Saturday, 8 December 2012

Trafalgar: The Aftermath and the Hurricane

As the Battle of Trafalgar came to an end, the victors did not have much time to celebrate, as they worked to take ships and prisoners, and make rough, hurried repairs to make the ships seaworthy, while mourning the loss of their Commander-in-Chief.  But a storm was quickly brewing, which would prove to be devastating and claim more lives and ships than the battle itself.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

I now have a proper website :)

*dramatic drumroll*

Yup, is now live and has content!  Hurrah!

It's not complete by any means, but I will post here when I update, for anyone who's interested.

Completed content includes an essay-type-thing on who Nelson actually was, a Timeline of the major events in Nelson's life, and a complete write-up of the Battle of Trafalgar, including Nelson's death.

Thus, anyone looking for the follow-up to my previous post, "Death of a Hero part 2/2" can find it at the site. :)

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The Death of a Hero part 1/2

On the morning of the 21st of October 1805, the English fleet were in sight of the Combined Fleet of France and Spain.  Following Nelson's tactics, which he had planned long ago and told all his Captains, calling it the 'Nelson Touch', his fleet of 27 ships approached the enemy fleet of 33 in two lines, perpendicular to the enemy's single line.  Nelson insisted on staying at the head of his line, in the Victory - when the captain of another ship tried to pass, thinking to protect his Commander-in-Chief - Nelson hailed him and sent him back.  As always, Nelson was not afraid to lead his fleet from the forefront.

The other line, led by Admiral Collingwood in his ship the Royal Sovereign, met the enemy first.  Half an hour later, the Victory crashed through the enemy line.  The British ships had been instructed not to fire a shot until they had broken the line, to save their energy at a time when most of the shots would not have been effective, so it was a tense approach, particularly with the lack of wind making it painfully slow progress.  Victory was shot at by four enemy ships without being able to reply.  

During this time, Nelson stood on the quarterdeck with Captain Hardy, and his secretary John Scott.  Within minutes, Scott was split in half by a cannon ball, and his body was thrown overboard (his blood stained Nelson's socks - see the picture below in my previous entry about visiting the National Maritime Museum).  Eight marines were killed by a single shot, so Nelson ordered their captain to spread them out more.  Another shot hit the deck between Nelson and Hardy, sending a splinter flying up to hit Hardy's shoe.  After looking at each other to make sure the other wasn't hurt, Nelson commented that he had never seen such courage as in the Victory's crew that day.
Victory about to break the enemy line, by Bill Bishop

As the Victory approached the flagship of the French Admiral, the Bucentaure, it became clear that there was not enough space between it and either the French Redoutable, or the giant four-decked Spanish ship Santisima Trinidad, so one of them would have to be rammed out of the way to allow Victory to pass.  Hardy asked which one, to which Nelson replied that it didn't make any difference, so he should just pick one.  

So Victory collided with the Redoutable, and the momentum carried them both out of the line, locked together.  Victory had taken a lot of damage to her rigging and her wheel was broken, so she was virtually unmanageable.  But now she could get a broadside alongside the Bucentaure, and so the British gunners got to work, their skills, training and discipline far superior to the French.  
Captain Jean-Jacques-Etienne Lucas of the Redoutable

However, knowing that he could never train his crew to a standard of gunnery to match the British, the Captain of the Redoutable, Jean-Jacques-Etienne Lucas, had trained them in musketry and in boarding, aiming to overwhelm the crews of the ships he could get close to that way and take possession of them.  He had some of the finest musketeers in the French navy, and he placed them in the rigging of the Redoutable so they could clear the decks of the Victory from there. 
'The Hero of Trafalgar' by William Hersman Overend

Meanwhile, Nelson continued to pace the Victory's quarterdeck with Hardy by his side, with bullets and splinters flying around them, gun smoke smothering them, amidst the din of gunfire and the screams of the wounded and dying and the smell of gunpowder and blood.  As always, he wore his four orders, like four big glistening stars, on his uniform.  Earlier, an attempt had been made to persuade him not to wear them, for fear that they would stand out like a beacon, attracting the attention of the enemy.  But Nelson would hear nothing of it.  He wanted to be on display, he wanted his resolve to be seen - by the men who served him.  They adored him, and seeing his small, frail, half-mutilated but fully-uniformed frame up on the most exposed part of the ship, calmly and resolutely putting himself in danger, helped to raise their morale and courage so they would fight their hardest for him.  And if that meant putting himself at greater risk, then he did so unflinchingly.

But at 1.15pm, while the crews of the battered ships fought to board each other, Captain Hardy turned to pace back across the quarterdeck, and suddenly realised that his friend was no longer beside him.  He turned, and saw Nelson collapsed, holding himself up with his arm before that crumpled, and then supported by three seamen.  Running to him, Hardy said that he hoped he hadn't been too badly hurt.  Nelson replied,

"They have done for me at last... my backbone has been shot through."

