On this day in 1805 the Battle of Trafalgar was fought between the British Royal Navy and the combined Imperial French and Spanish fleets. The British triumphed, however during the battle the British Admiral and leader of the fleet Horatio Nelson was mortally wounded.
During the battle Nelson and his flag captain Sir Thomas Hardy kept watch, until shortly after 1pm, Hardy realised that Nelson was no longer by his side. He had been shot. As Hardy turned he saw Nelson kneeling on the deck, supporting himself with one hand. Nelson fell onto his side and smiling says to his captain:
"Hardy, I do believe they have done it at last… my backbone is shot through."
What had happened was common during the naval melees of the time. Whilst the Victory had been engaged with the French ship Redoutable, a French marksman in the mizzentop (which is a platform at the top of each mast and not to be confused with a crows nest), who would have been no more than 15m away, had taken aim and found his mark. The trajectory of the bullet entered Nelson's left shoulder, passin through his spine at the sixth and seventh thoracic vertebrae and lodging itelf 50mm below his right shoulder blade, in the muscles of his back.
Nelson wascarried below by deck Robert Adair, sergeant-major of marines, and two seamen. As he was being carried , he asked them to pause and then Nelson gave some advice to a midshipman on the handling of the tiller. He then draped a handkerchief over his face to avoid causing alarm amongst the crew. He was taken to the lower decks, where surgeon William Beatty was waiting and said to him:
"You can do nothing for me. I have but a short time to live. My back is shot through."
Nelson is made comfortable, fanned. He shortly complained of feeling hot and thirsty and was brought lemonade and watered wine to drink. Over the next hour, he asked several times to see Hardy, who was still on deck supervising the battle. Nelson also asked Beatty to remember him to his daughter Emma and his friends.
At half-past two, Hardy informed Nelson that a number of enemy ships had surrendered. At this point, the chaplain Alexander Scott, the purser Walter Burke, Nelson's steward, Chevalier, and Dr Beatty were with Nelson. Nelson then passed away at four thirty in the afternoon, three hours after he was shot.
After the battle Nelson was venerated as Britain's greatest naval war hero and in the following years a number of monuments were erected in is honour; the most famous being Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, London. HMS Victory continued in military service until 1831 when the British Admiralty issued orders to break the ship up and reuse her timbers. However, there was a public outcry resulting in the dismantling being stopped. The ship has since been used as a military school, suffered accidental ramming by HMS Neptume and further threats of scrapping. Fortunately for us today, Edward VII prevented the last efforts to scrap the ship and she can now be visited in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
These scenes were built by James Pegrum as part of a series of models on British history. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to see them first.
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