BATTLE of TRAFALGAR 1805 - 2005  Bi-Centenary





Thousands see Trafalgar 'battle'


Thousands of spectators have braved wet weather to watch a Battle of Trafalgar re-enactment in Portsmouth - the climax of bicentenary celebrations.


Fusillades of gunfire, blasts from cannons and fireworks helped mark the 1805 victory over France and Spain.  Earlier, the Queen conducted a massive international fleet review.  She and Prince Philip sailed from Portsmouth on HMS Endurance to conduct the review of 167 naval, merchant and tall ships from 36 countries.



Queen Elizabeth II Fleet Review


The first fleet review was conducted 

by King Edward III in 1346



Historic flagship


Spectators were also treated to a series of sail-pasts and air displays by the Red Arrows and vintage aircraft.  The evening's mock Napoleonic battle began when an actor playing the part of Nelson sailed from shore in a small cutter to board the tall ship the Grand Turk, a replica 19th Century frigate.

The ship played the part of Nelson's historic flagship Victory during the battle.

After the re-enactment, a massive fireworks display, one of the most spectacular ever staged in the UK, was mounted over the ships.  The fleet was then illuminated, as a commentary on the famous victory boomed out over the Solent.


In the afternoon, it took about two hours for Endurance to sail up and down the lines of anchored vessels, which the Queen inspected from a specially constructed viewing platform.

As the Queen passed each vessel, she was saluted by its crew.


The vessels, including ships from the US, France, Spain, India, Japan, South Korea, Pakistan, Nigeria and South Africa, lined up at the Spithead mooring in the Solent with between 25,000 and 30,000 sailors on board.


They had been arriving in the Solent for days, along with thousands of spectator yachts.

The Queen said in a written message that the presence of such a large international fleet was a tribute to Admiral Lord Nelson - who died in the battle on 21 October 1805 - and the special bond between sailors.


"Admiral Lord Nelson's supreme qualities of seamanship, leadership with humanity, and courage in the face of danger are shared among our maritime community today. He could wish for no greater legacy," she said.  The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh were joined on the Endurance, a polar survey ship, by Defence Secretary John Reid and the Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Sir Alan West.



The Queen inspects HMS Victory at Portsmouth


The Queen inspects HMS Victory, Portsmouth



Security operation


The royal couple had lunch on the ship, and received a 21-gun salute from frigate HMS Chatham at the start of the review.

Spectators' yachts and patrol ships carrying armed police, as part of a £1.7m security operation, sailed alongside Endurance.


The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall watched the review from on board survey ship HMS Scott with other Royals travelling aboard various ships.


The Duke of York was on HMS Enterprise, and the Princess Royal on RFA Sir Bedivere. The Duchess of Gloucester watched from HMS Gloucester, and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent from RFA Fort George.


The event follows a long tradition of reviews of the fleet at the Spithead mooring, dating back to medieval times. The last was in 1977 to mark the Queen's Silver Jubilee.





May 1944 - before D-Day (unpublicised)

June 1953 - the Queen's coronation

May 1969 - the 20th anniversary of Nato

June 1977 - the Queen's Silver Jubilee

Onboard 2005's 'Victory'



Mock battle


After a series of further spectacles including the display by the Red Arrow, the Queen attended a reception on board HMS Invincible.  The mock Battle of Trafalgar was held between a blue and a red team, rather than Britain versus France.


The decision upset some who regarded it as unnecessary political correctness.

It is one of 17 historic ships from five countries involved in the spectacle, aimed at illustrating how sea battles were fought in the era of Nelson and Napoleon.

The battle is being accompanied by a dramatic sound and light show.


During the battle, the death of Nelson is being re-enacted on board the Grand Turk.

It will be followed by a huge fireworks display, representing the massive storm which struck after the end of the 1805 battle.  Finally, the modern ships of the review will be illuminated in a dramatic display.



Trafalgar mock battle 2005


Mock battle



LONDON, June 28  -- Thousands of spectators are expected to gather in Portsmouth, southern England, on Tuesday as celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar reach the climax, the Sky News reported.