To be continued...

The Fall of Nelson, by Denis Dighton

Countdown to Trafalgar: Nelson's Final Diary Entry, 21st October 1805, his 'Trafalgar Prayer'

'Trafalgar Dawn' by Graeme Lothian

(as always, I've tried to write this out exactly as it appears in the diary itself.)

Monday Oct 21st 1805
At day light saw the Enemys Combined Fleet from E to ESE bore away made the Signal for order of sailing and to prepare for Battle the Enemy with their heads to the Southward, at 7 the Enemy wearing in succession, May the Great God whom I worship Grant to my Country and for the benefit of Europe in General a great and Glorious Victory, and may no misconduct in any one tarnish it, and may humanity after Victory be the predominant feature in the British fleet, for myself individually I commit my Life to Him who made me, and may his blessing light upon my Endeavours for serving my Country faithfully.  To Him I resign myself and the just cause which is Entrusted to me to Defend.
amen, amen, amen.

Countdown to Trafalgar: Nelson's Private Diary, October 18th - 20th 1805

Friday Oct 18th fine Weather Wind Easterly the Combined fleets cannot have finer Wt. to put to Sea. 

Saturday Oct 19th fine Wt. Wind Easterly at ½ pt: 9 the Mars being one of the look out Ships made the Signal that the Enemy were coming out of Port made the Signal for a general Chase SE.  Wind at South Cadiz bearing ESE by Compass distance 16 Leagues.  At three the Colossus made the Signal that the Enemy fleet was at Sea in the Evening made Sigls to Observe my motions during the night, for the Britannia Prince & Dreadnought they being heavy sailers to take Stations as Convenient and for Mars, Orion Bellisle Leviathan, Bellerophon & Polyphemus to go ahead during the Night and to carry a light Standing for the Streights Mouth

Sunday Oct 20th 1805
Fresh Breezes SSW and rainy.  Communicated with Phoebe, Defence and Colossus, who saw near forty sail of ships of War outside of Cadiz yesterday evening, but the wind being Southerly they could not get to the Mouth of the Straits.  We were between Trafalgar and Cape Spartel.  The frigates made the signal that they saw 9 sail outside the Harbour; gave the Frigates instructions for their guidance, and placed Defence, Colossus and Mars between me and the Frigates.  At noon fresh gales and heavy rain, Cadiz NE 9 Leagues.  In the afternoon Captain Blackwood telegraphed that the Enemy seemed determined to go to the Westward; and that they shall not do if in the power of Nelson and Bronte to prevent them.
at 5 Telegraph’d Capt. Bd. that I rely’d upon his keeping sight of the Enemy at 5 o’Clock Naiad made the signal for 31 Sail of the Enemy NNE.  The frigates and Look out Ships kept sight of the Enemy most admirably all night and told me by Signals which tack they were upon.  At 8 We wore & stood to the SW and at 4am wore and stood to the NE.

From the National Archives, catalogue reference PROB 1/22

I love these entries.  You can really get a feel for Nelson's excitement and tension, from the harder press of his pen upon the paper.  

Trafalgar Week at HMS Hinchinbrook

I'm a little late posting this, but that doesn't make it less relevant!  Over at , they posted an interesting article each day during Trafalgar Week, relating of course to Nelson and the battle.  Go and have a look!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Countdown to Trafalgar: Nelson's Private Diary, October 15th - 17th 1805

Tuesday Oct 15th fine Wt Westerly sent Renommee & L’aimable to Gibraltar & Malta and the transpt to Gibt Adl Louis is order’d to see the Convoy above Cartagena & the frigates to escort them to Malta.  all night mode. Breezs. Westerly

Wednesday Oct 16th
Modte: Breezes Westerly all the forenoon Employd forming the fleet into the order of Sailing at noon fresh Breezes WSW & Squally in the Evening fresh gales Enemy as before, by Sign: from Weazel.

Thursday Oct 17th 1805
Mode: Breezes NWerly Sent Donegal to Gibraltar to get a ground Tier of Casks.  Receivd accounts by the Diligent Store Ship that Sir Richd. Strachan has supposed in Sight of the French Rochford Squadron which I hope is true.  At Midnight the Wind came to the Eastward.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Countdown to Trafalgar - Nelson's Private Diary, October 8th - 15th 1805

Tuesday Oct 8th
Fresh Breezes Easterly.  Royal Sovereign in sight to Leeward at 4pm she joined, sent the Naid off Cadiz.  Eurydice captured a Spanish Privateer.

