Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The 210th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar

On 21st October 1805 a fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson decisively defeated a combined French and Spanish fleet off Cap Trafalgar on the south-western coast of Spain. This victory ensured that the Royal Navy had an almost uncontested control of most of the world's seas as well as preventing a possible invasion of the United Kingdom.

Sue and I once managed to be aboard a cruise ship on Trafalgar Day, and although it was not quite as big a celebration as we would have experienced on a Royal Navy ship, they did make a significant effort to ensure that the event was remembered. A special lecture about the life of a Lord Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar was organised, and that evening's dinner had a Trafalgar theme.

The only downside of the day's events was the disruption of the last ten minutes of the lecture by a large number of people (mainly older women) who arrived in the venue to take part in the bingo session that was scheduled to take place once the lecture was over. They talked loudly whilst the lecturer was speaking, demanded that people who were listening should move so that they could sit in their 'lucky' seats, and stood in groups between the lecturer and the audience. I even heard one woman say in a loud voice that she didn't care who won what stupid battle as it was getting in the way of her enjoyment of her cruise.

Perhaps Nelson should not have bothered fighting the French or Spanish, and just let his crews play housey-housey or uckers instead!

28 comments:

  1. Bob,

    Reminds me of the time my mother and her friend were visiting HMS Victory and an American tourist tripped over the commemorative plaque on the quarterdeck marking the spot where Nelson fell, and then treated the scandalised Navy personnel to a foul-mouthed tirade demanding to know what bleeping bleep put that bleeping thing there!

    Happy Trafalgar Day!

    Regards,
    Arthur

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  2. Jim Duncan,

    Thanks for the correction.

    I thought that Nelson's vice was loving another man's wife! :^)

    All the best,

    Bob

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  3. Arthur1815 (Arthur),

    Sounds the sort of crass thing that tourists say during visits to historic places ... and it is not just something that Americans are guilty of ... although I did love the comment from one American who asked why they built Windsor Castle so near to Heathrow Airport. I once heard a British woman say what a great pity it was that so many villages in mining areas were blighted by having mines dug nearby!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  4. There's the same story in Edinburgh where the tourists say that it is nice that they built the castle in a handy place for the shops.

    And back to Nelson, there is an awful lot of dirty laundry if you know where to look.

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  5. Jim Duncan,

    Tourists ... I hate 'em ... and try not to act like one when I am on my own travels.

    As to Nelson ... well a bit of scandal always adds a bit of spice to history, so please tell me more!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  6. Nelsonic quote:

    I'm not sure if this is verbatim but I'm led to believe that when Nelson was lying injured it was reported to him that 'x' number of enemy ships had been captured. The value of 'x' was obviously a good bit less than 20 since he is also reported to have said that nothing less than 20 would do.

    The implication is that his expected share of the prize money would cover his substantial debts due to his lifestyle beyond his means. Emma Hamilton was no doubt an expensive accessory.

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  7. BOB- I am constantly amazed at how some people are completely oblivious to anything resembling History as far as basic knowledge of History is concerned - no idea of the significance of events, celebrations- commemorations or items connected with Historical Periods....as an example -in recent times the Replica sail ship- HMS Bounty completely sank during a cyclone near Florida and was completely lost - fortunately the entire crew survived...not so much as a mention on the Nighty Television News...not a word.
    The Replica was originally built and used for Mel Gibson's Movie - about the Bounty's Crew Mutiny against Captain Bligh ( Bligh was later to become Govenor of New South Wales)...The Replica HMS Bounty was also used in the TV Series film - featuring The Voyages of Captain Cook: 'Captain James Cook' staring Keith Michell - and as such the HMS Bounty replica stood in for the HMS Endeavour for which at the time there was no replica built of the Endeavour being available....trivia? Or just plain knowledge? Either way- when I tell people these points - they just look at me blank- they have got no idea! Fair Dinkum. KEV.

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  8. Jim Duncan,

    Your story makes a lot of sense; Emma Hamilton certainly seems to have been a high-maintenance lady, and Nelson would have needed the money to keep her in the level of luxury to which she had become accustomed.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  9. Bob,

    I recall that when told how Nelson had commended Emma Hamilton to the care of the nation the Duke of Wellington commented that if every man in public life could do similarly for his mistress the country would soon be bankrupt.

