Trafalgar Day – 21st October.
Trafalgar Day is the most important day in the calendar of HMS Victory, the oldest commissioned warship in the world. Each year on 21 October a ceremony is held on board Victory marking the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, a battle which defined the Age of Sail and which sealed British dominion of the seas for a hundred years. Britain’s wealth, prosperity and status as a nation on the world stage still owe much to the courage and skill of the crews of the British ships and their great leader, Admiral Lord Nelson, that momentous day off Cape Trafalgar.
But the ceremony on board Victory is an act of remembrance rather than just a celebration of victory, remembering the loss of the country’s greatest ever naval leader and the lives of men on both sides who perished in the fierce battle, or subsequently, from their injuries.
The day starts with the daily naval ceremony of ‘Colours’, as the White Ensign of the Royal Navy and the Union Jack are hauled up, followed shortly afterwards by the flag sequence indicating Nelson’s famous message to the Fleet that
“England expects that every man will do his duty”
(Nelson’s final signal, as the mighty ships of the line of the Royal Navy and the combined Franco – Spanish Fleet clashed was “Engage the enemy more closely”).
Nelson’s tactical genius in splitting the line of enemy ships had already set the pre-conditions for victory, when only an hour into the Battle, Nelson was hit by a French sharpshooters’ musket ball as he paced Victory’s quarterdeck, directing the Battle.
He fell, fatally wounded, on a spot marked by a lovingly polished brass plaque, which forms the centrepiece of the Trafalgar Day Ceremony.
My enormous pride to have served as a member of this, the greatest Navy the World has ever seen, has remained with me my whole life. From HMS Ganges to my discharge from HMS Victory Barracks in Portsmouth.
God Bless and keep reading