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The Battle of Trafalgar


The Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 helped stop Napoleon from invading Britain but also saw the death of one of its heroes, Nelson. The origins of the battle go back to 1803 when a peace treaty between England and France broke down leading to Spain siding with France. This encouraged Napoleon in his aim to invade Britain.

The Commander of the French fleet (Vice-Admiral Villeneuve) was lodged at Cadiz and there was a very real threat to the trading ships of England. So, the British fleet went to Cadiz with Nelson with a view to taking control of the situation by fighting the French fleet and destroying them (and the threat of invasion).

Nelson, an experienced and daring commander, had 27 ships under his command but they had to face 33 French ships. His game plan was to use the British ships in two columns - one would advance on the French flagship (which would leave the French fleet with no leadership) and the second column could then take advantage and come in for the kill.

Despite this risky approach Nelson had the hearts and minds of his men and it is at this stage that he sent out his famous signal ‘England expects that every man will do his duty’.

During his attack on the flagship Nelson ship (HMS Victory) became entangled with the French ship which gave French snipers the chance to shoot at Victory’s crew. A shot here hit Nelson, went through his lung and stuck in his spine - he died a few hours later. He did, however, live long enough to hear news of the French surrender from his Captain - Hardy.

Although this battle effectively stopped Napoleon from invading Britain it came with a high cost. It is thought that around 1,700 British personnel were wounded or killed.