by engineer Roland. She was one of the numerous Téméraire Class 74-gun ships designed by Sané....

, Santísima Trinidad, Redoutable
French ship Redoutable (1791)
The Redoutable was a Téméraire class 74-gun ship of the line of the French Navy. She is known for her duel with HMS Victory during the Battle of Trafalgar and for killing Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson during the action.- Early career :...

 and Neptune; although many shots went astray, others killed and wounded a number of her crew and shot away her wheel, so that she had to be steered from her tiller belowdecks. Victory could not yet respond. At 12:45, Victory cut the enemy line between Villeneuve's flagship Bucentaure and Redoutable. Victory came close to the Bucentaure, firing a devastating raking broadside through her stern which killed and wounded many on her gundecks. Villeneuve thought that boarding would take place, and with the Eagle of his ship in hand, told his men, "I will throw it onto the enemy ship and we will take it back there!" However Admiral Nelson of Victory engaged the 74 gun Redoutable. Bucentaure was left to be dealt with by the next three ships of the British windward column: Temeraire
HMS Temeraire (1798)
HMS Temeraire was a 98-gun second-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy. Launched in 1798, she served during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, mostly on blockades or convoy escort duties...

, Conqueror
HMS Conqueror (1801)
HMS Conqueror was a 74-gun third-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 23 November 1801 at Harwich. She was designed by Sir John Henslow as part of the Middling class of 74s, and was the only ship built to her draught...

 and Neptune
HMS Neptune (1797)
HMS Neptune was a 98-gun second rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy. She served on a number of stations during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars and was present at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805....

.
A general mêlée ensued and, during that fight, Victory locked masts with the French Redoutable. The crew of the Redoutable, which included a strong infantry corps (with three captains and four lieutenants), gathered for an attempt to board and seize the Victory. A musket
Musket
A musket is a muzzle-loaded, smooth bore long gun, fired from the shoulder. Muskets were designed for use by infantry. A soldier armed with a musket had the designation musketman or musketeer....

 bullet fired from the mizzentop
Top (sailing ship)
On a traditional square rigged ship, the top is the platform at the upper end of each mast. This is not the masthead "crow's nest" of the popular imagination – above the mainmast is the main-topmast, main-topgallant-mast and main-royal-mast, so that the top is actually about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way...

 of the Redoutable struck Nelson in the left shoulder, passed through his spine at the sixth and seventh thoracic vertebrae, and lodged two inches below his right scapula in the muscles of his back. Nelson exclaimed, "They finally succeeded, I am dead." He was carried below decks.

Victory ceased fire, the gunners having been called on the deck to fight the capture, but were forced below decks by French grenade
Grenade
A grenade is a small explosive device that is projected a safe distance away by its user. Soldiers called grenadiers specialize in the use of grenades. The term hand grenade refers any grenade designed to be hand thrown. Grenade Launchers are firearms designed to fire explosive projectile grenades...

s. As the French were preparing to board Victory, the Temeraire, the second ship in the British windward column, approached from the starboard bow of the Redoutable and fired on the exposed French crew with a carronade
Carronade
The carronade was a short smoothbore, cast iron cannon, developed for the Royal Navy by the Carron Company, an ironworks in Falkirk, Scotland, UK. It was used from the 1770s to the 1850s. Its main function was to serve as a powerful, short-range anti-ship and anti-crew weapon...

, causing many casualties.

At 13:55, Captain Lucas
Jean Jacques Etienne Lucas
Jean Jacques Étienne Lucas was a French Navy officer, famous for his role in the Battle of Trafalgar.-Career:Born in Marennes, he joined the French Navy at the age of 15. From 1779 to 1782 he sailed on the Hermione...

, of the Redoutable, with 99 fit men out of 643 and severely wounded himself, surrendered. The French Bucentaure was isolated by the Victory and Temeraire, and then engaged by Neptune, Leviathan
HMS Leviathan (1790)
HMS Leviathan was a 74-gun third-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 9 October 1790. At the Battle of Trafalgar under Henry William Bayntun, she was near the front of the windward column led by Admiral Lord Nelson aboard his flagship, , and captured the Spanish ship San Augustin.In...

 and Conqueror; similarly, the Santísima Trinidad was isolated and overwhelmed, surrendering after three hours.

As more and more British ships entered the battle, the ships of the allied centre and rear were gradually overwhelmed. The allied van, after long remaining quiescent, made a futile demonstration and then sailed away. The British took 22 vessels of the Franco-Spanish fleet and lost none. Among the taken French ships were the L'Aigle, Algésiras
French ship Algésiras
Algésiras was a 74-gun French ship of the line built at Lorient in 1804, named after the Battle of Algeciras.In 1805 she sailed to the West Indies with Aigle where they joined a French fleet under Vice-Admiral Villeneuve....