    Were either Nelson or Wellesley alive today, the former's wounds and the behaviour of both with various women - Emma Hamilton, Harriette Wilson &c &c - would have resulted in neither being available to win their greatest victories.

    We seem to expect everyone in public life to be 'role models', rather than simply letting them do what they are good at that benefits the country/humanity in general and not prying into their private affairs - or affaires.

    Lincoln displayed more robust common sense when people accused Grant of being a drunkard:
    'I can't spare this man; he fights. Find out what brand he drinks and send a case of it to my other generals.'
    The outcome of the ACW proved him right.

    Regards,
    Arthur

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  10. Kev,

    A lack of knowledge of history almost seems to be regarded by some people as being some sort of 'badge' of modernity. They seem to think that history has no relevance to them. I remember being at a conference where the lecturer made a presentation about why studying history was more than useful in the modern world. His last PowerPoint slide had a list of modern-day conflicts whose roots lay in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries ... and the last thing on the list said 'Don't invade Afghanistan ... DONT EVER INVADE AFGHANISTAN'. When an American attendee challenged this last assertion, the reply was something along the lines that the British had tried it four times and the Russians once ... and neither had been victorious. The American replied that that was then, but nowadays they had the will and the technology to win where others had failed.

    No further comment is really necessary, except to say that it cost a lot of people's lives to find out that the attendee was wrong.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  11. Yes BOB - how right Your Lecturer was in stating History's Record re: Afganistan...yes indeed we can learn from History and also appreciate all the background knowledge and what it has really taken to get us to our now Modern World. I'm amazed about the average Australian - they seem to have no imaginative powers at all to look back into History...I remember well talking about our History and mentioning Captain William Bligh- and mentioning that he became Governor of New South Wales....I recall the people replying to me at our table- "Bligh? Wasn't he a Pirate!?"..." Captain Cook - wasn't he a Pirate as well!?" ....no idea! We went through a pretty awful patch these past thirty years in Australia where it was almost taboo to bring up our Colonial Past and discuss it and certainly it was unpopular to mention our Nation's History...something now which if we do not watch it - the Republican Movement will have us not only change our National Flag and remove the union Jack from it- but also in the process completely wipe our all Traditional ties with our Historical Forefathers - namely those from the UK...I may be imagining things - though a move to being a Republic would be a disaster- perhaps I won't live to see it - but it is a real threat. We have been a Federation of Colonies since 1900- and I shouldn't wish to see things change for worse. With 60% of our Population being born overseas- who knows what will happen... Regards. KEV.

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  12. Arthur1815 (Arthur),

    You are so right! If we exclude all the famous commanders who were not absolutely squeaky clean, there wouldn't be many left. Montgomery was a narcissist - and a closet homosexual if one biographer is to be believed - whilst Patton was a delusional bully, to name but two Even Eisenhower is reputed to have had more than just a friendship with his female driver. When you spread the net wider, the list of senior commanders with character failings grows.

    Lincoln was a pragmatist, who recognised that a successful commander with faults was better than a poor one without faults. It's a pity that modern politicians aren't quite so 'robust' in their views.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  13. Kev,

    Your story sounds all too familiar! The recent referendum about Scottish independence saw all sorts of 'rubbish' history being banded about by the supporters of the 'Yes' campaign, including the fact that Scotland was tricked into joining the Union ... but no mention of the Darien project that caused the almost total collapse of the Scottish economy, and that the Union had to bale them out!

    As for Mel Gibson's BRAVEHEART ... well the number of Scots who think that it is an accurate portrayal of William Wallace's life is phenomenal.

    I suspect that Australia will eventually become a republic ... but not for a few years yet.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  14. I recall telling friends that if Queen Victoria and Leonid Brezhnev could not control Afghanistan, George Bush surely could not either.