Wednesday Oct 9th
Fresh Breezes Easterly receiv’d an account from Capt. Blackwood that the French ships had all bent their Topgt sails sent the Pickle to him with orders to keep a good look out.  Sent adl. Collingwood the Nelson Touch.  At night Wind Westerly

['The Nelson Touch' was the name Nelson gave his plan for the upcoming battle.  On October 1st, he wrote to Emma Hamilton telling her of his officers' reaction to it: "...when I came to explain to them the Nelson touch, it was like an electric shock.  Some shed tears, all approved - 'it was new, it was singular, it was simple!' and, from Admirals downwards, it was repeated - 'It must succeed, if ever they will allow us to get at them!'"]

Thursday Oct 10th 1805
Fine Wr: Wind Westerly receiv’d an account that the Enemy are ready for Sea and at the very harbours Mouth.  Bellisle made her number at noon Bellisle joind from Plyh: in the Evening the Renommee frigate & Confounder Brig sent the Aetna & Confounder to Gibraltar.  All night very fresh Breezes NW & Rain.

Friday Oct 11th fresh Breezes NW.

Sunday Oct 12th fresh Breezes NWesly keeping to the Westward Renomee Joined.

Wrote Ly: Hn:
Sunday Oct 13th 1805
Fine Weather Agamemnon joined from England having fallen in with the French Squadron off Cape Finistr. consisting of 1 Three decker and 5 Two deck’d Ships and had a narrow Escape from Capture.
L’aimable also joined who had likewise been chased Prince of Wales Sailed for England.

[the Prince of Wales, a ship, not the actual prince! carried Vice Admiral Robert Calder back to England to be disciplined after his failure to do everything he could to attack the French fleet at Cape Finisterre in July.  She was a 98-gun ship and was desperately needed by Nelson and his outnumbered fleet, but Nelson took pity on him and granted Calder's request to return to England in his flagship, rather than in a frigate, and thus retain some dignity.]

Monday Oct 14th
Fine Weather Westerly Wind sent Amphion to Gibraltar & Algiers Enemy at the Harbours Mouth placed Defence & Agamemnon from Seven to Ten Leagues West of Cadiz and Mars & Colossus five Leagues East from the fleet whole station will be from 15 Lgs: to twenty West of Cadiz and by this Chain I hope to have a constant communication with the frigates off Cadiz.

Tuesday Oct 15th fine Wt Westerly sent Renommee & L’aimable to Gibraltar & Malta and the transpt  to Gibt Adl Louis is order’d to see the Convoy above Cartagena & the frigates to escort them to Malta.  all night mode. Breezs. Westerly

From the National Archives, catalogue reference PROB 1/22

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Countdown to Trafalgar: Nelson's Private Diary October 1st to 7th 1805

Tuesday Oct 1st fine Wt. Adl Louis’ Squadron joined with Thunderer & Endymion with sprung masts.  Sent Aetna to cruize under Cape St. Marys Pickle joined from Plymouth.

Wrote Ly. Hn.
Wednesday Oct 2nd
Fine Wt: westerly sent Thunderer to Gibr. Sarda. Palermo & Naples.  Sent Canopus, Tigre, Spencer Queen, Zealous to Gibr & Tetuan for water & provn.  Sent the Nimble to England all night fine weather.

Thursday Oct 3rd 1805
Fine Weather.  Sent Eurydice to Cruize under Cape St. Marys

Friday Oct 4th
Fine Weather Wind Easterly several Ships of War in sight to the Southward which proved to be Adml. Louis’ Squadron.

Saturday Oct 5th
Fine weather, Bittern joined with 2 transports from Gibr, laying too clearing transports.

Sunday Oct 6th
Mode. Breezes ESE clearing transports in the night fresh breezes Easterly.

Wrote Ly. H.
Monday Oct 7th 1805
Fresh Breezes & a hasty sea joined the Amphion with a transport from Lisbon Naid & Niger with transports from Gibraltr. Sent the Bittern to Lisbon with the Gibr. Mail at noon mode. Breezes & a swell from the Eastward all night fresh Gales Easterly.

From  The National Archive, Catalogue reference PROB 1/22

'Adl. Louis': Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Louis.  As a Captain, he had been one of Nelson's 'Band of Brothers' at the Battle of the Nile in 1798.

'Gibr.' - Gibraltar.  Sometimes Nelson used this to mean Gibraltar the place, sometimes Gibraltar the ship.
'provn.' - provisions
'Sarda.' - Sardinia

Queen: a 98-gun ship
Canopus, Tigre: 80-gun ships
Thunderer, Spencer: 74-gun ships
Zealous: a 64-gun ship
Amphion, Endymion, Eurydice, Naiad, Niger: Frigates.
Aetna: a bomb vessel.
Bittern: a sloop.
Nimble,Pickle: cutters.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Countdown to Trafalgar: Nelson's Private Diary September 14th - 30th 1805

Saturday Sept 14th 1805
At Six o’Clock arrived at Portsmouth and having arrainged all my business Embarked at the Bathing Machines with Mr Rose and Mr Canning at 2 got on board the Victory at St Helens who dined with me preparing for sea.