A spokesman for Trafalgar 200 said up to 150,000 spectators and hundreds of VIP guests were expected to attend the activities, depending on the weather.


Queen Elizabeth will inspect a massive gathering of the world's navies, including 167 ships from the Royal Navy and 35 other nations. They have anchored at Spithead in the Solent in front of the naval base at Portsmouth for the International Fleet Review.


Besides warships, the vessels include tall ships, lifeboats and cruise liners.  The Queen, as Lord High Admiral, will carry out the inspection on board HMS Endurance. Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall will be among the royals witnessing the review from other navy ships.


The battle, which broke out on October 21, 1805, off the Spanish coast between Britain and France, spelled the start of the end for French Napoleon Bonaparte's conquest of Europe and gave Britain command of the seas for a century.


As part of the celebrations on Tuesday, there will be a mock sea battle, which will involve a fleet of 17 ships from five nations.



Portsmouth Fleet Review plan



In an era of political correctness, even the anniversary of a great naval victory is being watered down. Nearly 200 years ago, a daredevil naval hero by the name of Horatio Nelson led the British to a spectacular victory over France and Spain. Admiral Nelson died, but the win ensured that Britain ruled the waves for more than a hundred years.


Tuesday's reenactment of the Battle of Trafalgar ignores some of the details, like who won. Wary of offending European neighbors who enjoy a close but sometimes testy friendship with Britain, organizers assigned the fleets colors instead of depicting the battle as a contest between countries. It was left up to spectators to figure out which fleet was which.

Nelson's great, great, great granddaughter called it a "pretty stupid" idea.

The decisive victory actually took place October 21st, 1805.






Ellen MacArthur and her record breaking 75-foot trimaran <<B&Q>> will be out on the water tomorrow [Tuesday 28th June] to take part in the International Fleet Review. With a 600 year history, the International Fleet Review will be the first of its kind since 1977 and there will be a variety of vessels on the water including tall ships and navy vessels from over 36 countries including France.  B&Q will take part in the official sail past for the Queen at 1530 BST in the waters off Gosport [Portsmouth, UK]. During the sail past B&Q will be joined by over 300 other vessels, including another Offshore Challenges Sailing Team boat the Open 60 Skandia [previously the Open 60 Kingfisher that Ellen sailed into second place in the 2000/2001 Vendée Globe and in which Ellen's Offshore Challenges Sailing Team mate Nick Moloney competed in the 2004/2005 Vendée Globe]. 


The day will draw to a close with the Son et Lumière, a firework and floodlit extravaganza, that will be staged on the water illustrating a sea battle from Nelson's time starting at approximately 2120 BST. The International Fleet Review is part of the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar and these special events will continue all over the UK under the SEABRITAIN 2005 banner for the national Year of the Sea.

The Royal Navy is the main organiser for Trafalgar 200 and has taken a leading role within the wider Trafalgar Festival and Sea Britain 2005 events. Ellen MacArthur, who was awarded an Honorary Lt Commander in the Royal Navy on her return from her round the world record, will spend part of her day on board HMS Ocean with other invited guests to watch the International Fleet Review by the Queen before ‘jumping ship’ to board <<B&Q>> for the sail past. "I have a huge passion and love of the sea and to be witness to this Fleet Review will be amazing. It will be a unique and spectacular occasion for all the spectators who will be on the Solent with us. Although I think we are going to feel quite small onboard <<B&Q>> when we line up along with the other tall ships and naval vessels!" said Ellen.

Navy Fleet Review 2005 caps off



The Festival of the Sea will celebrate Lord Nelson's life and Britain's history at sea, with an array of vessels from the great warships through to modern day racing boats such as <<B&Q>>. There will be a full programme of events going on in Portsmouth including live music on the four main musical stages, two display areas providing entertainment from renowned military bands from home and overseas, street entertainment and performances on Noah's Ark, Britain's only touring theatre ship. The International Festival of the Sea runs from June 30th through to 3rd July 2005, opening between 10am and 10pm and <<B&Q>> will be there for three days from the 30th June.