, , Bucentaure, Fougueux, Intrépide
French ship Intrépide
Intrépide was a 74-gun third-rate ship of the line of the French navy. She was originally built at Ferrol, Spain in 1799 as the Spanish ship of the line Intrepido, and later was sold to France in 1800....

, Redoutable, and Swiftsure. The Spanish ships taken were Argonauta, Bahama, Monarca, Neptuno
Spanish ship Neptuno (1795)
Neptuno was an 80-gun Montañes-class ship of the line of the Spanish Navy. She was built in 1795 and took part in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. She fought with the Franco-Spanish fleet in the battle of Trafalgar, and was wrecked in its aftermath.Neptuno was built at Ferrol and...

, San Agustín
Spanish ship San Agustín
The San Agustín was a 74-gun ship of the line built at the royal shipyard in Guarnizo and launched in 1768.She was captured by Portugal in 1776, but returned the following year....

, San Ildefonso, San Juan Nepomuceno
Spanish ship San Juan Nepomuceno
San Juan Nepomuceno was a Spanish ship of the line launched in 1765 from the royal shipyard in Guarnizo . Like many 18th Century Spanish warships she was named after a saint...

, Santísima Trinidad, and Santa Ana. Of these, Redoutable sank, Santísima Trinidad and Argonauta were scuttled by the British and later sank, Achille
French ship Achille (1803)
The Achille was a 74-gun French ship of the line built at Rochefort in 1803 after plans by Jacques-Noël Sané.Under the command of Captain Louis Gabriel Deniéport, she sailed at the vanguard of the French Fleet on 20 October 1805, just before the Battle of Trafalgar, and she was the first...

 exploded, Intrépide and San Augustín burned, and L'Aigle, Berwick, Fougueux, and Monarca were wrecked in a gale following the battle.

As Nelson lay dying, he ordered the fleet to anchor, as a storm was predicted. However, when the storm blew up, many of the severely damaged ships sank or ran aground on the shoals. A few of them were recaptured, some by the French and Spanish prisoners overcoming the small prize crews, others by ships sallying from Cadiz. Surgeon William Beatty heard Nelson murmur, "Thank God I have done my duty"; when he returned, Nelson's voice had faded and his pulse was very weak. He looked up as Beatty took his pulse, then closed his eyes. Nelson's chaplain, Alexander Scott
Alexander John Scott
Reverend Dr. Alexander John Scott was a chaplain who served in the Royal Navy during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. He served as Horatio Nelson's personal chaplain at the Battle of Trafalgar, and had previously served as his private secretary...

, who remained by Nelson as he died, recorded his last words as "God and my country." It has been suggested by Nelson historian Craig Cabell that Nelson was actually reciting his own prayer as he fell into his death coma, as the words 'God' and 'my country' are closely linked therein. Nelson died at half-past four, three hours after being hit.


Data for this chart are in Trafalgar order of battle and casualties.
Blue = French (the two ships that took no casualties were both French.)
Red = Spanish
The number is the order in the line.
Data for this chart are in Trafalgar order of battle and casualties.
Yellow = HMS Africa
HMS Africa (1781)
HMS Africa was a 64-gun third-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched by Barnard at Deptford on 11 April 1781.-American War of Independence:...


Green = The Weather Column, led by Nelson
Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson
Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté, KB was a flag officer famous for his service in the Royal Navy, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars. He was noted for his inspirational leadership and superb grasp of strategy and unconventional tactics, which resulted in a number of...

 
Grey = Lee Column, led by Collingwood
Cuthbert Collingwood, 1st Baron Collingwood
Vice Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, 1st Baron Collingwood was an admiral of the Royal Navy, notable as a partner with Lord Nelson in several of the British victories of the Napoleonic Wars, and frequently as Nelson's successor in commands.-Early years:Collingwood was born in Newcastle upon Tyne...


The number, is the order in the column.


Towards the end of the battle, and with the combined fleet being overwhelmed, the still relatively un-engaged portion of the van under Rear-Admiral Dumanoir Le Pelley
Pierre Dumanoir le Pelley
Vice-Admiral Count Pierre-Etienne-René-Marie Dumanoir Le Pelley was a French Navy officer, best known for commanding the vanguard of the French fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar.- Early career :...

 tried to come to the assistance of the collapsing centre. After failing to fight his way through, he decided to break off the engagement, and led four French ships, his flagship the 80-gun Formidable
French ship Formidable (1795)
Formidable was an 80-gun Tonnant class ship of the line of the French navy, laid down as Figuires and renamed in 1795. She was launched at Toulon in 1795. She participated in the Battle of Algeciras, the Battle of Cape Finisterre and several other actions before the British captured her at the...

