Drawing from Admiral Lord Nelson found in scrapbook pages more than 200 years after they were made
DRAWINGS by Admiral Lord Nelson himself have come to light for the first time in more than 200 years.
The scrapbook page has been unveiled by the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth, ahead of the 214th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar on Monday.
The museum’s latest exhibit may appear to simply be a few scribbled lines on a small scrap of paper.
But this is believed to actually be Nelson’s battle plans before Trafalgar.
It shows the admiral’s plan to split his fleet into three divisions to break the enemy’s line coming out of Cadiz, with other lines for the expected wind direction.
The map was unearthed by Nelson historian and biographer Martyn Downer, among the pages of a scrapbook dating from the 1830s that was recently sold at auction.
Mr Downer said: ‘This fragment of pencil sketch is simultaneously a very intimate and vivid artefact, giving us an exceptional insight into Nelson’s thinking and planning ahead of the battle.
‘Its survival is quite remarkable, having been hidden away between the pages of a young lady’s scrap book for the best part of 200 years.’
Through Nelson's signature and the page being labelled, it has been dated back to September 5, 1805 – one of his final days in England.
Professor Dominic Tweddle, director general of the National Museum of the Royal Navy, added: ‘This is an astounding discovery, it shows that Nelson had thought deeply about how he would defeat the combined French and Spanish fleets long before he ever set foot on HMS Victory.
‘We are immensely excited to add this find to our rich collections.’
The map, still in the original scrapbook, will go on display for the day on Monday, October 21, to mark Trafalgar Day.
Trafalgar Day itself will also be celebrated with a ceremony aboard HMS Victory and the annual flying of the famous flag signal ‘England expects that every man will do his duty’ from the masts.
The map will be displayed permanently from spring 2020 in the museum’s Victory Gallery.