June 28: International Fleet Review, Portsmouth

June 28: Tall ships sea battle re-enactment with pyrotechnics and sound, Southsea

June 29 - July 3: International Festival of the Sea, Portsmouth naval base

September 16: Procession on the Thames re-creates Nelson's funeral

October 21: Trafalgar Day, nationwide. Wreath to be laid at tomb of Lord Nelson in St Paul's Cathedral

October 23: Afternoon service in St Paul's Cathedral followed by two events in Trafalgar Square - morning parade and evening tribute show









The British Isles are marking the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar in a host of different ways, from a new coin to new gates; exhibitions to full-scale international festivals.


Here is a selection of the many events, activities and tributes that have either already taken place or are in the pipeline for this Nelsonian year.




Replica of a 19th Century ship's mast set to remain at the Weighbridge roundabout, Guernsey, in tribute to the Battle of Trafalgar.


Commemorative coin being minted, Alderney.


Midsummer party, focal point of SeaSark 2005 festival, Sark.




New road signs throughout Norfolk bearing the legend Nelson's county in recognition of his birth at Burnham Thorpe.


Nelson's monument restored, Great Yarmouth (2005).


Life and times of Nelson, exhibition, Custom House, King's Lynn (April - October).


Nelson portraits, Norfolk Nelson Museum, Great Yarmouth (April - October).


Pageant, Royal Norfolk Show, Norwich (29-30 June).




Auction of Nelson memorabilia (5 July), Bonhams.


Nelson and Napoleon - Europe in turmoil exhibition, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich (7 July - 13 November) (Other displays and events throughout the year).


New Trafalgar Dispatch , carrying news of the battle back to the capital (4-11 August).


Re-creation of Nelson's waterborne funeral along the River Thames, (16 September).


Nelson's Night, musical festival, Royal Albert Hall (22 October).


Service of remembrance, St Paul's Cathedral (23 October).


Parade and show, Trafalgar Square (23 October).


£380,000 facelift for Nelson's column in Trafalgar Square (2006).




Trafalgar Through French Eyes, exhibition, National Fishing Heritage Centre, Grimsby (1 April - 31 October).




The Mersey River Festival becomes a staging post for many of the international ships on their way to Portsmouth for the International Fleet Review (10-13 June).


Wooden frigate Grand Turk drops anchor at the Albert Dock for the Trafalgar celebrations (21 October).


Tall ship Fleet Review 2005 Portsmouth






Service and wreath-laying to mark Scotland's role in Battle of Trafalgar, Glasgow Cathedral and Nelson Monument, Glasgow Green (5 June).


Series of Trafalgar Woods being created across Scotland, with 30,000 trees planted by up to 1,000 children (during 2005).




Artefacts from Nelson's childhood on display, Buckler's Hard, Brockenhurst, near Southampton (throughout 2005).


Battle of Trafalgar Experience and other exhigbits, Royal Naval Museum, Portsmouth (throughout 2005).


Heyday of Sail gallery, Royal Marines Museum, Portsmouth (throughout 2005).


HMS Victory tours, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard (throughout 2005).


Victory's foretopsail on display, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard (March - October).


Trafalgar documents on show, Royal Naval Museum, Portsmouth (5 May - 30 November).


International Fleet Review, Spithead, Portsmouth (28 June).


Son et lumiere re-enactment of the Battle of Trafalgar, Southsea (28 June).

Drumhead ceremony, Southsea Castle (29 June).


International Festival of the Sea, Portsmouth (30 June - 3 July).


Trafalgar Dinner, HMS Victory, Portsmouth (21 October).


Lighting of nationwide chain of beacons begins, HMS Victory, Portsmouth (21 October).


Nelson's statue to be moved from Southsea Common to Old Portsmouth, overlooking the sea (2005).


Fleet Review 2005 Aircarft Carrier warships





Exhibition celebrating Britain's naval successes opens, Chatham Historic Dockyard (1 June).