, and the 74-gun ships Scipion and Duguay Trouin and Mont Blanc
French ship Mont-Blanc (1791)
Mont-Blanc was a 74-gun third-rate ship of the line of the French Navy.She was built at Rochefort as Pyrrhus in 1791. She was renamed Mont-Blanc in 1793 before being renamed Trente-et-un Mai in 1794. Under that name she fought at the Battle of the First of June in June 1794 under Honoré Joseph...

 away from the fighting. He at first headed for the Straits of Gibraltar, intending to carry out Villeneuve's original orders, and make for Toulon
Toulon
Toulon is a town in southern France and a large military harbor on the Mediterranean coast, with a major French naval base. Located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur region, Toulon is the capital of the Var department in the former province of Provence....

. On 22 October he changed his mind, remembering a powerful British squadron under Rear-Admiral Thomas Louis
Thomas Louis
Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Louis, 1st Baronet was an officer of the British Royal Navy who served in three wars and saw numerous actions, notably as one of Horatio Nelson's "Band of Brothers" in the Mediterranean in 1798 who commanded ships at the Battle of the Nile...

 was patrolling the straits, and headed north, hoping to reach one of the French Atlantic ports. With a storm gathering in strength off the Spanish coast, he sailed westwards to clear Cape St Vincent, prior to heading north-west, and then swinging eastwards across the Bay of Biscay
Bay of Biscay
The Bay of Biscay is a gulf of the northeast Atlantic Ocean located south of the Celtic Sea. It lies along the western coast of France from Brest south to the Spanish border, and the northern coast of Spain west to Cape Ortegal, and is named in English after the province of Biscay, in the Spanish...

, aiming to reach the French port at Rochefort
Rochefort, Charente-Maritime
Rochefort is a commune in southwestern France, a port on the Charente estuary. It is a sub-prefecture of the Charente-Maritime department.-History:...

. These four ships would remain at large until their encounter with and attempt to chase a British frigate brought them in range of a British squadron under Sir Richard Strachan
Sir Richard Strachan, 6th Baronet
Sir Richard John Strachan, 6th Baronet GCB was a British officer of the Royal Navy during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, eventually rising to the rank of Admiral.-Childhood:...

, which captured them all on 4 November 1805 at the Battle of Cape Ortegal
Battle of Cape Ortegal
The Battle of Cape Ortegal was the final action of the Trafalgar Campaign, and was fought between a squadron of the Royal Navy and a remnant of the fleet that had been destroyed several weeks earlier at the Battle of Trafalgar...

.

Cosmao sorties



Only eleven ships escaped to Cadiz, and of those, only five were considered seaworthy. The seriously wounded Admiral Gravina passed command of the remainder of the fleet over to Captain Julien Cosmao
Julien Cosmao
Julien Marie Cosmao-Kerjulien was a French Navy officer, admiral, and hero of the Battle of Trafalgar.- Early career :...

 on 23 October, who determined to make an attempt to recapture some of the prizes. He ordered the rigging of his ship, the 80-gun Pluton
French ship Pluton (1804)
Pluton was a 74-gun French ship of the line built at Toulon.It took part in the Battle of Trafalgar under Captain Julien Cosmao escaped to Cádiz with other ships. Two days later, on 23 October 1805, she was the flagship of the counter-attack from Cádiz, together with Indomptable, Neptune, Rayo, and...

, to be repaired and reinforced her crew (which had been depleted by casualties from the battle) with sailors from the French frigate Hermione
French frigate Hermione (1804)
The Hermione was a 40-gun Hortense Class frigate of the French Navy.Ordered by the Italian Republic as a gift to France under the name République Italienne, she was renamed to Hermione on 26 December 1803, to be launched in December 1804....

. Taking advantage of a favourable north-westerly wind, he took the Pluton, the Neptune (another 80-gun), the 74-gun Indomptable, the Spanish 100-gun Rayo and 74-gun San Francisco de Asis, together with five frigates and two brigs, out of the harbour towards the British.

The British cast off the prizes


Soon after leaving port the wind shifted to west-south-west, raising a heavy sea with the result that most of the British prizes broke their tow-ropes, and, drifting far to leeward, were only partially re-secured. The combined squadron came in sight at noon, causing Collingwood to summon his most battle-ready ships to meet the threat. In doing so, he ordered them to cast off towing their prizes. He had formed a defensive line of ten ships by three o'clock in the afternoon, and approached the Franco-Spanish squadron, covering the remainder of their prizes which stood out to sea. The Franco-Spanish squadron chose not to approach within gunshot and then declined to attack. Collingwood also chose not seek action, and in the confusion of the powerful storm the French frigates managed to retake two Spanish ships of the line which had been cast off by their British captors, the 112-gun Santa Ana
Spanish ship Santa Ana (1784)
The Santa Ana was a 112-gun three-decker ship of the line of the Spanish Navy, built to plans by Romero Landa. She was the prototype and lead ship of the Santa Ana class, also known as los Meregildos, which were built during the following years at Ferrol and Havana and which formed the backbone of...

 and 80-gun Neptuno
Spanish ship Neptuno (1795)
Neptuno was an 80-gun Montañes-class ship of the line of the Spanish Navy. She was built in 1795 and took part in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. She fought with the Franco-Spanish fleet in the battle of Trafalgar, and was wrecked in its aftermath.Neptuno was built at Ferrol and...

