TRIBUTES have been paid to the Royal Navy’s ‘greatest hero’ who gave his life battling for freedom.
Sailors, children and dignitaries rallied to mark the 214th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar and honour the incredible life of Admiral Lord Nelson.
The acclaimed naval leader died on the deck of his flagship, HMS Victory, after being shot by a sniper during the pivotal naval clash.
And to mark his heroism, military top brass gathered on the famed leader’s former warship, in Portsmouth, to honour his courage.
During the ceremony, a wreath was laid by Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Nick Hine on the plaque that marks where Lord Nelson fell.
Lieutenant Commander BJ Smith, HMS Victory’s commanding officer said: ‘Trafalgar Day is the most important day in our calendar. Having greatly admired Nelson since childhood it is a great honour to take a lead role in the Trafalgar Day Service.
‘It is a poignant and significant event when we remember the courage of Nelson, our greatest naval hero but also remember the sacrifice of many hundreds of men on both sides.’
While serving sailors joined with children and the public during a service at the Nelson Monument on Portsdown Hill.
Commander Mark Walker, executive officer at Fareham’s HMS Collingwood, was among those at the ceremony overlooking Portsmouth.
He said: ‘Lord Nelson and his good friend and second in command, Lord Collingwood – which HMS Collingwood gets its name from – are national heroes, not just naval heroes.
‘They changed the course of history 214 years ago preventing Napoleon from invading England.’
Children from HMS Collingwood Royal Navy Volunteer Cadet Corps joined with trainee sailors from the military establishment to provide a guard of honour at the service.
Leading Cadet Jamie Sansom, 13, laid a wreath at the monument and said Lord Nelson’s courage was inspirational.
‘Laying the wreath was nerve-wracking but I was proud to do it,’ he added. ‘Days like today are important because we need to remember what Nelson did – it’s our past and we should celebrate it.’
The Battle of Trafalgar was one of the Royal Navy’s most decisive victories.
The British fleet of 27 ships squared off against a combined force of 33 French and Spanish vessels off the Cape Trafalgar in Spain.
Despite being outnumbered, the British smashed through the enemy, destroying 22 ships.
The cost of victory was high. Some 1,700 British were killed or wounded, with 6,000 enemy casualties and nearly 20,000 prisoners.