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Captain's Log

October 2013

Commemorate Trafalgar Day - 21 October

Commemorate Trafalgar Day on 21 October

Commemorate Trafalgar Day on 21 October

Commemorate the historic victory won by the Royal Navy, commanded by Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, over the combined French and Spanish fleets at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805.

Under Nelson’s command, aboard HMS Victory, the Royal Navy sank 22 ships from the Franco-Spanish fleet without the loss of a single British vessel. This spectacular victory confirmed Britain’s naval supremacy, and was achieved, in part, due to Nelson’s departure from traditional naval tactics (which involved engaging an enemy fleet in a single line of battle parallel to the enemy) to divide his smaller force into two columns directed perpendicularly against the larger enemy fleet. Although the battle was won by the English, Lord Nelson was tragically killed by a sniper's bullet, surviving long enough to be told of the victory.

The formation of the Navy League in 1894 gave added impetus to the movement to recognise Nelson's legacy, and grand celebrations were held in Trafalgar Square on Trafalgar Day, 1896. It was widely commemorated by parades, dinners and other events throughout much of the British Empire in the 19th century and early 20th century. It is still widely celebrated in navies of the Commonwealth of Nations.

Public celebration of Trafalgar Day declined after the end of the first World War - heavy losses on both sides changed the general public perception of war as a source of glorious victories to a more sombre view of it as a tragedy, for which the newly instituted Armistice Day on 11 November was created. However, Trafalgar day was still marked as a public day each year.

More commemorative items from our Nelson & Victory collection can be found here.

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