, taking them in tow and making for Cadiz. On being taken in tow the Spanish crews rose up against their British prize crews, putting them to work as prisoners.

Despite this initial success the Franco-Spanish force, hampered by battle damage, struggled in the heavy seas. The Neptuno was eventually wrecked off Rota in the gale, while the Santa Ana reached port. The French 80-gun ship Indomptable was wrecked on the 24th or 25th off the town of Rota on the north-west point of the bay of Cádiz. At the time the Indomptable had on board 1,200 men but no more than 100 were saved. The San Francisco de Asís was driven ashore in Cádiz Bay, near Fort Santa-Catalina, though her crew was saved. The Rayo, an old three-decker with more than 50 years of service, anchored off Lucar, a few leagues to the north-west of Rota. There the Rayo lost her masts; they had been damaged by shot earlier. Heartened by the approach of the squadron, the French crew of the former flagship
Flagship
A flagship is a vessel used by the commanding officer of a group of naval ships, reflecting the custom of its commander, characteristically a flag officer, flying a distinguishing flag...

 Bucentaure also rose up and retook the ship from the British prize crew, but she was wrecked later on 23 October. The Aigle, escaped from the British ship HMS Defiance
HMS Defiance (1783)
HMS Defiance was a 74-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, built by Randall and Co., at Rotherhithe on the River Thames, and launched on 10 December 1783.-History:...

 but was wrecked off the port of Santa María on 23 October, while the French prisoners on the Berwick cut the tow cables, but caused her to founder off Sanlúcar
Sanlúcar de Barrameda
Sanlúcar de Barrameda is a city in the northwest of Cádiz province, part of the autonomous community of Andalucía in southern Spain. Sanlúcar is located on the left bank at the mouth of the Guadalquivir River opposite the Doñana National Park, 52 km from the provincial capital Cádiz and...

 on 22 October. The crew of the Algesiras rose up and managed to sail into Cádiz.

Observing that some of the leewardmost of the prizes were escaping towards the Spanish coast, asked for and was granted permission by Collingwood to try to retrieve the prizes and bring them to anchor. Leviathan went in chase of the Monarca, but on 24 October she came across the Rayo, dismasted but still flying Spanish colours, at anchor off the shoals of San-Lucar. At this point the 74-gun HMS Donegal
HMS Donegal (1798)
The Barra was a Téméraire class 74-gun ship of the line of the French Navy. She was renamed Pégase in 1795, and Hoche in 1797. She was captured by the British on 12 October 1798 and recommissioned in the Royal Navy as HMS Donegal....

, enroute from Gibraltar under Captain Pulteney Malcolm
Pulteney Malcolm
Admiral Sir Pulteney Malcolm GCB GCMG was a British naval officer. He was born at Douglan, near Langholm, Scotland, on 20 February 1768, the third son of George Malcolm of Burnfoot, Langholm, in Dumfriesshire, and his wife Margaret, the sister of Admiral Sir Thomas Pasley...

, was seen approaching from the south on the larboard tack with a moderate breeze from north-west-by-north, and steered directly for the Spanish three-decker. At about ten o'clock, just as the Monarca had got within little more than a mile of the Rayo, Leviathan fired a warning shot wide of the Monarca, in order to oblige her to drop anchor. The shot fell between the Monarca and the Rayo, the latter, conceiving probably that it was intended for her, hauled down her colours, and was taken by HMS Donegal, who anchored alongside and took off the prisoners. Leviathan resumed her pursuit of the Monarca, eventually catching up and forcing her to surrender. On boarding her, her British captors found that she was in a sinking state, and so removed the British prize crew, and nearly all of her Spanish crew. The nearly empty Monarca parted her cable and was wrecked during the night. Despite the efforts of her British prize crew, the Rayo was driven onshore on 26 October and wrecked, with the loss of twenty-five of the prize crew. The remainder were made prisoners by the Spanish.

Aftermath


In the aftermath of the storm, Collingwood wrote;
On balance, the Allied counter-attack achieved little. In forcing the British to suspend their repairs in order to defend themselves, it influenced Collingwood's decision to sink or set fire to the most damaged of his remaining prizes. Cosmao retook two Spanish ships of the line, but it cost him one French and two Spanish vessels to do so. Fearing their loss, the British burnt or sank the Santisima Trinidad, Argonauta, San Antonio and Intrepide. Only four of the British prizes, the French Swiftsure
HMS Swiftsure (1787)
HMS Swiftsure was a 74-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy. She spent most of her career serving with the British, except for a brief period when she was captured by the French during the Napoleonic Wars...

