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England expects that every man will do his duty

England expects that every man will do his duty

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"England expects that every man will do his duty" was a signal
International maritime signal flags
The system of international maritime signal flags is one system of flag signals representing individual letters of the alphabet in signals to or from ships...

 sent by Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount 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...

 from 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...

 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....

 as the Battle of Trafalgar
Battle of Trafalgar
The Battle of Trafalgar was a sea battle fought between the British Royal Navy and the combined fleets of the French Navy and Spanish Navy, during the War of the Third Coalition of the Napoleonic Wars ....

 was about to commence on 21 October 1805. Trafalgar was the decisive naval engagement 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...

. It gave the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

 control of the seas, removing all possibility of a French
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...

 invasion and conquest of Britain. Although there was much confusion surrounding the wording of the signal in the aftermath of the battle, the significance of the victory and Nelson's death during the battle led to the phrase becoming embedded in the English psyche, and it has been regularly quoted, paraphrased and referenced up to the modern day.

Signals during the battle


As the British fleet closed with the opposing combined fleets of France and Spain, Lord Nelson signalled
International maritime signal flags
The system of international maritime signal flags is one system of flag signals representing individual letters of the alphabet in signals to or from ships...

 all the necessary battle instructions to his ships. However, aware of the momentousness of events to come, Lord Nelson felt that something extra was required. He instructed his signal officer, Lieutenant John Pasco
John Pasco
Rear-Admiral John Pasco served in the Royal Navy between 1784 and 1853, eventually rising to the rank of Rear Admiral. He acted as signal officer on board HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar and notably advised on the wording of Nelson's famous signal "England expects that every man will do his...

, to signal to the fleet, as quickly as possible, the message "England confides [i.e. is confident] that every man will do his duty." Pasco suggested to Nelson that expects be substituted for confides, since the former word was in the signal book, whereas confides would have to be spelt out letter-by-letter. Nelson agreed to the change (even though 'expects' gave a less trusting impression than 'confides'):
Thus, at around 11:45 am on 21 October 1805, the most famous naval signal in British history was sent. The exact time the signal was sent is not known (one account puts it as early as 10:30), as the message was repeated throughout the fleet and logs would have been written up after the battle, but Pasco puts it at "about a quarter to noon" and logs from other ships of the line also put it close to this time.

The signal was relayed using the numeric flag code known as the "Telegraphic Signals of Marine Vocabulary", devised in 1800 by Rear Admiral Sir Home Popham
Home Riggs Popham
Admiral Sir Home Riggs Popham KCB was a British Royal Naval Commander who saw service during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars...

, and based on the signal books created earlier by Admiral Lord Howe
Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe
Admiral of the Fleet Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe KG was a British naval officer, notable in particular for his service during the American War of Independence and French Revolutionary Wars. He was the brother of William Howe and George Howe.Howe joined the navy at the age of thirteen and served...

. This code assigned the digits 0 to 9 to ten signal flags. These flags in combination represented code numbers which were assigned meanings by a code book, distributed to all 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...

 ships and weighted with lead
Lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

 for disposal overboard in case of capture. The code numbers are believed to have been hoisted on the mizzenmast, one after another, with the "telegraphic flag" also being flown to show that the signals employed Popham's code. It may be noted that the word "do" is not conveyed by a "2" flag following the first "2" flag. This is because the second flag (representing the number "2") is actually a "first repeat" flag; meaning that, instead of having to use another "2" flag, this flag (the "first repeat" flag) is used instead; the meaning is simple, whatever flag has come before, it is the same (that is, it is "repeated"). The use of the "repeat" flags saved on having to have multiple sets of flags. The word "duty" was not in the codebook, and was not substituted as "confides" had been so had to be spelt out, meaning the whole message required twelve "lifts". (The word "duty" was coded as shown as the numbers 1–25 stood for the letters A-Z, without J. Moreover, in the alphabet of that time V preceded U.) It is believed that it would have taken about four minutes. A team of four to six men, led by Lt. Pasco, would have prepared and hoisted the flags onboard Lord Nelson'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...

 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....

. The message shows one of the shortcomings of Popham's code—even the two-letter "do" required three flags hoisted for the signal. It is reported that a great cheer went up as the signal was hoisted and repeated throughout the fleet.

The message "engage the enemy more closely" was Nelson's final signal to the fleet, sent at 12.15 pm, before a single British cannon had been fired at the enemy. This message was signalled using the telegraphic flag and flags 1 and 6. Nelson ordered this signal hauled up and kept aloft.
It remained up until shot away during the battle.

After the battle



Almost immediately, the signal began to be misquoted. A number of ships in the fleet recorded the signal as "England expects every man to do his duty," (omitting "that" and replacing "will" with "to"). This version became so prevalent that it is recorded around the base of 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...

 and on his tomb in St. Paul's Cathedral. However, the Victory's log and the accounts of signal officer John Pasco and Henry Blackwood
Henry Blackwood
Vice-Admiral Sir Henry Blackwood, 1st Baronet, GCH, KCB , whose memorial is in the St. John's Church, Killyleagh, was a British sailor....

 (captain of the frigate Euryalus), both present at the preparation of the signal, agree on the form given here. In 1811, the tenor John Braham composed a song, "The Death of Nelson", including the words of the signal. The song became popular almost immediately and was performed throughout the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 during the 19th century. To make the words fit the metre, they were altered to "England expects that every man this day will do his duty". This version of the wording is also persistent.

Between 1885 and 1908 it was believed that the signal had been sent using the 1799 code book, as in 1885 it was pointed out that this had not been replaced until 1808. In 1908 it was discovered, the Admiralty had, in fact, changed the signal code in November 1803, after the 1799 version had been captured by the French, and new code books had been issued to Nelson's fleet at Cadiz in September, 1805. As a result, books published between these two dates show the signal using the wrong flags.

The signal is still hoisted on the Victory at her dry dock
Dry dock
A drydock is a narrow basin or vessel that can be flooded to allow a load to be floated in, then drained to allow that load to come to rest on a dry platform...

 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...

 on Trafalgar Day (21 October) every year, although the signal flags are displayed all at once, running from fore to aft, rather than hoisted from the mizzenmast.

Similar signals


Nelson's famous signal has been imitated in other navies of the world. 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...

 ordered the French translation, "La France compte que chacun fera son devoir", to be displayed on French vessels. At the opening of the Battle of Plattsburgh
Battle of Plattsburgh
The Battle of Plattsburgh, also known as the Battle of Lake Champlain, ended the final invasion of the northern states during the War of 1812...

 in September 1814, Commodore Thomas MacDonough of the U.S. Navy flew the signal "Impressed seamen call on every man to do his duty", referring to the fact that impressment of U.S. mariners had been a popular cause of the War of 1812. Before the Battle of Tsushima
Battle of Tsushima
The Battle of Tsushima , commonly known as the “Sea of Japan Naval Battle” in Japan and the “Battle of Tsushima Strait”, was the major naval battle fought between Russia and Japan during the Russo-Japanese War...

, Japanese Admiral Togo
Togo Heihachiro
Fleet Admiral Marquis was a Fleet Admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy and one of Japan's greatest naval heroes. He was termed by Western journalists as "the Nelson of the East".-Early life:...

(who had studied naval science in England from 1871 to 1878) signalled to his fleet: "The fate of the Empire depends upon today's battle: let every man do his utmost".

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