HEADS were bowed aboard HMS Victory yesterday to remember the death of Admiral Lord Nelson and the Royal Navy’s triumph at the Battle of Trafalgar.
The navy’s most important anniversary was marked with a wreath laid on the spot aboard Victory where Lord Nelson was fatally wounded by a French sniper during the battle against Napoleon’s French and Spanish fleet on October 21, 1805.
Senior naval officers said prayers and held a minute’s silence on board the ship before the Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Charles Montgomery laid the wreath.
Afterwards, he told The News: ‘When I was laying the wreath, I had a very powerful sense of history and a sense of Nelson’s lasting legacy to our nation which is still felt today.
‘Not only did he give us victory at Trafalgar, which decimated the only other naval powers at the time and paved the way for the end of the Napoleonic war, he enabled us to build an empire which lasted 150 years – the wealth of which still gives us our status in the world today.’
V/Amdl Montgomery said Nelson’s victory 206 years ago still gives the navy strength today.
He said: ‘As much as Trafalgar Day is about heritage and legacy, it also tells us a lot about today’s navy and the navy of the future. The fact is, as an island nation we will indefinitely be dependent on the security of the seas. That is never going to change.’
Victory is the oldest commissioned warship in the world and still counted in the naval fleet.
Yesterday’s ceremony came after a £20m restoration project began on the 17th century ship in July with the removal of the ship’s three top masts and 26 miles of rigging.
Despite the ongoing work, the ship was still dressed with 32 flags for the Nelson’s signal ‘England Expects That Every Man Will Do His Duty’.
The service was especially poignant for Victory’s current captain of the last four years, Lieutenant Oscar Whild, who leaves the post later this year when he retires from the navy.
He said: ‘It’s a great honour to be commanding officer of the ship at any stage but especially so on Trafalgar Day, which is our biggest day of the year.’