Saturday Sept 15th 1805
At day Weighed with Light air Northerly at 6 was obliged to anchor at 8 weighed all day Light breezes at sun sett off Christ church all night Light Breezes & very foggy Euryalus in Company.

Wrote Ly. Hn.
Monday Sept 16th first part Light Breezes & very foggy at noon fresh Breezes Westerly in the Evening off the Berry head 4 miles.  All night fresh Breezes Westerly.

Wrote Ly H
Tuesday Sept 17th fresh Breezes WSW at 9 abreast of Plyo. sent in Euryalus to call out the Ajax and Thunderer all night standg to the Westward Wind from SW to SSW.

Wrote Ly H
Wednesday Sept 18 first part light Breezes & heavy western swell Wind South Lay too for the Ajax and Thunderer Lizard North at noon they joined made all possible Sail all night Breezes vble from SE to SSW swell from the Westward.

Thursday Sept 19th first part fresh gales & heavy sea at noon hard gales at SW at 6 hard Rain wind at NW all night heavy sea & fresh breezes

Wrote Ly Hn
Friday Sept 20th modte Breezes WSW & heavy Sea at 9 Saw a Squadron of Ships of War at 11 passed the Squadron of Rear Adl Stirling consisting of 5 Sail of the Line and one frigate At noon Wind WSW Saw a frigate to Windward which made the private signal at 2 Spoke the Decade carrying the flag of Rear Adl Sir Richd Bickerton Capt Stuart came on board gave him orders for his farther proceeding.  Fresh gales at 3 reeft the Courses.  All night very fresh gales from the NW which came on with heavy rain at 9 oClock

Saturday Sept 21st 1805
Fresh gales all day at NNW at night wind at North & NE heavy swell.

Sunday Sept 22nd Modte Breezes at NE & heavy swell from NW at 1 o'Clock saw a Convoy of 7 Sail under a Vessel of War in the SE quarter at 6 o Clock Euryalus made the Signal that a Vessel was reconnoitering in the East quarter all night fresh gales at East to ESE.

Monday Sept 23rd Fresh gales EbS at 6 o’Clock abreast of Cape Finisterre 17 Lgs at noon modte Wr in Lat 42o: 25N all night fine weather wind Easterly.

Tuesday Sept 24th modte Breezes SE at noon in Lat 4o: 05 No: 3pm Light airs South in the Evening wind Northerly Light Breezes all night at NE and a swell from the NW

Wrote Ly H
Wednesday Sept 25th 1805
Light airs Southerly saw the Rock of Libra SSE 10 Leagues at Sunsett the Capt. of the Constance came onboard sent my letters for England by him to Lisbon and wrote to Capt Sutton & the Consul the Enemys fleet had not left Cadiz the 18th of this month therefore I yet hope they will wait my arrival.

Monday Sept 26th Light airs at NW all day Rock of Lisbon in sight to the NNE 13 or 14 Lgs.  At 4 o’Clock sent Euryalus to join Vice Adl. Collingwood with my orders to put himself under my Command considering myself as within the Limits of my Command all night Light Breezes at NW.

Friday Sept 27th 1805 at day light Cape St. Vincent SEbS by Compass 6 leagues saw a Sloop of War or Small frigate East 5 or 6 miles called her in she proved to be the Nautilus Sloop from Vice Ad. Collingwood bound to England with dispatches at noon abreast of Lagos Bay fresh Breezes NW at 1am brought too fresh Breezes NWbN.

Saturday Sept 28th 1805
Fresh Breezes at NNW at daylight bore up & made sail at 9 saw the Aetna Cruizing at noon saw nine Sail of ships of War bearing East Latde. 36: 32 N at one saw Eighteen Sail nearly Calm in the Evening joined the fleet under Vice Admiral Collingwood saw the Enemys fleet in Cadiz amounting to 35 or 36 Sail of the Line.

Sunday Sept 19th fine Weathr gave out the necessary orders for the fleet sent Euryalus to watch the Enemy with the Hydra off Cadiz.

Monday Sept 30th fine weather Wind Easterly.

From the National Archive, catalogue reference PROB 1/22

Friday, 14 September 2012

On This Day... 14th September 1805

On the 14th September 1805, Nelson boarded HMS Victory at Portsmouth for the last time, after just a few weeks spent with his family after more than two years at sea.  He was to take command of the fleet that would, in a little over a month's time, meet the combined fleet of France and Spain in the decisive Battle of Trafalgar.

