Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The Battle of Trafalgar: The Logbook of the Euryalus, 21st October 1805

HMS Euryalus

Monday, October 21st 1805
A.M. - At 12.30, set foresail.  At 4, out one reef of the topsails.  Light breezes and hazy.  At daylight, the body of the enemy's fleet ESE 5 or 6 miles.  English fleet WSW.  At 8, observed the British fleet forming their lines, the headmost ships from the enemy's centre 8 or 9 miles.  The enemy's force consisting of thirty-three sail of the line, five frigates and two brigs.  Light winds and hazy with a great swell from the westward.  English fleet all sail set.  Standing towards the enemy, then on the starboard tack.  At 8.5, answered Lord Nelson's signal for the captain, who went immediately on board the Victory.  Took our station on the Victory's larboard quarter and repeated the Admiral's signals.  At 10, observed the enemy wearing and coming to the wind on the larboard tack.  At 11.40, repeated Lord Nelson's telegraph message: 'I intend to push or go through the end of the enemy's line to prevent them from getting into Cadiz.'  Saw the land bearing E by N, 5 or 6 leagues.  At 11.56, repeated Lord Nelson's telegraph message: 'England expects that every man will do his duty.'  At noon, light winds and a great swell from the westward.  Observed the Royal Sovereign, Admiral Collingwood, leading the lee line, bearing down on the enemy's rear line, being then nearly within gunshot of them.  Lord Nelson, leading the weather line, bore down on the enemy's centre.  Captain Blackwood returned from the Victory.  Cape Trafalgar SE by E, about 5 leagues.  

The page of the log upon which Nelson's most famous signal was recorded.  With thanks to The Lloyd's Collection.  Please do not reuse this image without contacting me first.