, the Spanish Bahama, San Ildefonso
Spanish ship San Ildefonso
San Ildefonso was a ship of the Spanish Navy launched in 1785. She was designed to be lighter than traditional Spanish vessels which had had difficulty matching the speed of ships of the Royal Navy. Though nominally a 74-gun ship the San Ildefonso actually carried 80 cannons and howitzers...

, and the Spanish San Juan Nepomuceno
Spanish ship San Juan Nepomuceno
San Juan Nepomuceno was a Spanish ship of the line launched in 1765 from the royal shipyard in Guarnizo . Like many 18th Century Spanish warships she was named after a saint...

 survived to be conducted to England. After the end of the battle and storm only nine ships of the line were left in Cádiz.

Results of the battle


When Rosily arrived in Cadiz, he found only five French ships, rather than the 18 he was expecting. The surviving ships remained bottled up in Cadiz until 1808, when Napoleon invaded Spain. The French ships were then seized by the Spanish forces and put into service against France.

HMS Victory made her way to Gibraltar for repairs, carrying Nelson's body. She put into Rosia Bay, Gibraltar and after emergency repairs were carried out, returned to England. Many of the injured crew were brought ashore at Gibraltar and treated in the Naval Hospital
Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

. Men who subsequently died from injuries sustained at the battle are buried in or near the Trafalgar Cemetery
Trafalgar Cemetery
The Trafalgar Cemetery is a cemetery in Gibraltar that was used for burials between 1798 and 1814, and subsequently fell into disuse. Although its name commemorates the Battle of Trafalgar, only two of those who are buried there died of wounds suffered during the battle...

, at the south end of Main Street, Gibraltar
Main Street, Gibraltar
Main Street is the main arterial street in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar.Main Street is recognised today as Gibraltar’s main commercial and shopping district...

.

One Royal Marine officer was killed on board Victory, Captain Charles Adair. Royal Marine Lieutenant Lewis Buckle Reeve was seriously wounded and lay next to Nelson.

The battle took place the day after the Battle of Ulm
Battle of Ulm
The Battle of Ulm was a series of minor skirmishes at the end of Napoleon Bonaparte's Ulm Campaign, culminating in the surrender of an entire Austrian army near Ulm in Württemberg....

, and Napoleon did not hear about it for weeks—the Grande Armée had left Boulogne to fight Britain's allies before they could combine a huge force. He had tight control over the Paris media and kept the defeat a closely guarded secret. In a propaganda move, the battle was declared a "spectacular victory" by the French and Spanish.

Vice-Admiral Villeneuve was taken prisoner aboard his flagship and taken back to England. After his parole
Parole
Parole may have different meanings depending on the field and judiciary system. All of the meanings originated from the French parole . Following its use in late-resurrected Anglo-French chivalric practice, the term became associated with the release of prisoners based on prisoners giving their...

 in 1806 and return to France, Villeneuve was found in his inn room during a stop on the way to Paris stabbed six times in the chest with a dining knife. It was recorded that he had committed suicide.

Despite the British victory over the Franco-Spanish navies, Trafalgar had negligible impact on the remainder of the War of the Third Coalition. Less than two months later, Napoleon decisively defeated the Third Coalition
Third Coalition
The War of the Third Coalition was a conflict which spanned from 1803 to 1806. It saw the defeat of an alliance of Austria, Portugal, Russia, and others by France and its client states under Napoleon I...

 at the Battle of Austerlitz
Battle of Austerlitz
The Battle of Austerlitz, also known as the Battle of the Three Emperors, was one of Napoleon's greatest victories, where the French Empire effectively crushed the Third Coalition...

, knocking Austria out of the war and forcing the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

. Though Trafalgar meant France could no longer challenge Britain at sea, Napoleon proceeded to establish the Continental System
Continental System
The Continental System or Continental Blockade was the foreign policy of Napoleon I of France in his struggle against the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland during the Napoleonic Wars. It was a large-scale embargo against British trade, which began on November 21, 1806...

 in an attempt to deny Britain trade with the continent. The Napoleonic Wars would continue for another ten years after Trafalgar.

Nelson’s body was put into a barrel of rum to preserve his body for the trip home so he could have a hero’s funeral.

Consequences




Following the battle, the Royal Navy was never again seriously challenged by the French fleet in a large-scale engagement. Napoleon had already abandoned his plans of invasion before the battle and they were never revived. The battle did not mean, however, that the French naval challenge to Britain was over. First, as the French control over the continent expanded, Britain had to take active steps
Battle of Copenhagen (1807)
The Second Battle of Copenhagen was a British preemptive attack on Copenhagen, targeting the civilian population in order to seize the Dano-Norwegian fleet and in turn originate the term to Copenhagenize.-Background:Despite the defeat and loss of many ships in the first Battle of Copenhagen in...

 in 1807 and 1808 to prevent the ships of smaller European navies from falling into French hands. This effort was largely successful, but did not end the French threat as Napoleon instituted a large scale shipbuilding program that produced a fleet of 80 ships of the line at the time of his fall from power in 1814, with more under construction. In comparison Britain had 99 ships of the line in active commission in 1814, and this was close to the maximum that could be supported. Given a few more years, the French could have realised their plans to commission 150 ships of the line and again challenge the Royal Navy, compensating for the inferiority of their crews with sheer numbers. For almost 10 years after Trafalgar the Royal Navy maintained a close blockade of French bases and anxiously observed the growth of the French fleet. In the end, Napoleon's Empire was destroyed before the ambitious buildup could be completed.