Before boarding the Victory, Nelson had written the following heart-felt, melancholy and almost prophetic prayer in his journal:

Friday night at half past Ten drove from dear dear Merton where I left all which I hold most dear in this World to go to serve my King & Country.  May the Great God whom I adore enable me to fullfil the expectations of my Country and if it is his good pleasure that I should return my thanks will never cease being offered up to the Throne of His Mercy.  If it is his good providence to Cut short my days upon Earth I bow with the greatest Submission relying that He will protect those so dear to me that I may leave behind.  His will be done Amen Amen Amen 
National Archive, catalogue reference PROB 1/22

Nelson had on several previous pre-battle occasions dramatically declared, in letters to friends and family, his likelihood to die during the action.  But somehow this is different.  It is a calm acceptance, yet also a plea, in one, between his own private thoughts, and his God.  Quite poignant, I think. 
Nelson leaving Portsmouth to board the Victory.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

How Much Nelson Stuff Could I See in One Day?

This was the question that needed answering.  And so, I put together an itinerary of a sightseeing tour of all things Nelson in London, and dragged a long-suffering friend along for the ride.

St Paul's Cathedral - Nelson's Tomb and Statue
We met up outside the cathedral at 8.30am.  This may seem a ridiculously early time, but I wanted to get there before the crowds.  Still, even though the cathedral had only just opened, it wasn't long before waves of tourists started pulsing through.  So we paid our money, and rushed down to the crypt, warning my friend that he had better not say anything condescending or mocking to me while we were there!  
This might sound weird, but I love the crypt.  It's cool, the lighting is soft, and atmospheric music floats through from a nearby chamber (I don't know what's actually through there).  I've been before, but the feeling I got from approaching the tomb was still the same.

 Nelson's motto, part of the mosaic on the floor at the head of his tomb.
 Nelson's famous final signal at the battle of Trafalgar.  Or, it would be, but annoyingly it's wrong.  The actual signal was "...will do his duty."  In other words, Nelson was expressing his faith in his fleet, his confidence that they would do their duty.  It was a morale-booster.  " do his duty" sounds more like an order, like "this is what we are expecting of you, so do it."

For me, it's a strangely emotional experience, and something that I don't think anyone can understand without feeling it themselves.  Being so close to the man, the hero, that I have studied and idolised for so long.  Being in the crypt, alone, in the quiet, just inches from him.  But not quite the same this time, being with my friend, who was insistent that I should have my picture taken 'hugging' the tomb...

I drew the line at a photo of me kneeling in worship, however, much to his disappointment.
Lucky we got there when we did, for we had only a few minutes of quiet contemplation (and photo ops) with his Lordship before a group of tourists, complete with a guide, appeared in the Duke of Wellington's tomb chamber next door.  
I then pointed out the headstone of Nelson's brother and sister-in-law who are buried in the same chamber.  They're apparently buried directly under the one spot which everyone who wants to get close to Nelson's tomb must cross over, and so the lettering is almost worn away.  Weirdly, the plaque on the wall for them is at the opposite side of the tomb and on the wall facing away from it.
I then embarked on a quest to find the tomb of Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, which I knew was also down there.  But, after a complete circuit of the crypt, I still couldn't find it.  My friend got bored and went back upstairs, while I had another look round.  I finally found it, in Nelson's chamber, in a sort of alcove.  I think the reason I missed it was because it's so plain, just big and rectangular and stone.  There isn't a plaque, his name is inscribed very simply on the top of it.
Happening to find myself temporarily alone, I quietly savoured being in his Lordship's presence for a couple more minutes, then went back upstairs.
My next mission was to find the memorial statue of Nelson which I knew was here... somewhere.  I completed an entire circuit of the cathedral without finding it.  I did see plenty of other beautiful statues including one for Collingwood and, unexpectedly, one for William Hoste, one of Nelson's favourite proteges:
Puzzled and frustrated, I went and sat with my friend for a bit.  He hadn't bothered following me around, and after I'd rested sent me on my way once more.  This time, I managed to find it!  From the direction I'd been travelling around, it was behind a pillar, and somehow I'd passed it without looking back at it.  Worse, I'd been sitting opposite it, looking at it across the large open space of floor under the dome.  I know you're not really supposed to take photos there, but using my crazy ninja skills, I ducked behind the opposite pillar and sneaked my camera out, took the picture and then vanished into the shadows before I was seen...
I think it's a really beautiful statue.  The detailing on it is exquisite.  Nelson stands proudly on a pedestal beside an anchor and rope.  Below are a British lion, gods of the sea, and Britannia inspiring a young boy by showing him the image of the hero.

Next was a short walk down Fleet Street and the Strand to...

