DRIVING rain and grey skies did not prevent the Royal Navy from remembering one of its most iconic wartime leaders.
Naval and military leaders gathered inside the world’s oldest commissioned warship, HMS Victory, to mark Trafalgar Day.
The event, now in its 210th year, is a chance to pay tribute to renowned Admiral Lord Nelson – who helped to shape the nation with his victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.
Lieutenant Commander BJ Smith – the 101st commanding officer of Victory – led the ceremony for the first time since taking up his position in May.
Speaking of opening the ceremony, Lt Cmdr Smith said: ‘It was absolutely terrifying beforehand because you just really don’t want to mess up on something that’s so important.’
He added: ‘It’s just an absolute honour and a privilege to take part because it’s an amazing thing and it just means so much to us in the naval service, as a day, and as the continuity of respect and admiration for Nelson as an individual and as a brilliant leader too.’
The Battle of Trafalgar was Nelson’s most decisive win.
Taking place on October 21, 1805, his fleet of 27 British ships defeated 33 French and Spanish ships off the southwest coast of Spain.
The Franco-Spanish fleet lost 22 ships while not a single British vessel was lost.
Nelson himself was shot by a French sharpshooter while he paced Victory’s quarterdeck, directing the battle.
During yesterday’s ceremony, a tribute was paid to all those who lost their lives in the fighting.
A wreath was also laid by the Second Sea Lord, Vice Admiral Jonathan Woodcock by the brass plaque marking where Nelson fell, fatally wounded.
Vice Admiral Woodcock said: ‘The Battle of Trafalgar is a significant part of British maritime history. It is therefore extremely important that the Royal Navy continues to mark the occasion, and remember Admiral Nelson along with the sailors who fought with him.
‘At the same time we must not forget the sailors and marines deployed around the world today protecting our nation’s interests, defending our home waters and underwriting the security of our overseas territories.’
An intimate ceremony was also held at the Nelson Monument, near Fort Nelson on Portsdown Hill. It was attended by about 12 people, including staff from HMS Collingwood and members of the Nelson Society.