Wednesday, 21 October 2009
This is a maritime flavoured post as today is Trafalgar Day , commemorating the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 ; made famous by the heroism of Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson who finally removed all fear of this country's invasion (it was thought to be imminent) , though at the cost of his own life . I know it is Trafalgar Day because it is also my father's birthday - "Happy Birthday" if you are reading this ! An amusing family anecdote tells that his own Grandmother insisted he should be named Trafford in honour of the day ! His parents preferred Reginald however - and "stuck to their guns" !
It has been suggested in the past that Trafalgar Day would make an ideal public holiday ; a suggestion ultimately quashed for being "offensive" to other countries (??) I think we are all quite capable of feeling a national pride in our past heroes whilst also putting their actions firmly in to historical context . Nelson was definitely a charismatic figure ; and after all he's been standing on top of that 170ft high Column in Trafalgar Square since 1840.
A few facts :-
*Nelson was only 5ft 4" tall.
*He joined the navy at age 12 , and suffered from sea-sickness , and recurring bouts of dysentery and malaria throughout his service.
* His arm was amputated with no anaesthetic during which he complained of the "cold" knives . He was also blinded in one eye.
*Before the Battle of Trafalgar he sent a famed signal to the fleet : "England expects that every man will do his duty"
*He wore full dress uniform with all his medals , remaining visible in the line of fire throughout , and was easily picked out by a sniper who shot him in the back.
* His renowned last words ; "Kiss me , Hardy" may actually have been "Kismet , Hardy" nobody is certain which he was referring to ; friendship or his fate ?At least he knew the battle was over before he died .
*His body was sent back to England in a barrel full of brandy , which preserved his remains on the long journey home .
Nelson's ship HMS Victory can still be visited in dry dock at Portsmouth . It was built between 1759 and 1765 , and is now the oldest commissioned ship in the world . I've actually been on it myself when I was a small girl , and I remember finding it fascinating and horrifying in equal degrees ; the decks are unbelievably cramped , the surgeonry was little above butchery and you can see the actual spot where Nelson died .
Here's to another 169 years up on the Column Lord Nelson !