Trafalgar Square and The National Portrait Gallery
At this point I was about to pass out from hunger but we popped in to the NPG and I remembered where Nelson's portrait is, so we weren't in there long.
The portrait is by William Beechey and was one of the last Nelson sat for.  Unlike earlier portraits, in which he tends to look thin, drawn and poorly (which he was most of the time), in this one he looks a little more 'filled out' and healthy.  Though, also unlike earlier portraits, he looks less 'adonised'.  You can also see the ^ shaped scar above his right eye which he got from being wounded at the Battle of the Nile, and which he would always try to hide with a lock of hair.  The portrait hanging beside it is one of Emma Hamilton, Nelson's mistress, which shows how beautiful she was and makes it easy to see why Nelson fell in love with her.
After spending far too much on food for lunch (London prices!) we moved on through Trafalgar Square, the most obvious Nelson sight-seeing opportunity, and down Whitehall.  
I like Nelson's Column.  Nelson is placed so that he faces the old Admiralty building, the Thames, and then waaaaay beyond that, Victory at Portsmouth.  It's such a big and recognisable monument and one of the most distinguishing London landmarks, which I think is a fitting tribute to someone who had such an instrumental role in protecting England and making it what it is today.

Next on the itinerary was...

Westminster Abbey and Nelson's Waxwork Effigy 
This is what I was looking forward to most of all.  The museum here has a bunch of waxwork funeral effigies.  I'd read that the Nelson one was such a good likeness of him that when Emma Hamilton saw it, she would have kissed it if the paint on the face hadn't still been drying.  
There was a bit of a queue to get in, and we debated whether we'd have time to wait.  In the end, it was only about 20 minutes before we were in.  The Abbey felt, to me, a little cluttered.  There are statues and ornaments everywhere and, in contrast to St Paul's, there's no big open space.  There were also rope barrier things that made it impossible to cut straight across to the entrance to the museum, and force you to wind around the building along with the tourists and their loud audioguides.
But, finally reaching the museum and eagerly searching the dimly-lit chamber, I was not disappointed.  The waxwork is as good as I'd imagined - better, even.  I find that each portrait portrays a different side to Nelson and he doesn't look quite the same in any of them.  In the waxwork, however, I found 'my' Nelson.  I could well believe that this was a good likeness and this was indeed exactly how he looked, down to the stern expression and irresistable gaze.  All the clothes it is dressed in were Nelson's own, including the hat with the green eye-shade that had been sewn in to shield his eye from the glare of the sun.  I was a little surprised by how slender he was.  I knew he hadn't been tall, but he really was very wiry too.
 The lighting was quite dim and the waxwork is in a glass case so I couldn't use the flash of the camera, so the pictures have come out quite dark.
This is my favourite photo of the day :^)

Leaving the Abbey, we walked down the river to Embankment, just missing getting caught in an absolutely torrential downpour, to get on a boat to... 

The Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich
Just past the Cutty Sark in Greenwich is the Old Royal Naval College, which was once Greenwich Hospital for Seamen.  We were beginning to be a little short on time, so went straight to the Painted Hall.  Here, surrounded by magnificent paintings on the walls and ceiling, is a plaque that marks where Nelson's body lay in state before continuing its procession up the Thames to St Paul's.  There is also a little memorial to Admiral Collingwood.

 We also came across a rather nice bust of Nelson in the entrance hall.
Then across the road to our last stop of the day...

The National Maritime Museum
What with being between the Olympics and Paralympics, and with some event apparently being staged next to the museum, we were required to be scanned and have our stuff x-rayed, by army officers.  So that was fun.
The lighting of the entrance to the museum is very... blue.  A quick look at the map told me which way to go to find the Nelson stuff.  I was a bit surprised at how little was there.  Mostly just a few paintings on the wall and an 'interactive' exhibit (some touch-screen thing), in a small-ish room with random model ships and some stuff about the Thames (admittedly, I didn't look at that stuff that much... does it show?).  But I cannot express how happy I was that Nelson's Trafalgar coat was on display!  I'd thought it was hidden away to keep it safe and preserved.  But there it was.  Not particularly impressed, my friend wandered off, while I stood somewhat in awe. And attempted to take pictures which again, with it being in a glass case in a dark room and with well-lit paintings on the wall behind me, didn't come out too well.
There was something quite surreal about looking at the coat Nelson wore as he paraded the quarterdeck of Victory amongst the deafening roar of gunshot, the screams of the wounded and dying, the thick smoke of the guns and the stench of gunpowder and blood, while splinters and bullets flew past him and people he knew were killed around him.  You can also see the small hole from the bullet that killed him, and the damage to the epaulette caused by the shot.  The bullet apparently tore through the epaulette and carried it with it through Nelson's shoulder, down to tear the pulmonary artery, damage his spine and finally lodge in his back.  The bullet was later removed with the piece of epaulette still attached.  Surreal, and poignant.
Nelson's stockings are displayed with his coat.  They are stained with the blood of John Scott, Nelson's secretary, who was killed while standing beside Nelson earlier in the battle.
 Portrait of Nelson by Lemuel Abbott.
 The Apotheosis of Nelson.
 Nelson's funeral procession.
A piece of Victory's flag, which was on Nelson's coffin at his funeral and torn to pieces by seamen who wanted to keep a bit.