Nelson became – and remains – Britain's greatest naval war hero, and an inspiration to the Royal Navy, yet his unorthodox tactics were seldom emulated by later generations. The first monument to be erected in Britain to commemorate Nelson was raised on Glasgow Green
Glasgow Green
Glasgow Green is a park situated in the east end of Glasgow on the north bank of the River Clyde. It is the oldest park in the city dating back to the 15th century.In 1450, King James II granted the land to Bishop William Turnbull and the people of Glasgow...

 in 1806, possibly preceded by a monument at Taynuilt
Taynuilt
Taynuilt is a large village in Argyll and Bute, Scotland located at the western entrance to the narrow Pass of Brander.-Location:The village is situated on the River Nant about a kilometre before the river flows into Loch Etive at Airds Bay. This is just to the west of a narrowing of the loch down...

, near Oban
Oban
Oban Oban Oban ( is a resort town within the Argyll and Bute council area of Scotland. It has a total resident population of 8,120. Despite its small size, it is the largest town between Helensburgh and Fort William and during the tourist season the town can be crowded by up to 25,000 people. Oban...

 dated 1805, both also commemorating the many Scots crew and captains at the battle. The 144 feet (44 m) tall Nelson Monument on Glasgow Green was designed by David Hamilton
David Hamilton (architect)
David Hamilton was a Scottish architect based in Glasgow. He has been called the "father of the profession" in Glasgow. Notable works include Hutchesons' Hall, Nelson Monument in Glasgow Green and Lennox Castle. The Royal Exchange in Queen Street is David Hamilton's best known building in Glasgow...

 and paid for by public subscription. Around the base are the names of his famous victories: Aboukir (1798), Copenhagen (1801) and Trafalgar (1805). In 1808, Nelson's Pillar
Nelson's Pillar
The Nelson Pillar , known locally as Nelson's Pillar or simply The Pillar, was a large granite pillar topped by a statue of Horatio Nelson in the middle of O'Connell Street, Dublin...

 was erected in Dublin to commemorate Nelson and his achievements (many sailors at Trafalgar had been Irish), and remained until it was destroyed in a bombing by "Old IRA" members in 1966. Nelson's Monument in Edinburgh
Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, the second largest city in Scotland, and the eighth most populous in the United Kingdom. The City of Edinburgh Council governs one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas. The council area includes urban Edinburgh and a rural area...

 was built between 1807 and 1815 in the form of an upturned telescope
Telescope
A telescope is an instrument that aids in the observation of remote objects by collecting electromagnetic radiation . The first known practical telescopes were invented in the Netherlands at the beginning of the 1600s , using glass lenses...

, and in 1853 a time ball
Time ball
A time ball is a large painted wooden or metal ball that drops at a predetermined time, principally to enable sailors to check their marine chronometers from their boats offshore...

 was added which still drops at noon GMT to give a time signal to ships in Leith
Leith
-South Leith v. North Leith:Up until the late 16th century Leith , comprised two separate towns on either side of the river....

 and the Firth of Forth
Firth of Forth
The Firth of Forth is the estuary or firth of Scotland's River Forth, where it flows into the North Sea, between Fife to the north, and West Lothian, the City of Edinburgh and East Lothian to the south...

. In summer this coincides with the one o'clock gun being fired. The Britannia Monument
Britannia Monument
The Britannia Monument is a commemorative column or tower built in memorial to Admiral Horatio Nelson, situated on the Denes, Great Yarmouth in the county of Norfolk, England....

 in Great Yarmouth
Great Yarmouth
Great Yarmouth, often known to locals as Yarmouth, is a coastal town in Norfolk, England. It is at the mouth of the River Yare, east of Norwich.It has been a seaside resort since 1760, and is the gateway from the Norfolk Broads to the sea...

 was raised by 1819

London's famous Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square is a public space and tourist attraction in central London, England, United Kingdom. At its centre is Nelson's Column, which is guarded by four lion statues at its base. There are a number of statues and sculptures in the square, with one plinth displaying changing pieces of...

 was named in honour of his victory, and Nelson's statue on Nelson's Column
Nelson's Column
Nelson's Column is a monument in Trafalgar Square in central London built to commemorate Admiral Horatio Nelson, who died at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The monument was constructed between 1840 and 1843 to a design by William Railton at a cost of £47,000. It is a column of the Corinthian...

