20 October, 2007

Trafalgar, 21st October, 1805

Today is the 202nd anniversary of Trafalgar, perhaps the Royal Navy's greatest victory. The picture shows part of Nelson's sketch of his famous battle plan, to sail at an angle through the French and Spanish lines, rather than line up in parallel and blast away with broadsides as was the usual tactic.

This plan however involved 20-30 minutes of sailing under heavy fire toward the enemy lines without being able to engage them until the point of breaking through.

Colin White of the National Maritime Museum describes how Nelson drew up his battle plan here .

There is an interesting animation showing the progress of the battle, on the National Maritime Museum website.

Budding admirals who would like to test their skills against a computerised enemy can refight the battle in the BBC's Trafalgar Battlefield Academy

Various eyewitness accounts such as that of 16-year old marine Lt Paul Harris Nicholas show how Nelson's plan to bring about a chaotic "pell-mell" in order to defeat the enemy became all too true. Casualties on both sides were heavier than any sea battle in the previous 250 years.

David Cordingley's excellent book Billy Ruffian (Bloomsbury, 2003) contains a gripping description of the battle from the point of view of a particular ship of the line (the Bellerophon).

Cardinal Wolsey's Vodpod selections this week have a naval warfare theme, including a very funny spoof.

Finally here is a useful Royal Navy index of navy slang, so you can find out what Honkydonks and Mouldys are.

No comments: