A ceremony was held onboard HMS Victory at 9 o’clock today to commemorate the 208th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. The ship itself was at the battle where it served as Lord Nelson’s flagship and to this day remains a commissioned ship in the Royal Navy and the oldest commissioned warship in the world.
The Battle of Trafalgar is one of the greatest battles in British naval history, against a numerically superior Franco-Spanish Fleet it was the better tactics, leadership, equipment and personnel that won the battle.
Although the battle was a success, the victory would cost Admiral Lord Nelson his life.
One of the Royal Navy’s most revered leaders, Admiral Nelson was fatally wounded by a French sharpshooter early during the action though remained conscious long enough for the Captain of HMS Victory, Thomas Masterman Hardy, to declare to him the result of the battle and to report“my Lord, you have won the day.”
The ceremony onboard HMS Victory was led by Monsignor Andrew McFadden, the Royal Navy’s Principal Roman Catholic Chaplain, and attended by the Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral David Steel CBE and Brigadier Robert Magowan CBE amongst others from the Naval Service.
It saw wreaths laid both where Lord Nelson was shot as well as deep in the ship to mark the place where he later died.
Vice Admiral David Steel said:
“It is absolutely right that we continue to mark the significance of the Battle of Trafalgar.
“At the time of the battle, the Royal Navy was deployed around the world doing everything that was asked of it to ensure the security and sovereignty of the United Kingdom.
“With over 70% of the Royal Navy at sea as we speak the very same can be said today.”
The Commanding Officer of HMS Victory, Lieutenant Commander Rod Strathern said:
“The Royal Navy is as instrumental to defence today as it was over 200 years ago.
“The triumph at the decisive Battle of Trafalgar is arguably the high point of the Royal Navy’s long and proud history and HMS Victory, the oldest commissioned warship in the world, is a living memorial to Nelson and those who fought and died with him off Cape Trafalgar over 200 years ago.
“We are incredibly proud of what she represents and I consider myself very privileged to take part in the ceremony.”
HMS Victory is showing her age slightly at the moment.
Just like modern ships she is currently undergoing a period of refit and refurbishment as part of the National Museum of the Royal Navy’s Conservation, Maintenance and Restoration plan to ensure that the Trafalgar Day Ceremony will take place for many years to come.
Press Release, October 21, 2013; Image: Royal Navy