No 2 Dock at Chatham Historic Dockyard, where HMS Victory was built, is renamed Victory Dock (23 July).


Lord Nelson tall ship visits Chatham, Kent (27 August).


Medway Maritime Festival (28-29 August).


Trafalgar Night firework party, River Medway (21 October).


Wood to be planted at Lamberhurst Farm, Kent, the "flagship" of 27 across the UK to commemorate Nelson's fleet at Trafalgar (during 2005 and 2006).




Falmouth Sea Shanty Festival, Cornwall (17-19 June).


Half-size replica of HMS Victory is set on fire for charity, Torrington (August 27).


Re-creation of Trafalgar Dispatch, bringing news of the battle back to England, Falmouth.


Woodlands to be planted at Torbay and Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth.


Totnes - nothing, after the local council voted not to hold any events for fear of upsetting its French twin town.



Nelson display, Nelson Museum, Monmouth (throughout 2005).


Scroll granting Nelson freedom of Haverfordwest, unearthed after being locked away for more than 50 years, goes on display in the town's museum.




Commemorative wrought-iron gates to be placed on the seafront at Marine Cove Gardens, Burnham-on-Sea as the town celebrates the life of Lord Nelson, even though he was born at a different Burnham, several hundred miles away.


Woodland to be planted near Culverhay School, Bath (where Nelson used to "take the waters" in-between battles), one of 27 special woods being planted to commemorate each ship of Nelson's Trafalgar.





Trafalgar mock-up 'pretty stupid'


Lord Nelson's closest living relative has fired a shot across the bows of the Trafalgar 200 celebrations, labelling some of them as "pretty stupid".



Anna Tribe relative of Horatio Nelson


Anna Tribe



Anna Tribe, 75 and the great, great, great granddaughter of the admiral, criticised a mock-up of the 1805 sea battle as "politically correct".


Tuesday's re-enactment in the Solent will pit reds against blues, not British against French and Spanish.  The organisers said they were not attempting to re-create Trafalgar.  Second Sea Lord, Vice Admiral Sir James Burnell-Nugent, said the event was "a celebration of a battle at sea at the time of Nelson - not an exact mock-up of the British and French at Trafalgar".



'We won'


A fleet of 17 ships from five nations will take part in the re-enactment, off Southsea, Hampshire, after the international fleet review.  But Mrs Tribe, from Monmouthshire, said: "The idea of the blue team fighting the red team is pretty stupid.  "I am sure the French and Spanish are adult enough to appreciate we did win that battle."

She said such "political correctness" would "make fools of us".  Mrs Tribe was one of around 200 descendants of officers and sailors who fought in the battle on 21 October, 1805, who gathered in Portsmouth as part of the anniversary celebrations.





The Battle of Trafalgar was fought on 21 October 1805, was the most significant naval engagement of the Napoleonic Wars and the pivotal naval battle of the 19th century. A Royal Navy fleet of 27 ships of the line under the command of Admiral Lord Nelson destroyed a combined French and Spanish fleet consisting of 33 ships of the line west of Cape Trafalgar in southwest Spain. The Franco-Spanish lost 22 ships, the British none.


The British victory put an end to Napoleon's plans to invade Britain across the English Channel. Once the threat of invasion was removed, British troops could be used to fight on the European continent which was a major factor in Napoleon's ultimate fall. Nelson died in the battle, but became a war hero. After the battle, the Royal Navy remained unchallenged as the world's foremost naval power until the rise of Imperial Germany prior to the First World War, 100 years later.



The Battle of Trafalgar painting


Battle of Trafalgar - artists impression



External links:


HMS Victory Royal Navy Web Site

Pictures of HMS Victory

Spanish Naval History, "Todo a Babor"

List of Spanish Ships during the reign of Charles III of Spain

Napoleon plans to invade England in 1805

1805 Cape Trafalgar: Britain v Napoleon and his Grand Armée

Life onboard HMS Victory: an educational resource

Nelson, Trafalgar and those who served

Are you up to our schoolchildren's challenge?




A taste for adventure capitalists



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