, finished in 1843, towers triumphantly over it. The statue of Lord Nelson in Bridgetown, Barbados, in what was also once known as Trafalgar Square, was erected in 1813.

The disparity in losses has been attributed by some historians less to Nelson's daring tactics than to the difference in fighting readiness of the two fleets. Nelson's fleet was made up of ships of the line which had spent considerable amount of sea time during months of blockades of French ports, whilst the French fleet had generally been at anchor in port. However, Villeneuve's fleet had just spent months at sea crossing the Atlantic twice, which supports the proposition that the main difference between the two fleets' combat effectiveness was the morale of the leaders. The daring tactics employed by Nelson were to ensure a strategically decisive result. The results vindicated his naval judgement.

The Royal Navy proceeded to dominate the seas for the remaining years of sail. Although the victory at Trafalgar was typically given as the reason at the time, modern analysis by historians such as Paul Kennedy
Paul Kennedy
Paul Michael Kennedy CBE, FBA , is a British historian at Yale University specialising in the history of international relations, economic power and grand strategy. He has published prominent books on the history of British foreign policy and Great Power struggles...

 suggests that relative economic strength was a more important underlying cause of British naval mastery.

200th anniversary


In 2005, a series of events around the UK, as part of the Sea Britain theme, marked the bicentenary. The 200th anniversary of the battle
Trafalgar 200
Trafalgar 200 was a series of events in 2005 held mostly in the United Kingdom to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, where a British fleet led by Admiral Nelson defeated a joint Franco-Spanish fleet during the Napoleonic Wars. During the summer of 2005 there was an...

 was also marked by six days of celebrations in Portsmouth
Portsmouth
Portsmouth is the second largest city in the ceremonial county of Hampshire on the south coast of England. Portsmouth is notable for being the United Kingdom's only island city; it is located mainly on Portsea Island...

 during June and July, and at St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral, London, is a Church of England cathedral and seat of the Bishop of London. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604. St Paul's sits at the top of Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London, and is the mother...

 (where Nelson is entombed) and in Trafalgar Square in London in October (T Square 200
T Square 200
T Square 200 was the name given to the son et lumière event, held in Trafalgar Square on Sunday, October 23, 2005, to mark the bicentenary of the sea battle, the Battle of Trafalgar, fought between the British Royal Navy and the combined navies of France and Spain off Cape Trafalgar, Spain on 21...

), as well as across the rest of the UK.

On 28 June, the Queen
Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
Elizabeth II is the constitutional monarch of 16 sovereign states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize,...

 was involved in the biggest Fleet Review
International Fleet Review
For a full list of ships present, see List of ships present at International Fleet Review, 2005The International Fleet Review took place on 28 June 2005, as part of the Trafalgar 200 celebrations to commemorate the 200th year after the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.- 2005 Review Line-up :During the...

 in modern times in the Solent
Solent
The Solent is a strait separating the Isle of Wight from the mainland of England.The Solent is a major shipping route for passengers, freight and military vessels. It is an important recreational area for water sports, particularly yachting, hosting the Cowes Week sailing event annually...

, in which 167 ships from 35 nations took part. The Queen inspected the international fleet from the Antarctic patrol ship HMS Endurance
HMS Endurance (A171)
MV Polar Circle was built in Norway in 1990, chartered by the Royal Navy as HMS Polar Circle, and finally purchased as HMS Endurance. She is a former Antarctic ice patrol ship, and is a class 1A1 icebreaker...

. The fleet included six carriers: Charles De Gaulle, Illustrious
HMS Illustrious (R06)
HMS Illustrious is the second of three Invincible-class light aircraft carriers built for the Royal Navy in the late 1970s and early 1980s. She is the fifth warship and second aircraft carrier to bear the name Illustrious, and is affectionately known as "Lusty" to her crew...

, Invincible
HMS Invincible (R05)
HMS Invincible was a British light aircraft carrier, the lead ship of three in her class in the Royal Navy. She was launched on 3 May 1977 and is the seventh ship to carry the name. She saw action in the Falklands War when she was deployed with , she took over as flagship of the British fleet when...

, Ocean
HMS Ocean (L12)
HMS Ocean of the Royal Navy is an amphibious assault ship , the sole member of her class. She is designed to support amphibious landing operations and to support the staff of Commander UK Amphibious Force and Commander UK Landing Force...

, Príncipe de Asturias
Spanish aircraft carrier Principe de Asturias
The Príncipe de Asturias , originally named Almirante Carrero Blanco, is an aircraft carrier, the flagship of the Spanish Navy...

 and Saipan
USS Saipan (LHA-2)
USS Saipan is a , the second United States Navy ship named in honor of the World War II Battle of Saipan.-History:Saipan was laid down on July 21, 1972 by the Ingalls Shipbuilding Division, Litton Industries, Pascagoula, Mississippi; launched on July 20, 1974; sponsored by Mrs. J...