    The old biddies on the ship should have suffered stoppage of grog, and a flogging(unless they enjoyed it)... :-0
    -Steve

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  15. Steven Page,

    History may not teach us specific lessons, but it can sure as hell give us some idea what might happen if certain circumstances come to pass,

    Stoppage of bingo would have been far more effective a punishment for the old ladies ... or - even better - making sure that someone who has never played before wins the jackpot. It happened on a recent cruise, and there was nearly a riot!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  16. Very Glad to know BOB that You think Australia won't become a Republic for a fair few years yet. Yes, the rubbish history bandied about by usually the very far left Political Groups is something to be aware of...unfortunately it is the population's general ignorance of the facts that is easily exploited. I generally hold it as a rule not to talk Politics - though with this Global Climate hysterical type of bad science that has been going on and on- supported by World Leaders- it isn't surprising what will be next on the Global Agenda. This is why I like to do a Hobby that is removed from politics - I mean a fictional 1832 Mars Project helps me to cope in life- as Reality is often in the 'just to hard basket' for me to deal with on a daily basis. A fine brush and a tinlet of Humbrol and something to paint is bliss! Regards. KEV.

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  17. Kev,

    I also make it a general rule not to discuss politics on the Internet, but sometimes it is difficult not to. Like you, I also prefer to use imagi-nations as the background for my wargames as I can temporarily leave the real world behind and seek solace in my gaming.

    Here's to imagi-national wargaming!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  18. Bob,

    I have been saddened to see that today has been celebrated as Back to the Future 2 Day on the BBC television news, because 21/10/2015 was the date in the then future to which they travelled in the Delorean time machine.
    No mention of Trafalgar at all.

    Regards,
    Arthur

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  19. I'm embarrassed to say that until now I didn't realise it was Trafalgar Day. So thanks Bob for enlightening me!

    If asked when Trafalgar Day was I'd have said October but I didn't know the day. I'm usually pretty clued in when it comes to history, despite being a bit of a republican lefty ;-)

    I'd agree with many of the posters that lack of historical awareness is the bane of our world. I'm not so much surprised by it as annoyed by the ignorance displayed by otherwise intelligent people.

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  20. Arthur1815 (Arthur),

    So yesterday was 'Back to the Future 2' Day was it? How splendid that a piece of light-weight commercial comedy should be accorded so much importance on Britain's national public broadcaster rather than some boring old battle's anniversary; after all, we celebrated Waterloo this year didn't we?

    I despair at times ... I really do ...

    All the best,

    Bob

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  21. Nundanket,

    Judging by the very low profile that the anniversary received in the media, I'm surprised that anyone realised that it was Trafalgar Day yesterday ... other than a few boring old f*rts like me!

    In an interview for the Chicago Tribune on 25th May 1916, Henry Ford said, 'History is more or less bunk. It's tradition. We don't want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker's dam is the history we made today'. The problem is that a lot of people have used this as an excuse to argue that studying history is not worth the effort.

    Interestingly in 1929 Henry Ford corrected what he had said by adding a clarification to the effect that it was written history’s focus on politicians and military heroes rather than Man's achievements (e.g. the plough) that was bunk ... which is something completely different.

    I prefer the quote from George Santayana: 'Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.'

    All the best,

    Bob

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  22. There's a story that when someone claimed Wolfe was mad the King expressed the wish that he'd bite some of his other commanders.

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  23. Nigel Drury,

    Thanks for sharing that story. I had not heard it before.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  24. Bob,

    I'm sure you must know these lines to Wolfe in Westerham Church:

    Whilst George in sorrow bows his laurell'd head
    And bids the Artist grace the Soldier dead,
    We raise no sculptured trophy to thy name
    Brave youth! the fairest in the list of fame:
    Proud of thy birth, we boast th' auspicious year,
    Struck with thy fall, we shed a general tear;
    With humble grief inscribe one artless stone,
    And from thy matchless honours date our own.

    Regards,
    Arthur

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  25. From the Wiki article;

    in 1759 during the Seven Years' War, before the Battle of the Plains of Abraham Wolfe is said to have recited Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard to his officers, adding: "Gentlemen, I would rather have written that poem than take Quebec tomorrow"

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  26. Arthur1815 (Arthur),

    I must admit to not visiting the church when Sue and I visited Quebec House in Westerham, so thanks for sharing it with us. It sums up Wolfe's life and the reaction to his death quite well.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  27. Nigel Drury,

    I wonder if he really meant what he said, or whether he said it to reassure the officers he was with.

    All the best,

    Bob

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