This is a close-up of the left shoulder of the coat.  There's a lot of reflection on the glass, but you can see the bullet hole.

I then went on to spend far too much money in the gift shop.  I'm a total sucker for a gift shop.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Trip to Greenwich

So after asking around a forum ( for Nelson-related places, monuments and memorials, I was pointed in the direction of a life-size bronze statue of him, placed outside the Trafalgar Tavern in Greenwich.  Now, I'm a lover of statues in general, and from the picture of this statue it looked to be a particularly fine one.  

I decided to make a day-trip of it with my son, and started with a walk from Westminster down to Tower Bridge on the south side of the river, so we got a good view (and lots of photos) of various landmarks on the other side.  Initially we had thought we could walk to Greenwich, as a guide near the London Eye told us it would be a 5-mile walk that would take about an hour and a half.  However, double-checking with another guide (they've been dotted around London to help the Olympic tourists) resulted in being laughed at and told we couldn't make the 15 mile walk unless we had robot legs.  So we took the boat from Tower Bridge instead.

By that time it was early evening, the sun was setting and the walk past the Cutty Sark and the National Maritime Museum (which I was disappointed to be too late to visit) was very pleasant.  Then, we reached a road called Park Row and looked up and down it to see which way this Trafalgar Tavern might be.  Down the end of the road to the left, however, I saw a dark figure with his back to us, sedately looking out over the Thames.  So we headed towards it.

I must say, the statue exceeded my expectations.  It is placed outside the Trafalgar Tavern, but not right outside the door, so you don't feel like a total numpty standing for half an hour looking at it and taking photos.  It is at the end of a quiet side-road, which again surprised me, as I had expected a main road or slightly touristy area.  As it was, there was barely anyone there, apart from people passing by coming up from the Thames path.  I very much liked the fact that the statue is set on the ground, which is quite unusual as they are normally up on plinths.

The statue itself really is a work of art.  The artist clearly put a lot of effort into her research.  The detail is very intricate, even down to his epaulettes and the lines of his face.  He is a little taller than life-size, I think, although the base of the statue is about an inch or two thick.   

Of course it is stupidly nerdy of me to take so much pleasure in such a thing, but I really did.  In fact, I'll definitely be paying it another visit when I make the trip to the museum and the Old Royal Naval College :^)

Sunday, 12 August 2012

On This Day... 12th August 1803

Journal Entry (BL Add MS 34,966 f.5)
Fresh gales.  Sighted land not... at Cape St Sebastians... water much smoother.  In the afternoon fine weather sent the Maidstone to join the Active.
The French Admiral refused to receive a letter from ME.

What is this indignant last comment referring to?  Here is a letter Nelson wrote the next day, to some French officers who were prisoners of war at Malta. (from The Dispatches and Letters of Lord Nelson vol. V, Nicolas)

Victory, August 13th, 1803
I have sent to offer the French Admiral in Toulon an exchange of Prisoners.  After keeping the Boat waiting three hours, a message came down that the French Admiral would receive no letter or message, and ordered the Boat to return: therefore, you must blame the cruelty of your own Admiral for keeping you Prisoners.  At the same time, I shall be happy to do all in my power to render your captivity as easy as possible - always remembering, Do as you would be done by.  I am, Gentlemen, with great respect, your most obedient servant,
Nelson & Bronte

An example of Nelson's humanity even towards the enemy; and a demonstration of the slightly irritable side to his character.  Well, at least no one can say he didn't try.     


Saturday, 11 August 2012

Nelson's Private Diary, September 1803

Sept 1st 1803
All the forenoon very hard gales in the afternoon smoother water being under St Sebastians.  All night strong gales.

Friday Sept 2nd
All the forenoon strong breezes & a swell as we got under the Cape St Sebastians the wind came to the westward.  At night it came to the north.  Strong gales all night.

Saturday Sept 3rd
... at noon calm.  Bellisle in sight SW.  Carmelion frigate in sight.
[?] the Adams Comd'r Morris. 

Sunday 4th
Fresh gales all day.

Monday 5th
The Superb joined with the Transport from Roses.  Strong gales all day.  More Modt in the evening.  All night hard swells.

Tuesday Sept 6th
Sent the Raven to look into Toulon.  Bellisle to Barcelona.

Wednesday Sept 7th
Modt. winds Easterly.

Thursday Sept 8th
Cleared the Transport with Wine and sent two tons of casks for Water, also the Renown to [?] hers at Roses.

Friday Sept 9th
Fine weather steering for Cape [?] Sent the Canopus to Toulon.

Saturday Sept 10th
The Raven joined but the Capt. who spoke the Foudroyant allowed her to stand to the So.ward.  Fine weather.  Phoebe joined from Malta. 

Sunday Sept 11th
Fine with Wind Westerly.  The Canopus joined, some of the French ships came out of Toulon when she was in sight but returned again.

