Nelson’s narrow escape, England’s salvation

Jo and Rhys Williams competing in a nighttime navigational competition in East Hampshire

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We all know of England’s greatest hero, Lord Horatio Nelson and, but for his defeat of the French at the Battle of Trafalgar, we might be a French-speaking nation, God forbid!

What if Nelson had not been around at that time, would some other admiral have made a name for himself?

I have come across a copy of a letter dated April 1784 and sent by Nelson to his friend Captain Locker telling of an incident while riding a horse in Portsmouth and how lucky he was not to have been killed. What would have become of us if he had?

I have had to abridge the letter somewhat but here is the gist of what Nelson said:

‘Since I parted from you I have had a disagreeable adventure. Yesterday I was riding a horse that ran away with me and carried me around all the works into Portsmouth by the London Gates.

‘It carried me through the Gate and through the town and out of the gate that leads to the Common, where there was a wagon in the road. It was so very narrow that a horse could hardly pass.

‘To save my legs and perhaps my life I threw myself from the horse but fell upon hard stones which hurt my back and my leg but otherwise unharmed. It was a 1,000-1 I was not killed.

‘Along with this, a young girl riding with me also had her horse run away with mine but a gallant chap seized the horse’s bridle and saved her from destruction which she could not have avoided.’

Such is fate of course but imagine the consequences had Nelson been killed by falling from this runaway horse.