P.M. - Light winds and hazy.  British fleet bearing down in two lines on the enemy's, which was forming in one line from NNE to SSE, their strongest force from the van to the centre.  At 12.15, the British fleet bearing down on the enemy, Vice-Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson leading the weather line in the Victory, and Vice-Admiral Collingwood the lee line.  At 12.15, the enemy opened a heavy fire upon the Royal Sovereign.  At 12.16, the English Admirals hoisted their respective flags and the fleet, the British fleet, the British ensign (white).  At 12.17, Admiral Collingwood returned the enemy's fire in a brave and steady manner.  At 12.20, we repeated Lord Nelson's signal for the British fleet to engage close, which was answered by the whole fleet.  At 12.21, the van and centre of the enemy's line opened a heavy fire upon the Victory and the ships she was leading into action.  At 12.22, Admiral Collingwood and the headmost ships of his line broke through the rear of the enemy's, where the action commenced in a most severe and determined manner.  At 12.23, Lord Nelson returned the enemy's fire in the centre and van in a determined, cool and steady manner.  At 12.24, Lord Nelson and the headmost of the line he led into action, broke into the van and centre of the enemy's line and commenced the action in that quarter in a steady and gallant manner.  Observed the Africa coming into the line, she being to leeward, with all sails set on the starboard tack (free).  We kept Lord Nelson's signal flying at the main royal mast head, for the British fleet to engage close.  At 12.26, observed one of the French ships totally dismasted about the centre of the line, by some of the ships of our lee line, and another of them with her fore yard and mizen topmast shot away.  At 1.15, observed the Tonnant's fore top-mast shot away.  At 1.32, her main yard shot away.  The centre and rear of the enemy's line hard pressed in action.  At 2, the Africa engaged very close a French 2-decked ship, and in about 5 minutes' time, shot away her main and mizen masts.  At 2.10, observed the Mars hard pressed in action.  The remainder of the British fleet, which were come into action, kept up a well-directed fire on the enemy.  At 2.15, the Neptune, supported by the Colossus, opened a heavy fire upon the Santisima Trinidad and 2 other of the enemy's line which were next her.  At 2.20, The Trinidad's main and mizen masts were shot away.  At 2.30, the Africa shot away the fore mast of the 2-decked ship she was engaged with, and left her a complete wreck.  She then bore up under the Trinidad's stern and raked her fore and aft.  Colossus and Neptune still engaged with her and the other two ships, which appeared by their colours to be French.  At 2.34, the Trinidad's fore mast shot away, and at 2.26 one of the French ships' main and mizen masts.  Observed 9 of the enemy's van wear and stand down towards the centre.  Observed the Royal Sovereign with her main and mizen masts gone.  At 2.36, answered Lord Nelson's signal to pass within hail, made all possible sail and made the signal to the Sirius, Phoebe and Naiad to take ships in tow which were disabled ENE, which she answered.  Sounded in 50 fathoms.  At 2.40, observed a French 2-decked ship on fire and dismasted in the SSE quarter.  Passed the Spartiate and another 2-deck ship standing towards the enemy's van and opened a heavy fire, when the action in that quarter commenced very severe.  At 2.50, passed by the Mars, who hailed us to take them in tow.  Captain Blackwood answered that he would do it with pleasure, but that he was going to take the second in command, the Royal Sovereign.  The officer that hailed us from the Mars, said that Captain Duff was no more.  At 3, came alongside the Royal Sovereign and took her in tow.  Captain Blackwood was hailed by Admiral Collingwood and ordered to go on board the Santa Ana, Spanish 3-deck ship, and bring him the Admiral, which Captain Blackwood obeyed.  At 3.30, the enemy's van approached as far as the centre and opened a heavy fire on the Victory, Neptune, Spartiate, Colossus, Mars, Africa, Agamemnon and Royal Sovereign, which we had in tow, and was most nobly returned.  We had several of our main and topmast rigging cut away, and backstays by the enemy's shot, and there being no time to haul down the studdingsails, as the enemy's van ships hauled up for us, we cut them away and let them go overboard, at which time one of the enemy's nearest ships to us was totally dismasted.  At 4, light variable winds; not possible to manage the Royal Sovereign, so as to bring her broadside to bear upon the enemy's ships.  At 4.10, we had the stream cable, by which the Royal Sovereign was towed, shot away and a cutter from the quarter.  Wore ship, and stood for the Victory.  Observed the Phoebe and Sirius and Naiad coming into the centre and taking some of the disabled ships in tow.  At this time the firing ceased a little.  At 4.20, observed a Spanish two-deck ship dismasted and struck to one of our ships.  Observed several of the enemy's ships still hard engaged.  At 5, _ of the enemy's van and _ of their rear bore up and made all sail to the northward; were closely followed by the English, which opened a heavy fire upon them and dismasted a French two-deck ship and a Spanish two-deck ship.  At 5.20, the Achille, French two-deck ship, which was on fire, blew up with a great explosion.  At 5.25, made sail for the Royal Sovereign.  Observed the Victory's mizen mast go overboard, about which time the firing ceased, leaving the English fleet conquerors, with _ sail of the enemy's ships in our possession and one blown up, _ of which were first rates, and all dismasted.  At 5.55, Admiral Collingwood came on board and hoisted his flag (blue at the fore).  At 6.15, sent a spare shroud hawser on board the Royal Sovereign and took her in tow, and at the same time sent all our boats with orders from Admiral Collingwood to all the English ships we could discover near us that they were to take the captured ships in tow and follow the Admiral.  At the time saw Cape Trafalgar bearing SE by E about 8 miles.  Sent a boat on board the Spanish three-deck ship which had struck, one main topgallant sail, standing jib and main topgallant stay-sail.  At 7.36, took aback, and the Royal Sovereign fell on board of our starboard beam, and there being a great swell she damaged the main channels, took away the lanyards of the main and mizen rigging, jolly-boat from the quarter and davits, the most of the quarter-deck and waist hammock cloths, boards, railing, with a number of hammocks and bedding; took away the main and mizen topgallant masts, lost the royals and yards.  Tore the fore and main sails very much, and took away a great part of the running rigging.  At 7.40 got her clear, made sail on the starboard tack with a light wind from the WSW, and a great swell.  Employed repairing the damages sustained by the Sovereign falling on board of us.  At 9, sounded in 23 fathoms.  Made the signal with a gun, prepare to anchor.  Fleet and prizes in company.  Light airs and a great swell from the westward.  At 9.15, sounded in 15 fathoms.  At 9.2, in 14 fathoms.  At 9.35, the water deepened.  At 11, sounded in 36 fathoms.  At 11.20, the water shoaled to 26 fathoms.  At 12, in 22 fathoms. 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

The Battle of Trafalgar: The Logbook of the Euryalus, 20th October 1805

I recently had the opportunity to view the logbook of Frederick Ruckert, Master of the Euryalus, which is held in the Lloyds Collection in London.  So I decided that for this year's Trafalgar tribute posts, I would post the entries from the log that cover the Battle of Trafalgar. 

The Euryalus was a 36-gun frigate commanded by Captain Henry Blackwood.  Nelson had his small frigate squadron stationed outside Cadiz to keep an eye on the combined French and Spanish fleet sheltering within, and they used a chain of signals to keep in constant communication with him so he could keep the bulk of his fleet out of sight of the enemy.  So as soon as the enemy began to move to sea, Nelson knew about it.  Nelson had missed the French more than once during his career because a lack of frigates, which he called his 'eyes'.  But this time, they would not be able to escape him.

