Royal Navy top brass gathered on the famed leader’s former flagship HMS Victory, in Portsmouth, to commemorate the 216th anniversary of his death at the Battle of Trafalgar.
A wreath was laid by the Second Sea Lord, Vice Admiral Nick Hine, at the spot where Nelson was gunned down by a French sharpshooter, while senior officers stood in silence for a minute in salute of the naval leader.
Taking place simultaneously was an ‘intimate’ service of remembrance at the Nelson Monument on Portsdown Hill.
Attended by more than a dozen people, the event was staged by the Nelson Society and HMS Collingwood, in Fareham.
Five trainee sailors from the naval establishment were among the guests of honour invited to the ceremony, led by naval Chaplain Richard Ellingham.
Commander Terry Tyack, Collingwood’s executive officer, also joined the service and laid a wreath in tribute to Lord Nelson.
He said: ‘Trafalgar Day allows us to commemorate, undoubtedly the nation’s greatest naval hero. He is still revered as one of the top 100 great Britons of all time.
‘Today allows us to keep that memory alive of the spirit of Trafalgar and the bravery and memory of all those who died with him on both sides of the battle – both Spanish, French and the British.’
Taking place in 1805, 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.
Naval veteran Anthony Knight was part of the crowd to join the service on Portsdown Hill.
The 63-year-old retired Lieutenant Commander, from Old Portsmouth, is part of the The Order of Saint Joachim – an historic organisation that Lord Nelson had a link with, having been given the Grand Cross of the Order in 1802.
Mr Knight said: ‘It’s great that the country remembers Nelson for his wonderful achievements, not only for what he did for the country but also in establishing the Royal Navy and its tactical superiority at the time.’
Fellow naval veteran Steve Rees, 61, of Gosport, added: ‘I’m a great fan of Nelson. We were always taught in the navy about our famous victory at the Battle of Trafalgar and he was an inspirational person – he would have been called a media personality today because everyone loved him.’
Lance Corporal Bugler Tom Cox, of The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Portsmouth, played the Last Post and Reveille.
Attendees also sang the naval hymn and recited the naval prayer.
Jane Smith, of the Nelson Society, was delighted by the day. She said: ‘It’s been excellent – it always is. It is a small, intimate service with a few people. It was wonderful.’
A Royal Navy spokesman said: ‘Trafalgar Day is the most important day in the calendar of HMS Victory, the oldest commissioned warship in the world.
‘About 70 officers, ratings cadets and guests, including the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth and representatives of the United States, Polish, Turkish and New Zealand militaries, watched as Vice Admiral Hine laid a wreath on the spot Lord Nelson fell during the battle.’