. In the evening a symbolic re-enactment of the battle was staged with fireworks and various small ships playing parts in the battle.

Lapenotière's historic voyage in HMS Pickle
HMS Pickle (1800)
HMS Pickle was a topsail schooner of the Royal Navy. She was originally a civilian vessel named Sting. of six guns, that Lord Hugh Seymour purchased to use as an armed tender on the Jamaica Station...

 bringing the news of victory from the fleet to Falmouth
Falmouth, Cornwall
Falmouth is a town, civil parish and port on the River Fal on the south coast of Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. It has a total resident population of 21,635.Falmouth is the terminus of the A39, which begins some 200 miles away in Bath, Somerset....

 and thence by post chaise to the Admiralty
Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

 in London, was commemorated by the inauguration of The Trafalgar Way and further highlighted by the New Trafalgar Dispatch
New Trafalgar Dispatch
The New Trafalgar Dispatch was part of the bicentenary celebrations of Lord Nelson's famous and momentous victory at the Battle of Trafalgar, in 1805...

 celebrations from July to September, in which an actor played the part of Lapenotière and reenacted parts of the historic journey.

On 21 October, naval manoeuvres were conducted in Trafalgar Bay, near Cadiz, involving a combined fleet from Britain, Spain and France. Many descendants of those men who fought and died in these waters, including members of Nelson's family, were present at the ceremony.

In popular culture



  • In Sharpe's Trafalgar, by Bernard Cornwell
    Bernard Cornwell
    Bernard Cornwell OBE is an English author of historical novels. He is best known for his novels about Napoleonic Wars rifleman Richard Sharpe which were adapted into a series of Sharpe television films.-Biography:...

    , Sharpe finds himself at the Battle of Trafalgar aboard the fictitious HMS Pucelle.
  • Le Chevalier de Sainte-Hermine
    The Knight of Sainte-Hermine
    The Knight of Sainte-Hermine is an unfinished historical novel by Alexandre Dumas. It is believed to be Dumas' last major work, and the story was lost until 2005, when it was announced that an almost-complete copy had been found in the form of a newspaper serial...

    , by Alexandre Dumas, is an adventure story in which the main character is alleged to be the one who shot Nelson.
  • In the Horatio Hornblower
    Horatio Hornblower
    Horatio Hornblower is a fictional Royal Navy officer who is the protagonist of a series of novels by C. S. Forester. He was later the subject of films and television programs.The original Hornblower tales began with the 1937 novel The Happy Return Horatio Hornblower is a fictional Royal Navy...

     series, by C. S. Forester
    C. S. Forester
    Cecil Scott "C.S." Forester was the pen name of Cecil Louis Troughton Smith , an English novelist who rose to fame with tales of naval warfare. His most notable works were the 11-book Horatio Hornblower series, depicting a Royal Navy officer during the Napoleonic era, and The African Queen...

    , Hornblower delivers false orders to Villeneuve who sends his fleet out of Cadiz and to the destruction that takes place at Trafalgar. Hornblower is put in charge of Admiral Nelson's funeral in England.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation
    Star Trek: The Next Generation
    Star Trek: The Next Generation is an American science fiction television series created by Gene Roddenberry as part of the Star Trek franchise. Roddenberry, Rick Berman, and Michael Piller served as executive producers at different times throughout the production...

    episode "The Best of Both Worlds
    The Best of Both Worlds (TNG episode)
    "The Best of Both Worlds" is a two-part storyline from the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation.-Part 1:...

    ", Captain Jean-Luc Picard
    Jean-Luc Picard
    Captain Jean-Luc Picard is a Star Trek character portrayed by Patrick Stewart. He appears in the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation and the feature films Star Trek Generations, Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Insurrection, and Star Trek Nemesis...

     discusses the traditions of touring a ship before battle with his confidant, Guinan, and mentions Horatio Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar. Guinan then points out that Nelson was killed in the battle, but Picard retorts that the battle was still won by the British. In the film Star Trek Generations, Picard reveals that one of his ancestors fought at Trafalgar (it was never made clear for which side, although Picard is originally from France).
  • In James Clavell
    James Clavell
    James Clavell, born Charles Edmund DuMaresq Clavell was an Australian-born, British novelist, screenwriter, director and World War II veteran and prisoner of war...

    's novel Tai-Pan
    Tai-Pan (novel)
    Tai-Pan is a novel written by James Clavell about European and American traders who move into Hong Kong in 1842 following the end of the First Opium War. It is the second book in Clavell's "Asian Saga".-Plot summary:...

    , the Scots chieftain of Hong Kong, Dirk Struan, reflects on his experiences as a 5 year old powder monkey onboard HMS Royal Sovereign at Trafalgar.

External links