Frigates were too small to take part in major fleet actions against ships with 74 guns or more, but they played a role in boarding surrendered ships, towing disabled ships out of action and, crucially, passing along signals.  As such, the Euryalus observed much of the battle and so her logbook reads as an interesting first-hand overview of it.  

Captain Henry Blackwood of the Euryalus

The Log of the Euryalus: Sunday, 20th October 1805

A.M. - Saw another blue light to windward.  At 1.30 sprang up a breeze from the SW.  Tacked and made sail to the NW.  At 4. tacked in 30 fathoms; two ships in sight to windward.  Sirius in company.  At daylight observed nine of the enemies' ships, under sail off Cadiz Harbour, and 4 at anchor, Naiad in sight south, Sirius in company.  Fresh breezes and cloudy.  Observed the enemy's ships in the harbour getting under way.  22 of the English fleet in sight from the mast head.  At 7.30, a strange sail NW.  The Sirius made sail in chase.  At 7.50, saw the Sirius boarding a chase which proved to be an American ship.  At 8.20, perceived a line-of-battle ship with a brig in tow steering with all sail direct for the enemy within a very near distance.  Made the private signal to her and proved to be H.M.S. Agamemnon.  Made the signal to the Agamemnon for the enemy NE.  Repeated it with many guns before it was noticed.  She then hauled to the wind on the starboard tack, having a heavy brig in tow which she did not cast off.  At 8.35, the Sirius got her boat back from the American ship and she made all sail on the larboard tack.  Saw the van ship of the enemy endeavouring to get up with the Sirius, and a line-of-battle ship firing at her, then bearing from us NE by E, 2 or 3 miles.  At 8.50, thirty-four ships of the enemy in sight.  At 9, St. Sebastian E 1/2 S, about 4 leagues.  At 9.10, pointed out by signal the bearings of the Commander-in-Chief to the Agamemnon, and made telegraph signals to her that thirty-four of the enemy were out, and to make all sail and repeat signals between me and the Admiral, and that the enemy's ships were much scattered, and directed Sir Edward Berry to fire every 10 minutes with the preceding signal; but she still stood on SE with the brig in tow until we lost sight of her.  At 9.30, strong breezes.  In 2nd reef of the topsails.  At 9.45, observed a number of the enemy's ships wearing and standing towards Cadiz.  At 10, strong breezes and thick weather with rain.  Lost sight of the enemy's ships.  At 11, up mainsail, down jib.  At noon the wind more moderate, but very heavy rain and thick weather.

P.M. - Heavy rain and thick weather.  At 12.30, the weather clearing up a little, saw the enemy to leeward under low sail on the larboard tack; being close wore ship, reefed topsails and made all possible sail to look out for the English fleet in the SSW.  Still keeping sight of the enemy.  At 1, more moderate; out reefs, set topgallant sails.  Saw the Sirius to leeward of us and recalled her.  At 2, saw the English fleet in the SSW, standing to the westward.  At 2.10, made a telegraph message to the Sirius, 'I am going to the Admiral, but will return before night.'  At 3, exchanged ship's numbers with the fleet.  At 3.20, made the telegraph message, 'The enemy seems determined to push to the westward, with numeral pendant 30 N by E,' which the Admiral answered.  Saw an English line-of-battle ship to leeward of the fleet with her main topmast down.  At 4, wore ship and stood to the northward.  At 4.40, the English fleet wore.  Enemy's fleet on the larboard tack to the northward.  Up mainsail, crossed the royal yards.  At 5.20, observed some of the enemy's look-out ships reconnoitring us; tacked ship.  At 5.40, answered the Admiral's signal, 'I rely on your keeping sight of the enemy.'  At 6, ditto weather.  Victory and fleet to the southward.  Enemy's fleet and Sirius N by E.  Made several lights and burnt false fires to show the enemy's position to Lord Nelson and the fleet.  At 8.30, wore ship.  At 9.50, wore ship.  Up mainsail and kept upon the enemy's weather beam, about 2 or 3 miles.  Made and shortened sail occasionally.  Fired guns and burned false fires as necessary.  At 12, moderate breezes.  The body of the enemy's fleet SE by S about 3 miles, and the light of the English fleet to the southward and westward 5 or 6 miles.

 More to come..


Nelson's Honours Part 4: Knight Grand Cross of the Sicilian Order of St Ferdinand and of Merit

After the Battle of the Nile in 1798, Nelson stayed at Naples with the Hamiltons, and became something of an adviser to the royal family of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.  When the French invaded Naples, Nelson helped the royal family and court escape to Palermo, and then he was instrumental in taking Naples back.  