Monday Sept 12th 1803
Strong gales at [?] away to the SE in the evening modt.  The Bellisle examined Toulon the Enemy as before.  The night calm.

Tuesday Sept 13th
First part light breezes Easterly.  The Narcissus & Active joined.  Sent the Active to Barcelona and Bellisle to look into Toulon.

Wednesday Sept 14th
Strong breezes Easterly.  Sent the Narcissus to Mahon for news.  The Phoebe to look into Marseilles.  The Foudroyants store ship arrived.

Thursday Sept 15th 1803
Sent the Phoebe to Examine the situation of the Corvettes in [?].

Friday Light air Southerly.

Saturday Sept 17th: Fresh Breezes all day at South & thick weather standing to the WSW.  Sent the Superb to Examine Toulon sound every 1 hours from 55 to 50.  When we got NE of Cape Creux Calm all night.  Carmelion in sight.

Sunday Sept 18th
Light & hazy all day in the Evening a heavy storm & thunder Lightning & Rain Wind at NNW fresh breezes all night.

Monday Sept 19th
Fresh breezes at NNW.  The Belleisle join'd, Renown from Roses Narcissus from Minorca, Superb from looking into Toulon - the French fleet ready for Sea.  Calm all night.

Tuesday Sept 20th
Light Breezes & very hazy Southerly.

Wednesday Sept 21st
In the morning fine Breezes at NW [..?] In the afternoon Active join'd from Barcelona.  At night strong breezes Sea getting up Struck Top gant. masts to and prepared for a gale.

Thursday Sept 22nd
At daylight strong gales bore away to the SW.  All day blowing very hard & a heavy sea in the Evening more modte. brought too for the night.

Friday Sept 23rd
Fine wt. the sea subsiding Wind NW. standing to the NE.  Sent the Narcissus to Tunis & Foudroyant to Malta.

Saturday Sept 24
Seahorse joined from Malta.  Sent Raven to Barcelona & Canopus to Madalena.  Fresh breezes beating up for Cape Sicii.

Sunday Sept 25th
Fresh Breezes Easterly.

Monday Sept 26th
Fresh Breezes Easterly.  At noon saw Cape Sicie.

(wrote Lady H)
Tuesday Sept 27th
The Agincourt joined as did the Halcyon & Carmelion.  The Agincourt on Tuesday Sept 20th chased five French frigates into Calvi.  Sent the Agincourt to Gibraltar and Carmelion to Roses.  Fine Weather Wind Easterly.

Wednesday Sept 28th
Sent the Active & Phoebe to look after the French frigates chased by the Agincourt.  Fine wt. Wind Easterly.

Thursday Sept 29th
Wind Easterly Sent the Seahorse to look into Toulon.  All the afternoon very strong breezes all night hard gales at ESE.  Sent the Halcyon to Gibraltar.

Friday Sept 30th
All the first part till noon very hard gales at ESE.  After 3pm more modte.  Saw Cape Creux 12 or 13 leagues.  All night modte.  Wind SSE and a very heavy sea.

From the British Library, Additional Manuscript 34,966


Active: 38-gun 5th rate, Capt. Richard Mowbray. 

Adams Comd'r Morris: The Adams was an American 28-gun frigate blockading Tripoli, commanded by Commodore Richard Morris, and was saluted by Nelson.   
Agincourt: 64-gun 3rd rate, Capt. Charles Marsh Schomberg. 
Bellisle: Nelson slightly misspelt Belleisle, a 74-gun 3rd rate, Capt. John Whitby.
Canopus: 80-gun 2nd rate, Rear-Admiral George Campbell and Captain John Conn.
Cape Sicii: Cape SiciĆ©, near Toulon. 
Cape St Sebastians: In Spanish, Cabo de San Sebastian - it is south of the Bay of Roses, and north-east of Barcelona. 
Carmelion: Nelson misspelt Cameleon, a 16-gun brig.
modt. / modte.: abbreviations of moderate. 
Foudroyant: Not quite sure here.  The only Foudroyant I can find reference to was in Plymouth at this time.  If anyone can enlighten me, please do! 
Halcyon: 16-gun brig sloop.
'Lady H' - Lady Emma Hamilton, Nelson's mistress.  Occasionally Nelson apparently marked when he wrote to her, which is quite cute really.
Narcissus: 32-gun 5th rate frigate, Capt. Ross Donnelly.
Phoebe: 36-gun 5 rate frigate, Capt. Thomas Capel.  
Raven - An 18-gun brig.
Renown: 74-gun 3rd rate, Capt. John Chambers White. 
Roses/Bay of Roses: A bay not far to the north-east of Barcelona in Spain. 
Seahorse: 38-gun frigate, Sir Courtnay Boyle
Superb: 74-gun 3rd rate, Capt Richard Goodwin Keats.