Today, 21st October 2015, marks the 210th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar which was the most decisive battle in British Naval history. Sadly, it also marks the 210th anniversary of the death of our greatest Admiral, Lord Nelson.
The battle itself was part of the Napoleonic wars, which raged in the early part of the 19th Century, from 1803 – 1815. The British fleet was outnumbered by the combined forces of the Spanish and the French navies, who had 33 ships to the British 27. By the end of the battle, which lasted a matter of hours, not a single British ship had been lost, whilst the French and Spanish had lost 22 of theirs.
Sadly, the British did not get away without any losses, and alongside the loss of Nelson, many sailors were either killed outright during the battle or died shortly afterwards from wounds received.
It proved to be a turning point in the war, and it also proved that the British were supreme when it came to naval warfare and defence. People still sing about Britain ruling the waves in the song “Rule Britannia”, and it still stirs the hearts of patriots up and down our fair isle.
You may know that my family has a strong naval and boat-making history. My great-grandfather, Percy Swain, is descended from a long line of boat builders, and I have traced my family tree back to the 1600’s which shows boat making and sailing has been thriving in the family since then. There are a couple of men called Swain on the ships at Trafalgar, but it’s unclear whether those are family names, or the name of the position they held, for instance “boatswain”. It would be nice to think that they were part of my family, but I doubt we would ever find that out for certain now. It would be extra special if they were part of my family, especially as my daughter has served with the Royal Naval University cadets for three years and wants to enlist in the regular Royal Navy if she passes the interview with the Admiralty Board at their next sitting.
So, if you would like to join us, raise a glass (but stay seated) yourself and say with us:
“To the immortal memory”, and “To ourselves”.
(In case you are wondering why the Royal Navy stay seated, it’s because of the danger that could be encountered on the high seas by either tall waves or low ceilings!)