King Ferdinand IV wanted to reward Nelson for his efforts, but the existing Neapolitan chivalric order, the Order of St Januarius, could only be given to catholics.  So, in the same way as the Turkish Sultan created the Order of the Crescent, Ferdinand created the Order of St Ferdinand and of Merit, named after his ancestor Ferdinand the Great, King of Castile, which could be given to someone from any religion.  The Order was created in April 1800, to reward people for 'extraordinary and important services' and for showing 'extraordinary proofs of loyalty and attachment to our royal person and to the monarchy'.  After his actions in Naples, which damaged his reputation in England, no one could argue that Nelson's loyalty to the King of the Two Sicilies was anything other than extraordinary.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Nelson's Honours Part 3: Knight Grand Commander of the Order of St Joachim 

The Order of St Joachim was created in 1755, with its first Grand Master being Prince Christian Franz, in the German duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.  It's a charitable Order, and significantly, embraced both Catholic and Protestant members at a time when religion was a cause of great violence in Europe and other chivalric orders would be on one side or the other.  

Nelson was unanimously voted to have the honour conferred upon him on the 14th September 1801, as a reward for the Battle of the Nile.  The Grand Master of the Order, Count Ferdinand Karl III, had seen his father (the previous Grand Master) have his lands confiscated and then taken prisoner by Napoleon.  So he had a particular special reason for wishing to confer such an honour upon the British admiral who had handed Napoleon such a crushing defeat.

The British king granted Nelson permission to wear the insignia in July 1802, and it meant a lot to Nelson to be able to do so.       

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Nelson's Honours Part 2: Knight of the Ottoman Order of the Crescent

Replica of the star Nelson received as a Knight of the Order of the Crescent.  Of the four stars he wore on his coat, this was the one on the right.

After the Battle of the Nile, Sultan Selim III of the Ottoman Empire (now Turkey, and which Egypt was then part of) wanted to reward Nelson for the victory, by giving him a chivalric honour.  However, all the ones in existence at that time in his country could only be given to Muslims, and Nelson was of course Christian.  So in August 1799, the Sultan solved the problem by creating the Order of the Crescent especially for him, and Nelson was its first knight.  It was later awarded to several other British army and navy officers who achieved success against Napoleon's forces in the Eastern Mediterranean.  He also awarded Nelson with the chelengk Nelson wore in his hat.
Perhaps because it had been created especially for him, Nelson was extremely proud of this honour.  He wasn't given official permission by the British king to wear it until March 1802, but he used the title after his name after the Battle of Copenhagen in April 1801.
Like all his honours, a replica was sewn onto all of Nelson's coats, but it was upside down!  The star was supposed to be to the right of the crescent, but on his Trafalgar coat and the one on his Westminster Abbey waxwork, it can be seen on the left.  

Further reading: Ottoman Orders and Decorations

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Nelson's Honours part 1: Knight Companion of the British Order of the Bath

Last year, on the approach to Trafalgar Day, I posted some extracts from Nelson's final diary.  So this year I've decided to write about the honours he collected during his lifetime.  Replicas of the stars can be seen stitched onto his Trafalgar coat at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, as well as on the realistic waxwork of him at Westminster Abbey, where a replica chelengk can also be seen on his hat.  It's fairly safe to say that Nelson did enjoy a bit of bling, but to be fair, they were granted to so very few people that it's hardly surprising he felt so grateful and honoured that his services had been recognised in such a way, that he wanted to wear them all the time.

Nelson was awarded the Order of the Bath on the 27th May 1797, after the Battle of Cape St Vincent.  He knew that he would likely be awarded a baronetcy, but Nelson was concerned because it was a hereditary honour that would pass to his heirs, and he didn't possess a great fortune to pass along with it.  For that reason (and also because he craved public recognition, which the bright red sash and shiny star would certainly bring), he requested an honour which would 'die with the possessor', and so he was granted a Knighthood of the Order of the Bath.  

The name of the Order of the Bath originates from medieval times, when the ritual conferring a knighthood required the person to cleanse themselves by fasting, praying and washing.  Over time, however, the rituals gradually fell into disuse.  The Order was revived by George I in 1725, as an elite knighthood comprised of the Sovereign, the Great Master, and 36 Knights Companion, and was awarded to officers of the armed services who deserved special recognition.

Fun fact: The motto of the Order of the Bath is 'Tria Juncta in Uno' which means 'Three Joined in One'.  Nelson, Emma and William Hamilton (who was also a knight of the Order of the Bath) used that motto as an in-joke to refer to their arrangement when they were all living together quite happily.  It also featured on Nelson's own coat of arms.